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Topic: The Shell Game
Message: Posted by: NJJ (Sep 21, 2008 09:25PM)
I spent a few hours doing the shell game on the street yesterday to promote my new show.


I would perform a 7-10 minute routine, building a crowd of 30 or so people. Right before the finale, where the player is risking $50 on an impossible to lose bet, I would do my pitch for my show and hand out flyers to people who WANTED them.

Then I'd reveal the guy had lost, shake his hand, let him keep the money and then start again with the new crowd. I handed out hundreds of flyers and people kept offering me money!

I was thinking that this would make an excellent busking pitch.

You play the play, build up a crowd and then, right before the finale say:

"Ladies and Gentlemen, I am an entertainer and, as such, I would feel awful about taking this man's money. So, if he does lose here today, I would ask you to contribute a small amount to my hat. Not to pay off his debt but to show your appreciation for the entertainment steve and I have provided you with today."

The hats would be smaller than a larger circle show but you'd have the advantage able to perform 4 or 5 times in time it takes most performers to build their crowd, do the show and collect the cash.

So long as the police and city officials understand that it is a busking show and you are NOT a swindler, this would work a treat!

Anyone done this?
Message: Posted by: gaddy (Sep 22, 2008 01:39AM)
Give it a shot and let us know how it works out!

The only real problem with this hypothetical show that I can see is that the shells will not play for a crowd that big. They are just too small. You'll have a hard time with anyone beyond the first 5 people in front of your table seeing what's going on.

Still, as long as Johnnie Law knows what's up and isn't going to shut you down I can't see any reason not to try it out.
Message: Posted by: NJJ (Sep 22, 2008 01:51AM)
That's what I thought!

But I had crowds of 30+ and they all hung around and took flyers.

Whether they give MONEY is another issue

Message: Posted by: Danny Hustle (Sep 23, 2008 10:06AM)
It's been my experience that if you can pack them in right 30 people can see a table top no problem.

I used to say people were crazy for doing the shell game on the street because the cops would hassle you. I got hassled by one of Boston's finest in plain clothes for doing the cups and balls on the street as she couldn't tell the difference.

I'm now of the opinion that darn near anything can work if presented properly by the right entertainer.

Having seen video of your other endeavors Nick I can absolutely see this working for you in a street situation.

I still don't think it is for everybody though. A person would have to put a lot of thought into taking the potential hassle out of the routine should a plain clothes officer of the law be passing by.


Message: Posted by: NJJ (Sep 23, 2008 05:09PM)
I think I might be underestimated the hassle involved. You would need to a

a) alert the police
b) alert the city
c) alert retailers
d) have a clear explanation for when you get hassled
e) have the ability to keep a crowd AFTER the fuzz arrives.
Message: Posted by: acephale (Sep 23, 2008 05:42PM)
I'd have to agree with you, I just don't think it's worth the hassle. I've had experiences like Danny's talking about, and I do C&B with those Harries Bosco cups. I posted in another thread, when I started I thought there was no way anyone could ever mistake those for the shell game. Man was I wrong. Gazzo was absolutely 100% correct in his lecture tape about saying why it's not the shell game, and you're still going to have the odd person going by that wants to give vent. True, there's always a comeback, but when it comes down to the wham versus hassle value, I don't think I'd do it on the street.

Perversely, there's a lot of people that really, really dig the con artist side, and I've found that those are the ones who want to hire you for parties. Don't know if that's true all over, but for me on the West Coast it pays well to know the shell game, 3CM, and some good poker routines.
Message: Posted by: NJJ (Sep 23, 2008 06:17PM)
Acephale - It's true in Australia. I've built a career around it!


I didn't get hassled at all on Sunday and I had about five police officers and three security guards walk pass.

I think the 'hassle' adds to the excitement!
Message: Posted by: acephale (Sep 23, 2008 06:32PM)
LOL. I saw your conartist blog and of course had to add it to my list of RSS bookmarks. I was toying with the idea of the shell game, but after this season I just said screw it. There's too many other good effects that keep me from having to explain myself, deal with the losers, etc. etc. I joke with the gf that the only reason it comes up so much in the PNW is because they've never been around real, living conmen that they secretly delight in the pretend ones.

