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NJJ
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Recently, I had the pleasure of watching a team of con artists play the trinidad monte. I watched for a good hour and even had lunch with the tosser.

I noticed that, on one occasion, a mark guessed the correct disc and was paid out. He was only there for a few minutes, bet once and left with his winnings. I never saw hm again. The other members of the team were there all day. Perhaps he was a friend or a shill on his day off. I don't know.

Regardless, it got me thinking about the exact moment that the 3CM and the shell game stop being a game and start being a scam and I believe I have figured it out.

Anything that the con artist does BEFORE the mark bets his money his fare game. Hypes, steals, pyschological tricks, pressure, flattery, bent corners etc. are all valid techniques. The hype is just a deceptive way of mixing the cards. The con artist never promises the pea will stay in one shell.

The victim loses because he fails to follow the card or the pea. He fails because he lacks knowledge of the game. he COULD have chosen the correct pea or card.

Up until the moment he bets, the victim has a 1 in 3 chance of winning. The con artist manipulates those odds in his favour using the aforementioned techniques. The victim is outsmarted...NOT cheated.

It's only if the con artist FAILS to pay the mark when he picks correctly that the game becomes a scam. Post betting switches or out bidding a winner are both examples of this.

So, when does it stop being a game and start being a scam?
jakeg
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I believe that it starts becoming a scam as soon as the operator wins his first bet because he's done his hype.
Whit Haydn
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It is a scam when the victim thinks it is just his eyes against the dealer's hands, and it turns out instead that the other "players" at the table are shillabers of the dealer.

The appearance of a game of skill is a lie.

It is a swindle in which the team of hustlers work together to create a false reality for the sucker.

The sucker is a participant and co-conspirator in his own comeuppance so it is hard to have much sympathy for the victim.

All the same, the whole snare is very much like police entrapment from the other side. In this case normally law-abiding citizens are "entrapped" in a crime the ordinarily wouldn't commit, only to discover that the "opportunity" that they were willing to give up their principles and reputations for was just an illusion created for their own undoing.
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This is a GREAT thread Nicholas! Thanks for starting it.

I agree with your original post btw. Very well thought out. Whit, very educational post as well about the psychological aspect of the con.

Man, I gotta quite fartin' around and get those shell game DVDs...
NJJ
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Quote:
On 2009-07-09 06:00, Whit Haydn wrote:
It is a scam when the victim thinks it is just his eyes against the dealer's hands, and it turns out instead that the other "players" at the table are shillabers of the dealer.




That was exactly what I originally thought.

As a game of chance, the mark has a 1 in 3 chance of winning.

As a game of skill, the mark's cognitive abilities, knowledge of the game and powers of observation will either lower or higher those odds.

Consider a game of poker. The cards I'm dealt have a certain chance of being the winning hand. But I can still win with the worst hand and lose with the best!
spcarlson
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Quote:
On 2009-07-09 03:59, Nicholas J. Johnson wrote:

The victim loses because he fails to follow the card or the pea. He fails because he lacks knowledge of the game. he COULD have chosen the correct pea or card.

Up until the moment he bets, the victim has a 1 in 3 chance of winning. The con artist manipulates those odds in his favour using the aforementioned techniques. The victim is outsmarted...NOT cheated.


_______________________

Isn’t it quite common to not have the pea under any shell!
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spcarlson
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Quote:
On 2009-07-09 06:00, Whit Haydn wrote:

All the same, the whole snare is very much like police entrapment from the other side. In this case normally law-abiding citizens are "entrapped" in a crime the ordinarily wouldn't commit, only to discover that the "opportunity" that they were willing to give up their principles and reputations for was just an illusion created for their own undoing.

___________________

Right on the money Whit, excellent comparison!
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NJJ
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I would agree that, if the con artist had withheld the pea, then the game would be a cheat. However, I am not aware of this being done regularly in the real world.

A con artist I was talking too last week mentioned he avoided the shell game all together because of the chances of being caught with a pea in your hand. So the idea of keeping one for extended periods seems unlikely...but entirely possibly
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It is usually held out for the spectator's choice in the real world. The operator has total control of his props, and muscle to back him up. What challenge can a victim make to the operator's behavior? "Everythings a bet! You want to bet it's in my hand? That's a forty dollar bet! If I can bluff you I can beat you!"

And it needn't ever be held out for extended periods. Many times shell game operators will flash the pea to a sucker, have a shill pick the obviously "wrong" shell, and then the two other shells are pushed forward (stealing the pea) for the sucker to choose from.

There are plenty of ways to hold out safely discussed on our DVDs. The Sharper Pens, Sheets Stack and other holdout devices make it even easier.

The Shell Game is far superior to the Monte for this very reason. It is nearly impossible to change a card under fire. It is easy to move the pea after the shell is picked, or to hold it out.

The two-pea system makes the whole thing a no-brainer.
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Excellent thread!

