Martin-Type Holdout Machines
Martin holdout machines are often mistakenly called Kepplinger holdouts. Although a Martin machine does have a lot of similarities with the infamous Kepplinger machine, it should be noted that it is slightly different. A Kepplinger holdout is a much older machine and in many way more complex. But this machine, which should properly be called a Martin holdout, is really a much more practical design compared to the old Kepplinger machine and has some mechanical improvements in the pulley mechanism that were not known during the Kepplinger years.
This machine is obviously intended to be used by crooked gamblers to cheat by switching cards in and out of play. Usually these holdouts were used in poker, but other card games should not be excluded. The particular machine pictured above is a toe-action machine, meaning that the pulley system of the mechanism is attached to the toe and triggered by pulling the foot down, while balancing it on the heel. A special shirt with a slick sleeve should be worn with this machine, to ensure that the mechanism carrying the card does not get caught in the seam of the cuff.
Various designs and variations of Martin holdouts can be found. Below is a photo of a crudely-made knee-spread holdout that supposedly dates back to 1921 (although impossible to verify).
This machine was supposedly used in actual games. Once again, this claim is impossible to verify but the fact that this machine looks like it was fixed many times may support this story.
If you look at the picture closely, you will notice that the holdout is fitted with three different kinds of breaker joints. The two joints at the right hand side of the photo look like they may be original to this machine. But the four breaker joints at the left hand side look like newer replacements. Counting from the top down, on the left hand side, the first, second and fourth joints look like breaker joints made by Bill Gusias, who is known as one of the best machine makers in the world. In addition to making holdout machines, he was also known to sell breaker joints to anyone that needed them as replacements or to other machine makers who simply did not want to bother making their own breaker joints.
The following holdout machine is a somewhat less common variation of a Martin machine. One big difference is that the track has a slot on the side, rather then the top. Also the machine does not have the usual set of two hooks at the back of the thief, so that rubber band is attached to the center.
It would be interesting to know the age of this machine. I was personally not able to determine this beyond any doubt, so there is no reason to write down my speculations. Machines that appear in crooked gambling catalogs are somewhat easier to date, but custom made machines, such as this one, require an expert examination. One thing that an expert may go by is to determine when the rivets were made. An expert may also be able to determine the age of the brassier hooks, but if this machine is very old, these may not even be the original ones.