Three Card Monte, also known as the Three-Card Trick, Find the Lady, or Follow the Lady, is a confidence game in which the victim, or “mark”, is tricked into betting a sum of money on the assumption they can find the “money card” among three face-down playing cards. This game is known as a form of gambling that relies more on the skill of deception by the operator than luck or skill on the part of the participant. It’s often played on the streets or in informal settings.

Here’s how it typically works:

  1. Setup: The operator has three cards, one of which is distinctively the “money card” (traditionally the queen of hearts, but it can be any card), and two others that are indifferent cards, often referred to as “the throwaways.”
  2. The Shuffle: The operator shows the three cards briefly to the audience and then places them face down on the table, moving them around quickly to shuffle their positions. The aim is for the audience to try and follow the position of the money card.
  3. The Bet: Once the shuffling stops, the audience is invited to bet on which card is the money card. A bet is placed, and the audience member points to a card.
  4. The Reveal: The operator reveals whether the audience member has chosen correctly. More often than not, through sleight of hand and psychological tricks, the operator ensures that the audience loses the bet.

This game is considered a scam rather than a legitimate form of gambling because the operator can control the outcome to ensure the mark cannot win by fair means. The use of sleight of hand, psychological manipulation (like using a shill in the crowd to influence choices), and misdirection are common tactics to ensure the house (operator) wins.

Authorities often discourage and even outlaw the playing of Three Card Monte in many places due to its deceptive nature and its use as a tool for fraud. It serves as an example of why one should be cautious with seemingly easy money-making opportunities, especially those found in informal or unregulated settings.

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