Vegas: The 3 Card Monte Scam – How it works and how to avoid it!

Vegas: The 3 Card Monte Scam – How it works and how to avoid it!

This scam happens worldwide, however, we saw it first hand in Vegas.

We just got back from Las Vegas, it was an amazing trip, however, one thing stuck in my mind after returning, the scammers we saw on the pedestrian bridges that we couldn’t stop as quickly as we would have liked, we will focus on the scammers here however this scam will have been seen in pretty much every city worldwide at some point.

To put it into perspective Vegas is well known for people trying to make a quick buck, with pretty much everywhere having a slot machine and thousands of people walking around with large bundles of cash ready to gamble (as betting with a debit card would be even more costly), it’s also well known for being a city like no other with massive buildings (our hotel was worth $1.79 billion), very large streets (with each side of the road having as many as 9 lanes) and along these streets there are large sidewalks (paths) that eventually lead you to narrow pedestrian walkway (bridges) to cross some of the roads.

The problem with these bridges is they funnel people into narrow paths that are scattered with people that are:

▪ homeless (all harmless from what we saw, however a few we noticed had large new mobile phones so most likely professional beggars)
▪ dressed up in a fun costumes asking for tips (again harmless however quite obnoxious if you happen to be snapping photos near them)
▪ producing artwork/music for money (fairly harmless, other than the guys that give you ‘free’ CDs then ‘ask for/demand’ money to sign it)
▪ straight up asking for money or drugs with a sign e.g. ‘ex-wife had a sex change and ran off with my sister and they had a better lawyer’ or ‘f*ck your money, I just want your drugs’
▪ just standing about in small groups or 2-3, (I’m sure most are harmless but you don’t feel comfortable pulling out your valuables on these bridges because of them)
▪ occasional scammers – 3 card monte or cups & ball tricks, fairly well-known scams but we bet a few of you don’t know about them (extremely harmless).

Ignoring all of the other problems we will focus on the scammers:

Situated just in front of the escalator (down from the bridge) there appears to be 1 guy running a small card game, 6 people ‘playing’ and roughly 10-15 people watching with many more stopping briefly to take a look.

As soon as we saw it was obvious to us it was a three-card monte scam, where in fact there were around 4-5 scammers ‘playing’, 2-3 scouts (looking for cops) and then actually only really 1 or 2 ‘marks’.

We watched as a Chinese couple were obviously very interested in the game, not sure how long they had been watching but at least 3-5 minutes, anyway 3 cards are shown (King, King & an Ace), then placed face down with the ace being the last card to be shown, the 3 cards are moved around and it’s the job of the ‘mark’ to find the ace.

The first few ‘shuffles’ are very obvious, like so obvious that even a 2-year-old kid or a well-trained dog could get it right with the other scammers winning and losing in roughly equal succession, this gets in the crowd and makes the main person trustworthy as they’ve been seen giving away money and taking it, then a guy (who is obviously in on the scam) puts down $100 and picks the ace instantly winning $300, the game is then repeated again but this time he bets $400 and loses.

The mark is then asked if they want to bet on the remaining cards (a slight twist on the standard game, with even better odds as only 1 ace and 1 king are left) and the lady pulls out 4 x $100 bills (£270) and sure enough she loses as well.

So where is the scam? Basically, you’re always asked for the cash up front and then using sleight of hand (the ability to move things without others noticing) the main scammer will pick and choose where the Ace card is situated, even if you pick the correct one!

To the untrained eye it looks like you’ve just got unlucky (a common occurrence in Vegas casinos!) and even after you’ve been scammed you wouldn’t think you had been scammed, so it rarely goes reported and if you were to try and ‘beat the system’, film it or warn others you will be shut up by the ‘scouts’ or targeted by the ‘gangs’ pickpockets or mugged later on.

The scammers repeated the words “1 in 3 chance of winning, all shown in front of you, so no tricks” multiple times and it was obvious more people were queuing up to have a go, we managed to talk 2 people out of it but not knowing who was in on the scam nor who was carrying what under their jackets really forced us to leave.

We reported it to a nearby Security guard who phoned it into Police however that didn’t help the $400 the Chinese couple lost 🙁

How is the scam done?

How do I avoid it?

Don’t play it!

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