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
The Vest Holdout
The vest holdout described below appears to
have some similarities with the Kepplinger
Holdout. The biggest similarity is the mechanism that consists
of a jaw that is stitched to the inside of the clothing and serves
the purpose to open the seam, as the card goes in and out of the
holdout. It is unclear if Kepplinger invented this improvement or
if he simply took an existing idea from a mechanism for a vest machine,
and adopted it to work with the seam of a sleeve cuff, or if he
had invented this idea and it was later used by whoever developed
the vest machine. Whatever the case may be, in the original book,
the description of the vest holdout machine precedes the description
of the Kepplinger machine.
We now come to the subject of coat and vest machines, among which
are to be found some of the finest examples of mechanical genius
as applied to the art of cheating.
The earliest vest machine was a clumsy utensil covering nearly
the whole of the wearer's chest. It was called not inaptly by the
gambling fraternity of the time the 'Breast-plate.'
Like all other ideas, however, which contain the germ of a great
principle, this conception has been improved upon, until it has
developed into an invention worthy of the noble end which it is
intended to fulfill.
In its latest and most improved form, as widely used at the present
day, it is illustrated in fig. 29.
As a thorough acquaintance with the construction and working of
this machine will be of great assistance to us in arriving at an
understanding of those which follow, we will go into it somewhat
exhaustively with the aid of the lettering in the illustration.
Referring then to fig 29, a is a slide which is free to move in
the direction of the length of the base-plate A It is held in position
and guided by means of fittings which pass through the slot cut
in the base-plate. This slide is composed of two thin plates of
metal between which the cards are held as shown, and is protected
by the cover c, which is removable, and which is hinged when in
use to lugs provided for the purpose upon the base-plate. The ends
of base-plate and cover farthest from the hinge-joint are each pierced
with a row of small holes. These are to facilitate the sewing of
the apparatus to the divided edges of a seam.
Attached to the upper surface of the slide will be seen thin strips
of metal, bent into somewhat of the form of a bow. In practice these
are covered with cloth, to prevent the noise they would otherwise
make in rubbing against the cover. As the slide moves forward into
the position it occupies in the figure these projecting strips,
pressing against the cover, tend to thrust base-plate and cover
apart. This action separates the edges of the seam to which those
parts of the apparatus are respectively sewn, and provides an aperture
for the entrance or the exit of the slide, together with the cards
it is holding out. As the slide returns to the other end of the
base-plate, the cloth- covered strips fall within the curvature
of the cover, thus allowing the edges of the seam to come together;
and when the slide is right home, the central projecting strip passes
beyond the hinge-joint, thus tending to press the free ends of base-plate
and cover into intimate contact. The opening which has been fabricated
in the seam is thus securely closed, and nothing amiss can be seen.
The to-and-fro movement of the slide is effected in the following
manner. Attached at one end to the base-plate is a flexible tube
d, consisting simply of a helix of wire closely coiled. Through
this tube passes a cord e, one end of which is led around pulleys
below the base-plate, and attached to the slide in such a manner
that, when the cord is pulled, the slide is drawn into the position
shown. To the other end of the cord is fastened a hook for the purpose
of attaching it to the 'tab' or loop at the back of the operator's
boot. It may be here mentioned that the cord used in this and all
similar machines is a very good quality of fishing-line. The slide
is constantly drawn towards its normal position within the machine
by the piece of elastic f. The band g with the buckle attached is
intended to support the machine within the coat or vest.
The foregoing description necessarily partakes of the nature of
Patent Office literature, hut it is hoped that the reader will be
enabled to digest it, and thereby form some idea of this interesting
Although it is both a coat and vest machine, this apparatus is
more convenient to use when fastened inside the coat, as the front
edges of that garment are readier to hand than those of the waistcoat.
The edge of the right breast is unpicked, and the machine is sewn
into the gap. The flexible tube is passed down the left trouser-leg,
inside which the hook hangs at the end of the cord ready for attachment
to the boot.
When the operator is seated at the table, he seizes a favorable
opportunity of hooking the cord to the loop of his boot, and all
is ready. Having obtained possession of the cards he wishes to hold
out, he holds them flat in his hand, against his breast. Then, by
merely stretching his leg, the cord is pulled, the seam of the coat
opens (the aperture being covered, however, by his arm) and out
comes the end of the slide. The cards are quietly inserted into
the slide; the leg is drawn up, and -- hey, presto! the cards have
disappeared. When they are again required, another movement of the
leg will bring them into the operator's hand.
One can readily see how useful a device of this kind would be in
a game of the 'Nap' order. Having abstracted a good hand from the
pack (five cards 'never would be missed ') it could be retained
in the holdout as long as might be necessary. Upon finding oneself
possessed of a bad hand, the concealed cards could be brought out,
and the others hidden until it came to one's turn to deal, and then
they could be just thrown out on to the pack.
The price of this little piece of apparatus is $25.00, and, doubtless,
it is worth the odd five, being well made and finished up to look
pretty. In fact, it is quite a mantel-board ornament, as most of
these things are. Evidently, the sharp, whilst possessing the crafty
and thieving instincts of the magpie, has also the magpie's predilection
for things which are bright and attractive. Therefore his implements
are made resplendent with nickel and similar precious metals. Although
electroplating or something of the kind is necessary to prevent
rust and corrosion, one would be inclined to think that articles
which are intended to escape observation would be better adapted
to their end if they were protected by some method just a trifle
less obtrusive in its brilliancy. However, that is not our business.
If the buyers are satisfied, what cause have we to complain?
The 'Kepplinger' vest or coat machine,
which is referred to in the Catalogue (p. 293), is exactly the same
thing as that just described, with the addition of Kepplinger's
method of pulling the string, which will be described further on.
The 'Arm Pressure' vest machine, mentioned in the same Catalogue,
is a modification of the old 'Jacob's Ladder' sleeve holdout, to
which we shall have occasion to revert presently. In an earlier
edition of the Catalogue the arm-pressure machine is thus eulogized:
'New Vest Machine. Guaranteed to be the best Vest
Machine made. This machine weighs about three ounces, and is used
half-way down the vest, where it comes natural to hold your hands
and cards. The work is done with one hand and the lower part of
the same arm. You press against a small lever with the arm (an
easy pressure of three-quarters of an inch throws out the cards
back of a few others held in your left hand), and you can reach
over to your checks or do anything else with your right hand while
working the Hold-Out. The motions are all natural and do not cause
suspicion. The machine is held in place by a web belt; you don't
have to sew anything fast, but when you get ready to play you
can put on the machine and when through can remove it in half
a minute. There are no plates, and no strings to pull on, and
no springs that are liable to break or get out of order. This
machine is worth fifty of the old style Vest Plates for practical
use, and you will say the same after seeing one.'
The statement guaranteeing this to be the best vest machine ever made has been expunged of late, as will be noticed in the reproduction of
the Catalogue upon page 294. In reality it is not nearly so efficient as the Kepplinger, all statements and
opinions to the contrary notwithstanding. Its construction will be readily understood from the description of the 'Jacob's
Ladder' which follows next in order.