Born To Be Conned

Discussions of new films, books, television shows, and media indirectly related to magic and magicians. For example, there may be a book on mnemonics or theatrical technique we should know or at least know about.
P.T.Widdle
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Born To Be Conned

Postby P.T.Widdle » December 6th, 2015, 6:19 pm

Opinion piece in the NY Times talks about how "story" is the key for people to be suckered.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/06/opini ... ef=opinion

Jack Shalom
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Re: Born To Be Conned

Postby Jack Shalom » December 6th, 2015, 8:25 pm

“It is impossible to make a man understand something if his livelihood depends on not understanding it.”--Upton Sinclair

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Re: Born To Be Conned

Postby MagicbyAlfred » December 6th, 2015, 9:20 pm

In an article in Psychology Today entitled, "Our Brains Weren't Hardwired to Catch Con Artists,", by Berit Brogaard, PhD, the author advances a well-supported theory for why the vast majority of people are susceptible to scams and con artists:

"The most natural answer is that sly or fraudulent, yet persuasive, salespeople signal to our brains that everything is as it should be. Their smooth behavior raises our confidence, thereby boosting our serotonin levels. The well-being chemical serotonin can turn off our critical sense and increase our feeling of content—so much so that our initial beliefs never are subjected to scrutiny in the vmPFC (ventromedial prefrontal cortex) and the anterior insula never gives us the warning sign that would make us step back and think. It is perfectly natural that we fall victim to the confidence tricks of scam artists. Our brains were not hardwired to look through the clever schemes and confidence-installing tricks of skilled actors and con men trained in making our disbelief go away. Our gray matter can distinguish honesty from dishonesty and alarming situations from unruffled ones but it cannot instinctively detect dishonesty and fraud cleverly disguised."

Interesting.

Throw in a heaping helping of human greed into the equation, and the proverbial fool and his money are soon parted...

Having performed a 3 Card Monte Routine for many years, I am absolutely amazed at the number of people who have admitted that, at one time or another, they fell prey to the 3 card Monte con in some city.

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Re: Born To Be Conned

Postby performer » December 6th, 2015, 9:33 pm

The reason the 3 card monte in the street works so well is BECAUSE it has a bad reputation! All it needs is one loud mouth with a bit of money who thinks he knows how it works to get taken in. And the fiction that they let the stooges win sometimes is a load of balderdash. It never happens. The stooges always lose and pretend they are annoyed about it. They keep whispering in a sucker's ears as to how the scam works. They pick the big mouth know all. The sort of guy who heckles you when you do card tricks. They are the main targets of these people along with foreign tourists.

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Re: Born To Be Conned

Postby MagicbyAlfred » December 6th, 2015, 9:52 pm

I wouldn't disagree that the Stooges never "win," but many of the people who have told me they had gotten taken were not the loud-mouthed heckler types at all, but quite mild mannered. Of course, when the Stooge "loses," the sucker's ego (and, of course greed) is then engaged because he clearly saw where the money card was, and so he believes he is far more observant than the poor sap who appears to have been taken. By the way, "Notes On Three Card Monte" by Whit Haydn and Chef Anton, is a fantastic book, sooooo incredibly fascinating. It is not only chock full of 3 card monte moves, tosses and patterns, but the history and lure of notorious Monte tossers, and the intricate acting and psychology that is employed by the various Monte "gangs."

As a routine for laymen it cannot be beat. As many probably know, Erdnase (or whomever it really was) wrote: "But there is not one single card feat in the whole calendar that will give as good returns for the amount of practice required, WILL MYSTIFY AS GREATLY AND CAUSE AS MUCH AMUSEMENT… Or bear as much repetition as this little game…"

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Re: Born To Be Conned

Postby Roger M. » December 6th, 2015, 10:47 pm

MagicbyAlfred wrote:........many of the people who have told me they had gotten taken were not the loud-mouthed heckler types at all, but quite mild mannered.


Being mild mannered is irrelevant when discussing short cons.

The most milquetoast, family oriented, peaceful guy in the world makes the perfect mark if he himself possesses an even slightly enlarged sense of hubris.

It's a persons overabundance of hubris that takes them down in short cons like the Monte, their day to day personality has very little, if anything to do with it.

