Running errands as an apprentice I would be amazed to see how many would try their hand at winning the Three Card Trick.
For those who don’t know, this is where three wide boys con people out of their money in a rigged card game, a scam also known as Find The Lady.
One person has three cards set up on a table or box (something they can fold up and run with should the need arise), you are invited to guess which one is the Queen of Hearts – The Lady.
The second wide boy poses as a punter, naturally, he is doing well at the game and winning lots of money, while a third accomplice will befriend people who stop to watch, pointing out how easy it is to find the Queen and win the pot, suggesting they might like to give it a go.
The card dealer expertly uses sleight of hand ensuring the punter loses as much of their money as possible. With the slightest accusation of the ‘game’ being fixed, the card dealer claims the police are coming and ups and runs.
It would seem human instinct was on the con man’s side, researchers from Goldsmiths, University of London asked 60 people to pick a card from four options and found 66 per cent of right-handed people (representing 9 out of 10 in Britain) chose the third card from the left.
Their conclusion is we have an aversion to ‘edges’ – such as taking items from the centre of the supermarket shelf. Also, we are just plain lazy, choosing the ‘path of least resistance’, being closest to our right hand.
Featured image: An early version of Find the Lady can be found at Tate Britain in part of William Powell Frith’s 1858 painting Derby Day where a version using thimbles is depicted. The man with the smart black boots and riding crop looks like the con man’s accomplice, while to his left, in the green coat the next victim is getting his money ready. The man to the left pointing is the other accomplice – showing how easy it is to make money. He looks like he has convinced the man in the brown bowler and the farmworkers smock, he looks like an out-of-towner who will shortly be losing all his money if he ignores the pleadings of his wife on the far left, the only person with any sense it seems! On the far right, a sheepish-looking victim realises he is now penniless! The Illustrated London news complained of tricksters at the Derby in 1860, who set up their stall at the edge of a wood, so they could melt into the trees at the first sign of trouble.