1.    The Pay-Off is a famous con invented in 1906 and is the most lucrative. Lured in by wins on a racing syndicate scam, he comes back with more cash that the conmen relieve him of.

2.    The Rag is a famous con used in the film The Grifters. 'The mark' is lured in on wins of a dodgy stocks and shares scam. But he gets greedy, and the conmen relieve him of the money he collects 'on the send'.

3.    The Wire con was used in the film The Sting (starring Paul Newman). The 'insideman' convinces 'the mark' he can delay the horse racing results going to the bookmakers long enough for the mark to place a bet after the race has run.

4.    The Flop con is a classic. Take a hustler who already has an old injury. Re-enact an accident (a bit risky but may well be worth it....), claim the old injury is in fact new - and take the insurance company to the cleaners!

5.    Three Card Monte (AKA Chase The Ace or Find the Lady) which is (except for the props) essentially the same as the probably centuries-older shell game or thimblerig. The trickster shows three playing cards to the audience, one of which is a queen (the lady), then places the cards face-down, shuffles them around and invites the audience to bet on which one is the queen. At first the audience are skeptical, so the shill places a bet and the scammer allows them to win. This is sometimes enough to entice the audience to place bets, but the trickster uses sleight of hand to ensure that they always lose, unless the con man decides to let them win to lure them into betting even more. The 'mark' loses whenever the dealer chooses to make them lose.

6.    The Spanish Prisoner scam, essentially the same as the Nigerian money transfer fraud, also takes advantage of the victim's greed. The basic come-on involves entreating the mark to aid in retrieving some stolen money from its hiding place. The victim sometimes goes in figuring they can cheat the con artists out of their money: anyone trying this has already fallen for the essential con, by believing that the money is there to steal. Closely related is the Fake Lottery, in which the victim is told they have won a large lottery prize in another country, and that, in order to collect the funds, legal or other fees of several thousand dollars are required in advance. The victim pays the fees, but never sees the supposed winnings. See also Black money scam.

7.    The Pigeon Drop, also featured early in the film The Sting, wherein the 'mark' or 'pigeon' "assists" an elderly, weak or infirm stranger to keep their money safe for them. In the process, the stranger (actually a confidence trickster) "puts his money with" the pigeon's money, i.e., in an envelope, briefcase, or sack, which the pigeon is then entrusted with. The money is actually not put into the sack or envelope, but is switched for a bag full of newspaper, etc. The pigeon is enticed to "make off with" the con man's money through the greed element and various theatrics, but in actuality, the pigeon is fleeing from his own money, which the con man still has (or has handed off to an accomplice).

8.    The Fiddle Game is a variation on the Pigeon drop. A pair of con men work together, one going in to an expensive restaurant in shabby clothes, eating, and claiming to have left his wallet at home, which is nearby. As collateral, the con man leaves his only worldly possession, a fiddle (violin) he uses to make enough money for himself to live and eat. He leaves, and the second con man swoops in, offers an outrageously large amount (e.g., $50,000) for such a rare instrument, and then looks at his watch and runs off to an appointment, leaving behind his card for the mark to call him when the fiddle owner returns. The mark's greed comes into play when the "poor man" comes back, having gotten the money to pay his meal and ensure the return of his violin. The mark, "knowing" he has an offer on the table, then buys the violin from the fiddle player (who "reluctantly" sells it eventually, for say $5,000), and we are left with two con men $2,500 richer, and a maitre' with a cheap wooden instrument. (This trick is also detailed in the Neil Gaiman novel, American Gods.)

9.   Nigerian Fraud Scheme

10.The Pyramid Scheme. See also Ponzi scheme, Matrix sale.

11.Insurance fraud - the con artist tricks the mark into damaging, for example, the con artist's car, or injuring the con artist (in a manner that the con artist can exaggerate). The con artist fraudulently collects a large sum of money from the mark's insurance policy, even though they intentionally caused the accident.