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Re: Born To Be Conned

Postby Jonathan Townsend » December 6th, 2015, 11:54 pm

Scripts for disentangling a social engagement:

1) find a (whoops my cell phone is going off - be right back

how do we find out our confidence in being aware of what's important to us is not verified sufficiently well by our present process of social engagement? Huh, what just happened?

Walk/Chew gum/do the right thing
Mundus vult decipi -per Caleb Carr's story Killing Time

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Re: Born To Be Conned

Postby MagicbyAlfred » December 7th, 2015, 12:50 am

Roger M,
The context of what I was saying was in response to what performer said about the typical mark of the Monte dealer, which was that:
"They pick the big mouth know all. The sort of guy who heckles you when you do card tricks."

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Re: Born To Be Conned

Postby performer » December 7th, 2015, 6:45 am

They work it a bit differently in the UK. The loud mouths are the ones they want although of course they will take the quieter types too. It is just that the loud mouths are the ideal ones for this. It has a very bad reputation and is known as "the three card trick". The stooges are all very bad actors and look like they have just come out of jail which they probably have. The "ricks" (for some odd reason Americans call them "shills" but since we are an older nation and scamming people is part of our national heritage then naturally our terminology is the one that should be used) spot potential suckers and idle up to them saying under their breaths, "It's a con. It's a bloody scam. The bastard took my money by switching the cards"

He keeps this up getting the daft punter to sympathise with him and eventually convince him on how it is all done. There is more to it and I haven't got the space to explain. Suffice it to say that I have known some of these street workers personally whereas I don't suppose anyone on this site moves in these circles as they have all led sheltered lives.

I still remember being astonished a number of years ago to see a couple of these weather beaten souls at a lecture by Randy Wakeman in London. They looked so out of place that I thought they were going to be asked to leave by the rather stuffy Magic Circle types who have no idea how to lie, cheat and steal for a living. I half wondered if they had been through the pockets in the cloakroom to see what they could find.

They recognised me and said, "Hello Ronnie-we haven't seen you for years. What are you doing now?" I told them I was living in Canada but was visiting London. They asked how they could contact me in Canada and they wondered how well they would do there. I told them it was a very boring place and that they would not be able to work outside in the winter as they would freeze to death. Luckily I never heard from them again.

I suppose they found out about Randy's card tricks somehow and thought it might be useful to them. I am quite sure it wasn't. They were not magicians at all and the three card monte would have been the only card trick they knew. It was not in the Magic Circle headquarters but a public hall of some sort so no doubt that is how they were able to gain admission.

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Re: Born To Be Conned

Postby Ian Kendall » December 7th, 2015, 9:21 am

Let's not forget the Tetleys - Gazzo's recreation of the Cracker Parker routine.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vtEbtQwpwMw

[Edited because the Youtube embed feature appears not to be working]

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Re: Born To Be Conned

Postby performer » December 7th, 2015, 11:42 am

That is something like it but not quite. Still, it is the best you are going to get with a reconstruction. And it does show some actual knowledge of what really happens. As I said you gang up on one person. And you can figure out through experience who that person is. Either a tourist or a loudmouth is very good indeed.

I think it may be dying out in the UK from what I hear. They do have a lot of mouths to feed with all those ricks. And the main problem is that the police have clamped down on it severely as it is not good for tourism. At one time they could only be done for obstruction of the pavement which resulted in fines at the most but then I think, from what I understand from various evildoers I know, that the authorities found more severe charges that they could use and people started ending up in jail for it so that put a bit of a blight on the activities. I heard of one guy getting three years for it although that sounds a little bit much so I am not sure if it is true.

I do it as an entertainment trick. I get great results from it and severely restrict the guessing where it is component, except for the bent corner part. I use Dai Vernon's routine from the Lewis Ganson book. However, lately I have just started experimenting with the paper clip ending.

The best routine I ever saw with this was by Jon Tremaine. He called it the Scarlet Pimpernel or something. It does not use the standard monte move. He has never revealed this routine in all the decades he has been doing it although in one of his card books for beginners he did actually give away a tiny bit of the routine. It was a wonderful routine and I haven't seen it for decades. It would be a wonderful thing if he were to post a video of it for posterity although not giving away the methods of course.

