The Card Game You CANNOT Win

We've all heard the story about some guy who went to the 'city' and saw Three Card Monte in effect.  Then the lies come out, of which there will be plenty.  'Oh, they always let you win a round or two to get you hooked!'  'I could see exactly how they did it!' 'It's legal in Mississippi!'

Folks, I've thrown cards for Monte, and have been paid for my sleight of hand card tricks, and I'm here to tell you that all of these are patently false.  It's a point of pride for the thrower to NOT be seen when they throw the cards, and they sure as heck aren't about to let you walk away with ANY money.  

Mind you, a Monte thrower NEVER works alone.  They work as part of a gang or mob.  People who amble up and pretend to be part of the game, but are actually there to ensure that the money stays with the gang.  If a couple get's snared, and one of the two decides it's 'time to go' then the other members of the game will 'box them out' or manage to separate them from their partner.  

If someone does manage to identify the card from the three cards, then the other moves come into play.  Either another member of the mob will step in and double down on your card, and then the dealer will turn to them, and let them win, or they will perform one of the myriads of methods of turning over the cards where a switch takes place.

Once the cards are face up, you will NEVER win.  

The stranger in the crowd who is appearing to win, and is encouraging others to throw their money down is called the 'shill.'  The shill will be the one who manages to double down on your winning bet and steal the win.  If he double downs too slowly, then you chose the wrong card to begin with.  Mind you, it has been shown that people who do manage to walk away with money from a game, and were not part of the gang, almost always have fake money in their possession.  

If anyone ever starts to show you three card monte, keep your money in your pocket.  I'd suggest watching the crowd.  It's quite fascinating to try and figure out the other members of the mob.  Mind you, these people are criminals, and therefore don't let on whatever you do, or you might get mugged!

Members of the gang will be difficult to spot.  The Three Card man will be speaking so rapidly and so much that it will be difficult for you to follow.  They will have a series of signals in their patter and in their body language that will let those 'in the gang' know which card is the actual money card, and ensure that you can never actually get to a point where they pay you.   

One trick is to mark the money card, quite on accident.  When this is done, people will fall all over themselves to bet on the marked card, but when it's turned over it is not the money card.  Whether it's with a bent corner, or a dirt smudge, you can bet that no matter what seems to transpire, that bend or smudge will magically appear to switch cards.

The Toss

Three Card MonteCredit: Ken Schauer

As for the toss, it's a card move that is practiced by the hour, and is quite subtle.  It's one of the few slights I know where speed and timing trump just timing.  Many card slights need more finesse than speed.  The toss is different.  It does require speed and tempo. When performed properly, 

Take the time, and learn how to throw the cards.  It'll give you an edge up on understanding why you should NEVER participate in a game of Monte.  Even when you know the moves, the slights are great!  They can be used to show people the basic mechanics, just be sure to never accept the money you're guaranteed to win.

When setting up, I select three cards from the deck.  Two black high number cards, and one red card, either a queen or an ace. This is traditional.  Then I gently bend the three cards lengthwise so they tent on the table.  This facilitates the grab and toss, and allows you to hold the cards properly.    For the first toss, I pick up the two back cards first, and the red card last.  Then I flash the red card, and appear to throw it on the table.  Then I throw the other two cards quickly, and might take a second rearranging them in a way that is easy to follow.

It's all part of the show.

To prove a point, I usually have the card that appears to be the money card on one side, and the actual money card as far away from it as possible.  This really cements the fact that people are pretty much incapable of following the money card.  I throw again, using the hype, and the third time I don't hype.  A hype is the slight used when you appear to throw the money card, but in actuality you throw a different card.  It's quick, and when performed sloppily makes an audible hiss and pop as the cards slide past each other.

Now for some treats for those of you out there.  When the toss is performed, pay attention to the last card to hit the table.  Usually that is the money card on opening sets of moves.  Don't depend on your eyes to tell you which card you think it is, for they will lie.  Just pay attention to the last card to hit the table, and laugh when the magician or tosser scrambles to recover from this little blow.  

I had the opportunity a few years back to do this to a tosser.  It only took about five seconds to determine that his gang consisted of a couple of bruisers that managed to make sure I was no longer near the table, and everyone else crowded in, quite oblivious.  I made it out of there only five dollars poorer, but what a thrill!