12.Pig-in-a-poke originating in the late Middle Ages, when meat was scarce, but apparently rats and cats were not. The con entails a sale of a "suckling pig", in a "poke" (bag). The bag ostensibly containing a live healthy little pig, but actually contains a cat (not particularly prized as a source of meat, and at any rate, quite unlikely to grow to be a large hog). If one "buys a pig in a poke" (a common colloquial expression in the English language, meaning "to be a sucker"), the person has bought something of lesser value than was assumed. This confidence trick is also the origin of the expressions: "Let the cat out of the bag" (meaning to reveal that which is secret), and "left holding the bag" (meaning to find oneself with nothing for their efforts, as the cat is quite likely to flee when the bag is opened).

13.Psychic surgery is a con game in which the trickster uses sleight of hand to pretend to remove bits of malignant growths from the mark's body. A common form of medical fraud in underdeveloped countries, it imperils the victims, who may fail to seek competent medical attention. (The movie Man on the Moon depicts comedian Andy Kaufman undergoing psychic surgery.)




1.    Some cons rely on the gullibility of their victims. (Too naïve to be suspicious).

2.    Some cons depend on the dishonesty of their victims. (Too blinded to see the trap).

3.    Some cons exploit the intelligence of their victims. (Too arrogant to think they could be hoodwinked).

4.    Often, the mark tries to out-cheat the con men, only to discover that they have been manipulated into this from the start.

5.    All cons have one thing in common—they employ the victim's greed or need as a lever to success.

6.    You don’t have to be cynical 24/7. But if you’re not even slightly suspicious, you’re prime for the picking.

7.    A “get rich quick scheme” or “too good to be true” investment is easy to spot from the outside. But when you’re right in the middle of it, your critical thinking skills are thrown out the window.

8.    In the most sophisticated cons, the victim never realizes he's been conned. He thinks he was just involved in a failed gambit.

9.    The con man can't be classed in the same group as “thieves”, since he doesn't actually do any stealing—the victims willingly hand over the money.

10. A clever play of the con man is to make you think the scheme was your idea.

11. In a traditional con, the marks are encouraged to believe that they will obtain money dishonestly by cheating a third party, and is stunned to find that due to what appears to be an error in pulling off the scam they are the one who loses money.

12. Very few con men are ever brought to trial. The victim must admit his own criminal intentions (usually the reason they got involved) if he wishes to prosecute.



1.    “There are lies more believable than truth.” –Old Gypsy Saying        

2.    “Truth is more of a stranger than fiction.” –Mark Twain

3.    “I told them the truth and they fell for it.” –Harry Anderson

4.    “The truth is the one thing nobody will believe.” –George Bernard Shaw

5.     “It’s hard to believe that a man is telling the truth when you would lie if you were in his place.” –J.L. Mencken

6.    “Half truth is often a great lie.” –Benjamin Franklin

7.    “A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is still putting on its boots.” –Mark Twain

8.    “Craft must wear clothes, but truth loves to go naked.” –Thomas Fuller

9.    “Everyone wishes to have truth on his side, but not everyone wishes to be on the side of truth.” –Richard Whately

10. “The truth shall set you free. –Jesus




Con men are a very clever and creative breed. Instead of violence, they use skilled hands and sharp wits. They even pride themselves in being at the top of the criminal echelon for using trickery rather than force.


They construct elaborate and sophisticated swindles to separate you from your money. With these intricate con games they have also constructed their own language. It’s a secret way to describe the different cons, the stages of a con and the techniques of a con.


The following terms, of course, are used to mask the meaning of what is being said from unwanted ears.


Having devoted a considerable amount of time in this unscrupulous underworld, I have compiled a lengthy glossary (a lexiCON, if you will) to help you learn their larcenous lingo.


For example, a con is designed to intentionally mislead a person or persons for financial or other gain. The origin comes from the word confidence. The con man establishes a trust relationship by first gaining the mark’s confidence. And a mark, of course, is the intended victim of a planned con.


There are two types of cons:


A) The Short Con (refers to taking the mark for all the money he has on his person. It's an opportunist scam that isn't pre-planned to any great deal.)


B) The Long Con (refers to an intricate and complex con game stretching over several days or weeks, involving numerous con men as supporting players in the cast.)


Also, there are dozens of variations of each con game including:

·      The Block (involving fake gold bricks)

·      The Fight Store (involving a rigged boxing match)

·      The Rag (involving worthless stocks)

·      The Rock (involving fake diamonds)

·      The Wire (involving a horse racing scam as featured in The Sting).


