Article on the Three Card Monte

Last update: 06 Dec 2007

They Reference Guide to the 3 Card Monte can be found HERE.

THE GAME: The standard 3 Card Monte is acutally more of a gambling ruse than a magic trick. The dealer would show three cards, one of which is an Ace. The "victim" would simply have to find the Ace as the cards are dealt to the table face down. Of course, the victim loses lots of money. Various ruses are used to keep the victim in the game.

There have since been many variations, some produced to provide a better story for the magician rather than simply challenging the spectator. The effect is also known by other names such as "Find the Lady", "Find the Queen", and so forth.

Methods vary. The "original" method is pure sleight of hand, with a clever throw designed to keep the "Lady" card difficult to locate. Magic versions have introduced gimmicked cards, in some cases enhancing the mystery but in other cases making the effect all too "perfect" and thus revealing that tricked cards are in play.

I like the original scam the best, though as presented by Dai Vernon as a gambling demonstration rather than as a challenge to the spectator. There are other good versions as well, such as Color Monte, which has become a classic packet version. The Three Card Monte has relatives that don't use cards at all, but use the same theme of hiding the selection from the spectator, many of these versions preceding the use of cards by many years. The 3 Shell Game is an example of this type of "Monte" effect.

FAVORITES: As stated, one of my favorite versions of this effect is Dai Vernon's, as seen on the Videonics video "4 Stars Live". Using ungimmicked cards, it just blew me away! Even knowing how it was done didn't lessen my amazement. I purchased Harry Anderson's Last Monte version of the effect, which in my opinion is a great one because it combines both the ungimmicked version along with a powerful kicker if you choose to use it.

Some books that have been highly recommended include: Erdnase's Expert at the Card Table, Garcia's Don't Bet On It (The Real Secrets of 3 Card Monte), Whit Haydn's Notes on Three Card Monte manuscript, Dai Vernon's Further Inner Secrets of Card Magic, and John Scarne's Three Card Monte booklet.

As mentioned above, I like Harry Anderson's Last Monte, and both Mike Rogers Unconquered Card and Mike Skinner's Ultimate 3 Card Monte have gotten good reviews as gaffed versions.

A great reference site for the Three Card Monte, 3 Shell Game, and other such "cons" is: Whit Haydn and Chef Anton's School for Scoundrel's forum The shop!