Green’s Dictionary of Slang

broads n.

1. playing cards.

[UK]J. Poulter Discoveries (1774) 9: We went into the North of England [...] on the sharping Lay, and won between thirty and forty Pounds at Cards, alias Broads.
[UK]G. Parker View of Society II 168: Levanters. These are of the order and number of Black-Legs, who live by the Broads and the Turf.
[UK]G. Parker Life’s Painter 151: Sharpers [...] are continually looking out for flats, in order to do them upon the broads, that is, cards.
[Ire]J. O’Keeffe Highland Reel 46: I’m ready to give you your revenge at the broads.
[UK] ‘Flash Lang.’ in Confessions of Thomas Mount 19: Cards, broads.
[UK] ‘Tom the Drover’ No. 30 Papers of Francis Place (1819) n.p.: At the broads I can palm with the queerest.
[UK]Vaux Vocab. of the Flash Lang.
[UK]‘An Amateur’ Real Life in London I 296: If you take the broads in hand in their company, you are sure to be work’d, either by glazing, that is, putting you in the front of a looking-glass, by which means your hand is discovered by your antagonist, or by private signals from the pal.
[UK](con. 1737–9) W.H. Ainsworth Rookwood (1857) 260: Écarté, whist, I never missed, / A nick the broads while ruffling.
[UK]Flash Dict. in Sinks of London Laid Open.
[UK]H. Mayhew Great World of London I 5: Splodger, will you [...] blow your yard of tripe of nosey-me-knacker, while we have a touch of the broads with some other heaps of coke at my drum.
[UK](con. 1840s–50s) H. Mayhew London Labour and London Poor I 418/1: [as cit. 1856].
[UK]Leaves from Diary of Celebrated Burglar 62/2: Here we found ‘guns’ from each quarter of London, some ‘boozing,’ some smoking [...] and others at different games with the ‘broads’.
[UK]Hotten Sl. Dict.
[UK]Five Years’ Penal Servitude 262: One of a gang who practised with the ‘Broads’ card-sharping and the ‘confidence trick’.
[UK]J. Greenwood Tag, Rag & Co. 81: He foreswore the ‘infernal broads’.
[UK]Sporting Times 5 Apr. 2/1: [They] are inveterate lovers of a little game with a deck of broads.
[UK]A. Binstead Houndsditch Day by Day 118: I reckon as old Sol couldn’t ha’ lived without a pack of broads.
[UK]A. Binstead Pitcher in Paradise 183: Bob starts chuckin’ the broads out o’ the box.
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 10 Jan. 4/7: ‘Vere’s dis goot mug you told me about?’ demanded the man with the broads.
[UK]Sporting Times 20 May 1/5: One night the ordinary pack of red ‘broads’ with the portraits of Salmon-and-Gluckstein on the backs, were voted a bit thumbworn.
[US]A.G. Field Watch Yourself Go By 393: The boss [...] swore he would not allow a cheap poker player to do him. ‘Fix the olly! I gave him broads to the show! He’s right as a guinea! Fix him! Have this cheap Greene County bilk pinched. I’ll land him in the quay.’ All of this, interpreted, meant that the boss wanted the winner of the capital prize arrested and thrown into jail [...] The constable searched all night.
[US]Jackson & Hellyer Vocab. Criminal Sl. 19: broad [...] a playing card.
[Aus]W.H. Downing Digger Dialects 13: broads — Playing-cards.
[Aus](con. WWI) A.G. Pretty Gloss. of Sl. [...] in the A.I.F. 1921–1924 (rev. t/s) n.p.: broads. Playing cards.
[UK]‘Leslie Charteris’ Enter the Saint 21: It was his deal, but I shuffled the broads for him.
[US]H. Asbury Sucker’s Progress 205: Three Card Monte throwers, also called ‘Broad pitchers’ because a playing card was known as a ‘Broad,’ began to appear.
[US]D. Maurer Big Con 291: broad. 1. A railroad ticket. 2. A playing card.
[Aus]S.J. Baker in Sun. Herald (Sydney) 8 June 9/4: Among American borrowings recorded in Detective Doyle's list are: [...] ‘broads,’ playing cards; ‘gat,’ a gun; ‘gimmick,’ a house breaking instrument [etc].
[UK]R. Cook Crust on its Uppers 28: Bent poker games with Marchmare and me lamping each other’s broads.
[UK]D. Powis Signs of Crime 175: Broads A pack of playing cards (a little archaic).
[UK]J. Morton Lowspeak 31: Broad [...] 2. a playing card.