These confidence games are meticulously planned and carefully rehearsed “plays” with members of a team (the crew) assigned detailed parts and lines, which they practice assiduously so as not to crack out of turn. It’s a fascinating form of theater.


The opening scene is the catch, when the mark (a.k.a. the customer) is lured into the first stage of the long con by a lugger or a roper. The mark’s interest in the scheme is then excited in the build up, with promises of easy money—from glowing recommendations by a fellow member of the crew known as a boost or singer. Or perhaps tipped through an intentionally overheard conversation between two members of the team known as the crossfire.


Next, the customer is allowed to invest a moderate amount of money and naturally succeed, proving the efficacy of the scheme being sold. The money won at this stage of the game is known as the convincer or the kickback.


The next stage is sending the mark home or to the bank to get more money, known as putting in the send.


The head con man now appears to invest his own money into the scheme for further proof of its worth—giving this stage of the game its name: the last hurrah.


Just when it all seems too good to be true—it is! The customer/mark gets the surprise of all surprises—the gold was not gold, the diamonds were not diamonds, the telegraph operator made a mistake in reporting what horse had won a race. Imagine that! Welcome to the sting.


Finally, when the customer and his money have been successfully separated, it’s now time to get rid of him with the blow off or the cool off. This is accomplished through a number of dramatic embellishments, such as a false arrest (the button) or the destruction of a mark’s check (the tear up).


Or, as used in The Sting, a fake shooting known as a cackle bladder (a small and concealed receptacle of chicken blood). In this charade, the mark is led to believe that one of the con men has shot and killed the other. The victim is successfully dissuaded from reporting the scam to the police for fear of being implicated in the “murder.”  


Many swindle teams are deserving of a “Tony” award for their extremely convincing execution in these elaborate “play of plays.”




The following is a fascinating and comprehensive list of terms from the subculture of professional gambling cheats, hustlers and con men.


This list should put you on the “inside track” and kick-start your own professional conning career. I’d wish that Lady Luck smiles upon you, but since chance favors the prepared mind, she has nothing to do with it.


·      Above Board  Being honest. On the up and up.

·      Accident  An arrest.

·      Action  Gambling activity or financial promise.

·      Advance Man  A member of the con team who is assigned to look for new territory and new marks.

·      Against the wall  The act of playing a con game without the use of a Big Store.

·      Agent  A person acting as a confederate in a crooked game.

·      Alibi Agent  An operator of a crooked game.

·      Angle  A scheme concocted by con men to the cheat marks.

·      Back Door  A dishonest gambling house.

·      Bad Paper  Counterfeit money. “Someone put some bad paper in the game.”

·      Baggage  Someone standing around watching a game but has no money to get into the action.

·      Bagged   To be caught in the act of cheating.

·      Bag Man  A person who carries the gambling winnings or the con score to a drop site.

·      Bankable  A gambler with a good reputation. One who pays back gambling debts on time.

·      Basements  Dealing of the bottom of the deck.

·      Beat  To swindle a victim. Or to win by cheating.

·      Beat Feet  To leave the con game as quickly as possible.

·      Beef  To inform. Or to complain about being cheated.

·      Bent  Stolen

·      Best of It  A player who beats the other players either by a mathematical edge, greater skill, or the use of cheating.

·      Betting On The Fly  A cheating move used in craps. This is a “call bet” by a confederate after the dice have landed.

·      Big Con Also known as The Long Con, it’s any elaborate con game stretching over several days, involving numerous con men as supporting players—as opposed to The Short Con.

·      Big Nickel  A $5,000 bet.

·      Big Store  A fake establishment (rigged out to look like a real life setting) used in The Big Con—usually a gambling house, bookmaking establishment, or brokerage house—which the mark is led to believe he is going to swindle.

·      Big End  A share of the proceeds from a crime that is larger than an equal share.

·      Bilk  Taking money by cheating.

·      Bill  $100. I took him for one bill.

·      Bird Dog  A member of a con team who is sent out to look for more marks.

·      Blab  To ruin a con game by excessive talking.

·      Black Money  Money made from illegal acts. Includes gambling, loan sharking, prostitution and con games.

·      Bleat  To cry or complain about being cheated.

