Who does this? I guess an idiot is born every day, but really, who does this? Someone must. These guys are everywhere. We’ve seen them all over Europe (usually with too many people crowding around to get a decent picture). Now that the weather is better, they are all over the boardwalk in Geneva.
These shell games (also known as Thimblerig, Three shells and a pea, the old army game) function, more or less, the same way. The shuffler (aka the tosser) takes bets on the location of the pea or ball. If a better guesses correctly, they supposedly win double their bet. If they don’t, they lose it. Although it’s known as a confidence game, it seems more of a swindle, con or fraud. It’s hard to catch because The shell game set-up and lay-out is quick and simple, so that in the event of trouble, they pull up the rug, removing all traces of the game in a matter of seconds.
If the shuffler is halfway decent, they can remove the object undetected at will and it is useless to watch the shells or the operator’s hands. You can’t win unless the operator wants you to. Usually, most of the players in this shell game are shills who are all part of the confidence trick. They have different roles that include: lookout for the police; “muscle” to intimidate marks, and pretending to play the game, enticing the mark into betting. When someone enters the circle of players, they surround them to discourage an easy exit and keep other pedestrians from interfering. This crowd also makes it difficult to get pictures. Sorry I don’t have better ones.
How do they get the money? You can’t make enough for the several involved to split with bets of a dollar or two. They try to elicit anger or greed to create heightened situation. A shill then “discloses” a winning strategy, getting the mark to place a large bet. It probably doesn’t hurt to have someone distracted and revealing the location of their money either.