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Re: Born To Be Conned

Postby Jonathan Townsend » December 7th, 2015, 12:36 pm

Any intelligible writing on the script/strategy/what-if of any of the cons?

To the notion of hubris- presuming one could act with certainty among strangers (who are they and what do they want?) and in unfamiliar context (how do things work here and who else is concerned?)...

getting to root causes/objectives - a confidence vs verification balance matter. That's why it's called a con game, right? ;)
Mundus vult decipi -per Caleb Carr's story Killing Time

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Re: Born To Be Conned

Postby performer » December 7th, 2015, 12:52 pm

Jonathan Townsend wrote:Any intelligible writing on the script/strategy/what-if of any of the cons?

T;)


Ian Kendall can tell you a lot about the Jam Auction, what we in the business call the "run out". He got taken in by it at one time and wrote about it.

I have always said the best and most accurate description of the scam was contained in a fantastic book about market pitching by Trevor Pinch and Colin Clark. In fact Professor Clark made a couple of posts here at one point. The chapter on the Mock Auction gives every detail of why and how it works. It is probably the only real description ever written as to what actually happens.

The book is named "The Hard Sell" and tells you all about the world of the pitchman. I have often thought it would be a very good book for trade show magicians to read. In fact I think I will mention it on my trade show blog, come to think of it. It is quite hard to think of things to write about on there.

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Re: Born To Be Conned

Postby Ian Kendall » December 7th, 2015, 12:58 pm

Gazzo worked as a lookout for Cracker Parker, so the Tetley's is probably as accurate a depiction as you are likely to get.

My story about the Jam Auction is online in a few places. I think it was originally on this forum, so it might be buried in the archives somewhere...

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Re: Born To Be Conned

Postby Jonathan Townsend » December 7th, 2015, 1:32 pm

Ian Kendall wrote:...My story about the Jam Auction is online in a few places. I think it was originally on this forum, so it might be buried in the archives somewhere...


viewtopic.php?t=21332

Also recall some mention about alternate endings and some additional work on mechanics.
Mundus vult decipi -per Caleb Carr's story Killing Time

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Re: Born To Be Conned

Postby performer » December 7th, 2015, 1:56 pm

Ian Kendall wrote:Gazzo worked as a lookout for Cracker Parker, so the Tetley's is probably as accurate a depiction as you are likely to get.

My story about the Jam Auction is online in a few places. I think it was originally on this forum, so it might be buried in the archives somewhere...


Oh, was he only a lookout? I thought he had actually worked the thing himself. Even being a rick helps you know exactly what goes on. He probably did that too I imagine. Just being a lookout doesn't tell you that much since you are on the outside of the crowd and can't see what is going on.

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Re: Born To Be Conned

Postby mr_goat » December 7th, 2015, 2:18 pm

Jonathan Townsend wrote:
Ian Kendall wrote:...My story about the Jam Auction is online in a few places. I think it was originally on this forum, so it might be buried in the archives somewhere...


viewtopic.php?t=21332

Also recall some mention about alternate endings and some additional work on mechanics.


That's cruel Me Townsend, making people wade through Ronnie's trolling to get to Ian's tale...(incidentally I also got stung by a Jam Auction as a student and paid £20 for a £2 (at best) porcelain (fake) owl.

Anyway, here is Ian's story sans Lewis trolling:

by Ian Kendall » 11/15/03 10:50 AM

Hello everyone,

First off, Big Thanx to Jeff Haas for finding and sending me my EG post from five years ago. Since there has been a lot of talk about the Jam Auctions I thought I would repost my description here.

By way of introduction, a couple of days earlier I had posted a tale of watching a three shell game in Seville...now let's take a wee step back in time...

Hello again,

Further to my post from Sunday, some more things about the shell
game...

Elisa got back from Spain today, and in the course of the
conversation I told her about my post (she was still complaining about
the pickpocket...) Aparantly she was not even aware that there had been
a monte game in Napoli, much less that I wanted to watch it. Never
mind.

We got talking about various bunco games, and that she had seen a few
of them when she lived in Sevilla. When she told me that her ex
boyfriend had been stung in a three shell game I had a hard time
stopping the laughter (he's a git), until I remembered that I have been
stung as well. What made it worse was that I knew what was happening at
the time...

