Cony-Catching - The Vincents Law, with the Discovery therof.

The Vincents Law, with the Discovery therof.

            THE Vincents Law is a common deceit or cozenage used in bowling-alleys amongst the baser sort of people, that commonly haunt such lewd and unlawful places: for although I will not discommend altogether the nature of bowling, if the time, place, persons, and such necessary circumstances be observed: yet as it is now used, practised & suffered, it groweth altogether to the maintenance of unthrifts that idly and disorderly make that recreation a cozenage. Now the manner and form of their device is thus effected: the Baulkers, for so are the common haunters of the alley termed, apparelled like very honest and substantial citizens come to bowl, as though rather they did it for sport than gains, & under that colour of carelessness, do shadow their pretended knavery: well to bowls they go, and then there resort of all sorts of people to behold them, some simple men brought in of purpose by some cozening companions to be stripped of their crowns, others, gentlemen or merchants, that delighted with the sport, stand there as beholders to pass away the time: amongst these are certain old soakers, which are lookers on, and listen for bets either even or odd, and these are called Gripes: and these fellows will refuse no lay if the odds may grow to their advantage, for the gripes and the baulkers are confederate, and their fortune at play ever sorts according as the gripes have placed their bets, for the baulker he marketh how the lays goes, and so throws his casting: so that note this, the bowlers cast ever booty, and doth win or lose as the bet of the gripe doth lead them, for suppose seven be up for the game, and the one hath three and the other none, then the Vincent, for that is the simple man that stands by & is not acquainted with their cozenage, nor doth so much as once imagine that the baulkers that carry such a countenance of honest substantial men, would by any means, or for any gains be persuaded to play booty. Well this vincent, for so the cozeners or gripes please to term him, seeing three to none, beginneth to offer odds on that side that is fairest to win: what odds, says the gripe? three to one, says the vincent, no says the gripe it is more, and with that they come to four for none, then the vincent offers to lay four to one, I take six to one says the gripe, I lay it says the vincent, and so they make a bet of some six crowns, shillings, or pence as the vincent is of ability to lay, & thus will sundry take their odds of him: well then, the baulkers go forward with their bowls, and win another cast which is five, then the vincent grows proud, & thinks both by the odds and goodness of the play, that it is impossible for his side to lose, and therefore takes and lays bets freely, then the baulkers' fortune begin to change, and perhaps they come to three for five, and still as their luck changes, diversity of bets grows on, till at last it comes to five and five, and then the Gripe comes upon the vincent and offers him odds, which if the vincent take he looseth all, for upon what side the Gripe lays, that side ever wins how great soever the odds be at the first in the contrary part, so that the cozenage grows in playing booty, for the gripe and the baulker meet at night, & there they share whatsoever termage they have gotten, for so they call the money that the poor vincent loseth unto them: Now to shadow the matter the more, the baulker that wins and is afore-hand with the game will lay frankly that he shall win, and will bet hard and lay great odds, but with whom, either with them which play with him that are as crafty knaves as himself, or else with the gripe, and this makes the poor vincent stoop to the blow, and to lose all the money in his purse: Besides, if any honest men that holds themselves skilful in bowling, offer to play any set match against these common baulkers, if they fear to have the worse or suspect the other's play to be better then theirs, then they have a trick in watering of the alley to give such a moisture to the bank, that he that offers to strike a bowl with a shore, shall never hit it whilst he lives, because the moisture of the bank hinders the proportion of his aiming. Divers other practices there are in bowling tending unto cozenage, but the greatest is booty, and therefore would I wish all men that are careful of their coin, to beware of such cozeners, and not to come in such places, where a haunt of such hell-rakers are resident, & not in any wise to stoop to their bets, least he be made a vincent, for so manifest and palpable is their cozenage, that I have seen men stone-blind offer to lay bets frankly, although they can see a bowl come no more then a post, but only hearing who plays, and how the old gripes make their lays: seeing then as the game is abused to a deceit, that is made for an honest recreation, let this litle be a caveat for men to have an insight into their knavery.

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