The trick to any good scam (especially one where money is at stake) is misdirection. This holds true for three-card monty.

Three-card monty is a gambling game in which three cards (cupped for easier movement) are placed face-down on the table. The marks (another term for "sucker") are shown where the queen is. The cards are then moved around in a quick fashion. The marks are then invited to place a bet on which card the queen is. Only one bet is allowed, and it is here that the scam comes into play.

If a legitimate mark places a bet on the wrong card, he is shown the card he bet on, and his money is taken. If a mark is about to lay down his money on the correct card, a ringer in the crowd quickly jumps in and bets on one of the other cards (the ringer and the person running the game of course have worked this out ahead of time). Thus, no legitimate mark can ever win any money except at the ringer's discretion.

The scam is so effective because the marks all think the scam is in the cards.
There is a way to scam people on three card monty without using a ringer, using some farily simple sleight of hand. I shall try and explain without diagrams.

  • Firstly, take 3 cards (typically a black queen, and 2 red cards).
  • It helps a little to bend these cards along their long axis such that when they are face down, they form a little tent shape.
  • Hold your left hand such that your palm is facing you.
  • Place the black queen in this hand, face up, it's long edge running in the same direction as your fingers.
  • Grip this card using the very base of your thumb, and the very base of your fingers. In fact, you can partially grip this card using the actual palm of your hand.
  • Place a red card face-up on top of this card, but this time, grip it using the tips of your fingers, and higher up on your thumb. What you want to achieve is a small gap (perhaps a quater of an inch) between these cards.
  • Hold the remaining red card in your right hand.
    Show the cards to the audience and turn your hands palms-down, so that they cannot see the faces of the cards.

    Now the tricky part. As quickly and as cleanly as you can:

  • Moving your left hand from left to right, throw/drop the black queen onto the table face down to land towards the right half of the table.
  • Moving your right hand from right to left, drop the red card face down to land towards the left half of the table.
  • Moving your left hand from left to right, throw/drop the remaining red card onto the table face down to land between the first two cards.
  • Now quickly (or slowly and deliberately if you're feeling showy) move these cards around (drop the right card over the middle card, drop the left card over the middle card, repeat) to try and lose anyone who may have followed you.

    After the cards are first dropped, the order from left to right is RED-RED-BLACK, however, the audience will assume that you dropped the lower/easier/more obvious RED card first, since it is "on top", meaning that the audience thinks that the sequence is RED-BLACK-RED.

    Take your bets. If you practice and are lucky, you should be able to win 4-5 times before anyone catches on. You can vary the initial positions of the cards and the throwing order if you like.

    You can also feel less shame about taking their money, as you are using some sort of skill, as opposed to directly cheating them. Try it on your friends in a pub for beers and show them the trick afterwards if you like. You'll end up with a free drink or two, and they'll be less likely to be scammed in future and will be pleased to have learned something pretty cool.

    And remember, PRACTICE this first.
  • At first glance, it seems to be an ordinary card game. However, it is typically a scam. In Britain, it is known as Find the Lady, and in France it is known as Bonneteau. Playing the game is simple. The dealer has three cards, one of which is different from the others (such as one card is a queen and the others are not, or one red and two black, or some other combination). The cards are thrown down on a table (and perhaps moved around, like thimblerig but with cards). The game typically involves a wager on the player successfully guessing which card is different from the rest. If the correct card is chosen, the dealer will probably find some way to cheat the player. The card may be switched out or the bet may be "cancelled" for some reason or another. The game can be played fairly, but unless you know the dealer, assume it isn't.

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