I was in London about three years ago, riding on a bus along Oxford
Street. I saw a shopfront up ahead with a few people standing around a
table laden with small electronic gadgets (walkmen and the like). I
jumped off the bus at the next stop and stood at the side of the group.
The item that interested me was the pocket TV at five pounds. I had
designed a VR headset and needed two screens to get it working. Now I
could get them for ten quid and bring the headset in for under forty
pounds. This looked promising.

The pitchman (I'm not sure of the correct title) was standing behind
the table giving a running commentry on what was going to happen during
the sale, in only a few minutes. The crowd was getting larger now, and
beginning to spill onto the pavement. Pitchman pulled the table a metre
into the shop, and we all shuffled forward to stay in the 'line' (read
'melee') to get our toys. I had images of playing 3D battlezone before
the end of the week. Deep joy.

The crowd kept getting bigger, and every now and then the table was
advanced a metre. By this time the talking had been taken over by a man
behind a raised counter. Looking around the shop, there were boxes of
expensive electrical goodies (Video cameras, tvs, electronic battleships
etc) and a crowd in front of the counter, which was at least six feet
high. We were trapped. The doors to the front of the shop were closed
and three or four knuckle draggers stood guard. I didn't care. I'll
have two pocket TVs and be on my way, thank you very much.

The lure continued. The Main Man explained the premise; we could all
buy wonderful things at rock bottom prices if we stayed in the game. In
order to stay in the game, we had to buy a bottle of perfume for five
pounds. I was worried, that meant only one screen. But to get one, I
still had to buy the bottle, and hold it up. (Historical note: The
bottles in question were the now ledgendary Ives St Louis fakes that
were all over London in the Mid Eighties. After all the time I spent
watching the pitchmen on the streets mispronounce them to the American
tourists as Yves St Laurant, I actually had one in my hand. And I had
paid for it).

Did I listen to the alarm bells? Did I heck. I wanted that screen.

Owning a bottle of London Criminal History allowed me to be chosen to
buy something very big for not much money. If I was chosen. Of course,
the person chosen was a middleaged German Hausfrau who was overjoyed at
being able to buy the boxes for a top of the range camcorder, a TV, a
phone, a toaster and probably a barbequeue set and cuddly toy, all for
thirty quid. I'm not sure how many people in the room thought she was a
genuine punter, but it can't have been many.

Now we got to bid for stuff. Sixty pounds would buy us either a
tacky briefcase, a couple of his and hers watches, a toaster or any of
three other equally worthless items of drek. I can't remember what they
were, but I was beginning to sense things were not all sweetenss and
light in the emporium of amazing offers that evening. The main man went
through everybody in the room, asking what delightful gift they would
like to buy. As they made their choice, minions spilled forth from the
back room and collected either cash or credit cards. The cards were
taken into the side room, of which I had a good view. Inside there were
four women on the phone to the authourisation service making sure that
noone would do anything as dishonest as passing a duff card.

Everybody got their purchase in a black bin bag. Three of us
couldn't afford the sixty pounds, and were offered a 'surprise gift' for
five pounds, on the understanding that we didn't open it in the shop. I
was handed my package, and get ready to leave.

When everybody had reclaimed their card and got their priceless
artifact of 20th century design, the back doors were opened, and we were
shepherded out into the rain. Further down the road I realised that I
had been burned, but not as badly as the others. I decided to tell
noone about this and threw my bottle of perfume into the nearest bin.
Opening my bag revealed a small plastic camera with a value of about
eleven pence. I left it in my sister's flat.

There must have been close on two hundred people in the shop. That's
a thousand pounds in perfume sales to begin with. Then most of them
paid sixty pounds for someting that could not have been worth more than
ten, which is a (roughly) fifty pound profit. Or close on ten thousand
pounds. That's eleven grand for about an hour of pitch. Nowadays I
consider my ten pounds as an entrance fee to a lecture; I paid my money
and I got to see a classic scam in action.

