Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Restoration of Two Peek Shoes Completed

Roughly three month ago I received a special order from a customer. I would have to do a complete restoration of two unfinished gaffed baccarat shoes. But those were not the commonly-known type of gaffed shoes, such as the prism shoe or the rough-and-smooth shoe, used by crooked casinos to cheat the players. This gaff is actually intended to cheat the house, if one manages to find a way to plant one of those babies on the gaming floor. The gaff is called the peek shoe and it uses the same mechanical principle of the camera shoe, including the "talking" shoe. I already wrote an introduction to this gaff in my initial blog post Repair of Two Gaffed Peek Shoes, but now that I've completed the work, here's the final product.

Due to the fact that this gaff is not well known, I will not be able to share too many details, at this time. But, as the name suggests, the peek shoe enables the operator to peek at a card; the top cards, of course.

As I already mentioned, in most cases this gaff is intended to be used to cheat the house. However, in some cases it can also be used by the house, to cheat the players. The second scenario would work in a blackjack game (with as spotter and a anchor player), but these two shoes were made for baccarat (because they have lids and they are 8-deck models; also, the original maker made handles that were never mounted, not even by me).

I already described some of the principles of this gaff in my original blog post, Repair of Two Gaffed Peek Shoes, so I see no reason to repeat the same details here. Perhaps what I should say is to describe the work that I did on these shoes.

First of all, the faceplates were not mounted. Although mounting a faceplate at the front of a dealing shoe is not a job that requires any special skills, to speak of, the situation is a bit different for the peek shoe. The faceplate must be mounted very precisely, otherwise the peeking gaff might not work properly. So, the alignment is critical. And when mounting the faceplate, one must test it repeatedly with various brands of playing cards, in various conditions, before even thinking about gluing the parts together. Because once the glue sets, that's it. This is quite nerve racking, especially when mounting a faceplate on an antique shoe. If I mess up my own shoe I can always start from scratch and make another one, but I really don't want to mess up a shoe that already belongs to a customer. Now I know what art restorers must be feeling when doing a risky job. In my case it took repeated testing before I decided to let some glue flow between the cracks.

The second main part of the restoration work was to manufacture several missing parts. That's easier said than done, because I had to find some red acrylic that was a close match to the existing pieces. I never really found a perfect match, so I used whatever I thought was the best match. It works OK, because the pieces fall under different angles, so the light reflects differently anyway.

The main missing parts were the side trims, at the front of the shoes. Those are essential, because without them the gaffed mechanism is naked. I would normally mount the side trims before assembling the main body of the shoe, as explained in The Making of a Gaffed Blackjack Shoe: Part 4, but here I had no choice. So, I mounded the side trims and it came out fine. I used a scroll saw to cut each side trim by hand, which is not how I normally do it for my shoes, because of some reasons I don't need to get into.

One of the shoes had a missing lid. The shoes are actually not identical, so I couldn't quite use the existing lid as a model. In fact, I had to do some improvements on the existing lid, anyway, so that it would sit better in place.

I also had to do some minor repairs and cosmetic improvements. There was only one roller and it wasn't very well made. The original roller had sharp edges, which I had to round off to make it look more professionally made. Also, the original roller didn't have a slot at the back, so it was really difficult to pick it up, once inside the shoe. The slot would normally have to be cut before bending the acrylic, but I managed to clamp it under my milling machine and cut a slot.

Since the shoes only had one roller I also had to make a second one. I decided not to copy the existing roller, because in my opinion I could make a better one. So, I decided to make a the new roller exactly the way I usually make my own rollers, except that I changed the angle at the front, to make it work better for the peek shoe. My rollers use ball bearings and a breaker on the inside. I can't show these details with the roller I made fro this job, so here's a picture of a clear roller.

If you're interested, you can see part of the manufacturing process for a roller, in my post The Making of a Gaffed Blackjack Shoe: Part 5. However, that is the old process. I've come up with some improvements since then.

I fixed some other cosmetic issues on both shoes and did some more work that I can't describe here, because I would have to reveal some secrets. But overall I am happy with the way it all came out. It took longer than I had hoped, but that's mostly because I was busy doing other things and my customer told me not to rush the job. The most important thing is that both shoes are now fully functional, which was really not the case when they were sent to me.

I don't know who is the original maker of those shoes, or when they were made, but I would say that the shoes must be at least twenty years old. I actually have my own model of a peek shoe that works on the same principle, but it's not something I've ever publicly discussed. I believe that a fully functional peek shoe should be valued at least at $5,000, if it's well made. Those two shoes are fully functional, but they have some cosmetic issues, so it's hard for me to say how much I would value them. I did a lot of work on them, so that definitely increases the value, but the real value is in the secrecy. This is not a widely-known gaff, so the only way to protect the secret is to keep the price high. After all, can you imagine what would be the value of knowing which casino had been duped into buying these shoes for their gaming floor. Although this scenario is not likely in the world of corporate casinos, but there are plenty of casinos outside of the Las Vegas Strip and Atlantic City.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

The 2010 CARDSHARK Online Blog Archive is Out

I'm kind of surprised that I've managed to get this done in the first week of 2011, but here it is, the CARDSHARK Online Blog Archive 2010.

The picture you see above is actually a fake. I don't even have the book in my hands, yet, as I just had it published yesterday. But that's how the book will look like.

The book is now available through the CARDSHARK Online Gambling Bookstore. The book is available for $79.00 in color and for $29.95 with black & white images. It's also available as a PDF download for $4.95. Hopefully I'll be able to add at least one more book before the end of the year.