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When magicians hustle

When magicians hustle. Are you sitting down? Prepare yourself. Please take a seat as I am about to drop some hard truth on you.

Believe it or not, there have been individuals throughout history who have claimed to possess magical abilities (or touched by the divine) and have subsequently used that for their own financial gain – only to be later revealed as frauds or charlatans.

This unfortunately occurs much more often than you would think.

Amit Kalantri wrote the following within “Wealth of Words”:

“Those who failed in the art of magic thought they lacked good props: what they really lacked was good practice.”

This is my attempt to clear up any misgivings about hustlers and prepare you to avoid having your money swindled. When magician’s hustle is highly popular across cosmopolitan cities such as London, New York, Melbourne, and Tokyo. You probably have seen this occur in the city you yourself are living in!

James Randi highlights the hustlers

Shining a light on when magicians hustle has become the life’s work of James Randi, a man who would eventually become one of the most famous scientific sceptics of the modern age. He routinely challenged magicians, psychics, and those claiming supernatural abilities. He formed his very own foundation in 1996. The organisation administered the One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge, a prize of one million U.S. dollars to anyone who could effectively demonstrate a supernatural or paranormal ability under agreed-upon scientific testing criteria. There has not been a single successful applicant to date.

Randi served a pivotal role in the education of both amateur and professional magicians to take their craft seriously, and to never intentionally cause harm – be it physical, emotional, or financial – to themselves or others.

Another prominent act that bought charlatans to light is the world renown Penn and Teller. As well as performing breathtaking magic, they have debunked various scams and cons over a number of decades.

At the end of the day, it is a dedication to the art that remains the ultimate prestige. Money and fame are aspirations to strive towards – undoubtedly – but never accomplished with malice and/or bad intentions.

When magicians hustle on the street

However, performers with a dubious end game have adapted. How?

Have you ever heard of the Three Shell Game or the Three Card Monte? These are perhaps the most infamous examples of when magicians hustle.

This is not to be confused with the Three Seashells from “Demolition Man”.  If you figure that one out, please do let us know in the comments section below!

The Three Shell Game Hustle

How does the Shell Game work? Glad you asked! This is a prominent swindling trick in which a small object (a coin or pea for example) is very promptly shifted from under and around each shell to fool the spectator into guessing its location. This has been around for a while, and is considered to be one of the oldest and most widespread depictions of sleight of hand. Interested in trying it out yourself?  The best ones to use, in my humble opinion, are natural walnut shells. Try it out and let us know how it goes!

The Three Card Monte

Conclusively, we have the Three Card Monte: no relation to “The Full Monty”, I’m afraid!

You might have seen this next one performed in a movie or two. It is also something I perform (for fun!) in my close up magic performance.

The Three Card Monte is a game where a dealer displays three cards, turns them upside down, shuffles them across a line, and asks the participant to identify the odd card out. They often sweeten the deal by offering the participant their own money to convince them to keep on 

playing. If I told you that you had a 33% possibility of winning $100, wouldn’t that incentivise you to keep on going?  It would certainly pique my interest, at the very least!

It is important to remember that while the above-mentioned duo are both seemingly random and open to chance, they are very much in favour of the performer. Some, dare I say, either remove the odd card out or interchange the order of card rotation to intentionally confuse their audience. When magician’s hustle, the public does not have a chance of coming out on top.

I am in all favour of performers doing what they can to engage an audience to participate, as long as everyone remains safe and no one is shamed or tricked out of their finances. Be good. Be honest. Project positivity.

Karl Germain – an American magician and lawyer – said it best:

“Magic is the only honest profession. A magician promises to deceive you, and he does!”

What are your thoughts?

Have you ever been bamboozled? Hoodwinked? Tricked? Duped?  Tricked? Deceived? Finessed? Gypped? A thesaurus is a person’s best friend!

Let us know in the comments below!  I would love to hear from you!  Taa taa!