·      Block Hustle  Pretending to sell stolen goods for a low price when actually selling an empty or “loaded” box.

·      Blow  To lose a bet. Or to run away from a con game, usually because the police are coming.

·      Blow Off  Any technique for getting rid of a mark after he has been swindled in a con game.

·      Bobble  To call attention to one’s actions while engaged in a short con.

·      Boodle  A fake bankroll.

·      Boosters Con men that play small supporting roles in a big con game.

·      Bottoms  Dealing off the bottom of the deck.

·      Bracelets  Handcuffs.

·      Brain  The leader of a con crew.

·      Brick  Loaded dice.

·      Bright Eyes  A female lookout.

·      Broad Tosser  Operator of a Three Card Monte scam.

·      Brush  A card cheating move in which the hustler exchanges one of the cards in his hand for one from his accomplice’s hand.

·      Build Up  A speech designed specifically for a mark in order to et him excited about gambling his money.

·      Bum Move  A stupid or unwanted move made by a con artist that results in his being caught cheating or losing the mark.

·      Bunco  A police term describing a crooked game.

·      Bundle  A large amount of money.

·      Burned   Being cheated.

·      Burner  Leader of a con game.

·      Bust  An arrest.

·      Buster  A burglar’s tool.

·      Bust In  To sneak crooked dice into the game.

·      Busting  Quickly beating someone for his money.

·      Bust Out  To go broke in a game.

·      Bust Out Joint  A gambling house that follows a policy of cheating the players.

·      Bustout Man  A dice mechanic who specializes in switching in crooked dice.

·      Button Game  The arrival of fake police. Just in the nick of time, the mark is allowed to escape thinking he was lucky to get away.

·      C-Note  $100 bill.

·      Cackle The Dice  Making the dice rattle together but not allowing them to change positions in the hand prior to controlling the roll.

·      Calling Cards  Fingerprints.

·      Cap  To consummate a short con sale.

·      Capable  Said of any card or dice mechanic who can do a good job of cheating in a game.

·      Capper  The outside man who brings victims to a gambler or short con swindler.

·      Case Out  To divide the “earnings” with the con team.

·      Check Copper   A player who uses a sticky substance in his hand to steal chips from the pot or from another player’s stack.

·      Chisel  To cheat.

·      Chiseler  A small-time hustler or petty thief.

·      Chump  Naïve player.

·      Clean  Getting away undetected. Also, said of any sleight of hand cheating move that is very deceptive and convincing.

·      Clip Joint  A crooked gambling establishment.

·      Close The Gates  For the shills in a gambling short con to crowd out an unwanted observer.

·      Clout  Having influence with police or other officials.

·      Collar  An arrest

·      Colored Stuff  Rubies, emeralds and other colored gems.

·      Contacts Man  A hustling crew role; a person with access to action spots.

·      Cool  Maintaining composure

·      Cooler A prestacked deck which is secretly switched for the deck in play.

·      Cooling Out  Pacifying one who has been swindled in order to keep him from making trouble. 

·      Cop The Edge  To take advantage of a situation.

·      Court Refers to gaining the victim's confidence. Usually for the Long Con.

·      Crack Out  To hustle someone quickly.

·      Creeper  A roulette wheel rigged for cheating.

·      Crews  A team of usually 3 or 4 persons hustling as a unit.

·      Cross  A short con in which the mark is made to think he’s part of the scam when really he’s the patsy.

·      Crossroader  A road hustler.

·      Crossfire  A quick conversation in argot between two con men to trick the victim of a short con.

·      Cufflinks  Handcuffs.

·      Cut And Run  Stop the con and leave immediately, usually prior to a raid.

·      Cut In  Given a share of the gambling or con game profits.

·      Cut Out  Keeping a member of the con from receiving their fair share of the profits.

·      Cut Up Old Scores  For hustlers to get together and reminisce about old scores.

·      Deadhead  An unpromising target of a con game who provides little or no action.

·      Dime  A $1,000 bet.

·      Dirty Dishes  Planted evidence.

·      Double Duke  Prearranging a deck so that two persons receive good hands.

·      Double Steer  A double-cross involving a target who believes he is taking advantage of another.

·      Dragging  Illegally removing chips from one’s bet after the game is in progress.

