This is a type of a holdout machine that used to be popular during the era when 5-card draw poker was one of the favored gambling games. Back in the day it was common for gamblers to bring the cards all the way up to the chest in order to hide them from opponents or kibitzers. There have been several different designs of vest holdouts over the years. An early model used to cover the entire chest and was called, the "breast plate."
The image on the left appeared in the November 1933 issue of Popular Science magazine, in a feature article entitled, Strange Inventions used by Crooked Gamblers. The top image shows one of the possible handing techniques how the card is supposed to be switched, and the bottom image shows the actual holdout machine. Note the tiny holes around the edge of the machine; those holes are used like button holes, to sew the machine onto the fabric, as explained below.
The illustration on the right shows an older model that appeared in the popular 1894 book Sharps and Flats. Referring to the illustration, "a" is a slide with a clip designed to hold a card securely in place. This slide moves along the base-plate "b". The slot cut along the length of the base-plate acts as a guide for the slide. This moving slide is protected by a removable cover "c", which is hinged near the bottom.
The upper ends of the base plate and cover are perforated. This enables the upper end of the holdout to be sewn into the jacket or vest. When installed, this holdout is sewn into the divided edges of a seam at around breast level.
Two thin strips of spring metal are attached on the upper side of the slide. Their function is to push the cover upwards and open the front end of the holdout, when the slide is in the uppermost position. This tension separates the edges of the divided seam and provides an opening for the slide to protrude. Once the slide gets pulled back and passes the point at which the cover is hinged, these same strips of spring metal will push the bottom end of the cover upwards, thus securely closing the upper end of the holdout, which has been sewn into the divided seam.
This upwards movement of the slide is made possible by pulling onto cord "e", which runs through a flexible tube "d", attached to the base-plate. This flex-tube is made out of coiled wire and is similar to a photographer's cable shutter release. The slide is drawn back down when the cord is released. The downwards motion of the slide is made possible by a long piece of elastic "f", at the bottom of the base-plate. The band "g" serves to secure the holdout inside the vest or jacket.
The cord runs through the cheats pants. At the other end of the cord there is a hook. When a cheat sits down at the card table he will immediately attach this hook through a loop at the heel of his shoe. The machine is operated by moving the foot upwards while straightening the leg. The cards are switched under the cover of a card fan which is held close to the body, under the pretext of hiding the cards from the opponents.
In addition to the machine described above, there are two other variations of vest holdouts that should be mentioned:
The Knee-spread Vest Holdout is a holdout machine almost identical to the one just described. The only difference is the manner in which the cord is operated. The knee-spread method of pulling the cord is described under the Kepplinger holdout.
The Arm-pressure Vest Holdout is again very much the same as the regular one, with one difference. The string is replaced by a lever, which is operated by arm pressure against ones ribcage. Please note that this is not the sane lever as the one previously-described, under arm-pressure sleeve holdout.
I have personally never seen such holdout machine, nor was I able to obtain a picture reference. However, this is how it (supposedly) works. The apparatus is worn inside the pants right under the waistline. It consists of a moving part, which is encased in a shell. This moving part pops up over the cheat's belly and reaches the edge of the table. The cheat holds his cards at the edge of the table right above this area and switches one of his cards.
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