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Three-card Monte — also known as Find the Lady or the Three-card Trick — is a confidence game in which the victim, or mark, is tricked into betting a sum of money, on the assumption that they can find the money card among three face-down playing cards. It is the same as the shell game except that cards are used instead of shells.

In its full form, Three-card Monte is an example of a classic "short con" in which a shill pretends to conspire with the mark to cheat the dealer, while in fact conspiring with the dealer to cheat the mark.

This confidence trick was already in use by the turn of the 15th century.

How it is doneEdit

Dealers employ sleight of hand and misdirection to prevent the mark from finding the queen.

While various moves have been devised for Monte, there is one basic move which is overwhelmingly used with virtually all Monte games. It has to do with the way the cards are held and tossed to the table. The dealer will pick up one of the cards with one hand, and two with the other. This is the key: although it appears that the dealer is tossing the lowermost card to the table, in actuality he can toss either the top or the bottom card at will. Thus, once he does so, and begins mixing up the cards, the mark will be following the wrong card from the beginning. The move, done properly, is undetectable. Even the shills pretending to play are often unaware of where the money card actually is; the dealer employs signals of various kinds to let them know where it is.

Inevitably, once in a while the mark will manage to find the correct location of the card by pure chance. This presents no problem at all for the mob; if the mark picks the right card, one of the shills will simply post a higher bid, which the dealer immediately accepts, announcing "I only accept the highest bid". In other words, the mark puts down money on the right card, at which point a shill will immediately place a double bet on top of the card, thereby winning the "right" to play that round. Of course, if the mark picks the wrong card, the dealer takes the bid and the money. The dealer will never accept a winning bid from a mark.

The psychology of the con is to increase the mark's confidence until he believes himself to have a special ability to cheat the dealer or win easy money. Everything the monte mob does is geared towards creating that mindset in the mark. To increase the mark's motivation to bet, they will also employ standard strategies such as having the dealer be slightly abrasive or rude, so there is even more reason to want to take his money.

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