That's too funny about them just walking past. Seattle is pretty lenient, you have to worry more about the rent-a-cops than the real cops. Everyone on the waterfront call them the 'busy-bees' because of the bright yellow jumpers, but they will eat up a lot of time making you explain yourself, which I'm sure comes into play when they reailze a 'street beggar' makes much more than them. (Which in the best comedy of the day, is definitely true. Sometimes it gets under the skin when I'm comapring notes with the regulars and go "How did you do?" to find out the guy that stiffed you ended up giving money to the guy with the "I won't lie, I need beer" sign. However, the fact the busy-bees and rent-a-cops are making significantly less than both of you is truly proof that god has a sense of humor. ;-) However, most of the shop-owners are extremely supportive and will tell you, "If you have a problem, send them to me". Except on a regular basis I do get the drive-by old guy that yells "How many suckers have you taken today?!?!" and man, while it's fun to yell "Only you gramps" I still wonder how many people make a chalk against me for hassling the old wind bag.

But you're bang on, people do love the seedy side of the con. It's more regular than kid's birthdays.
Message: Posted by: acephale (Sep 23, 2008 07:08PM)
I think the 'hassle' adds to the excitement!

Sorry about the double post, but it won't let me edit the last, wherein I meant to say that the excitement might wane if the hassle was occurring day after day, ie if you were out busking each and every day. That's when having to explain yourself over and over again becomes a chore that really isn't worth it.
Message: Posted by: TheGiz (Oct 3, 2008 08:49PM)
I did the Seattle waterfront for years. I only got rousted twice and twice I had the plainclothes try to goad me into betting. After declining and saying it was just for fun they flashed their badges stating, "Keep it that way!" Usually they watched a minute walked by and laughed. Only when the Seahawks season was starting would the paranoid vibe show. They apparently wanted to clean up the streets rousting all the illegals, panhandlers etc. After a few weeks it was business as usual. I only had one jerk cop mess with me over at Golden Gardens. The crowd apologized to me!!!
I'm not so sure about betting cash!!! I made it a contest where they could win a prize. . .( a balloon animal) It still drew the crowds. Everyone wanted to jump in. I also made it a contest to see who the smartest guy/gal in the crowd was. The crowd usually picks your mark for you. I've featured this for years and had very little grief. Quit listening to those who haven't really worked it on the street. I did it and it worked for me. It was my biggest draw. Danny is right. You can get about 30 people to watch and appreciate it. Hope this helps

Prof. Gizmo
Message: Posted by: FunTimeAl (Oct 4, 2008 07:01AM)
Hey all,

Prof. Gizmo has a great busking manual that he published a while back. You outta PM this man and beg him to sell you one. It's a classic and well worth whatever he's charging for it these days.
Message: Posted by: TheGiz (Oct 4, 2008 10:48AM)
Chad! Thanks for the kind words!!! The book is still available. It will pay for itself the 1st time out.

It's been re-edited and added to. More useable stuff and I've re-thought some of my philosophy. Includes gaffs for tricks and sample giveaways.

I just moved to Kansas City. I've already performed at the River Market here.
Message: Posted by: Dynamike (Oct 5, 2008 03:03PM)
On 2008-09-21 22:25, Nicholas J. Johnson wrote:
Anyone done this?
Nope, not me.
Message: Posted by: Leeman (Oct 6, 2008 04:17AM)
I started doing a shell routine over the past couple of days and people really like it. Not only that but I really liked it. I even had a guy come up to me and said that his father had lost his entire paycheck playing the game overseas during WWII when he was on leave. I made sure to be clear that I wasn't playing for money and that nobody should take money out during the trick or joke that I had taken all there money if a harbor patrol officer rolled by. I am going to try and put together a whole con show where I show the shells, monte and fast and loose, along with maybe a short change con or some other type of scam that is more prevalent. And do the show as if I am telling them how they work. Does anybody do this, or have seen anyone do something like this. my thought was to cover the games and a bit of the history and a bit of the shill concept, and treat it more like an educational demonstration.
Message: Posted by: TheGiz (Oct 7, 2008 08:55PM)
Don't do this on the street for a tip. Do it as a seminar. Don't give away the 3 classic cons to just anybody passing by. All we need is for some know-it-all to come by and run his mouth exposing what we're doing. Keep the mystery. Doing all 3 effects will appear as a look how smart I am and how dumb you are. Always use 2-3 people in the shell game to prevent 1 person from appearing stupid or picked on. (Unless he is a know-it-all jerk.) I suggest using one of the 3 for your feature. Alternate the effects. Using all 3 at once is too much, in my mind.
So says the "Giz."
Message: Posted by: Leeman (Oct 7, 2008 11:00PM)
What would passerby's be able to expose?
Message: Posted by: TheGiz (Oct 9, 2008 09:19PM)
The performer could "explain" while teaching. Maybe you wouldn't understand.
Message: Posted by: Leeman (Oct 11, 2008 01:55AM)
I don't understand.