Scam School

Published on Thursday, April 02, 2009 in , , , , , , , , ,

Brian Brishwood's Scam SchoolWait . . . Scam School?!? Isn't this blog about improving your mind in fun ways?

Yes, it is. As it happens, many of the scams taught by Brian Brushwood meet those criteria exactly! Now, I'm not suggesting that you make a living cheating people. Before we get to the scams themselves, I'd like to post a quote from Bob Farmer, which was often found at the end of his Flim-Flam columns (also well worth looking up for numerous scams!):

Caveat Scamtor: Ethical Hustlers warn the Mark the game is fixed. Money lost is an educational investment. Gambling may be illegal where you live. Information in this column may be wrong, so don't bet the farm until you've verified it's right.
I should clarify that money lost by either party involved is an educational investment. Having said that, on with Scam School!

Early on, the classic game of Nim is taught. Money and beers have been lost to this game for hundreds of years, so it is well tested. For you Martin Gardner fans, many of his books cover Nim and its seemingly endless variations. Once you've mastered the basic version of Nim, Brian also teaches a more advanced version of the Nim game, which has the devilish twist of also seeming more fair. There are some details to remember here, but I'm pretty sure no regular Grey Matters readers would shy away from any memory work.

Another mathematically-based scam that Brian teaches is one that is known among magicians as Debit and Credit, but became popular recently as The Trick That Fooled Einstein (video below):

When you first see this completely impromptu scam, it seems impossible that anyone could know such exact details about an unseen sum of money. If you look at it closely, you're never really saying anything about how much money the other person has. Rather, it's really only a clever way of stating how much money you have!

There are a few that require less common bar items, but are nonetheless such as how to predict the future using dominoes. This is an interesting bar bet, but I wouldn't use against people who know too much about dominoes, or they may see right through it. Another great prop one is Fast and Loose, a chain con that originally became popular because you could wear the required chain as jewelry, and thus not be caught with any other props that were used to scam people, such as cards.

There's even one scam that aided by an old Grey Matters friend, Pi. In this bet, you brink out a glass, and ask them which they think is larger, the glass' height or its circumference. After the first round of bets, you put various items underneath the glass to increase the height, and offer to let people change their bets. The ending is very surprising to most people.

There are many more Scam School episodes available, and they're all downloadable, too. Not only are they all available in high- and low-res Xvid, Windows Media and QuickTime formats, but as HD QuickTime, YouTube videos and even as iTunes podcasts.

There's nothing to stimulate your brain training like making a little money while doing it!

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2 Response to Scam School

2:24 AM

In the UK, we have a show named something like 'The Real Hustle'. It features at least one bar con per episode - but I do not recall seeing one math-based before.

For pub tricks in general, there is a book named 'How To Avoid Your Round'. It states that you should show enthusiasm while going to the pub so that it looks like you want to buy the round of drinks; but then you hold open the pub door for your friends so that they all reach the bar first. Genius.


9:57 AM

They tried making a US version of The Real Hustle (even giving it the same name), but I believe there were only 3 or so episodes before it was cancelled. You can watch many of the US and UK episodes on ScamOnTv's YouTube channel.

As for good written sources of scams, I also recommend Bob Farmer's Flim-Flam column, which ran in Magic Magazine from 1992 to 2000, and then in Genii from 2003 to 2005.