The best description I have seen in print is in the book A Life Among
Secrets, the biography of Eddie Fields. The kicker is that I was
mortally embarrassed that I had been caught, and told noone. When my
flatmate told a story of a friend of his that had been burned in the
same operation, I kept quiet, lest I become an object of ridicule in the
kitchen. Last year a similar operation started up in Edinburgh, but was
closed down in a day after complaints. I heard they went to Glasgow.

The moral of this? Dunno, but maybe that even if we have some knowledge, we can still lose. Either that, or I was very stupid that day...


So there we have it. I can still remember the show vividly, and I'm a wee bit less embarrassed these days.

Take care, Ian

P.S. A couple of years later I was helping my sister with a Car Boot sale she was having. Someone asked her about a tacky camera on her table. 'Dunno', she said, 'I just found it in my flat'...I kept quiet.
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Re: Born To Be Conned

Postby performer » December 7th, 2015, 2:41 pm

Ian Kendall wrote:...

The best description I have seen in print is in the book A Life Among
Secrets, the biography of Eddie Fields"


The Eddie Fields book is not a patch on "The Hard Sell" where the Run Out is concerned. It is a good book but it does not cover this aspect of things very well.

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Re: Born To Be Conned

Postby Ian Kendall » December 7th, 2015, 3:29 pm

Let's not forget that I wrote the original description for the EG in 1998. I think I had recently read the Fields book at that time.

I've not seen the Hard Sell book. I imagine the description would be different from the point of view of the scammers.

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Re: Born To Be Conned

Postby Jack Shalom » December 7th, 2015, 3:33 pm

Jonathan Townsend wrote:Any intelligible writing on the script/strategy/what-if of any of the cons?

To the notion of hubris- presuming one could act with certainty among strangers (who are they and what do they want?) and in unfamiliar context (how do things work here and who else is concerned?)...

getting to root causes/objectives - a confidence vs verification balance matter. That's why it's called a con game, right? ;)


Well, there's this classic:
http://www.amazon.com/The-Big-Con-Story ... 0385495382

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Re: Born To Be Conned

Postby performer » December 7th, 2015, 5:13 pm

quote="Ian Kendall"]Let's not forget that I wrote the original description for the EG in 1998. I think I had recently read the Fields book at that time.

I've not seen the Hard Sell book. I imagine the description would be different from the point of view of the scammers.[/quote]

You in particular would find the book fascinating as you succumbed to the scam yourself but may not fully realise what was done to you. The authors of this book got full cooperation from the run out boys and a bit of mocking that they could film and record it as much as they liked but wouldn't figure out what the scam was. And they admit in the book that after studying the films they couldn't quite figure it out.

However, they interviewed various people such as investigative journalists, the police, consumer protection authorities, the victims etc; and began to peace together part of the puzzle combined with what they discovered on the videos. But they STILL found there were a lot of pieces missing. They STILL didn't know what went on and what the precise nature of the scam was and how it operated.

So they did a very clever thing. They had enough knowledge to bluff their way through with the operators of the auction into thinking they knew the whole thing by describing what they did know. And then who spilled the beans in the end? The grafters themselves! They figured that there was nothing to lose since the authors had figured it all out anyway, (of course they hadn't) and gave away all the missing details.

And it is all in this marvellous book. The book states that pitchmen are the REAL marketers and that the corporate world has a lot to learn from them.

And they are correct. Anyone who is interested in selling should read this book and see the brilliant psychology of wicked people like me, Henry and all the rest of us. We know how to manipulate the innocent masses to get their money out. And this book will tell you how we do it.

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Re: Born To Be Conned

Postby Q. Kumber » December 7th, 2015, 6:00 pm

performer wrote:So they did a very clever thing. They had enough knowledge to bluff their way through with the operators of the auction into thinking they knew the whole thing by describing what they did know. And then who spilled the beans in the end? The grafters themselves! They figured that there was nothing to lose since the authors had figured it all out anyway, (of course they hadn't) and gave away all the missing details.


Great piece of psychology.

Reminds me of a discussion with one of my teachers, years after I had left school. Every so often, in any school, there is some kind of trouble/row/upset. The students will never grass on each other and the teachers are left with minor shreds of evidence that seem to lead nowhere.

