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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Ever so sleightly » » 3 Shell Game Today – played 3 ways (3 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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Arizona, USA
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Profile of shellgame-al
Many times I have heard the question; what is the best set of shells to start off with in learning the Three Shell Game.

Most the time I hear others recommend that they should start off with a cheap set and work up to a good set.

This is fine for the ones that just want to know how the game is played or to see if it is really their thing.

But today there are different design shells that can be used in different ways. The handling and display of the game can be done in different ways with different type shells. Not like in the past where everything was the same. So to me it is not that simple. I think the time I put into learning could cost me more, if I had to relearn it with a different type shells that I found to be better for me.

I believe the Three Shell Game can be displayed three different ways.

1. Original con-man way; played for money.
Can use just about any container to move a ball under it
Why this con game has worked through the test of time, is because of the shills that are used with the game to bring the confidence for the mark to play the game.
It is not because of the shells they use.

Slang a confidence trickster's assistant, a person who poses as an ordinary customer, gambler, etc., in order to entice others to participate.

The shills are the biggest part of the con, not the shells.

2. Magician displaying the 3 Shell Game with the standard plastic walnut shells.

This is not even close to being the same. Why?
There is nothing that brings confidence to make it a con game. No shills in play, spectator is not able to examine anything and all the visual alterations on the shells are clues to how it is done. The con-man has the rules of gambling, so the no touch rules can apply without question.

The magician's is displaying the game for entertainment and brings different type rules that are expected.

It is like apples and oranges in what is being done. The magician has no shills and is not playing for money so the gambling rules don’t apply.
When the spectator is not able to examine anything it can be taken as you are hiding something that you don’t want them to see.

There is nothing in the works that brings confidence to make it a con game.
Why would anyone think they have any chance at winning?

I have heard statements from so called shell game traditionalists, that are magicians;
“Keep it a con game, don’t make it a magic trick” In my opinion when I hear this, it tells me they don’t really know what the meaning of a con game is or they have forgotten what it takes to make it a con game.

In most cases what I have seen being displayed with these type shells, is neither a con game nor a magic trick.

It is a demonstration on the shell game, but it is missing all of the main elements to call it a con game. You would need to bring some confidence to the spectator to play the game for the con or to bring interest for a magic trick. Most the time it is done just the opposite in telling them they can't win.
"You don’t want to ever play this game for money, as you can't win." I have heard and seen this being said on video performances many times.

Con Game
Slang A confidence game. The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English,

Confidence game
A swindle in which the swindler, after gaining the victim's confidence, robs the victim by cheating at a gambling game, or the like. Also called, Brit.,con′fidence trick. Webster's College Dictionary,

3. Magician using the new Bottom Ridge Shells without the clues & rules.

These shells being used are the new 21st century design shell for the magician without all the visual clues and everything can be fully examined at any time, if need be. There is nothing you need to hide.

The bottom ridge on the bottom of the shell makes the shell game appear to be a fair game.
When the shell and pea are moved around on the surface the pea remains inside the shell.
You are never forced to do anything. You have full control of everything that happens.
They work just like how the spectator thinks it should work to be a fair game.
The spectator can even try it, if need be. Now this can bring confidence to make it a con game without the use of shills in play and can also be displayed as a magic trick. It is all on how you want to display them.

The Bottom Ridge shells were designed to bring both; Confidence to play the con and magic.
Without the clues and rules for a magician

Definition of TRICK
a : a crafty procedure or practice meant to deceive or defraud

However the shell game is displayed by the magician, it fits the above definition of a trick in my opinion, till you are wagering for something and being conned into doing it.

Now if you want to control the game that appears to be a fair game and be able to change the game to become unfair, you need to have the bottom ridge type shell to keep the pea in the shell when moved.

A few weeks ago I was at the county fair in the parking lot and some guys were doing the shell game with bottle caps. The town I live in is a very small town and the county fair is about the only big thing that happens here.

I had some of my Bottom Ridge shells in my car and picked a time when no one was playing to show how my shells worked to the shell operator.

Too my surprise he was very open in looking at them. He loved them and wanted to buy some right on the spot. I was amazed on how well he could handle them after I showed him the way to bring the pea in and out of the shell. He bought two sets of the shells, the Stinger Caps, Grifter Cups and an M-Snatcher. We had to do some haggling over a package price. He said he would give me some feedback on how they worked out after he had worked with them some. He liked how fair they appeared and how there was nothing to hide from the mark.

This is the second time I have showed real shell workers the Bottom Ridge shells and both times they bought them.

I do make a high quality standard type shell without the bottom ridge and it sells for the same price.
So it is not like the Bottom Ridge Shell is all I have to offer. We have them for the ones that like doing it the way they have learned it and this is fine.

This post is just to let others to know that there are now new ways that the game can be displayed by the magician and these are my opinions on how I see it and you may look at it different.

I know there has to be many others that feel the same, as 99.5% of the shells we sell are the new Bottom Ridge shells going out in the USA and many other different countries.

Manufacture of 3 Shell Game Sets & 3 Disk Monte Sets and
Pete Biro
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1933 - 2018
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Profile of Pete Biro
Try looking at TWEEZERS... a Ken Brooke creation. See at
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Profile of shellgame-al

I have seen your shell routine before and I always enjoy watching it. I liked it the first time I watched it and just as much this time.

TWEEZERS and the Phil Case routine are two of my favorites.

What makes it nice is you tell about the con game in a interesting way, then make it a magic ending surprise and it catches them off guard from what they expected.

Short and entertaining. Short can be good with the standard type design shells. This does not give them a chance to back track to what just happen. The caps are very creative and without any alterations. This is a solid routine and thanks for sharing it, so everyone can enjoy seeing it.

Manufacture of 3 Shell Game Sets & 3 Disk Monte Sets and
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Profile of jcrabtree2007
Nice Shell Routine Pete. I liked it a lot. Very original.
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Profile of jcrabtree2007
I'd like to see the bottom ridge shells up close and personal. Sounds like a giant leap forward with the shells.
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