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Virtual Museum of Crooked Gambling


The Detection of Kepplinger - card cheating
image source Sharps and Flats
The world of crooked gambling is mysterious and fascinating. The industrial revolution that exploded in the 19th century made our lives easier but it also opened up many possibilities for the crooked gambler. Advancements in technology gave birth to new ideas for fabricating gadgets that were designed to aid the crooked gambler in his job of separating the sucker form his money. The period that started in the 19th century, and continued to this day, produced many fascinating cheating gaff.

Many of these gaffs were mass produced and sold through mail order catalogs by various crooked gambling supply distributors. Many of these distributors flourished in the early part of the 20th century, until 1961 when they went underground. Some of the most infamous crooked gambling suppliers of the 20th century were the KC Card Co, Hunt & Co, Mason & Co, and so on. Their catalogs are still sold on eBay and their products are sought after by collectors of gambling memorabilia.

This is a collection of crooked gambling gaffs, acquired through various sources. Some of the gaffs displayed in this virtual museum are original props that have actually been used for cheating. It should be noted, however, that there are also many gaffs that are more experimental in nature. Although these experimental gaffs may have been sold by crooked gambling supply houses it is sometimes hard to imagine how anyone in the right state of mind would ever attempt to use them in actual gambling games, or how their use could ever go unnoticed. There are also many gaffs that appear practical only on a photo, but as soon as one tries to use the gaff it becomes quite obvious that the gaff would never have a chance to do the job in an actual live game where people gamble for money. It is very possible that many of these gaffs were mostly bought by collectors or curiosity seekers that never actually had any real intentions to use them for gambling. These experimental gaffs are all included in this collection for the simple reason that they are authentic.

It should not come too much as a surprise that a lot of cheating gaffs are just collectibles. Most real gambling cheats prefer not to use anything at all, or at least to keep things simple and stupid. A good paper player is likely to get more mileage out of a can of daub then a machine worker can get with a mechanical holdout machine. This is not to say that machine workers never existed, but when it comes right down to it, the ultimate goal of cheating is to get money, and at the end money is all the same, regardless how it was acquired. So, why would anyone want to bother with a mechanical holdout machine if the same end result can be achieved with a can of daub that's about the average size of a coin?

For completion, and historical purposes, I am also including crooked gambling equipment beyond those that were used specifically for card cheating, such as various kinds of crooked dice and some other gaffs. Also, I am including some ordinary gambling paraphernalia that I believe is of interest to collectors.


Furthermore, some of the gambling equipment listed in this collection also appears in some other chapters on this site, mainly in holdout devices, marked cards as well as in our online shop.


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