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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » The September 2003 entrée: Whit Haydn » » Three Card Monte » » TOPIC IS LOCKED (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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Jason K.
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Hi Whit, thank you for being here.

My question to you is this:

How do you present your Three Card Monte? Are you informative? Recite a story? Do you (or have you ever) done it "for real"?

Thanks!
Whit Haydn
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The exhibition routine I use is called Three-Card Gold. It is explained both on our video and in our book The School for Scoundrels Notes on Three-Card Monte. On the video, you can see an excellent performance of the routine by Chef Anton. Three-Card Gold was created by Chef Anton and myself in 1996.

I performed both three-card monte and the shell game for money on the streets of New York in the late 1960's. But I would not call that playing for real. I was working without shills, and playing the game the way I had learned from magic books such as Scarne's book on Three-Card Monte. I always made money, but not the kind of money the game is intended to produce.

In fact, I was not playing a congame at all, really. I was simply playing an honest game of my hands against the spectator's eyes. Without the use of shills to set the mark up, Three-Card Monte is simply what it claims to be--a game of skill.

At the time, the game had not been played in New York for many years, and was not considered a problem by the police. Cops would sometimes come by and watch, and smile when the suckers lost. They only hassled me when the crowd blocked traffic. Six years later, the streets were filled with real three-card monte games, and it was a constant problem. Eventually, the city cracked down and pushed the hustlers out.

None of the magic books explained the real work on the game, and it was not until years later that I really understood how it was supposed to work. The book and video that Chef and I put out explains what the other works only touched on, the proper scripting of the game with the use of shills.
invalidity
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I apologise for my ignorance, but what are shills? I have a basic understanding that the 3 card monte as a scam involves the use of accomplices, are these accomplices called shill, then?
Whit Haydn
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No need to apologize. Thanks for an excellent question which I would love to answer.

Yes. Shills are accomplices that work together with the dealer or "operator." The word comes from the Welsh word "shillaber" which means "a fellow participant in a job of work." The use of the word shill by con artists goes back to the nineteenth century. There are various other names used for shills in conman "argot" or lingo.

Most of these have specific meanings referencing the jobs that the shill was supposed to perform, although often these meanings have been diluted by time, and sometimes lost. Cappers, ropers, steerers, pickets, wallmen, and boosters, are all names for various jobs done by shills.

Pickets (English) and wallmen (American), for example were lookouts, while ropers and steerers were the outside men who found, qualified, and "steered" the sucker to the inside man or "operator." More general names for any kind of shill are bonnett (English) or stick (American Carny).

Bonnett is interesting. Dr. Ron Wohl has done a lot of linguistic research on the term, which seems to indicate an English/French connection in congames. The archaic French word for conman was Bonneteur, which indicated one who was "a hat tipper," or a stranger who was "overly friendly."

This later became bonneteau or con game, and today refers almost exclusively to the game "Three-Card Monte." The English term for a conman's shill was Bonnett, which at its origin referred to a man's cloth cap, and may have had either a similar thought in its origin, or may have been an Anglicization of Bonneteur.

Fun stuff, yes?
invalidity
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Thanks very much for the info Mr Hadyn. Much appreciated. I don't suppose all this info is in your 3 card monte notes is it? If it is, I may just have to save up and get myself a copy one of these days.

:thanx:
Review King
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Whit, what do you think about Skinner's Ultimate 3 Card Monte?

Chris
"Of all words of tongue and pen,
the saddest are, "It might have been"

..........John Greenleaf Whittier
Whit Haydn
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invalidity:

It's just a drop from the firehose. All this and a huge amount more is in the Three-Card Monte book and tape.

The book has over 160 dense 8 1/2 by 11 pages with more than 180 photos and illustrations. It has a large history section with biographies of the major three-card monte masters like Canada Bill Jones, George Devol, Frank Tarbeaux, Ben Marks, Doc Baggs, Pinch Pinchback, and others.

It has a large appendix with descriptions of various script scenarios, many from original sources in the nineteeenth century. It has photos of the real game in action in New York, Paris, London, Israel and other places.

It covers all the major variations of the game both open and closed, including the Texas Twist. It has many pages of actual patter from the streets from the nineteenth century to the present. It shows all of the classic moves and dodges, plus many original and never before published moves from Gazzo, Bob Kohler, Ron Wohl and others.

It has info from interviews with vice cops from several major American cities, including New York, Houston, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

It has a complete description of the moves and patter for Three-Card Gold, the exhibition routine I created with Chef Anton, that we both use in performance.

It has photos of all the different layouts that have been used through the ages, tripe stands, cardboard boxes, trays that suspend from the neck, etc.

It has a move by move account of the Cracker Parker Mob's script provided by Gazzo who worked with them in the seventies. The Cracker Parker Mob was the most sophisticated mob of three-card monte men we've run across, and they ruled the streets of London for more than thirty years.

The book explains the special psychology of the street conman and how it applies to magic performance. The School for Scoundrels wants to shift the past centuries dominant model for magic from card mechanic to street hustler, and this book explains how and why.

Our tape is not just a rehash of what is in the book in video form. It has lots of new and never before seen stuff.

The three-card monte tape opens with actual footage of a three-card monte game on the streets of Kieva, Uzbekistan in 1990.