·      Driller  A slot machine cheat who specializes in drilling holes in the machines.

·      Drop Shot  A sleight of hand technique for controlling the outcome of a dice throw.

·      Drop Tin  To show a police badge.

·      Drunken Mitt  A short con game built around a poker game in which the con man accidentally exposes his hand, apparently showing that he can’t win.

·      Duck Soup  And crime or con that is easy and profitable.

·      Duke  The art of shortchanging a mark, usually by palming or holding out a bill during a cash exchange.

·      Easy Mark   A person who is easily persuaded to play a con game or gamble in a game he has no chance of winning. 

·      Edge  Gaining an advantage proscribed by “game rules.”

·      Egg  A mark or sucker.

·      Earnest Money  The money required of the victim in certain con games as a show of good faith.

·      Eighty-Five  One short step from being eighty-sixed.

·      End Zone  The location and time that money made from a con is to be split up.

·      Extras  These are unemployed hustlers playing the role of supporting players in the con.

·      Fast Company  Sophisticated players who are capable of spotting the cruder methods of cheating and are, therefore, more difficult to swindle.

·      Finger  To inform to the police.

·      Fitting In  Impression management; giving the impression of naturally belonging at an event.

·      Fix Is In  Phrase used when it’s all right to proceed with a con or crooked game. It also refers to cooperation bought from the police or forestalling their action.

·      Flash  Expensive trappings to attract a mark.

·      Fleeced  A term used to describe a mark who has been taken for all the money he has. “We didn’t just take him, we fleeced him.”

·      Flim-Flam  All types of cons of dishonest games played for money.

·      Floater  A traveling thief or con man.

·      Flop  An arrest.

·      Fork  A pickpocket.

·      Fresh Dough  Money “earned” through a criminal enterprise.

·      Front  A cover fro an illegitimate/deviant activity.

·      Front Man  One who establishes credibility and integrity for another in return for a share of the profits.

·      Fur Fly  Making a commotion to distract bystanders who appear to be catching on to the con.

·      Furniture Man  A cheat who specializes in switching cards by means of a holdout machine.

·      G-Note  A $1,000 bill.

·      Gaffed  Said of any gambling device which has been illegally altered to favor the cheat.

·      Gets The Money  Said of any cheating technique which is highly effective in winning the other players’ money.

·      Glim  A small hidden mirror that allows the cheat to see the faces of the cards as he deals them; the same as a flick, light or twinkle.

·      Give The Office  For a cheat to give any sort of secret signal to another member of the con mob.

·      Giving Him The Convincer  Refers to the process of allowing the victim to make a substantial profit on the first scam, thereby gaining his trust for The Big Con.

·      Gone  Convicted of a crime.

·      Gorilla   A criminal who shamefully uses violence.

·      Go South With  To secretly palm cards, dice, money, or anything else, and take it out of action.

·      Grease The Mitt  To pay a bribe.

·      Grift  Taking money dishonestly.

·      Grifter   Any kind of professional cheat or con man.

·      Half A Yard  A $50 bill.

·      Half Smart  Said of a player who possesses a little knowledge of cheating techniques and therefore mistakenly assumes that he cannot be cheated. Such players are often among the most vulnerable suckers for a smart cheat.

·      Hand Mucker  A card cheat who specializes in palming and switching the cards he has been dealt; the same as a holdout man or mitt man.

·      Hand Off  For a casino dealer to secretly hand chips to an accomplice who is posing as a player.

·      Handle Slamming  A method of controlling the reel combination that comes up on a slot machine by first pulling the handle, then slamming it back upward to affect the outcome of the spin.

·      Hang The Flag  For a casino cheat to signal his partners that no cheating should take place at the moment because of heavy surveillance.

·      Hard Way  By honest means.

·      Hatchet Man  The muscle hired to intimidate people opereating a rival gaming or con operation.

·      Heart  The courage to cheat in a game under pressure.

·      Heat  Police, security, gaming officials, or other authorities. Also, encountering more suspicion and surveillance than is typical.

·      Heavy  Armed.

·      Heavy Deck  A deck of cards containing more than the customary 52

·      Heavy Hand  A hand of cards that secretly contains more cards than it is supposed to.