2. the three-card trick; also attrib. in sing.

[UK]A. Morrison Child of the Jago (1982) 95: Those of the High Mob were the flourishing practitioners in burglary, the mag, the mace, and the broads, with an outer fringe of such dippers — such pickpockets — as could dress well, welshers and snidesmen.
[US]C.R. Wooldridge Hands Up! 95: These gangs, also known as ‘broad’ gangs, were allied with certain politicians. [Ibid.] 96: The stranger was then conducted to the ‘broad’ joint, usually an office located in the levee district.
[US]W. Irwin Confessions of a Con Man 120: ‘The broads,’ which is the grafter’s name for three-card monte.
[UK] ‘English Und. Sl.’ in Variety 8 Apr. n.p.: At the broads—Three card trick or three—card sharpers.
[US]D. Maurer Big Con 291: The broads. Three-card monte.
[US]J.E. Dadswell Hey, Sucker 90: ‘Tossing the broads’ applies to [...] playing three-card Monty.
[UK](con. 1900–30) A. Harding in Samuel East End Und. 281: Broads – The three-card trick.

In compounds

broad cove (n.) [cove n. (1)]

a card-sharp.

[UK]Egan Life in London (1869) 352: The swell broad coves who had lost their money in the Pit with tom and jerry were determined [...] to get it soon back again.
broad-faking (n.) [broad faker + sfx -ing]

1. card-playing, esp. with a tinge of illegality/cheating.

[UK]Sl. Dict. 98: Broad-Faking playing at cards. Generally used to denote ‘work’ of the three-card and kindred descriptions.
[UK]W. Hooe Sharping London 34: broad-faking, card-sharping.
Barrère & Leland Dict. of Sl., Jargon & Cant.
Express & Teleg. (Adelaide) 18 Oct. 2/4: He is a many-sided villain, to whom broad-faking, bond-stealing, and the manufacture of explosive clockwork come by nature.

2. the three-card trick.

see sense 1.
[UK]Barrère & Leland Dict. of Sl., Jargon and Cant.
[UK]Farmer & Henley Sl. and Its Analogues.
broad mob (n.) [mob n.2 (3)]

a gang of card-sharpers.

[Aus]Smith’s Wkly (Sydney) 11 Apr. 13/7: When the annual carnival [...] came along, he would send for a broad mob and a couple of dlps and glve them an open go.
[Aus]Sunshine Advocate (Vic.) 11 Sept. 6/3: A card sharper belongs to the ‘broad mob,’ and their cards are called ‘dracs’.
[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 34/2: Broad-mob. A gang of swindlers working the three-card monte swindle.
[US]J. Scarne Complete Guide to Gambling 522: Anyone you saw win [...] was a member of the broad mob (monte mob).
[UK](con. 1900–30) A. Harding in Samuel East End Und. 281: Broad mob – The three-card mob.
(con. 1930s) A. Nash Colonel [ebook] He [...] and two grifting confederates — known in the trade as the ‘broad mob’ — would setup the unsuspecting mark for crooked game operations, staging the three card monte.
broad pitcher (n.) [SE pitch, to toss, to throw]

(UK Und.) a street criminal who works the three-card trick.

