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bishthemagish
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I was just e-mailed this question, what is the best shell game pea?

I am not sure how to answer that because I have no idea what the goals are and what kind of routine this person is trying to do. But I will say a few things about the shells and the pea that I have learned over the years.

I feel the shell game and the thimble rig are both great routines because by doing them in a nice way it opens the opportunity to let the spectators and the audience guess where the pea is. And on top of this it opens the opportunity to have situation comedy with the spectators and the audience if done in a nice friendly way.

Another thing nice about the shells/thimble rig is that the performer can make the routine as long or short as they want to. It also is considered to be slight of hand and can help earn the respect of magicians in the audience if performed well.

Having said all that I have no ax to grind and I am not trying to sell any shell game or thimble rig products. And I have collected many shell sets over the years.

I like to use a sponge pea cut from a sponge ball. Or a small sponge ball (the smallest) by gosh sponge ball.

The reason for this is because when working large tables in restaurants and banquets people can SEE IT. This includes in very bad lighting. Another thing is that after reading many books about the shell game and using a hard pea I find that there are a lot more moves the magician can do with the sponge pea.

In starting out with the shell game many years ago the best set that was on the market was the Vernet set. This is still a good set and it comes with little black rubber peas. These peas worked well but I found the sponge pea better because of the lighting issue and being visible.

I have found for me the best hard pea is a rolled up ball of aluminum foil. This works very well and it can be made as large or as small as the magician wants and it is easy to make. It also works well with the magnetic sets of shells just load it with something small that will magnetize.

I have also used aluminum foil rolled up into a ball for some sets of cups and balls - my stage set - and for three ball routines. And I have found them to be very good balls for a mini set and it is easy to make matching load balls to.

I have also found that the audience doesn't really care what kind of a pea the magician uses to do the trick and the silver aluminum foil silver pea used to be a good lead in for lines about the old miners losing the silver when this game was played back in the old west.

These ideas are just a few ideas that I have experimented with on the shell game thimble rig. I feel that the effect as a form of entertainment should be SEEN. Should be done in a nice way. And should move with a lot of action and fun. And not bog it down with a history lesson about the shell game.

The last thing is that the routine should move along - show the highlights - and have a punch - unexpected finish.

And that is just a few observations on the pea used in the classic swindles - the shell game and the thimble rig.

Enjoy!
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Bill Palmer
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One of the most effective shell games I have ever seen was one I watched from the window of a tour bus that was sitting in front of the old Lufthansa office on the Kudamm in Berlin. It was 1992, and I had just gotten through performing and lecturing at the "Let's Go Magic" convention, which was the first convention in Berlin after the reunification.

My wife and I had decided to stay on a few extra days, so we could see this wonderful town. So, there we sat in this tour bus, watching a group of Turkish swindlers running the shell game on the marks. There were three of the team visible, plus a lookout at each end of the block. The operator had a cast on his left arm. He was working on the sidewalk, on a piece of carpet about 50 cm by 30 cm. His "shells" were the drawers from matchboxes, which had been covered over with layers of what appeared to be masking tape. His "pea" was a rolled up piece of aluminum foil. He would play rapidly, and lose money to his shills. One of his bits was that he would "accidentally" hit the drawer on the left with his cast, tilting it up so the mark could see the pea. When he would finally get a mark to play, the game slowed down and then he would fleece them mercilessly.

He was quite good.

Ten years later, I was on Gellaert Hill in Budapest, on another city tour, and I saw the same game being played on the same kind of carpet, with the same props, but the fellow didn't have the cast on his arm. I guess within those 10 years, it had healed, and he hadn't gotten it broken again.
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Dave V
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That guy must get around! That was exactly what I watched this summer on the streets of Copenhagen. I loved watching the "flash" move.
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bishthemagish
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One of the things I have never been fond of with the little rubber peas with the shell sets is that they are just that - little rubber round balls. I feel that they look rather like a gimmick because they look like an odd little rubber round ball.

The sponge pea is a sponge. People know what a sponge is.

The silver aluminum foil silver pea is just that a ball of silver aluminum foil and it can be made right in front of them.

I also liked the line I used to use with it when they guessed wrong I would say "Foiled again". And often the line became a running gag because the audience will start to say it.

Enjoy!
Glenn Bishop Cardician

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Bill Palmer
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Quote:
On 2005-08-16 23:04, Dave VanVranken wrote:
That guy must get around! That was exactly what I watched this summer on the streets of Copenhagen. I loved watching the "flash" move.


