Sunday, June 24, 2012

Prism Shoe vs. Rough & Smooth Shoe

When it comes to gaffed dealing shoes the two-shoe is definitely the most popular kind. For those who are not familiar with the term two-shoe, it is a gaffed dealing shoe capable of second dealing. But there are two kinds of two-shoes.

The most popular kind is the prism shoe and the lesser known is the rough & smooth shoe. What's the difference?

A prism shoe is fitted with a prism that serves a dual function. The primary function of the prism is to enable the dealer to peek at the top card. The second function is to get the top card out of the way, momentarily, which makes it possible to deal the second card.

A rough and smooth shoe can be made exactly the same way as a prism shoe, except that the gaffed part, i.e. the prism, is made of the same opaque material as the faceplate, instead of clear acrylic. This means that peeking is no possible so marked cards need to be used, instead.

When it comes to second dealing both shoes function exactly the same way, mechanically. However, there is a huge difference in the way the second dealing is handled. Let me start by saying that I can spot a prism shoe from across the room, simply because of the way the dealer is forced to handle the gaff. Here is photo that shows how a dealer must handle a prism shoe.

prism shoe
To an untrained eye this might look just fine. But the problem is that no casino dealer in the word ever deals from a shoe in this way. To make thing easier to understand here is a photo that shows how casino dealers really deal from a shoe.

second dealing shoe
Now the difference should be obvious. The dealer is not hugging the shoe, as in the previous photo. The hugging is necessary, when dealing from a prism shoe, so that the dealer can peek at the top card.

For those who are not familiar with these gaffs I should also include a photo that shows how the dealer peeks at the top card. The peeking is done by sliding the top card upwards, in the opposite direction from dealing, so that the card's index shows up inside the prism.

prism shoe close up
This picture clearly shows how the index of the top card shows up in the prism. This is seen only from a certain angle, from behind the shoe, which means that the dealer mush position the shoe in such way that he has a clear view of the rear edge of the faceplate.

So, the first problem with the prism shoe is the handling. The second problem is the gaff itself. The gaff is just too damn obvious. How long would it take for someone to figure out what this prism does? Not long, I would hope.

The prism shoe shown above is actually an advanced model with a self-locking mechanism. The dealer can lock up the gaff in a split second by moving the shoe in a certain way. That's why there is a black piece of acrylic at the center of the prism. Not all locking prism shoes have this opaque segment in the middle of the prism. This is just this particular model. But my point is that even with the shoe locked up the prism is still suspicious as hell. And although peeking and second dealing will not be possible, when the shoe locks up, the locking mechanism still doesn't completely solve all the problems. There are still some small clues that are highly suspicious to anyone examining a locked up prism shoe. However, I will not discuss the exact details.

By no, anyone reading this post should have reached the only logical conclusion anyone can make. The only type of two-shoe that is used by real gambling cheats is the rough & smooth shoe, and not the prism shoe. The prism shoe, however, is the type of two-shoe more sought after by collectors and gambling demonstrators. The reason, again, should be obvious. The prism shoe is simply more fun to use to demonstration purposes, because of the visual aspect.

Speaking of collectors, I still believe that good collectors will probably be more after the real thing, meaning, the rough & smooth shoe. Good collectors like things to be genuine and gambling collectors are mostly interested in stuff that was actually used in by gamblers. So, if you come across an old prism shoe you should take a bet that it had probably never been used in any real games. And if you are a collector and if you ever have a choice between a prism shoe and a rough & smooth shoe you should definitely grab the rough & smooth. Plus, you never know, since the rough & smooth shoe is the real thing, it might actually come in handy, one day, if thing are bad.

Now it's time to reveal the inspiration for this post.

Very recently I came across one disturbing piece of information. Well, it's disturbing to me, because I don't like fake stuff and I also don't like when honest people are taken for a ride and end up wasting money on fake stuff. Recently, a gambling auction took place and one particular item had been sold for a decent amount of money. That item was a holdout device that had been described more or less as genuine. The description didn't really say that the holdout had ever been used in real games or even that it had been owned by a real gambling cheat, but it left the impression that it was the real thing. The truth is that the holdout is actually an item that is currently being produced by a Chinese maker and sold on the internet for a very low price, which is really what the item is worth. I do not wish to point fingers or to reveal too much information, so I will only say that the item had been sold at the auction for more than 4 times the price listed on the Chinese site.

There are two things that bother me about this. First, I really don't like that an honest collector spend a decent amount of money for something that is practically worthless to any gambling collector. And second, I really hate the idea that this worthless item has been entered into the history of gambling. Now the item has a fake provenance and misinformation is likely to be spreading.

I also have to make it clear that I do not think the auctioneers had any idea that the holdout was a fake. I believe they were taken for a ride, too. It is also possible that the person who sold the holdout at the auction also had no idea it was fake. But that's not where I would put my money. I believe it is more likely that he knew what this holdout really was. Either he bought it from the Chinese site or he had been taken for a ride when he bought the holdout for himself, and then later realized his mistake and simply wanted to get rid of it. So, in my mind the more likely scenario is that the seller knew.

In any event, the holdout was sold and is likely to remain in circulation.

I know some collectors read my blog and some might even figure out which holdout I am talking about. It is up to them to do their own research as I have no desire revealing any further details, at this time. However, since the point of this post (or my blog in general) is to keep collectors informed I did take the time to share some important details about the two-shoe. And the point is really simple, if you are a collector and want to add a genuine two-shoe to your collection (i.e. one that was actually owned and used by a crooked gambler) you should be looking for a rough & smooth shoe and not for a prism shoe. This is not to say that a prism shoe has no value. On the contrary, unlike the mass-produced Chinese holdout, a prism shoe is a fine piece of equipment, if built right. But it I'm afraid I can't ever say that it's the real thing for cheating.

Ironically, it is quite possible that many wannabe cheats have spent money on prism shoes until they've realized that this gaff cannot really be used as they were hoping. So, in that case, who was the sucker? And having said that, if a prism shoe had in fact been owned by someone that initially had the intention of using it in a real game, that alone might be enough to make the item a genuine gambling collectable. However, I don't think it is very likely that anyone will ever put any serious effort into trying to prove that kind of provenance.