Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Three Cups and a Ball

Los Angeles, CA -- Men crowd around a makeshift table used to play Three Cups and a Ball. One by one, men bet $20 that they could tell which cup the ball was under after being shifted a dozen times.


Brenda's Arizona said...

Who'd think this game was still being played/being bet upon by grown men? I love seeing what you see in LA.

Eleonora said...

Here in Italy this is done with 3 playing cards. The con artists are exactly that, artists! I don't know how they do it, it's amazing. Most surprizing is the amount people who gamble and keep losing!

Great bw capture JT, as usual: you never disappoint.


gogouci said...

Wow what a scene. I thought these only existed in movies. I would have loved to experience this.

Petrea said...


JT said...

You are all right: this is a scam and the players are all suckers. I stood there for a few minutes watching these young men lose their hard-earned money one after another. They don't get it! Finally, I lifted my camera above their heads and held down the shutter release. One of the three crooks yelled at me and told me that I owe him $40 for the shot. Feeling a little self-assertive, I challenged him with a counter threat: I told him I charge $60 for my photos. One of the young onlookers took me by the arm and ushered me away from the crowd. In broken English, he warned me that these guys will kill me if I blew their scam. I gave the kid a hand shake and continued on my pursuit for interesting but less dangerous images.

Petrea said...

Wow. Our intrepid photographer on the scene, JT himself.

J+P said...

I've watched this game in Chicago & St. Louis (& comparable setups of 3-Card Monty in NY), and often spotted the "primer." He's the guy who puts down the first bet; he's one of the team of cons.

Money on the table always attracts passersby. To grow the crowd, sometimes the primer will "win" & get into a loud argument with the con behind the table.

"Gimme my money!"
"Ain't your money yet. You need to win to take the money."
"You gimme my—now!"

They put on an entertaining show; lots of folks in the peanut gallery know it's a con. It's like watching TV wrestlers, except the audience can step into the ring …

Usually there's at least one big guy hovering nearby in case of trouble, or cops; depends into how many pieces the cons want to divvy the take.

The most adept guy I ever saw played this game with Dixie cups and a ping-pong ball, on the El, moving at high speed away from a Cubs game, surrounded by half-drunk bleacher bums. Fat guys crowded the aisle, lurching with the train, blowsy with beer, waiting their turn to give up the twenties in their fists. I 'spec the con made his fare back that day, some times over.

I rode with him down past 18th street, one time, to see where he went. Alone with his winnings, he dropped his smile and folded up his portable table—he darted dark looks around to be sure nobody was following. When his stop came, he stepped lightly off the subway and was gone into the 'hood—like a fox with a chicken in his mouth

Steffe said...

We see this all the time in Stockholm. Mostly it's criminals trying their best to rip off stupid tourists.