A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from December 22, 2006
Texas Twist or Texas Tornado or Country Boy (three-card monte scam)

Texas Twist (also called Texas Tornado or Country Boy) is an involved three-card monte scam that’s appeared in Texas and other western states.

Scoundrels’ Glossary
Texas Tornado. A complicated version of closed-monte popular in Texas and the South. Also Country Boy, Texas Twist.
Texas Twist. A complicated version of closed monte popular in Texas and the South. Also Country Boy, Texas Tornado.

National Association of Bunco Investigators
(Contributed by Detective S.M. Haines, Swindle Squad, Dallas (TX) Police Department)

Texas has, during the past 15 years, produced more Three Card Monte suspects than possibly any other state. They have been so good at the con game that the variation used by the suspects years ago became known as the “Texas Twist.”

Three Card Monte began as a pure gambling game. Years ago, grifters would play this game on the bus, in the pool halls, or on the downtown streets where a crowd would gather much like the shell and pea game players. Black neighborhoods were familiar with this card game and anyone who got took was considered a real sucker.

The game graduated in the 70’s to truck stops where sophisticated mixed teams of four to seven players would fleece the truck drivers out of their money. The teams were made up of shills, dealers, and enforcers who settled disputes. When the truck drivers caught on that they were never going to win and refused to pay, some teams resorted to robbery. When these teams came to town, offenses were generated and this strong arm approach brought a new change in officers. attitudes toward what was once thought of as a game of skill.

Somehow, the really smart con men who knew how to play the handkerchief switch got together to form a new game called the “Texas Twist.” The players did not have worry about any strong arm approach because the victims were going to put the money right in their hand. They would perfect a story that was believable and designed to lure the victim into a situation that would reveal the mark’s own greed. No longer would they have to fleece truck drivers out of a few hundred dollars or play the game on a cardboard box in a downtown alley. They could work a few hours for thousands of dollars and when the victim went to the police, detectives who were not trained in bunco crimes, would raise their eyebrows in disbelief. Detectives would consider this nothing more than a gambling game or a civil case, and there was nothing they could do. (...)

El Paso County (CO) District Attorney
An Old Con Takes a New Twist

The Three Card Monte game seems to be in our area and has taken at least one citizen for $27,700.00 dollars. It is a gambling con game. The game, also known as the Texas Twist or the Country Boy, consists of 3 to 4 players, the innocent victim and two players of the con. The last player is usually not seen by the victim. His job is to stay in the area to pick up the cons after they get the money and to watch the victim when he is in the bank.

The team often consists of both white and black players, but may have all black players. The target is more often a black male. The con man will look for a target between the age of 55-75, perhaps driving a new pick-up truck or car, or otherwise giving the appearance of having money. Many times the cons will go to businesses that attract a lot of people such as Walmart, K-Mart, or Home Depot because they are located near major thoroughfares or highways. Occasionally, the cons have been known to follow a victim from a bank parking lot to their home.

To under stand how this set up works I will walk you through a similar case. The target is named Martin, the con men are Art, Roy, and Tom. Martin is followed to his home one day where Art contacts him in his front yard. Art states that he is looking for the bus station and offers to pay Martin to drive him there. Art then explains how he is in town because of an inheritance that he has just received after a relative’s death. Art tells Martin all about his country background growing up in Mississippi until Martin feels comfortable taking him the bus station. Once in the car, Art states that he is hungry and asks Martin to drive him through a fast food establishment, offering to buy Martin whatever he would like. Martin then names off the restaurants in the area and Art picks the restaurant where he has already arranged to meet Roy, McDonalds.

Once at McDonalds Art goes to make his order and brings the food back to the car. A conversation begins and Art starts talking about a game he saw being played at the bus station while on his trip here. The game, he says, is called 3 Card Monte and he starts to explain it. Just then Roy enters this scene claiming to be the manager of McDonalds. Art yells out to him, “Have you ever heard of 3 Card Monte?” “Of course”, Roy answers, and requests to join in.

Art now says something racially offensive causing Martin to object to Art’s behavior or language. Roy will side with Martin and agree that Art’s behavior or language is out of line. Roy then deals the cards for the game and walks Martin through the first few hands, helping him win. He deals two black cards and shows him how to win by selecting the red card. Art loses each hand and Martin may feel like he is teaming up with Roy against Art. After a sizable bet is made, Martin is told to pick the wrong card by Roy. When Martin picks the wrong card, Roy acts like it is Martin’s fault for not listening. Martin’s money is given to Art, who puts it in a bag or in a handkerchief.

Art then asks whether Martin can get more money so he can keep playing. A trip is made to the bank. Martin takes out a large amount of money to show that he has it. The money is brought back to Roy who pretends to place the money in a bag in the trunk, but the bag is switched before being placed in Martin’s trunk. Roy and Art agree to meet back over at Martin’s house. The third con, Tom, picks up Roy and Art and are gone before Martin realizes that the bag in the trunk of his car contains only newspaper.

There are of course variations of this con but they usually have a common thread. The victim is approached for a ride or to give directions, another party is brought into the game, and the money is placed in a bag or handkerchief to make the switch.

To avoid a scam such as this, never gamble outside of a legal gaming institution.

The Con Artist Handbook (Paperback)
by Joel Levy (Author)
Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: Eye Books (24 Sep 2004)
Three Card Monte… AKA Texas Twist

Posted by Barry Popik
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • (0) Comments • Friday, December 22, 2006 • Permalink