·      Heavy Money  Large amounts of cash.

·      Hit  A sale in a short con.

·      Hold Out   A con who cheats other cons out of their true share of winnings “earned” in a con operation.

·      Holding Out  The act of keeping one or more cards out of the game for use in establishing a better hand.

·      Holding The Bag  Manipulating a mark so he will take the blame for a raided con game. “We left him holding the bag.”

·      Home Guard  A mark who is a local resident.

·      Hook  The act of bringing a mark into a game.

·      Hooks  Lockpicks.

·      Hop  A secret move which restores a cut deck to its original order.

·      Hopscotch  To take a confidence game on the road.

·      Hot Come On  A con operation where the mark knows instantly he’s been cheated during the con.

·      Hush Money  Money paid to someone to keep quiet about their knowledge of illegal activity.

·      Hustler Any kind of gambling cheat.

·      Hype  A con man’s verbal buildup of a scam. Promoting a confidence game using exaggerated tales.

·      Hypester  Someone who specializes in shortchanging cashiers.

·      Ice  Diamonds.

·      Inside Man  As opposed to the Outside Man. He’s the key player who stays near The Big Store and actually operates the game by which the mark is swindled. Often, the mark believes he is swindling the Inside Man.

·      In The Bag  An easy con.

·      In The Chair  The emotional fever pitch of excitement reached by the victim of a con when he believes he is right on the verge of a big payoff.

·      Jack  Money.

·      Jake   the victim of a con.

·      Japper  Someone who spoils a short con.

·      Jay  An easy mark.

·      Joint  Gambling casino.

·      Jostle  Picking pockets in crowd places.

·      Jump The Fence  To skip bail.

·      Juice  Bribes paid to police or having insider knowledge.

·      Kick Back  To return part or all of a score to the mark to avoid a beef. Also, a pay off to someone as a reward for sending a mark into a game.

·      Knocking A Mark  Informing the victim that he has been taken.

·      Knock Out  A casino cheating term referring to a crooked dealer cleaning out a player.

·      Landed  Arrested.

·      Larceny  The inclination to take advantage of a dishonest opportunity when it comes along.

·      Laying It Down  When the agent describes how the game is played.

·      Laying The Flue  A short-change swindle involving sealing money in an envelope (the flue) and apparently giving it to the mark to hold; actually it is switched for a duplicate envelope.

·      Lay The Note  To short-change a cashier.

·      Leak  To fail to completely hide a cheating move. For example, exposing a palmed card between one’s fingers. Also, exposing a crucial moment usually ending in the mark spotting the con game.

·      Leaper  Someone who jumps bail.

·      Levels  Any honest gaming equipment.

·      Legit  An honest game, house or any other type of operation that is straight.

·      Lift  Picking someone’s pocket.

·      Live One  A mark who looks excited to join a card or con game. “We got ourselves a live one.”

·      Loaded  Dice that have been altered with weights.

·      Make  To recognize.

·      Manager  He directs the outfit and is often the bookmaker for the group.

·      Mark  The target of a con game or other swindle.

·      Mechanic  A cheat skilled at manipulating cards or dice.

·      Mitt Man  A card cheat who specializes in palming and switching the cards he has been dealt.

·      Money Card  The winning card at Three Card Monte.

·      Move  Any sleight of hand cheating technique.

·      Murphy  A con game where the mark thinks he’s been given an envelope containing a large sum of cash, when actually it contains pieces of worthless paper.

·      Muscle  The member of a cheating mob whose job it is to handle victims who become violent or unruly.

·      Nut  The expenses. Also, the cost of a crime.

·      Nail  To catch someone cheating.

·      Office  Any kind of secret signal given by one cheat to another. “Giving one the office.”

·      On The Square  Being honest.

·      On The Take  Police or officials who are taking bribes.

·      On The Wall  The member of a Three Card Monte mob whose turn it is to act as lookout for approaching police is said to be “on the wall.”

·      Outside Man  The con man who locates the mark and gets him involved in the scam, as opposed to the Inside Man.

·      One Liner  A short con.

·      Package  A marked deck of cards that are ready to be placed into play.

·      Padding A Roll  A technique of controlling the outcome of legitimate dice.

·      Paper  Marked cards.

