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Gary Dayton
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New Jersey
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I have been following the recent 3-shell threads with great interest. I’ve wanted to develop a 3-shell game routine for a while, but still have a couple of questions and would appreciate some advice.

I think I would like to buy the School for Scoundrels Street Shells as a start. These seem to be the best for my needs. But, I’m not sure whether or not it would be best to get the shells with a magnet? My performance situations would generally be magic-oriented, and at a restaurant table or in a situation where I would have access to a small close-up table.

What books or videos would be helpful in learning the basic sleights and useful for developing a solid routine? Would “Absolutely Nuts” be the ticket, or is there something more appropriate for learning the fundamentals?

Thanks for the help.


hmmmm ... think we need a little 3-shell avatar-thingy ... Smile Smile Smile
Erik Anderson
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Des Moines, Iowa
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Remember that free advice is generally worth about half what you pay for it. That being said...

I really do think you can't go wrong with anything offered by the School for Scoundrels. All of it is made for the real worker. The Street shells are a great choice and they will serve you well. (The Chanin dip is essential.) As for gaffed vs. non-gaffed shells, I take some small amount of pleasure in my being able to work the shells in their classic form. Also, you will find most of the available material assumes you are using ungaffed (classic) shells. Learn the basics first. You can always experiment with a gaffed set later AFTER you've honed your "chops."

As for material, consider the following:

Bob Kohler's The Golden Shells
If you want a solid routine from someone who knows what works (and why), this video is well worth studying. Kohler's work is the basis for much of what I do myself. It is solid, entertaining stuff that will, over time, teach you the psychology of the game (as you see it work time and time again in performance). It will teach you what the shell game is really all about.

Bob Sheets' Absolutely Nuts
This is a worderful contrast to Kohler's Golden Shells. He has a wonderfully disarming and infectious sense of fun and his work is undeniably entertaining. For my taste, the routine is just a bit manic and perhaps may be a bit hard for an audience to follow. But that is just my opinion on matters of personal style. (His style is not mine.) Of course, it's also possible that it was simply beyond my ability to really understand back when I first watched it and I should probably go back and watch it again. However, Sheet's acquitment move alone is worth the price of the tape. It will get you out of some tight spots.

The Bob's are evidently going to release a collaborative shells DVD. I can't wait.

Finally, I suggest you pick up a copy of "Chanin, The Man With the Magic Hands." In addition to his many other cornerstone works, it contains Chanin's hard to find publication on the shells "Hello, Sucker!" in it's entirety. The original illustrations have suffered somewhat in reprinting. They are servicable...but barely. (Other photos and illustrations throughout the book are very clean.) The material, however, is an invaluable primary source, and a must for any serious study of the shells.

This is just my opinion and I don't consider myself to be an expert by any stretch of the imagination. But the shell game continues to entertain and delight my audiences wherever I go. Beyond that, the shells fascinate me in a way that a lot of other magic never has. So I continue to be a student of the game.

Good luck, and always remember to keep a firm pinch on your steal.
Erik "Aces" Anderson

"I never let my schooling get in the way of my education." ~ Mark Twain
Whit Haydn
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Don't forget Tom Osbourne's The Three Shell Game edited by Read, published by M. Kanter.

Frank Garcia's "All in a Nutshell" is also good.

Check out our listings of books and videos at as well as Andrew Pinard's site
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Profile of nalu_magic
Great advice! I have Bob's The Golden Shells video and can say that it is a winner. THis routine is entertaining and fun. I base my whole routine off of his...with my own patter of course.

I can also recommend Super Shells, the mamuscript by Gary Oullet.

I have not used the magnetic Shells so I can't comment on them. I do however HIGHLY recommend Whit's Street Shells and his perfect pea. The set comes with a shot glass that fits perfectly over the shell for a finale.

I've heard great things about La Maggiore shells too.

Good luck, my friend. This classic swindle is surely entertaining and will definitely get you noticed and remembered. Almost everyone has heard of it, but not all magicians know how it's done!
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Profile of saturnin
Gary Ouellet's SUPERSHELLS is also taught on volume 3 of his DVD trilogy.

Honestly, my best advice would be to get all these ressources as they ALL have something to offer:
-The Very Best of Gary Ouellet volume 3
(or the manuscript)
-Bob Sheets' Absolutely Nuts (I saw him live, and he is simply amazing)
-Bob Kohler's The Golden Shells
-School for Scoundrels
-The Phil Cass video

Of course you can start with any 1 of these to begin, and if you really like it and want to expand, and finally make up or personalized your routines, you will need to immerse yourself in the subject.

Hope this helps!

Ronnie Lemieux
There is no road to happiness,

happiness is the road!
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Profile of DAK
The School for Scoundrel Street Shells are awsome! I've just started with the three shells (got my set yesterday). They are a dream to use and handle.

I will be getting the Bob's videos soon too. The book I ordered which has a good routine and thoughts (and an excellent bibliography) is Diversions for the Shell and Pea game by Dusty Johnson (available from School for Scoundrels) I've found it helpful.

I've heard somewhere that School for Scoundrels is going to be doing a "Notes on the Three Shell Game" similar to their other "notes on..." does anyone know if this certain? As I know that will be an essential addition to the three shell workers library.

Kindest Regards

Whit Haydn
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It is certain. They are the class notes for our college level course "School for Scoundrels" taught for a month, once a year, at the Magic Castle's Magic University. The class comprises the Fast and Loose games, Shell Game, and Three-Card Monte. It includes the history, psychology, moves, and meaning for magic of all three types of street scam. It has been taught every year since 1996 by Chef Anton and myself.

The Shell Game book and it's accompanying DVD will be out sometime this year. Everyone, please don't bug me about when. It will come out when it is finished. I have been working on it for five years. A lot depends on when and how much time I have to work on it. Making a living gets in the way, and so do other projects the School for Scoundrels has on the burner.

Chef and I make a very small percentage of our income from the School for Scoundrels. We are both full-time performers, and most of the money coming into our store goes right back into the company and new product development.

Please don't send me private e-mails asking for info on future projects. I get ten to fifty such e-mails a day, and I am choking on them. We announce everything coming out as we know, and you can keep up by getting on our mailing list, or by checking on our website.

Gary Dayton
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Thank you all for your good input, especially Erik – I really appreciate your detailed and thoughtful comments. How come you don’t live around the corner from me here in New Jersey?!

Thanks for pointing out Chanin’s book. I wasn’t aware of this. At this point, it seems good to start with the regular Street Shells--non-gaffed, and Tom Osbourne’s book along with Kohler’s video. I’ll look to add Chanin’s book after building a few of the fundamentals.

I met Frank Garcia a few times at Tannen’s years ago in the late 1970s. A real gentleman and fine magician. I was just a kid then, and he was very kind to me, patiently explaining things as I hung onto his every word. At the time I was keenly interested in card magic, so I never even thought to ask him about the shells. My loss, I guess, but he did teach me a few Monte moves and autographed a copy of his “Don’t Bet on It: The Real Secrets of 3-Card Monte,” which I cherish. I’ll look for his “All in a Nutshell.”

I look forward to the School for Scoundrels Shell Game book and DVD. It’s not surprising people clamor for your work. It’s written with such depth. Chicago Surprise really opened my eyes about the role of theory in trick construction and performance; it changed the way I look at magic. I hope you do more work like this in the future.

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Profile of Lagrange
Thanks for posting this thread.

I'm way too reliant on the pasteboards, and I'm trying to branch out into coins and elsewhere. Anyway, the shells are a close-up effect I've been considering for some time.

Keep the opinions coming.
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