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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » If right you win, if wrong you lose... » » Threes (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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Saint Louis
132 Posts

Profile of BMF
I've recently been wondering about the significance of threes in magic and betting. There are often three cups and three balls, three shells for a pea, and three cards for monte. Darts games are often played in bars, and bet upon, and there are generally three darts per person. The goal of slots and pachinko is generally to match up three numbers. In some poker variants, there are three cards dealt for the flop. Many people are with prizes behind doors number 1, 2, and 3.

Is there a particular special meaning behind three? Are there threes that I'm missing? Does anybody have any ideas where I could find further study on this?
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UK, England (but Scottish by birth)
265 Posts

Profile of Kyf
Some excellent references "Curious and Interesting Numbers" immediately spring to mind - my copy is in my office.

There were the three Fates, three Graces, three Gorgons and the three Furies.

Three has mystical properties (Holy Trinity).

In general it's the least number we can manipulate with two moving (one in each hand) and one stationary object. Making this ideal for sleights (without becoming TOO difficult to follow) for gambling games.

Three shells for example - two moving - one stationary - provides JUST enough for the spectator to think they can follow the game (and win - or why bother playing).

Four, five, six shells would not work because of the combinations of moves that prevent this illusion of fairness.

Just my 3cents worth.

"I put tape on the mirrors in my house so I don't accidentally walk through into another dimension." Steve Wright
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202 Posts

Profile of corsufle
Three is the smallest number that you can use to establish a pattern and then have a variation or difference. E.g. If you only have two shells, then which shell is different, the one with the pea or the one without? With three shells and one pea, it is clear that the shell with the pea is special.

The principle of establishing a pattern and then breaking it shows up a lot in jokes. Many jokes have three parts where the first two parts are similar (i.e. establish a pattern) and the third is the punchline (i.e. breaks it). For example, most "Three guys walk into a bar" jokes would not work with only two guys and would be tedious with four or more.

Anyway, that is my opinion. Good thing I didn't get started on the Pythagorean symbolism of the number 3 or this post would be a lot longer Smile
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Inner circle
1736 Posts

Profile of jakeg
There was a show on PBS called Comedy College. It was a panel discussion by comedians and writers, hosted by Alan King. On one show, the pattern of 3 was discussed as it related to writing comedy.
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Regular user
Saint Louis
132 Posts

Profile of BMF
Thanks, all, for the info and ideas. My "to read" list has expanded substantially.
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Veteran user
335 Posts

Profile of TheGiz
Don't forget the 3 little pigs, the jokes the Christian, the Catholic and the Jew etc. 3 muskateers, butcher, baker, candlestick maker

"And it's a good thing I only use my power for good!!!"
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987 Posts

Profile of FunTimeAl
Well, ya can't use 2.
Two's the only even prime number...which makes it rather odd.
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