·      Past Posting  Secretly placing a bet in any game of chance after a decision has been reached.

·      Patch Money  Money paid by operators to keep the police away.

·      Peek The Poke  Catching a glimpse inside the mark’s open wallet to determine how much cash he has to be swindled.

·      Piece Of The Action  Phrase used by fellow cons when asking for a part in the con game.

·      Pigeon  A very easy mark.

·      Pinching  Taking chips from a bet after the game is in progress.

·      Poke  A mark’s wallet.

·      Pressing  Secretly adding chips to a bet already made after the game is in progress.

·      PR Man  A person promoting the hustle.

·      Prop Hustler  A grifter who specializes in luring suckers into bets which they have little or no chance of winning.

·      Pull Up   For a potential mark to lose interest in a game or proposition.

·      Punk Licks  A short con with a small payoff.

·      Pushover  An easy mark.

·      Putting On The Raise  The art of making a bet more than he intended.

·      Putting On The Send  The process of sending a mark home to get more money.

·      Putting Up The Mark  This refers to the process of locating a well-to-do victim.

·      Queering The Bet  A phrase used to describe the actions of an outsider who makes a move or remark and scares the mark into leaving.

·      Quick Push   A unusually easy mark.

·      Rabbit  A member of a con game who enters the game as a customer, makes several fast, winning bets and leaves.

·      Racket  Any operation that depends on deception for success.

·      Rail Birds  Poker game spectators.

·      Rap  To inform.

·      Reader  A phony driver’s license.

·      Readers  Cards altered so they can be read while in another player’s hand.

·      Real Work  Authentic, inside information on the correct way to perform a cheating move or scam, as opposed to the misinformation that is always circulating.

·      Repeaters  Fixed dice that repeat the same numbers often.

·      Riding  Making a mark feel intimidated to the point he can’t or won’t complain about being taken.

·      Ringer  A horse substituted for another in a stakes race.

·      Rip And Tear  To cheat freely and extensively without fear of repercussions.

·      Road Hustler A card or dice cheat who travels around the country looking for games to cheat in.

·      Rock Emporium  A jewelry store.

·      Rope  To secure a mark for a con game.

·      Roper  The “Outside Man” whose job it is to lure victims into a scam by gaining their confidence.

·      Roping the Mark  refers to steering him to meet the “Inside Man” who will eventually fleece him.

·      Rough Hustle  A crudely operated, amateurish cheating scam.

·      Round  To cause someone to turn around to keep him from seeing a cheating move performed by one’s partner.

·      Running Flat  For any gambling establishment to be operating crookedly.

·      Run Up  Stacking a deck to give one player a good hand.

·      Sap  An easy mark.

·      Sawdust Joint  Name given to a house, casino or any other gambling operation that cheats.

·      Score  A large sum of money made legitimately and illegitimately.

·      Scratchman  A forger.

·      Screen Out  To move in such a manner that the mark is unable to view a cheating move by a dealer.

·      Set Up Game  A gambling or con game set up specifically to fleece the marks.

·      Shade  Distractions designed to assist a mechanic or operator for a cheating move.

·      Shill 

·      A Shoe In  A guaranteed winning scheme.

·      Shortcake  Getting less than an equal share of the profits.

·      Short Con  A uncomplicated, short duration con.

·      Shot  Any cheating move made by a player in a casino.

·      Shove  Passing off counterfeit money. Also, getting it into the game.

·      Sing  To inform on other criminals.

·      Slide   The term used by the lookout at Three Card Monte to warn of approaching police.

·      Slow Work  Daylight robbery of a house with nobody home.

·      Soft Action  A game composed of players with limited gambling knowledge who are therefore particularly easy to cheat.

·      Sour Paper   Bad checks.

·      Sparkler   A diamond.

·      Splash Move  The process of going through the motions of performing a cheating move without actually doing it in order to see if it will arouse suspicion.

·      Sponsor  A patron who obtains entry and establishes credibility for hustlers attending an event.

·      Spring  For a mark in a street gambling con to make a wager.

·      Stall   A confederate who occupies a mark’s attention away from his pickpocket partner.

        ·      Steam  Heavy surveillance, which makes it difficult to cheat successfully.

