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All About 3 Card Monte

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All About 3 Card Monte
Three card monte is a scam that employs three playing cards and is often performed on the streets. The practitioner shows three cards and one of the three, the “money” card, contrasts with the others, for example, a red queen along with two black number cards. The cards are tossed onto a table where they’re mixed, and the mark (victim) gets to bet on which card is the money card. In the end, the apparent “game” is a scam that is under complete control of the practitioner, and there’s no way for the mark to win.

On the streets, the practitioner or scam artist often works with a group that seems to be betting and winning at the game. The group, however, is actually working together to fleece the mark. You can watch a recreation of a group of scam artists working the monte here.

The monte is also known as the following: monte, follow the lady, three card trick, three way and find the lady.

Magic and the Monte
Magicians often perform card tricks based on three card monte. Some perform a version of the scam in a manner that mimics the action on the streets. Most have in common a couple of phases where spectators can’t find the card. And in the final phase, the target card is somehow marked. But despite the mark, spectators find that they still can’t find the card.

The best known expert at monte is magician Whit Haydn who sells instructional DVDs and other materials on the topic. Haydn is also an expert at the shell game, which is related to the monte.

There are numerous close-up magic routines based on the monte premise that come in two basic types: 1) executing 3 card monte with traditional moves and asking spectators to find the money card; and 2) showing three cards and causing the target card to somehow change. Between the two approaches, I favor the artificial “find the card” routines as they don’t require spectators to be wrong and to “lose,” and for me, I generally find these routines to be more entertaining to spectators.

The Magic Routines
A routine that’s based on the traditional moves of the real scam but is structured as a routine, is “3 Card Monte,” which is found on Steve Draun’s “Standing Room Only: Vol. 1" DVD. In Draun’s brilliant routine, the identifying mark on the target card is a paper clip, instead of the usual bent corner. I have performed this routine in the past.

The “magic” routines mostly rely on a combination of sleight of hand and, in some cases, gimmicked cards. Some versions require a table, as is the case with Daryl’s Ultra Monte and Paul Gordon’s Red Herring. Perhaps best known is Mike Skinner’s version that’s sold as a trick, and Color Monte, a version of the monte with special cards. Some versions are performed in the hands, as is the case with Dan Harlan’s Switchblade, Bob Sheet’s The Killer Kitson Miracle and Diamond Jim Tyler’s DiaMonte, These are great for performing in strolling situations where you may not have access to a table.

Personally, I regularly perform Daryl’s Ultra Monte and Bob Sheet’s The Killer Kitson Miracle, and have, in the past, performed “Color Monte.”

There are also stage versions of the monte that use jumbo or larger cards. While my personal favorite, and one that I occasionally perform on stage, is Martin Lewis’ Sidewalk Shuffle, I have also been impressed by Bob Sheet’s Royal Tonte. There are many more, but the two versions that I mention here are the ones that I’m most familiar with.

Finally, there’s an easy version that I teach here on the site. I call it the Simple Monte and it’s a one-phase effect that is based on a gimmicked card that one may make.

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