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02 October 2010

On BART tonight I witnessed, for the first time outside the movies, a shell game in action. It was awesome.[More:]

The con man sat down next to two young, clean cut guys, maybe they were even high school kids, and he busts out this little black board and three bottle caps, and the little soft ball thing. He starts zipping the lids around and taking bets. Someone across from him bets and loses. He lets the guy bet again, and win back his money. Only then does he turn to his two marks, who at this point are falling over themselves to get their wallets and count their cash. I couldn't see exactly, but they handed him a lot of it.

A crowd of dudes has formed, everyone sure they are going to win. He puts on his little show, talks a lot, when he stops, they point to a cap and BAM, it's empty. He pockets the money, packs up his stuff, stops for a a second by where I'm sitting but none of us want a taste and he zips out the door to the next car. I was so damned impressed with his skills. The boys, as you can imagine, were heartbroken and sulked all the way to SF.
You are so lucky to have seen that.
posted by Ardiril 03 October | 01:15
I should be amazed that anyone is still dumb enough to fall for that, but I'm not.
posted by grouse 03 October | 02:58
Wow. I thought everyone heard about the game in basic stats class. Great story.
posted by casarkos 03 October | 07:37
I've seen tourists - always young men - fleeced this way in Oxford Street many times.
posted by Senyar 03 October | 08:17
I've seen a lot of 3-card monte, but never a shell game.
posted by Obscure Reference 03 October | 08:22
I was also a bit shocked. I assumed knowledge of this scam was completely widespread.
posted by serazin 03 October | 09:31
I saw this a lot in New York in the late 80s. Haven't seen one in some time, though.
posted by Miko 03 October | 09:34
I saw this a lot in New York in the late 80s. Haven't seen one in some time, though.
posted by Miko 03 October | 09:34
I would think that the BART cops would take a dim view of this. To the point of trying to exclude him from riding.
posted by danf 03 October | 10:17
Oh yeah, he was looking around nervously the whole time, looking out for cops. I couldn't have possibly narced him out though. It was too much fun.

Related: On the way home a guy got on the train in the craziest get up. He had a big police belt equipped with a couple flashlights, handcuffs, and lots of other crap including maybe a knife? I wasn't sure. He was very muscular and wearing work pants and a tight black shirt that showed off his figure along with short black leather gloves that looked most suited to choking someone without leaving fingerprints on their jewelry. There was no indication that he was any kind of official or professional security guard, and there was something about his vibe that said, "RUN AWAY" to everyone else. He just rode the train for a few stops and got off. The huge sporty guy next to me who also looked like he could easily crush most mortals with one hand turned to me when the guy got off to express how freaked out he'd been by the guy.
posted by serazin 03 October | 11:43
So what happens if you pin down your best guess and flip the other two?
posted by plinth 04 October | 08:50
I think the deal is they palm the ball and just drop it down under whichever one they want. Plus they move on to the next mark as soon as they're done scamming you.
posted by serazin 04 October | 13:05
I've never seen cards, only the shell game with tiny plastic cups and usually a foam ball of some light, crushable, but not very independently mobile material.

Used to watch the games in and around Times Square when I was in NYC. Actually got roughed up and manhandled out of a guy's territory once for being too obviously curious. (This is, of course, pre-Disney Times Square. Cops too busy looking for open drug sales and prostitution to care about shell games.) Then I had a couple of opportunities to watch a crew work the CTA trains in Chicago in the 90s. With that one I actually saw the interesting technique of having a loud, skeptical shill "win".
posted by dhartung 04 October | 17:31
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