Expert at the Card Table & Erdnase

For immediate release

In the research associated with the production of Expert at the Card Table our team has come up with some new discoveries about S.W. Erdnase and Milton Franklin Andrews.

Lucky Baldwin was one of the most spectacular famous California-Nevada pioneers that invested in mines, racehorses, invested in the Comstock, built San Francisco's first luxury hotel and theater, gambled and was even the president of the Pacific Coast Stock Exchange. He died in his 80's in March, 1909. The Baldwin Hotel was within walking distance of the same places that M.F. Andrews frequented.

We discovered a picture of Baldwin playing poker in his hotel with three other players at the table. The man to Baldwin's right is a dead ringer for M. F. Andrews. Very interesting. It stands to reason that Andrews would look for players such as Baldwin and this man has a great deal of resemblance to Andrews.

Baldwin must have known him and somewhere hidden in a filing cabinet is the information on the poker game and the players. The picture is attached.

Don Fineout, one of my research colleagues came across a startling discovery in a Colorado Gazette newspaper story on the investigation of Bessie Bouton. Two bystanders were questioned by police, Geo. W. Childers and W.S. Maunder. That's right WS MAUNDER. This is way too much to be a coincidence.

Scramble the letters around and we derive:

Andrews, presumed to be a bystander, was more than likely questioned about the crime. Little did the police know at the time that they had their man, and surely they would not admit that they practically had him in custody and he got away.

This is startling new information that we are still working on and more coming.

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Here is some information on our latest project The Expert at the Card Table, starring Allan Ackerman. If you have any questions, please contact me personally.

Geno Munari Email:



Allan Ackerman

Plus an introductory film characterization of S.W. Erdnase,

"The Prologue"

Narrated by
Ernest Borgnine

Plus interviews by
Martin Gardner
Richard Hatch
Bart Whaley

Liner Notes

first draft 5-8-08

By Geno Munari
Allan Ackerman and I spoke about the idea of filming "The Expert at the Card Table" almost eight years ago. The thought of actually being able to see the correct way to perform the various card sleights and the correct way to perform the magic effects seemed at first thought a simple project. But, as time went on, it became an ongoing work in progress.

Allan is one of the few people in the world who can perform all of the items described in S.W. Erdnase's tome. Allan does just that and more, since his gracious teaching style is clear and concise. I believe his work will long be remembered and studied by magicians, laymen and the curious. Not only is he extremely capable, but he has extolled the virtue of patience in the studio and shooting schedule.

Ever since the book's publication in 1902, the identity of the enigmatic S. W. Erdnase has been the topic of much debate and conjecture. At the time the book was written there existed a con man by the name of Milton Franklin Andrews. Some say that S. W. Erdnase was a name created by reversing the name Andrews and adding the "se" to round it out. Others argue that Andrews could not be the author because examples of his writing did not meet the high standards of the prose depicted in "The Expert at the Card Table." Regardless of whom Erdnase was, his book is the epitome of the art of conjuring.

Each day I trenched into the book, "The Man Who Was Erdnase" written by Bart Whaley, Martin Gardner and Jeff Busby. I highly recommend it to anyone who has an interest in "The Expert at the Card Table." The book is very detailed leaving a strong case that Milton Franklin Andrews was the author. Their extensive research on this illusive character intrigued me to the point I was almost obsessive about finding out as much as possible about Andrews. Each day I discovered more information about this mysterious writer and it became clear that my mission in making this project is to keep their ideas and theories alive for future researchers. I decided that historical data must be added to the project. Therefore, additional interviews and data are offered to the viewer.

Bart Whaley is one of the most interesting persons I have ever met. I was introduced to him in the early '90s and was familiar with his book "Who's Who in Magic," but little more did I know about him until I completely read "The Man Who Was Erdnase." I was impressed by the amount of research that was presented in the work with supporting footnotes and chapter notes. Simply well done. If I was so interested in this evidence directing one to the conclusion that Milton Franklin Andrews was Erdnase, perhaps Bart Whaley should be interviewed. I am pleased to be able to present this question and answer style of dialogue explaining some of his theory from the Whaley-Gardner-Busby book.

Mr. Whaley also led me to the pre Erdnase publication, "How Gamblers Win." It is almost certain that Erdnase read this tome. In the limited edition version of this set, I have provided a reproduction of the book and an in depth analysis of the content.

Bart Whaley's methodology in analyzing a problem turned on a light in my cranium that I hope will never dim. It was indeed a learning opportunity for me that I will never forget. I think I have captured Whaley's methodology and curiosity.

Martin Gardner's interview was indeed another highpoint in my life. The options of interviewing him on film or by telephone had obvious good and better points, however I decided recording a telephone conversation with him would be less stressful on Martin than the rigors of a film crew invading his habitat. I think he could then simply talk to me in a more personal way without having to worry about anything else. After I weighed in all of the evidence on the theory of Milton Franklin Andrews being Erdnase, Martin Gardner's words hammered home to me the conclusion; it was so.

The voice over interview gave me a chance to discover so much about Martin Gardner's colorful and interesting career and accomplishments. I must thank Dana Richards for sending me rare footage of Martin Gardner. This is a real treat.