B. Hemyng Out of the Ring 28: The Welshers’ Vocabulary [...] Broad pitcher A man playing three cards.
[US]H. Asbury Sucker’s Progress 205: Three Card Monte throwers, also called ‘Broad pitchers’ because a playing card was known as a ‘Broad,’ began to appear.
broad-pitching (n.) [SE pitch, to throw]

(US Und.) the ‘three-card trick’.

[US]Matsell Vocabulum 14: broad pitching The game of three-card monte.
Sporting Life (London) 16 June 2/5: From ‘broad pitching’ Ascot is perhaps as free as any other course in the kingdom.
broad-player (n.) [SE player]

1. an expert card-player.

[UK]Vaux Vocab. of the Flash Lang. BROADS: cards; a person expert at which is said to be a good broad-player.

2. a card-sharp.

[Aus]Lone Hand (Aus.) 2 57: The ‘broad player’ of the racecourse, assisted by sundry ‘G’s’ (i.e., accomplices), works the game on lines that pan out all his favour.
[UK](con. c.1900s) A. Harding in Samuel East End Und. 114: His uncle was a broad-player.
broad sharp (n.) [sharp n.1 (1)]

a skilful and/or cheating card player.

[UK]Era 28 Mar. 10/1: Billy [...] was as innocent as a baby, being nothing of a ‘broad sharp’.
[UK]Sporting Times 8 Sept. 1/2: An American millionaire fell among broad sharps. They got the Yankee drunk and cleaned him out.
broadsman (n.) [SE man]

a card-sharp.

[UK]Hotten Dict. of Modern Sl. etc. (2nd edn).
[UK]Hotten Sl. Dict.
[UK] ‘Autobiog. of a Thief’ in Macmillan’s Mag. (London) XL 502: The following people used to go in there [i.e. an underworld public house] — toy-getters (watch-stealers), magsmen (confidence-trick men), men at the mace (sham loan offices), broadsmen (card-sharpers), peter-claimers (box-stealers), busters and screwsmen (burglars), snide-pitchers (utterers of false coin), men at the duff (passing false jewellery), welshers (turf-swindlers), and skittle sharps.
[UK]F.W. Carew Autobiog. of a Gipsey 322: Here were the broadsmen and the ‘bonnets’: the thimble-engro [...] the one-legged sailor, and the rest of the canting crew.
[UK]E. Pugh City Of The World 264: ‘What does it mean?’ I asked him. ‘Broadsmen,’ was the cryptic answer. ‘And what are broadsmen?’ ‘Card-sharpers.’.
[Aus]E. Pugh in Advertiser (Adelaide) 12 Apr. 24/8: ‘Broadsman’ means card-sharper.
Brooklyn Dly Eagle 10 June 6/6: ‘Broadsman’ [is a] card-sharper.
[UK]F.D. Sharpe Sharpe of the Flying Squad 199: I met a young boy of the labouring class who told me a sorry tale of the way he had been treated by Broadsmen.
[UK]S. Jackson Indiscreet Guide to Soho 121: Around the bars are to be found ‘broadsmen’ (exponents of the three-card trick).
[UK]P. Beveridge Inside the C.I.D. 199: Broadsman Cardsharper.
[US]A.S. Fleischman Venetian Blonde (2006) 140: Skelly, the broadsman with instant fingers and the finest bottom deal around. [Ibid.] 155: I began to suspect that there was another educated broadsman at work.
[UK]R. Fabian Anatomy of Crime 193: Broadsman: Card-sharper.
[UK]J. Morton Lowspeak.
broad spieler (n.) [spieler n. (1)]

(US Und.) the conductor of a three-card monte n. game.

[[Aus]Hamilton Spectator (Vic.) 3 Jan. 2/8: Hurry Scurry, half a mile, was won by Broad Spieler, beating seven others].
[US](con. 1880s) W. Irwin Confessions of a Con Man 38: He was the best ‘broad-spieler’ on the road. [Ibid.] 124: I was the ‘broad spieler,’ which means that I did the actual work of manipulation.
[US]Jackson & Hellyer Vocab. Criminal Sl. 19: A ‘three-card monte man’ is a ‘broad spieler’.
broad tosser (n.) [SE tosser]

(Aus./US) a card-sharp; a three-card monte n. dealer.

