This final instalment of how to play games where you become the house and have an unbeatable mathematical edge (over time) will offer some simple games with playing cards that can be easily played between rounds of poker or gin etc.
I’ve seen many crazy bets based on this kind of proposition and most are genuinely suggested at random but with a little advance knowledge you can play with an edge that is sure to pay off over time.
At the very least, you’ll learn how powerful even a slight advantage can be, and have a useful weapon in your arsenal to reclaim some of your bankroll in a pinch.
As stated in my other articles on this topic, these are not scams but real games where you can secure a slight or powerful advantage depending on how and what you play, so I encourage you to share the secret with anyone you are able to fleece (for a fair and reasonable amount) as compensation for their losses.
I can’t tell you how much has been won and lost on a misunderstanding of seemingly obvious odds that are actually quite complex and bear the opposite return to what many might assume.
These propositions will all return a positive outcome over time, but they require a little shaping (scamming) on your part to rope your mark and get their money into your game and your “personal casino”.
Card Hustle #1 – Seven Card Monte
So let’s start with something that’s really unfair.
Ask your target to remove five court cards (K/Q/J) and two spot cards (2/3/4/5/6/7/8/9) from any deck and then mix them thoroughly on the table.
Make the following proposition:
If they turn three court cards face up (one at a time) they win, but if they turn over any of the spot cards, they lose.
Of course, this seems perfectly simple.
If they figure incorrectly, they will believe that each turn of the card is in their favour with the first turn offering five chances in seven, then four chances in six, followed by three chances in five!
In fact, I like to point these odds out, but the odds of turning three cards in seven without turning one of the two spot cards are more than two to one against the sucker overall.
This is more than enough of an advantage to win plenty in the long run but beware sneaky players who may try to mark or identify the spot cards (or one or more court cards), which is disappointingly common.
A crooked variation on this uses identical jokers instead of spot cards and the game ends when any joker is turned over.
The crooked part is that one card of the five court cards is secretly swapped for third joker making the odds almost impossible.
This, of course is a real scam and should not be encouraged.
Card Hustle #2 – Three Cut
This is a simple swindle but can be used to manipulate people effectively into playing deeper into the hole with a little social engineering.
Have a deck shuffled and cut into three piles, then bet that there are no picture (court) cards on top of any of the packets.
A smart person will reason that since only one card in four is a court card, the odds must be in your favour and this is a reasonable (but wrong) assumption that you can use against them by flipping it and betting that there will be a court card on top of any of the three randomly cut and shuffled piles.
This reversal is a great way to manipulate the situation (and your mark) and puts the odds firmly in your favour.
You could obviously simply start from that proposition but since people will try to outthink you, knowing how they might think is a powerful advantage employed by real con artists all the time!
I’ve seen a genuine scam based on this where suckers were paid for any non-court card and the scammer was paid for court cards when three piles were cut at random (by the suckers) – and this seemed incredibly fair.
In reality, several (or all 12) court cards were secretly shaved very finely on all four edges which made it almost certain that at least one court card would appear and, thanks to this ruse, two court cards were more common and would shift the odds to the hustler.
Variations on this (with the short cards) paid odds for court cards (or penalties if roles were reversed) and the game could get quite complex based on true odds that were circumvented by the short and narrow cards, which were more easily cut to the top of any pile.
In fact, a brilliant play on this swindle was to re-cut each packet individually and bet on two or more court cards, which was almost certain under those conditions.
The ‘fair’ version (without the trimmed deck) can also be played when cutting four packets.
Card Hustle #3 – Quick Props
I’ve seen this played for real and it’s a great proposition bet that will often pay off.
Here’s the bet:
Name any four of a kind, shuffle, and deal 32 cards face up from anywhere in the deck without peeking. If you turn up all four cards of your nominated value, you win. If not, you lose.
This is a simple idea, and many will assume it’s possible to turn over four of a kind out of any 32.
It is possible, but the odds are truly against this happening.
If/when they lose, repeat the same bet but offer 39 cards instead of 32. Repeat the challenge, allowing them to name any four of a kind, shuffle, and turn over any 39 cards.
Another challenge is to have a shuffled deck dealt into two even piles and bet that if you turn over cards simultaneously from each pile, two of the same colour and value will appear together.
This actually happens more often than not so, again, odds favour the hustler.
Finally, a perennial favourite of mine is to have someone name any two values in the deck, shuffle, and spread face up. They lose if there are two cards of the named values together anywhere in the deck.
Each of these is a simple, quick challenge played between other rounds of poker and if you’re around real gamblers you should have no problem inviting them to play in your own personal casino.
For more similar content, check out the other articles in this series on dice hustles and coin tricks.