When you figure that in one week of working the sidewalks in any city, these guys get more practice than most magicians get in a year, you understand why they are good. Harold Voit told me that in Munich, there was a trial of some people who were doing the shell game. Harold testified that the game was a total scam. Even showed the judge how it worked. The judge decided in favor of the shell game operators, because he said there still was an element of chance. What part of how the shell game works did he not understand. I guess in Munich, justice is not only blind, it's retarded.
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bishthemagish
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I don't really consider the street hustler shell game cheat to be that great and hardly even relevant to a magician and what a magician does with the shells.

When a street con man does the shell game the psychology of how the game is played is much different than the psychology of how the magician does it. The street hustler WANTS the mark to THINK that they know where the pea is. So the mark will put their money down.

The magician doesn't want the audience or spectator to KNOW where the pea is and he wants to FOOL the audience and entertain them.

The street hustler often works with partners often called a mob. The mob often has a script and the mark is suckered in by the mob.

The magician works alone and if he does the shells well he will fool and entertain the audience.

I have seen the shell game played several times in the street but I have never seen it done with shells. Often thimbles. I would say that any magician that gets a routine together and does it say 6 nights a week in a restaurant or a night club will get the effect down very good. Would he or she be as good as a street con man?

Not important.

It is sort of like comparing a magician and a card shark - not important. Entertainment of the audience - that is important and if THE AUDIENCE FEELS YOU ARE as good as a con man doing the shells in the street.

That’s a bonus!

Try the aluminum foil ball if you like a hard pea. Being silver is shows up and is more visible than the little rubber black and green balls that come with most sets!
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KirkG
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I think the audience does want to think they know where the pea is. That is what keeps them reeled in and interested. Certainly, presentation and entertainment play a big part, but if they don't "know" where the pea is, there is certainly no mystery when they find they are mistaken.

More to the point of the thread, while anything will work, I prefer the Perfect Pea by School of Scoundrals. It looks enough like a pea to go with the title of the trick and yet doesn't get all mushy in your pocket or dried and wrinkly. I don't find the audience ascribes any "gimmick" or "prop" status to the pea anymore than they do the shells, or any less than a ball of foil.

That "foiled again" line is GREAT however. That is almost enough to get me to try it.

Kirk
Bill Palmer
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The psychology of gambling demonstrations, whether they are the shell game, Three Card Monte, Fast and Loose, cutting for high cards, the Ten Card Poker Deal are all basically the same. The audience has a chance to peek under the edge of the tent and see how the game is played. Of course, we don't actually show them, but we let them think we do.

Some performers obsess over the pea. Michael Weber is an excellent shell game worker. In fact, he has, as you probably know, published some material on the subject. He used to make his own peas from polyfoam and liquid latex -- a messy proposition, at best -- and he called them "Macadamia Nuts." He would bring out a jar or can of real macadamias with one of his creations on the top, put the rubber one on the table, and then offer a few nuts to the audience. It was an interesting concept. I made a couple dozen of them, but they turned brown over time, as the latex aged. I even made a few green ones.

The foil ball, when used with the matchbox drawers has the advantage of looking like something that "goes with the matchboxes." It looks like the lining of a cigarette pack.

What I really like about the Perfect Pea from the School for Scoundrels is that it does actually resemble a pea. And it comes with that nifty "switchout pea" that looks like it, so you can ring it in and let the guys who "know about the shell game" play with it to their heart's content. I don't like to let the spectators examine things, because it slows the work down, but you can leave this in their hands and they don't have a clue.

If you feel the pea needs to be justified, you can always say that you quit using the real pea years ago, when one sprouted in your pocket and took root. They KNOW the sponge rubber pea isn't a pea. They also know the tinfoil ball isn't a pea.

And the nice thing about the S4S pea is that it works with any shell game on any surface.
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bishthemagish
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"If you feel the pea needs to be justified?"
...................................................................
I think the pea NEEDS TO BE SEEN!

Depending on where the magician works good lighting outside at a fair or a festival or in a dark night club at a large table.

The audience NEEDS TO BE ABLE TO SEE THE PEA.

Green and black little round rubber balls don't show up that great under many performing lighting conditions. A silver pea made of aluminum foil might show up better and does because it is SILVER! And I know a sponge pea shows up much better because I have used them for years.

