Don't fall victim to CTA Shell Game scam

Tis the season to be jolly, spend money - and get taken by the CTA Shell Game operators.

And I saw it happening again Tuesday on the CTA Red Line. The gregarious African-American guy boards at Fullerton with his board. (And yes, I have only seen black guys shill for the Shell Game.)

He sits down in the middle of the long rows of aisle-facing seats. (No doubt he likes these new 5000 Series rail cars because everyone is facing him.) And he begins shuffling three little green cups on a handheld board. There's a red ball under one cup/shell, and he asks anyone to say under which shell the red ball hides.

"The right one, the right one," exclaims an over-exuberant "player." Yes, he's a player all right. He's the "Plant" who wins some and then encourages others to play.

The Hustler tells the Plant that he's a winner of $40, but only if he can show his own $40. He does, and earns $40 on the spot.

How to identify the "players" in the CTA shell game. (Photo by Venus)

How to identify the "players" in the CTA shell game. (Photo by Venus)

The Hustler then asks who wants to play next, and usually finds a couple of eager takers. He tells them to show $40, and asks them to put up their $40 to try and guess.

Of course they lose, but try to get the money back on a double-or-nothing deal. No dice - or no shell. He loses $80 now.

Just two weeks ago I listened to two tourists laugh about how they lost $200 on the CTA Shell Game. Yes, they were laughing.

But on Tuesday, I didn't want to see anyone lose, so I reported the guy to the motorman via the call button.

Things got real quiet real quick on that car after I reported him.

The motorman made the announcement: "Attention - there is NO gambling allowed on this train. Put the Shell Game away and get off the train!"

The Hustler obviously was not happy. First he started saying - nonsensically - that I am a child molester. Huh?

Then as he stood at the door to leave the train, he said, "You're a snitch. Don't you know what happens to snitches."

I just stared him down as he left the train.

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  • Sure he doesn't like a snitch keeping him from making maybe $1000 on that train. He had to wait 3 minutes for the next one.

    The tourists may have been laughing because participation was voluntary, even though the purveyors are obnoxious. On the other hand, there hasn't been much reported about iPhone thefts lately; maybe they figured out that the phones have gps.

  • Tell him "Snitches hire Trigger-Happy Cops to blow folks like you away, Bruh"......

  • While we're on the subject of annoying Red Line phenomena, can anyone tell me how long the line's Number One panhandler has been at it? He's the middle-aged guy with the shaved head who enters a car and makes this type of announcement: "MY NAME IS _____. I WAS RECENTLY RELEASED FROM ______. I AM ENDEAVORING TO _____. I WILL NOT ROB. I WILL NOT STEAL. COULD ANYONE PLEASE HELP ME."

    He has been at it at least since 2007 (as far back as my Red Line experience goes). Any longer? Just curious ...

  • In reply to Blue:

    Yes Blue, that's a really good question. The last time I saw him I told him he must be in and out of prison because I have seen him for many years!

  • In reply to Blue:

    I think there's more than one guy with that scam.
    I've seen them of a couple of different lines, once on the same ride, always south of Roosevelt.

  • Turns out some snitches have blogs! We are all snitches now. Do you know what happens to criminals, Mr. Hustler?

  • In reply to CCWriter:

    Mr. CTA said they WILL be arrested, but unless this account is missing something, they won't.

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    In reply to jack:

    Mr. CTA's name is Lee Crooks by the way. Crooks USED TO say tell passengers that YEARS ago, when he would say, "Soliciting on CTA trains is prohibited. Violators will be arrested," whereas today he says, "Soliciting and gambling are prohibited on CTA vehicles."

  • In reply to Peter Pyterek:

    So, my conclusion is correct that they won't be arrested, but will shake down the next train.

  • Everybody does know that they were playing it in the Charioteer's Stables in Pompeii, don't they? (and winning then too)

  • For many years I lived in a condo in the South Loop. I was unsuccessful in trying to convince my wife to move to Lincoln Park, as it would require taking the train to work downtown. She told me that the most miserable summer of her life was the summer of 1988. She was living in Oak Park, and taking the Green Line into downtown. As you may recall, 1988 was one of the hottest summers on record, and I believe there was no AC on the trains back then, or at least she claims. After that summer she moved to the South Loop.

    One day ~13 years ago we decide to have dinner in Lincoln Park, and then walk around and look at the houses. I almost had her convinced that living there would be a nice change. The final step would be to take the Red Line back to the South Loop.

    We boarded the train at Fullerton, and as soon as the train pulls out of the station the lights go out. Not 15 seconds later we hear the rear door open and slam shut, followed by a bellowing voice, "LADIES AND GENTLEMEN! MY NAME IS _____. I WAS RECENTLY RELEASED FROM...".

    If looks could kill, I would have been stone dead on the spot. I swear lasers shot from my wife's eyes, as I felt severe pain looking at her.

    That was the last time I brought up the idea of moving to an area of the city that would require a ride on the CTA to get to work.

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    In 1988, Oak Park would have still been on the Lake-Dan Ryan line, and all the cars on that line were air conditioned starting in 1964. Doesn't mean it was working, though.

    Sounds like that guy is like "Rachael from Cardholder Services," i.e. numerous people using the same scam.

    And if the incident was in 2000, CTA claims to have removed the "deaf" pen sellers from the L since then.

  • Wow--they still do this? They were doing this when I was a kid--30 years ago. Can't believe they're still around with this ripoff game!

  • Did the plant leave as well as the hustler?

  • In reply to Ray K:

    Yes, everyone left the car, by different doors.

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