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Three Card Monte

Every now and again, audiences ask about the classic game of Three Card Monte. I always start by telling them the same thing: it’s called a game, but is really a con.

This game is illegal but is sometimes played on the streets (it has been spotted in London, New York, Las Vegas and many European cities); the dealer mixes up three cards (normally a Queen and two indifferent cards) and the player bets on where he thinks the Queen is. While it looks incredibly fair, the player is always cheated into losing when the stakes are high.

I was lucky enough to see a version of this game played on the streets for real. It sounds weird to say, but it’s so rare to get up close to a real Monte gang so it was one of the highlights of my life in magic (I also proposed to my girlfriend that day, so it was a great day all round!). The gang consisted of four or five people and the game was played with bottle caps, which I hadn’t seen before.

A few years ago, I spent a couple of weeks in Boston and was taught how to deal Three Card Monte by a professional “tosser” (that’s the technical term) who used to be part of a genuine underground Monte gang. It’s very, very rare to be let into their secrets so I consider myself to be very fortunate.

To deal the game takes a lot of practice as it is technically very difficult sleight of hand, but what people don’t expect is that it also requires a lot of psychology to second guess where the player will place his bet. While I now only perform it once or twice a month, I sometimes play this game in my show when I have audience members who I know will enjoy it (normally groups of lads or card players). It’s a lot of fun and is surprisingly magical as by the end of it, players are one-hundred percent convinced that they know where the Queen is … but they’re always wrong!

It occurred to me recently that having a Monte dealer would be a great addition to parties for card players etc, so see my sleight of hand magician page if you’d like to invite me along to challenge your friends to a game!