        ·      Steer  To take a mark to a location where he will be fleeced.

        ·      Steer Joint  A crooked gambling house to which players are taken for the express purpose of being swindled.

·      Step In  To interfere with a short con—intentionally or inadvertently.

·      Stick   A shill.

·      Sting  The point in a con game when the mark’s money is taken from him.

·      Strong  Said of any cheating move that is particularly effective; also said of a cheat who is very proficient.

·      Strong Work  Heavily marked cards that are easy to read or heavily gaffed dice which give the cheat a very strong percentage.

·      Stuck  To have lost money in a gambling game.

·      Sub  A secret pocket in the clothing of a casino dealer used to hide stolen chips. 

·      Sucker  Anyone who is not a member of the hustling subculture.

·      Sweater  Someone who watches a gambling game without taking part. 

·      Sweet Pea  An easy victim.

·      Swift   A quick substitution of something worthless for something valuable in a con game.

·      Swinging  The process of stealing chips when performed by a casino employee.

·      Switching  The process of transferring a mark’s confidence from the outside man to the inside man in a big con.

·      Take  Money or goods obtained in the con.

·      Taking An Edge  Gaining a dishonest advantage in a game of chance.

·      Take Off   To cheat someone in a gambling game.

·      Tap A Till  To shortchange a cashier.

·      Target   The easy mark.

·      Tear Up  A method of cooling off a mark by apparently tearing up the check he has written to pay off his losses. Actually, the check is switched for a duplicate blank one which is torn up in its stead, and the original is cashed at the first opportunity.

·      Telegraph  To unwittingly alert the other players to the fact that you are about to make a cheating move through nervousness or because of some clumsy preparatory action.

·      Tell  Any unconscious signal or discrepancy which may be spotted by a knowledgeable observer as evidence that a cheating move has taken place. Or a way of determining when a card player is bluffing.

·      Tell The Tale  For a con man (usually the inside man) to explain to the mark the deal by which he is supposed to profit.

·      There’s Work Down  There are crooked dice or cards in play.

·      Throwing It In Together  Forming a partnership for a con.

·      Tie Up  For the outside man in a con game to keep the mark involved in the scam until the sting in which his money is taken.

·      Tight  Said of any cheating technique that is very little known even among professional cheats; the same as “case stuff.”

·      Tip  To reveal cheating secrets. Short for “tip your mitt.”

·      Tip And Toss  Any confidence game in which a shill or decoy is used.

·      Tools  Illegitimate equipment: Marked cards, loaded dice, etc.

·      Touch  Money taken from a con game victim.

·      Trim  To cheat someone out of a sum of money in a gambling game; the same as “beat.”

·      Turn A Sucker  To talk a mark into conspiring with the cheats in swindling the other players.

·      Two Way Joint  A private casino game that can be converted in seconds form one that is played fairly to one that is rigged.

·      Uncle  A pawnbroker.

·      Vic  The victim or intended victim in any card game or gambling scam.

·      Wall Man  The member of a Three Card Monte mob who acts as a lookout for approaching police.

·      Weed  To secretly palm or remove bills while handling or counting money.

·      Weight  Loaded dice.

·      Wire  One who lifts the wallet or seizes the money.

·      Wireman  A slot machine thief.

·      With It  One who is savvy to the scam. He will inform the others by saying, “I’m with it.”

·      Work  Any kind of secret technical information on the correct working of a cheating move or scam. “He’s got the work.”

·      Wrong  Somehow against the con man code.


1.    Titanic Thompson was

2.    Frank Abagnale masqueraded as a pilot, doctor and professor

3.    Bernie Cornfield ran what is to date the greatest scam in history, taking in just under $2.5 billion in what was later realized to be a Ponzi scheme.

4.    Charles Ponzi  ran a pyramid scheme (though he did not invent them) and became so closely identified with them that they are also known as Ponzi schemes.

5.    Canada Bill Jones was

6.    Joseph Weil (a.k.a. The Yellow Kid) is one of the inspirations for the Academy-award winning film The Sting.

7.    William Thompson American criminal whose deceptions caused the term "confidence man" to be coined.

8.    Uri Gellar a famous but controversial alleged psychic and television personality

©Copyright Gregory Wilson. All rights reserved.