Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Project 365 (127/365): Three Card Monte

.:127/365: Three Card Monte:.

Ladies and gentlemen, here’s a classic.

This is the hustler’s dream: imagine being on the streets of LA, drawing an audience as you and your shill pretend to have a back and forth game for money and he apparently makes off with you because you seem too slow to fool the man.

An unsuspecting party shows up, thinking he could win some easy money because he saw you at work. You smirk inwardly at the poor mark as you let him bet probably his week’s wages in one go, because he’s absolutely confident that you can’t pull one over him.

Unfortunately, the minute he agreed to wager with you, he already lost.

You tell him the rules: two black cards, and one money card, a red card. All he has to do is keep up as you mix the cards and if he finds the money card, he wins. He eagerly looks on and watches the cards like a hawk, and he guesses what he is sure would be where the red card should be.

Looks like he’s walking home today.

The three card monte is a classic and has been around for longer than most people could remember. Whether in the incarnation of the pea and shell game, or in this slightly more modern version, the three card monte is a hustle worthy of being remembered for all time as one of the best swindles to ever come along. As a great deception, it was only a matter of time before magicians began incorporating this routine into their own shows.

This particular version as performed by Bill Malone is one of the best, and one of the cleanest in terms of sheer execution. I’m very impressed with the way Bill Malone mapped this routine out, and the little jokes he’s thrown in the middle certainly enhances people’s interest in his performance.

What really makes this routine tick though is how it manages to really play tricks with people’s heads. Any average mark could practically swear that they saw the card, and yet it magically changed places with nary a move from the performer. It’s a swindler’s dream, and they’ve been living it for centuries.

As I said, ladies and gentlemen, a classic.

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