foreword to the online edition
II. common sharpers and their tricks
III. marked cards and the manner
of their employment
VII. collusion and conspiracy
VIII. the game of faro
IX. prepared cards
XI. high ball poker
XII. roulette and allied games
XIII. sporting houses
XIV. sharps and flats
SHARPS AND FLATS
"Topping" the Deck
It should be noted that Maskelyne does not use
any name for the holdout shown in the image below. However, in the
next few paragraphs he talks about a cheating strategy called "topping
the deck," (which he explains below). So, the two holdouts
described on this page serve this purpose and we took the liberty
to add the title Topping the Deck, which is not part of the original
Referring to fig. 26, it will be seen that this instrument consists
practically of a pair of jaws, which, being movable, will separate
sufficiently to allow a card to be held between them. These jaws
are drawn towards each other by means of an elastic band slipped
over them. Elastic is the material commonly used in the springs
of holdouts, being readily replaced when worn out or otherwise deteriorated.
The projecting lever situated at the side of the machine is for
the purpose of separating the jaws when the cards are to be withdrawn.
The act of pressing it to one side releases the cards, and at the
same time throws up a little arm from the body of the holdout, which
thrusts them out.
The machine is strapped around the fore-arm with the jaws underneath,
and is worn inside the sleeve of the coat or, if playing in shirt-sleeves,
inside the shirt-sleeve. Acting from the inside it will hold a card
or cards against the under surface of the sleeve, in which position
they are concealed from view by the arm. The hands being crossed,
as in the case of the cuff-pocket, the cards are simply slipped
between the jaws, where they are held until required. The hands
being crossed for the second time, the lever is pressed and the
cards fall upon the top of the pack, which is held underneath at
the moment. This operation is termed technically 'topping the deck.'
Fig. 27 shows the manner in which the cards are held by this machine.
FIG. 27 -- Showing card held under
An extremely simple form of appliance, and one which may be utilized
with effect, is that known as the 'ring holdout.' It is merely a
small piece of watch spring fitted with a clip, enabling it to be
attached to an ordinary finger-ring. Between this spring and palm
of the hand the cards are held (fig. 28).
With a little practice the deck may be topped, hands made up or
shifted, and cards held out in a manner which is far safer and better
than any 'palming,' however skillfully it may be done. Needless
to say, the cards used must not be too large, or the operator's
hand too small, if this device is to be employed.
FIG. 28 -- Ring Holdout
It is really hard to imagine how anyone would
ever get away trying to use a ring holdout (as described above)
in a game of poker. First of all, the manipulation required to palm
of a card (or cards) with a ring that has been fitted with a clip
is by far more difficult than palming off a card without the use
of any accessories. The ring is simply in the way and complicates
things. Second, the illustration on fig. 28, that shows a palmed
card, secured by the ring clip, is totally inaccurate. In reality
a playing card is much larger than the card pictured in this drawing.
So, by trying to secure a card with this kind of ring clip, the
cheat risks flashing the corners and/or edges of the card(s) because
this type of clip simply does not allow the operator to have a real
feel for the position of the card relative to the palm. In other
words, there is probably a 90% chance that the cheat would flash
the edges of the card. In the illustration, the artist resolved
this difficulty by simply drawing the card smaller than it should
be. But at the poker table the card cheats have to use what's practical.
It is quite possible that this ring holdout was just another sucker item listed the the crooked gambling catalogs.