Richard Hatch is a walking encyclopedia on the topic Erdnase and The Expert at the Card Table. Richard has provided a detailed history of the book and many more extras. He has graciously let us include the Erdnase research timeline for the book and the publishing timeline for the book. He also has allowed the inclusion of the Gardner-Smith Correspondence. Thank you so much Richard.

During Richard Hatch's interview I found myself not paying attention to the technical part of filming but more to Richard's interesting and meticulously accurate facts.

As the project was being pieced together I continued discovering more information and historical data. I didn't want this to be a "one day wonder" style of production. I wanted to offer something other than just the sleights and tricks. I deemed more and more data should be included in the project which brought more delays to release date.

It became obvious that one more thing was necessary to tie the project together: a film characterization of the story of Milton Franklin Andrews. Calico, California is the setting for this stroll back into the year 1900. This small western mining town had all the facets that could have attracted Milton Franklin Andrews: money, gambling and suckers. So this small vignette was filmed in a place where Andrews may have visited. The first day we scouted Calico I stumbled on an old piece of cement. I looked down and saw the initials SW scrolled in the cement. If I were walking the other direction the letters would be M S. (The initials for Marshall Smith, the illustrator for The Expert at the Card Table.) I could feel goose bumps on my neck. This was a very strange coincidence. I knew at that moment Calico was the place to complete this segment of the project.

The specially crafted vignette "The Prologue," written by Christie Wessling, is narrated by legendary actor, Ernest Borgnine. Ernest Borgnine is an Academy Award winner, multiple Golden Globe winner, multiple Emmy winner, and the recipient of many other awards. I am honored to have had Mr. Borgnine assist us in our story.

I will never forget the day working with him in the studio. Imagine, Mr. Borgnine being directed by Christie Wessling (Director of Production), and myself. Mr. Borgnine is a big a star, yet he was gracious and most humble. He taught us a few tricks of his own about show business. I will always remember them and I am sorry I cannot reveal them to you because, just like magic tricks, you cannot reveal them to the public.

The crew at Calico was magnificent and put on film the exact look we had imagined. My special thanks to Mark Wessling, Lee De Arakal, Eric Egan and Bronson Kersey.

One theory I have been thinking about is; who are the people that played in the game with Erdnase? They were probably fleeced. It stands to reason that these easy marks were people of prominence and/or had money. If you could identify one of these parties there is a chance that there may be a trail to a description of Erdnase. If one of these suckers was a businessman that could earn money in business, he or she may have had a background check completed on Erdnase. There may even be a picture taken with him. Read on!

I think there is a very great possibility that Erdnase played poker with Lucky Baldwin. Baldwin was an interesting businessman, gambler and racehorse owner. His land holdings in the San Gabriel Mountains reached about 46,000 acres, which later became Arcadia, Pasadena, Monrovia, Sierra Madre and San Marino, California. His ranch also became Santa Anita Racetrack. My wife Penny grew up in El Monte and Monrovia where Lucky Baldwin had a presence. For instance Baldwin Boulevard is one of the main streets in the area. Penny loves horses, as did Lucky Baldwin, and discovered the book about him, "Lucky Baldwin: The Story of an Unconventional Success", by Carl B. Glasscock. I thank her for this find. Baldwin fits the prerequisites to play with Erdnase. He loved women, loved to gamble, ran with fast company and had plenty of cash. He also traveled via steamships and spent a great deal of time in San Francisco. Baldwin died in 1909.

In Glasscock's book there is a picture of Baldwin at the poker table with three other players. The game is in Lucky's private quarters in his Baldwin Hotel, San Francisco. Could one of those players be Erdnase? In my perspective one of them slightly resembles M.F. Andrews.

Finally, I want all that view this material to look deep into the various aspects. There is something for the student, the professional and those interested in the historical part of this mysterious story. But it does not stop here. If you are interested in the hunt for who was Erdnase, please let us know.

Most sincerely,

Geno Munari


Quoting Bill Mullins, "Disagree. Disagree STRONGLY. The text represents itself as a single work, by a single author. I've read many of arguments for the position that two or more people were responsible, and don't find them persuasive." 

Well spoken yet there are facts you can't disprove. 
Common sense may sway you. 
This gambler had more than 101 drawings made about his sleights on all the moves in the book speak for itself. Yet there are no drawings on the sections on mentalism, i.e. the set-up deck (Eight Kings). Maybe because the writing was completed after the first section was finished by a different writer? It just doesnt follow. Non sequitur. 
Why would a hard core player write about a set-up deck that had zero chance of "getting the money"? The writer could have never used the set-up deck material for poker, could he? Non sequitur. 
And please don't destroy this sentence because it is not exactly as written in Expert. 
Harte performed very close to Andrews as a mind reader; he lived about 60 miles way. He may or may not have written the 8 Kings section. Yet he had a mind reading act. Many pages in Expert are devoted to this subject. A gambler would not even have knowledge of this unless he was a magician or had magician friends, and more likely a magician who really knew his set-up deck. 
This is interesting. Yet you et al have this mission to dismiss these facts. Harte (Harto) had a connection to Erdnase. Yet because Hatch says no, you et al dismiss this connection. 

The Man Who Was Erdnase has all of the points and footnotes that you et al have not disproven.