[Aus]Smith’s Wkly (Sydney) 2 Dec. 18/1: All sorts and conditions- of crooks take part in the great trek— ‘whizz’ men, ‘broad-tossers,’ ‘shell’ wroughters, ‘Jack’ spinners; all are there.
[US]Maines & Grant Wise-crack Dict. 6/1: Broad-tosser — Three-card skin game artist.
[US]C. Rawson Headless Lady (1987) 34: I want you to meet the dean of the broad tossers, the best three-card-monte man in the business.
[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 34/2: Broad-tosser. A dealer in three-card monte swindle.
[US]J. Scarne Complete Guide to Gambling.
J. Scarne Why You Can’t Win 10: First, there is the Grifter – better known as three-card man or monte worker. Three-card man we call him, but to the mob he is known as a broad tosser.
in Sparechange mag. 7 Sept. [Internet] So anyway, I met a fella named Onie Malloy. He was what was called a broad tosser. Meaning he worked the three card monte.

In phrases

fake the broads (v.) (also work the broads)

to cheat at cards, to perform the three-card trick.

[UK]C.M. Westmacott Eng. Spy II 248: He must concert certain signals with confederates for working the broads (i.e. cards).
[UK]Illus. Sporting & Dramatic News 8 June 270/1: Mayhap they ‘worked the rboads’ for thee, and thou wast taken in.
[UK]W.E. Henley ‘Villon’s Straight Tip’ in Farmer Musa Pedestris (1896) 176: Suppose you screeve, or go cheap-jack? / Or fake the broads? or fig a nag?
[UK]Farmer & Henley Sl. and Its Analogues.
smoked broad (n.)

1. (Aus. Und.) a marked card used in the ‘three-card trick’.

Lone Hand (Aus.) 1 Nov. 58/1: A ‘smoked broad’ is another style of marking the card with a pencil by the ‘G,’ the player using a piece of lead under the finger-nail to duplicate the mark.

2. (Aus. Und.) a horse whose form has been kept hidden in order to increase the odds in a race, or a horse whose odds are shorter than its known form would justify.

Richmond Guardian (Vic.) 16 Nov. 3/1: Big trainers like Scobie, in charge of the horses of the Lords of the Land, pushing up a Smoked Broad.
[Aus]Sydney Sportsman 4 Nov. 9/3: CHINA CLIPPER: Has yet to be produced in a race. Went well in a couple of the trials and is supposed to be a real ‘smoked broad’.
[Aus]Sydney Sportsman 17 Nov. 3/5: Tommy Smith's ‘smoked-broad’ ORIANE has worked well enough this week to command plenty of attention from backers when she turns out in Saturday's Maltine Stakes.
[Aus]Sydney Sportsman 16 Dec. 16/3: Non-appearance of a ‘smoked broad’ at Hawkesbury yesterday tricked the betting fraternity prior to the running of the first event, the First Maiden Handicap.
spread (the) broads (v.) [? the ‘breadth’ of the piece of card; but note G. Parker (1789), ‘who are continually looking out for flats in order to do upon them the broads,’ implying a play on flat n.2 (1), although note also flat n.1 (1), i.e. dice]

to play cards, esp. to cheat or to play a swindling game such as find the lady; one fans out the cards across the table for the punters to make their choice.

[Aus]Bell’s Life in Sydney 17 Aug. 1/4: There were the skilful practioners in the art of ‘under seven or over seven’ and ‘the little pea and thimble’ spreading their ‘broads’' and their eloquence to induce hazardous people to try their luck.
[UK]W. Newton Secrets of Tramp Life Revealed 11: This game is called ‘spreading the broads,’ or the three card trick.
[UK]D. Powis Signs of Crime 202: Spreading broads Playing or cheating at cards. Manipulating the three-card trick.