We show a three camera shoot on the street of a recreation of the Cracker Parker mob scam, a different one from that described in the book. The actors include myself, Gazzo, Paul Wilson, Jeff Thomas, Chef Anton, Zack Dubnoff and Billy McComb as the smoother.

The tape shows all the basic moves explained in detail with all the psychology and subtleties that are lacking in other books and videos. These make all the difference.

There are sections of original material by Gazzo, Doc Eason, Paul Wilson, and Bob Kohler, and others, as well as a performance and explanation of our Three-Card Gold routine by Chef Anton.

Don't know how to spell it out any clearer. The book and tape are the bomb. If you don't have them, you don't know jack about the monte. Smile
Whit Haydn
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MagicChris:

I think Skinner's routine is great. He did it for me years ago at Lilly Langtrees at the Golden Nugget. It is very solid, very commercial stuff.

I don't think it is better than the real thing done well, with the bent or torn corner, the paper clip, the stamp, the pencil mark, the lipstick smear and all the other great climaxes available.

Jay Ose had fifteen different climaxes for the monte, and he always used a different one when performing for someone more than once.
Review King
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Whit, I think you hit it on the head. Skinner's version is darn clever, but nothin beats good old sleight of hand.

I saw Doc Eason do the routine and even though I was familiar with it, in his hands it was a miracle- and no gaffs!!
"Of all words of tongue and pen,
the saddest are, "It might have been"

..........John Greenleaf Whittier
Whit Haydn
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Doc indeed does a wonderful routine--one of the very best--and was kind enough to explain his "Easy Bent Corner" on our tape.
GetJet
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I hope you haven't answered this yet.
Do you have any plans to release the School of Scoundrels video material on DVDs.

Please say yes.

I am not asking because "I learn better with video", in fact I much prefer books, yet I would love to see, for example, Gazzo performing his routines.

Thank you for your time
GetJet
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I've just seen the answer in another thread, sorry about that. I am very happy that the answer is yes.
markyeager
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John Mendoza taught me the Classic Method with the bent cards over 30 years ago. Garcia,Vernon,Skinner and watching the street workers on 42 Street in NYC added the details to my routine. I use classic patter which describe my feelings as a specator, even though I am performing the routine. I think the bent corner is the ultimate ending, especially the way Mike Skinner shows the bent corner card at the end. Study of this routine, helped me perfect my close up magic performances of every effect.
It's Fun to be Fooled
Whit Haydn
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Mark:

I agree with you so much. The study of three-card monte and it's presentation, as well as the shell game and fast and loose do so much to inform one's understanding and presentation of magic.

Just as with the cups and balls and linking rings, when you learn to present these classics you are learning the very basic elements of our craft--the art of harmless deception.
ASW
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Quote:
On 2003-09-03 06:31, whithaydn wrote:
More general names for any kind of shill are bonnett (English) or stick (American Carny).


If you are interested in the taxonomy of the old time hustler, you really need to track down Kellow Chesney's book "The Victorian Underworld (1970, 1991). Besides being a great read generally, there is a chapter titled, 'Magsmen, macers and shofulmen' which discusses fairground conmen, fawney-droppers, duffers, thimble-riggers, etc.

The book mentions magsmen (a gent who ran a carny gaff but came to mean any crooked gambler), broadsmen (monte operators), the dumplin operator (skittle gaff with a biased ball), and the charley pitcher (dice hustler).

Interestingly, in the 19th century, duffer meant the opposite of the usage common to magicians...

By far my favourite term for a monte game is 'Playing the baby ticket', which comes from the book written by my avatar...

By the way, if you want to read an outstanding account (thinly fictionalised) of the work of ropers and shills, check out "Trick Baby" by Iceberg Slim. A fascinating account of the trials and tribulations of hustling from a black perspective. The book also contains an account of the pidgeon drop and other scams. I haven't read this in ten years - discussing it makes me want to pore through my shelves again... Thanks Whit.

regards
Andrew

PS. Just wanted to add that Whit's book on the monte is the best analysis of this fascinating subject ever to be published.
Whenever I find myself gripping anything too tightly I just ask myself "How would Guy Hollingworth hold this?"

A magician on the Genii Forum

"I would respect VIPs if they respect history."

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Whit Haydn
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Thanks, Andrew, for the nice comments. Coming from a true expert, they mean a lot to me. And thanks even more for a couple of great new sources. Will start digging for them immediately. Must tell Ron Wohl about the Chesney book!
Pete Biro
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Whit me bucko... Ken Brooke used to call the shills "Ricks" -- any history on that word?

Best 3-Card Monte Routines I have personally witnessed - and why (magicians, not street workers).

Mike Rogers - his explanation
Tony Georgio - his story and interaction with audience
Andrew Wimhurst - signed money card found in wallet
Jay Ose - just plain good
Smile Smile Smile
STAY TOONED... @ www.pete-biro.com
Whit Haydn
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Never heard the term "Ricks." Will see what we can find out.
Jason K.
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Quote:
On 2003-09-05 12:51, Pete Biro wrote:
Andrew Wimhurst - signed money card found in wallet



Is his routine published anywhere?
Leeman
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what climax to monte is your favorite
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