Which to choose when you want to fleece the rubes – it can be a vital business decision.
The simple pea and shell game ( variation for industrial towns – pea and thimble ) is fast, cheap, and always effective for an operator who can palm effectively. It is the sort of thing that can be easily mounted on a bar table and doesn’t need a portable stand. The betting can be as simple as needed for the intelligence of the crowd, and like many bilks, it is perfectly suited to a con and shill team as well as a single operator.
It does fall down a little in states where they regularly carry sidearms. A pistol can make operation awkward – the wise worker carefully gauges the time to pocket the shells and fade – five minutes more has been a fatal temptation for many a Texas grifter.
The Three Card Monte table seems more suited to the city alley than to the county fair. Urban rubes always fancy they know cards better than their country cousins – and perhaps the taint of sin doesn’t enter into it as much for the towns. You need a folding table that will come up to waist height for a good monte and wise operators know that occasionally you’ll have to abandon a setup – so don’t buy an expensive table.
On the other hand, buy the best cards you can find and monitor them for wear. Replace them at regular intervals or when any form of scuffing starts to show. There is nothing worse than a palm shift being stopped by a card that sticks – people have been detected and knifed because of it. Moral: buy good cards.
Of course neither of these two cons should ever be attempted by someone who is not perfect in the art. There is nothing at all, save a jail term or a slug, to be gained by trying to train on the job. If you wish to enter the pea or monte industry, set aside enough time and money to train yourself properly and practise in every spare moment. After all Heifetz or Paderewski did not play scales to their audiences on the stage of Carnegie Hall.