Classic Cons

Long Cons

The Spanish Prisoner
The Wire
The Rag
The Pay-Off
The Big Store

Short Cons

The Smack

A Roper finds a Mark, often at a train station, and the pair of them find the Inside-man and proceed to bet with him, tossing a coin for example. The Inside-man accuses the pair of working together. The Mark can honestly say they just met. Each person loses a bit of money, with the Roper holding it all. After a time, the Inside-man is fed up with losing and storms off. So it doesn’t look as if they are working together, the pair agree to separate and meet up at the station to split the money.

The Tat

A dice game played by rolling the dice in a hat or cup. After letting the Mark win several rounds, a rigged die is substituted which will roll in favor of the grifter.

Hot Seat

A suitcase or wallet is found by the Mark and a team of two grifters. They agree to split the money after waiting a reasonable amount of time to find the rightful owner. The Mark will keep the item safe and as a show of good faith, each person agrees to chip in a deposit of cash, paid back when they split the money. The Mark takes the case, which contains a fraction of what is assumed to be inside, and waits. The grifters take the Mark’s deposit money and leave, never to be seen again.

The Ring or Glim-Dropper

Another two-man con, this one has many variations. A wealthy-looking patron enters a store and loses an expensive ring (or a glass eye — a “glim”). It isn’t found and the patron offers a large reward, leaving his contact information. Shortly after, the second grifter enters the store and “finds” the ring. Worried that he might lose the reward offered, the clerk (Mark) offers to pay half of the money to the grifter in exchange for the ring.

The Violin

Traditionally, a shabby-looking man “forgets” his wallet after a meal and offers to leave his only valuable possession – a violin – behind while he goes to his home a short distance away. While he is gone, the second man offers to buy the violin, claiming it is very rare. The Mark refuses, of course, being an honorable man. When the shabby man returns, the Mark offers to buy it for a sizable amount, still giving himself a healthy profit on the item. The shabby man reluctantly agrees, leaving a worthless item in the hands of the greedy Mark, who never sees the second man again.

The Bishop

A clergyman enters a jewelry store and buys an expensive necklace with cash. Just as he is leaving, a policeman stops him and they enter the store together. The policeman reveals that the clergyman is really a thief and counterfeiter. The jewelry store owner is lucky the policeman came along when he did! Of course, the necklace and counterfeit money must be taken as evidence and the policeman gives the owner a receipt for his trouble. A less-elaborate version, Shake the Button, involves a fake cop breaking up a gambling ring or card hustle.


Short Change — Still very commonly used to get confuse a cashier into giving the con artist more change than he is due.
3-Card Monte — A rigged card game that utilizes a shill to give the illusion of chance at winning.
The Block Game — Also known as the Shell Game, another rigged game.
The Count and Read — The Mark’s money is examined presumably to find counterfeit notes.

Classic Cons

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