Rough-and-Smooth Blackjack Dealing Shoe


The dealing shoe pictured here is one of the cheating gaffs used in our crooked blackjack games, in our Bustout Dealer crooked casino demos.

A rough-and-smooth dealing shoe is basically a second-dealing shoe, also sometimes called a 2-shoe or a holdout shoe (although a holdout shoe can be a different kind of gaff). Mechanically, a rough-and-smooth shoe is identical to the better-known prism shoe. The only difference is that the actual prism (which functions as a holdout mechanism for second dealing) for a prism shoe is made from a clear material, but in a rough-and-smooth shoe the same exact gaff is made from a material that matches the faceplate of the shoe.

gaffed dealing shoe

For a number of reasons, a rough-and-smooth shoe can be viewed as a superior gaff, compared to the more popular prism shoe. The reason is because the gaff in a rough-and-smooth shoe is not as obvious as the same gaff (i.e. the prism) in a prism shoe. The drawback, however, is that a rough-and-smooth shoe requires the use of marked cards, as there is no other way to identify the value of the top card. In fact, that is precisely how the rough-and-smooth shoe got its name.

During one period, the US Playing Card Company used to make their popular Bee cards with two different types of finish. The standard Bee cards would come in "cambric finish" but they were also making identical cards in "smooth finish." This opened up possibilities for cheating. Anyone could simply purchase two different decks, separate the aces and ten-value cards out of both decks and switch them around to make two decks of sorts, i.e. marked cards that have not been altered in any way, except for being "sorted" and reassembled from two or more decks of the same brand, that happen to have some variations. Being able to identify all the ten-value cards and aces (or even just all the tens) in blackjack is a deadly edge against unsuspecting opponents. These rough-and-smooth sorts would be identifiable by feel, i.e. the house dealer would know if the top card was a ten or an ace and depending on the situation decide to deal that card, or to second-deal the next card.

Bee cards are no longer available in smooth finish, but plenty of other manufacturers offer some of their cards in two different finishes. Even if rough-and-smooth cards are not available as standard options, cards can still be marked in a variety of different ways, as explained in our marked cards chapter. In any event, marked cards facilitate identification of the top card and the second-dealing shoe allows the dealer to either deal the legitimate top card or to take a second chance by second-dealing the next one.

The two images below show an exposed view of the second-dealing action. For clarity, cards of contrasting color backs are used in this demo, and in reality the dealing hand (left hand) would cover any of the cards exposed though the slot. Furthermore, the drawing hand would take the cards as they are pushed out of the shoe, so the left hand would never leave the secure position covering the vulnerable part of the shoe.

gaffed dealing shoegaffed dealing shoe

Dealing seconds out of a good second-dealing shoe is a piece of cake. The skill can be learned by any competent card handler after a few trials. But basically, the tip of the finger of the dealing hand identifies if a card is rough or smooth and if second-dealing is required the card is just pushed back into the holdout clip, thus exposing the back of the second card. With the second card exposed the same finger is used to push that card out, while the legitimate top card remains clipped inside the holdout clip. Once the card clears the lip of the shoe, the drawing hand approaches the shoe and pulls the card out and away from the shoe. At any given moment the dealing hand can simply reach further up and slide the original top card back down into dealing position.

In the right hands, all the above-described maneuvers are smooth and virtually undetectable. The advantage of the cards being identifiable by touch makes the operation go even smoother and the dealer never has to look down at the shoe to identify the top card (unlike when using a prism shoe). This means that the dealer can maintain eye contact with the suckers and always know where the suckers happen to be looking.


After reading the previous description one may be under the impression that the gaff is easily discoverable, should anyone happen to examine the shoe. This is not necessarily true.

First of all, there are some legitimate shoes that just happen to be constructed in such way that second-dealing is possible. From a security point of view those are badly-designed dealing shoes, but the fact that some shoes are in fact designed like that may throw some suspicion away from a rough-and-smooth shoe, should anyone discover that the top card can be pushed back to allow second dealing. Of course, second dealing from a good rough-and-smooth shoe is mush smoother then any attempts form a legitimate dealing shoe. However, some second-dealing shoes are fitted with a security feature that disables the gaff and make the shoe appear legitimate. The rough-and-smooth shoe featured on this page is a self-locking shoe, fitted with such security feature.

Although I make these kinds of dealing shoes and I could show you all the mechanical components of the locking mechanism, I have no intention to spill the beans for the world to see how this locking mechanism works. However, I can still explain the basic principles, without going beyond what a customer would have to know, to be able to lock and unlock the shoe.

Locking the shoe is very easy to do. If the shoe is already unlocked all that you have to do to lock it is to move it in a certain way. In other words, imagine that a suspicious sucker demands to examine the shoe. All that the dealer would have to do is move the shoe towards the sucker, inviting him to examine it, and the shoe would lock itself in the process. Or even if a sucker just grabbed the shoe, the shoe would immediately lock itself with the first handling, 50% of the times. If the unsuspecting sucker would then move the shoe some more (which he would) the shoe would have a 50% chance of being locked every time it is moved. Basically, the self-locking mechanism consists of a free-floating weight that drops and locks the shoe, if it is moved.

Not surprisingly, the unlocking procedure is a bit more complicated and also requires an external "key," so to speak. In other words, there is no chance that the shoe can ever be unlocked by accident. The unlocking procedure is very simple, but only if the person handling the shoe knows exactly what to do.

The "key" needed to unlock the shoe is a small magnet. No surprise there. Such magnets can be built into a ring, bracelet, or watch strap. All that is required, to unlock the shoe, is to place the magnet on (or close to) a certain spot and pull the magnet to one side. The magnet engages a small ferrous part inside the locking mechanism and when the magnet is moved to the side it pulls the mechanism, which in turn unlocks the shoe.

gaffed dealing shoegaffed dealing shoe

To illustrate this point I've included a couple of photos with a magnet attached to the front of the shoe. In theory a magnet like that one could be used if the shoe just has to be unlocked once, at the start of the shift. But in our example I used this type of magnet just to show the locked (left photo) and unlocked (right photo) positions.

Some other locking mechanisms exist, that do not use magnets or ferrous materials inside the shoe (which can obviously be discovered) but the mechanism described here is the fast-action one.