About six weeks later, a teacher will be talking to a student, informally, and there will be a vague hint of the 'event'. The teacher will drop a couple of the facts he knows and the student, believing that after six weeks, the teacher has figured it all out, will drop some more facts, revealing the truth.

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Re: Born To Be Conned

Postby Richard Kaufman » December 7th, 2015, 8:41 pm

"grass" means "squeal" to folks in the USA.
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Re: Born To Be Conned

Postby MagicbyAlfred » December 7th, 2015, 9:12 pm

Because there are only 3 cards in the game and it seems fairly simple to follow, I think one thing that the mark virtually never stops to consider is that the odds are 2-1 against him. ("A little game from Hanky Poo, the black for me, the red for you"). Who would play, for example, Blackjack or Poker in a game where he was that kind of underdog?

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Re: Born To Be Conned

Postby performer » December 8th, 2015, 1:16 am

I was rereading the Hard Sell today and was delighted to see that it confirmed my earlier remarks of a few weeks ago that lack of eye contact when gathering a crowd is of vital importance. If you look at them you will scare them away. Of course I have known this for decades as has every grafter in existence. But despite this, some people on this site have said the opposite going against knowledge garnered by many people honed over decades of experience.

Still, it is always amusing to read so called "magicians" talking twaddle about things they know nothing about.

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Re: Born To Be Conned

Postby performer » December 8th, 2015, 9:22 am

Ian Kendall wrote:Gazzo worked as a lookout for Cracker Parker, so the Tetley's is probably as accurate a depiction as you are likely to get.

My story about the Jam Auction is online in a few places. I think it was originally on this forum, so it might be buried in the archives somewhere...


On looking at this further I agree that it is probably as accurate a description that you are going to get. But alas that isn't saying much. I think it is only 50% accurate. This is nobody's fault. No doubt it was the best they could do with a bunch of actors who have never participated in a real monte game and with Gazzo's probably hazy memories of what actually happens. It seems he was 14 years old when he was a lookout for this bunch. That means he could not have operated it himself and neither could he have been a rick (shill) at 14 years old. At least a rick sees and knows what actually goes on. A lookout isn't part of the crowd and would not have a lot of opportunity to see what goes on.

I am sorry to be a cynical party pooper but I have my doubts about this. A noble effort though and I am not criticising it. I am merely saying it is only part of the real thing.

But the Hard Sell book comes to the rescue again with a three page description of the monte in action with the actual words used by the operators and the ricks. The authors watched the operation on 4 occasions and somehow recorded it all, possibly secretly. It describes the actual words and actions rather than an imagined scenario.

Again I would recommend this book thoroughly. It would have been a wonderful tool for research for the TV show where the Mock Auction and the Three Card Monte were featured. And trade show magicians would learn a lot by studying it too. I am still taken aback that two sociology students ventured forth from the innocent world of academia and were able to find out so much about the secrets of street wise activities where outsiders are not normally able to penetrate.

There are a hell of a lot more secrets of magicians exposed on the internet compared to the secrets of urban hustlers and grafters. Somehow I ended up knowing the secrets of both magic and hustling. I nostalgically look back and realise I have led a very wicked life. And I am terribly proud of it.

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Re: Born To Be Conned

Postby Jonathan Townsend » December 8th, 2015, 9:39 am

Any comments about the updated edition of that book?
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Re: Born To Be Conned

Postby performer » December 8th, 2015, 9:44 am

I haven't seen it yet although Professor Clark promised to send it to me some time ago. I suppose he forgot. I think I will remind him and at the same time tell him his book is being discussed here.

As you can tell I am very enthusiastic about his book and read it often. There are insights on selling techniques that grafters use and don't even realise consciously that they are using. It has taken outsiders to figure it all out for them and I find that ironic.

performer
Posts: 3509
Joined: August 7th, 2015, 10:35 pm

Re: Born To Be Conned

Postby performer » December 8th, 2015, 3:46 pm

Professor Clark has informed me that he would be very happy to provide me with a scan of the Mock Auction Chapter which I could post to this site for members to read providing there was an "access members only" section which I don't think there is. I have referred him to Richard to see what they can work out if anything.

In the meantime you can get a glimpse of the contents here:

https://books.google.ca/books?id=fDkFBA ... rk&f=false


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