The aluminum foil pea can be made right and front of them - the little round rubber little balls are just that - fake pea's and (I have used them over the years) I have found that some spectators think that the fake pea little round balls were made special for the shell trick and often think that they are magnetic. If they think this or even if there is a chance of them thinking this - I feel that it could weakens the effect and the magicians level of skill as an audience might judge a magician by while in performance.

I have never had the need to do this effect without a close up mat. So the fact that the black, yellow, green little round rubber balls can be done without a mat or on any surface is rather silly. As a close up magician the close up mat is my performing stage.

I have no ax to grind I am not trying to sell shell products.

I speak as a performer that has road tested the effect using many different props and doing it for many years. On many different performing stages and in many different venues.
Glenn Bishop Cardician

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Bill Palmer
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Absolutely right on all counts, Glenn. You need to select your performing surface to suit the working conditions you want to establish. And the pea must be seen, that's for sure.

But to say that the idea that a worker wants to be able to do the routine on a hard surface is silly is really condescending. That means "talking down to someone."

There are performers who pride themselves in being able to do the routine on any surface. To each his own.
"The Swatter"

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bishthemagish
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Quote:
On 2005-08-17 13:57, Bill Palmer wrote:
But to say that the idea that a worker wants to be able to do the routine on a hard surface is silly is really condescending. That means "talking down to someone."

As a sales tool and as a feature to increase sales of a product it is rather silly.

But if a magician wants to perform on a hard surface - to each their own. But I do not because I perform in bars, night clubs, restaurants etc. And most tables and bars are a mess with drink rings left by glasses and in restaurants - all sorts of mess on the table.

The mat is a clean performance stage and needs to be replaced once and a while. It is needed and it helps to keep the performers hands and props clean.
Glenn Bishop Cardician

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Bill Palmer
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I don't think that advertising ANY characteristic of a product is silly. Besides, "Tastes Great -- Less Filling" was already taken.
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bishthemagish
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Quote:
On 2005-08-17 14:24, Bill Palmer wrote:
I don't think that advertising ANY characteristic of a product is silly.

Speaking as a customer and owner of just about every kind of little rubber balls these magic manufactures try to pass off as "quality shell peas". I feel it is silly and almost useless information - and just another magic business trying desperately to get my money!
Glenn Bishop Cardician

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I think S4S gave up long ago on trying to get your money, Glenn.

You already have tried everything, you know what you need and you use whatever you want. That's your privilege and your right.

And S4S has every right to advertise their products any way they want, as long as they don't make any false claims -- just as you have the right to publicly endorse any set of crudely finished, badly made brass knockoff cups that you feel are wonderful.
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Jerrine
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I think I just got a peek under the tent.
Bill Palmer
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It's not a pretty sight.
"The Swatter"

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bishthemagish
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Quote:
On 2005-08-17 18:46, Bill Palmer wrote:
I think S4S gave up long ago on trying to get your money, Glenn.

Yes they made quite a sale with me. Two sets of copper shells and two sets of brass thimbles. Pea's included!
Glenn Bishop Cardician

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WOW!!!
"The Swatter"

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My Chickasaw name is "Throws Money at Cups."

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bishthemagish
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When starting out in close up I used both kinds of pea's the sponge and the little rubber little ball pea's. The little rubber little ball pea I would keep in the small pea can. This was the bar (gag) trick of a pea placed into a little container with a cork and then the pea turned to water.

Basically most magicians perform this over a bar.

In performance I have had more problems with the little rubber ball pea's than the sponge rubber pea's. When performing outside at a festival or a fair I have found that you have to work around the weather and the wind. Both pea's can be blown away if the performer is not careful on some days depending on the wind.

Also close up magic can often be a contact sport with spectators grabbing props and bumping into or leaning on street tables. If by chance the sponge pea or the aluminum foil pea gets lost in the grass while performing at an open fair ground I have found them easier to find.

And this is also true in the dim lighting of some restaurants and bars and night clubs. Those little rubber ball pea's can bounce and roll and are easily lost if something unexpected happens. I would think that because they are rubber that at some time some magic manufacturer would make them glow in the dark.

At least that way they might be easier to find if something happens and they roll off the table by accident.

Because in live performance of close up magic and contact with the live audience - close up - the unexpected can happen!
Glenn Bishop Cardician

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John Cass
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That pea can. That's high class magic, for sure.
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