Find the Lady

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Three Card Monte or the “three-card trick,” is also known as “Find the Lady” because a queen is often one of the three cards, in this confidence game where “marks” or “victims” are tricked into betting money on their skill to keep track of, and in the end, find the “money card” among three face-down playing cards.

Find the Queen is like the shell game but uses cards instead of shells. Historians speculate that it has been around since at least the late-18th century but was first played in Paris around the 1860s by members of high-society and royalty. Among the royals was one Prince Charles, a patriarch of the now famous Grimaldi family of Monaco.

Prince Charles III

Prince Charles gave his name to that place which, since it is raised above the rest of the land, is now called Monte-Carlo.

The financial windfall that Monte-Carlo provided led the way to modern-day Monaco, allowing the Principality to become involved in projects which diversified the economy. Naturally as Charles was famous for his gambling habits one of his leisure activities was the establishment of a “casino-culture” within the Principality.

The game’s name is thought to have come from the French phrase “monte,” which means “mountain.” According to legend, the game was first played by French soldiers stationed in the mountains, who would use it as a form of entertainment during their downtime. Over time, the game spread throughout Europe and eventually made its way to North America, where it became a popular pastime among gamblers and con artists.

Gallrie Charles III

The basic rules of Three Card Monte are simple: players are shown three cards, and they are asked to find the lady. The other two cards are alike, which some say is a distraction. The catch is that only the queen is the “winner.” The player who finds the lady wins a prize (usually double his bet), but if they fail to find the lady they lose.

Despite its simplicity, Three Card Monte has been known to be a lucrative game for its promoters, who use various tricks and scams to ensure that they always come out on top. Which forces the mention that Three Card Monte has frequently been associated with organized crime figures throughout history. In the early 20th century, the game was often played by gangsters in New York City’s speakeasies and nightclubs, and it was used as a method of money-laundering and to fund illegal activities.

Coney Island, New York

In modern times, Three Card Monte remains part of a popular street culture, with games being played in cities all over the world and while some players may win big, most lose large sums.

Some notable figures associated with Three Card Monte include: Napoleon Bonaparte: The French emperor was said to have played the game during his military campaigns.

Al Capone was known to have played Three Card Monte in his speakeasies during Prohibition. Bugsy Siegel, the mobster, was said to have used Three Card Monte to launder money for his illegal activities.

The infamous mob boss John Gotti was known to play Three Card Monte at his social clubs in New York City.

Despite its checkered past, Three Card Monte remains a fascination and will probably remain so, since “3-card monte” kits are for sale in dozens of neighborhood bodegas, grocery and liquor stores and seashore gift shops.

The Queen is Gone, but lots of others have taken her place.

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My brother had a beginning magician’s kit in which one of the tricks was known as Two-Card Monte.

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