Talk:Shell game

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I live in London in the UK, and there is a similar con using three black discs, one has a piece of what appears to be white tape across the underside (which is the one disc you have to find). However no one ever wins, no i know there is some slight of hand at times because the con man will pick up a losing (the disc which the mark or shrill has picked) before picking up the next losing disc and flipping it, which is clearly slight of hand. But i think there is more to it, does anyone know how this is referenced in Wiki?

They use the trick from the Three-card Monte. (talk) 22:24, 17 December 2007 (UTC)

==> hello its important to CALL IT THREE CARD MONTE also in the main story ==> and to add link/info for the Steve ALTEN book titled "the shell game" ==> which already 67 reviews Cowtowne (talk) 22:30, 17 March 2008 (UTC)cowtowne

The Image on this page depicts "the cups and balls" effect NOT the Shell game, although they are similar.

How is it done[edit]

The article describes somewhat how the trick is performed, but it could use some improvement. I cannot picture how the sleight-of-hand works from the text. --Klhuillier 06:55, 5 December 2005 (UTC)

Maybe somebody can get pix? Anybody know how to reach James Randi? Trekphiler 07:57, 21 December 2005 (UTC)
Is explained in cups and balls article. chantessy 21:42, 7 May 2006 (UTC)


If anybody cares, I've heard the name "thimblerig" was coined by magicians (or illusionists, if you prefer), which use that as their term of art for the game. Trekphiler 07:57, 21 December 2005 (UTC)


I always heard the shell game was a "swindle" before it was a "magic trick." The term Thimblerig comes from the fact that sewing thimbles were used predominatly by the confidence men. The later use of walnut shells caused an alteration in the name of the game. Jeff Soapy Smith 23:36, 15 May 2006 (UTC)


"Savidan" placed a "disputed" label on this article and never really explains his position, except writing "the real con is the amount of yellow journalism original research here" What does he mean? Please explain further. "Savadan is supposed to write his dispute(s) here, but failed to do so. Soapy 17:56, 26 July 2006 (UTC)

My mistake. The reason for the dispute tag should be obvious. The sentence that I removed is indicative of the overall tone of the rest of the article: "It is best to stay clear of this game and those running it." Wikipedia does not give gambling advice to begin with, but the tone issue is much deeper set. A few more examples:

  • "the operators...can be dangerous if provoked."
  • "the man perpetrating the swindle"
  • "if played fairly, which it never is"
  • "players (victims)" --multiple instances of this
  • "nearly all the persons standing around the game work for the operator"
  • "Shills are normally rather easy to spot: they win."
  • "Amazingly, today, the shell game swindle is still performed on the unwary in larger cities."

The whole text needs surgery, not just these examples. Original research means that these alleged facts are not cited to any source, nor could many of them be. What source would you cite, for example, to prove that the game is never played fairly? This article needs to be cleaned up to only state the facts about the shell game, as they can be cited to reliable sources, and in a manner which does not take sides between those who play the game and its proprietors. savidan(talk) (e@) 06:06, 27 July 2006 (UTC)

Your dispute is not at all obvious. What is obvious is that you have no clue about this con. I re-wrote the article, but I will not say it is an honest game, as that would be a lie. You won't find anyone who knows how to perform the swindle (which I do, and I know a dozen or more performers at the School For Scoundrels website, and a dozen more at the Magic Castle in Hollywood) who will say it is an honest game. Even a magician who is doing it just for fun will use the same exact slight-of-hand methods to trick his viewers.
This game when played on the street is performed by criminals, and yes, they never work alone and are to be considered dangerous! These people are prepared to deal with losing victims who want their money back. Unless you want to lose your money, or get into a fight, then yes, it is best to stay clear of this game on the street. This is not gambling advice, as gambling involves a chance to win. In the shell game, you will not win, so my advice was more in the line of safety advice. I also placed external links as sources to show that the game is a swindle, something you said I could not show. Soapy 04:53, 28 July 2006 (UTC)
Time to remove the label! Soapy 22:27, 28 July 2006 (UTC)
Verified article - removed dispute tag Soapy 00:07, 29 July 2006 (UTC)
So, if you insist that the performer sit on his hands until you've revealed all three shells yourself, you'll probably get beaten up or something? - CronoDAS 20:13, 9 April 2007 (UTC)

Nobody's saying you have to portray it as honest, but enough with the attitude. If you're familar to Wikipedia, you should understand how seriously this site takes POV language. Edit: Also, you may indeed be correct. He's not asking that you give undo weight to support for this con-game, but merely that you stop using original research, and make this article more encyclopedic by adding some citations. 15:00, 9 August 2007 (UTC)

I also take issue with 'impossible to win', obviously it depends on location, visibility, number and average size of members of the gang, whether they want any trouble, as well as skill of the operator - but when you correctly guess that the pea is in the operators hand and restrain said hand to prevent the pea from moving somewhere else, I would call that winning. By which I mean, 'impossible to win' requires further qualification. (talk) 22:01, 17 February 2009 (UTC)


"A skilled operator can remove a pea from under any shell (or shells) and place it (or not) under any shell (or shells) undetected by a mark."

How could the operator remove a (singular) pea from under, or place a pea under, shells (plural). Could he ever be that good? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 06:33, 16 October 2010 (UTC)

Approving reference[edit]

Mark W. Bennett, District Judge for the Northern District of Iowa, sitting by designation in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, cited this article approvingly in case number 09-50426, filed November 1, 2010. See footnote 1 of the dissent on page 18008; the PDF is here. John Sauter (talk) 14:45, 3 November 2010 (UTC)