Nicholas, I mentioned it because I had just finished watching the Bonnaroo Grifter video clip on the SFS DVD and in the final part of the clip he is holding the pea out, the shill even lifts up another shell to “seal” the deal in the marks mind. If the mark had the $400 he would have bet it I am sure! It was a wonderful bit of work great seeing it in real world action too!

Whit, I forgot about that… Everything’s a bet!
and I’m sure he’s prepared for anything.
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Police Magician
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Nick, what makes this "game" a scam, in law enforcement mindset is "Intent". It is the intention of the operator to always win, through the mechanics you mentioned.

If I go to court with this, I have to show the "intent" of the operator to swindle the victim. I neither think of this as a game of skill nor chance as the for reason it is played.

In my state, we charge Theft by Deception. Other states use the Larceny by Trick.

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FunTimeAl
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It's the fuzz!

{Chad kicks over the cardboard box & runs like mad}
spcarlson
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Glenn, It's great having an official law perspective. Does it actually ever go to court? And would it ever be possible to prove that “intent” in a court of law? Even with a video of the operation in progress it’s hard to tell it’s not simply his hands against your eyes.
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Whit Haydn
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In California, the games of Three Card Monte and the Shell Game are specifically mentioned in the section of the law related to Larceny by Trick. You only have to prove that one of these scams was being played. It is a felony. People are prosecuted for it all the time.
Police Magician
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Yes, some do go to court. And, some have been convicted. Showing the intent of the game and operator is no problem. Both the 3CM and S & P are known as scams. In Georgia, the amount of money taken determines misdemeanor or felony. Glad to hear California charges them with a felony.

This sometimes causes a problem for buskers who want to do it as entertainment because of the stereotype it is given. I agree with Whit with what he said. "All the same, the whole snare is very much like police entrapment from the other side. In this case normally law-abiding citizens are "entrapped" in a crime they ordinarily wouldn't commit, only to discover that the "opportunity" that they were willing to give up their principles and reputations for was just an illusion created for their own undoing."

As Whit stated; "It is a swindle in which the team of hustlers work together to create a false reality for the sucker." Therein lies the theft by deception or larceny by trick.

Great thread Nick. Glad you had the chance to spend some time with the street swindler's. Most of the ones I encountered were in our custody or those I met who were already serving time. They are a wealth of information when they want their sentences reduced.

Glenn
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Police Magician
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Quote:
On 2009-07-10 23:02, spcarlson wrote:
Glenn, Even with a video of the operation in progress it’s hard to tell it’s not simply his hands against your eyes.


Steve, some criminals have stated the following to us: "Who are you going to believe, Me or your Lying Eyes?" Even on video, they will deny it was them or their actions.

Glenn
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spcarlson
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Great info Glen thanks for joining in it’s great to have this completely different vantage point.

Your words describing the criminals denial reminds me of the words of a juvenile court judge, he said in all his years on the bench the first question he would ask the young offenders facing him was, “Why are you in my courtroom”? Their response was always, “Because I got caught.” They never said, because I broke the law.

Glen, can you estimate how many, after serving a little time, go right back to the same line of work? Or does one arrest pretty much take the appeal out of it?

Steve
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Police Magician
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Steve, Recidivisium is rampant. In other words, I know of some who went right back to it. Of course, these were the die hards who have worked it for years. The novices I am not so sure of.

Most of those I have spoken with tell me that, like any job, they go to it daily, make their money and go home. To some, the thrill of it gets them in and keeps them going. Others just do it like any job.

Glenn
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NJJ
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Quote:
On 2009-07-09 13:45, Whit Haydn wrote:
It is usually held out for the spectator's choice in the real world. The operator has total control of his props, and muscle to back him up. What challenge can a victim make to the operator's behavior? "Everythings a bet! You want to bet it's in my hand? That's a forty dollar bet! If I can bluff you I can beat you!"

And it needn't ever be held out for extended periods. Many times shell game operators will flash the pea to a sucker, have a shill pick the obviously "wrong" shell, and then the two other shells are pushed forward (stealing the pea) for the sucker to choose from.

There are plenty of ways to hold out safely discussed on our DVDs. The Sharper Pens, Sheets Stack and other holdout devices make it even easier.

The Shell Game is far superior to the Monte for this very reason. It is nearly impossible to change a card under fire. It is easy to move the pea after the shell is picked, or to hold it out.

The two-pea system makes the whole thing a no-brainer.


What is the major benefit of the shell game is also it's major problem. Using extra peas, withholding the pea and even the basic moves can all be caught.

You can't really 'catch' someone cheating at 3CM. You can only accuse them of cheating AFTER the fact.
Whit Haydn
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That is magicians thinking. None of those things can be caught.

You are forgetting the nature of the game and the control that the gang has over the one vic.

The Three-Card Monte can't be switched after the bet is made without a fight.

If the victim at the shell game feels like he is being cheated, what can he do? It is six to one. Everyone around him will agree with the dealer, and if there is trouble, the vic gets the worst of it.
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