Over at the Genii forum, there’s a neat discussion about the pros and cons of the various 3 Card Montes out there. While I guess I’m back in the game, I feel a bit more comfortable talking about this here rather than there.

Nobody really asked, but here are my thoughts on the subject.

I love tossed 3 card monte. It’s my most-performed trick. I must have done it about a thousand times over the years, which isn’t that great compared to most lifer magicians, but isn’t that bad for somebody whose magic career has been a bit sporadic. If you know how to handle the challenge aspect of the trick, it’s almost inherently fun.

I’m less enamoured with the Skinner/Taytelbaum 3 card monte, but I recognize that it plays. I’m not entirely sure if my reasons for preferring tossed monte are legitimate. There’s an authentic feel to tossed monte that isn’t there in S/T, but the way the winning card ends up changing places is really something. If the aim is magic, there’s really no question that S/T is better. In tossed monte, the mix is everything. It’s not the reason that they get the loser card, but it’s the reason that gets sold to them that they get the loser card. In tossed monte, leaving out the mix would be a mistake, but in S/T monte, putting in a big mix would similarly be a mistake. In some ways you could argue that they’re very different tricks despite having a very similar setup and theme.

There’s another thing that I think fans of tossed monte have to be careful about, which is a certain sense of misplaced pride at being able to pull off a good, fooling routine purely through sleight-of-hand and without resorting to the usual devices of the magician. As somebody who prefers tossed monte to all the rest, believe me I get it, but preferring tossed monte because it’s the “big boy” game is not the way to go. Start thinking that way and you’ll cut yourself off from a lot of good magic.

However, one thing that both routines have that’s really important is the fairness of the lay down, compared to some of the in-the-hands versions. I think magicians lose their way somewhat when they think of using Monte as a packet trick. Given what magicians are capable of when they have a deck of cards, I don’t think reducing the number of cards down to three makes things seem fairer to the audience. Monte demands mixing, but there’s a big difference between in-the-hands mixing and on-the-table mixing. S/T monte mixes are obviously easy to follow because they rub it in your face how little is going on, but even tossed monte is relatively easy to follow when it’s played straight. I mean, if it weren’t, it’d go nowhere as a scam. But for magicians, when you get down to it, our hands are usually the source of our power, and when we can do so much with them, winning a game of “cherchez la femme” seems like a no-brainer in favour of the magician.

3 Card Monkey Business/Colour Monte is an exception to this, though, mostly because while it borrows the themes of regular monte, the handling is very clean and easy to follow, and the finale is a kick in the pants. Mostly, though, it’s how the presentation gets surprising revelations despite the fact that there’s little mixing. Honestly, I think it’s one of the great packet tricks out there.

Personally, I’ve tried doing Monte as a packet trick, using a few of the common dodges, such as the moving paperclip or the Trevos Lewis Monte Plus idea. These are some clever strategies, and I didn’t mind performing it, but in the end it seemed like a poor substitute. There’s simply better things that you can do with cards in the hands, and there’s better ways to go about Monte. If I were dropping all my other card-related material I might consider keeping it, but since that’s not the case, it’s hard to keep it in the active repertoire.

I don’t really know if this ramble amounts to much in terms of being helpful, but it’s where I come from on it.