Rake. Gambler. Rogue. Raconteur. Cheat. There is something endlessly romantic about being able to get over on people, and do it with style. Luckily, it doesn’t take a lifetime of practicing magic tricks or a willingness to thumb your nose at the law to become the most interesting person in the room (or at least the most engagingly dorky). And you might even be able to bilk your friends out of a little cash in the process.
To help you out, we dug up nine classic, simple pub tricks that anyone can do almost anywhere, either to swindle a few easy marks, or just get some attention at the bar. Either way, these tricks will have you grifting like a master cheat in no time.
1. The Snifter Switch
The Bet: That you can’t move an olive (or cherry) into a another glass with nothing but the snifter (or wine glass) that is covering it.
- An olive or cherry
- A brandy snifter, wine goblet, or other tapered glass
- A second glass
The Cheat: To set up the trick, place the tapered glass over the olive. Now the olive cannot be touched, split, or otherwise removed from the bar with anything but the snifter, and this includes dragging it over the edge of the bar. The trick is to begin spinning the snifter around the olive right on the bar until centrifugal force drags the olive up into the glass. and it is spinning around the interior. Then quickly turn the snifter upright keeping the olive inside. Dump the olive into the second glass, and collect your winnings.
2. The Free Drink Lottery
The Bet: That you can pick your name out of a hat every time.
- A piece of paper
- A writing utensil
- A hat
The Cheat: To set up this super simple con, just bet whoever you are talking to that you will buy a drink for them if you pull their name from a hat, but if you pull yours, then they owe you a drink. Then take the paper, and write their name on the top third, your name in the middle third, and their name again on the bottom third. Then tear the sheet into three equally-sized strips. Place the pieces of paper in a hat or other container. Shake it up, and draw your name out. This should be easy since you can just feel around for the middle piece of paper with your name on it since it will be the only one that is torn on the top and the bottom. Drink up!
3. From Water To Whiskey (and Vice Versa)
The Bet: That you can switch the contents of a shot of whiskey and a shot of water using only a playing card.
- A full shot of whiskey
- A full shot of water
- A playing card
The Cheat: This one gets a little science in on the act. First get a shot of whiskey and shot of water in identical shot glass, and make sure they are both full to the brim. To work the trick, place the playing card on the top of the shot of water, and then carefully turn over the shot so that the card is holding in the liquid. Now place the upside down card-and-shot over the whiskey shot so that their rims would touch if the card was removed. The bartender will be mortified, but push through. Now gently slide the card out until there is just a little bit of open space for the liquids to move through. At this point the whiskey should begin slowly moving into the place of the water, and vice versa through the opening. This works because the alcohol is lighter than the water. This might take a bit of time, but eventually the shots will entirely switch places. Now slide the card back over the shot, and take it with pride.
4. Dime In A Bottle
The Bet: That you can move a dime into a beer bottle without touching it or letting it hit the bar, and without touching the bottle.
- An empty beer bottle
- A dime
- A playing card
The Cheat: Place the playing card over the top of the beer bottle, then place the dime on the card directly over the where the opening is. To get the dime in the bottle, give the corner of the card a swift and solid flick so that it flies straight off the top of the bottle and gravity takes care of the dime, which should simply fall straight into the neck of the bottle. This trick requires a little bit of dexterity, but with just a tiny bit of practice you should be able to get over any difficulties.
5. The Blow-Up Dime
The Bet: That you can remove a dime from a shot glass without touching the dime or the glass.
- An empty shot glass
- A dime
The Cheat: Another trick so simple it’s hard to believe, simply drop the dime into an empty shot glass and bet that you can get it out without touching any part of it. Now simply lean in near the edge of the glass and give a good, hard blow. The dime should get blasted out of the glass and on to the bar. Extra points if you can catch it on its way out.
6. The Imploding Star
The Bet: That you can turn a ten pointed star made of broken toothpicks into a five pointed star without touching it.
- Five standard wooden toothpicks
- A straw
The Cheat: This trick is always a crowd pleaser, because it’s essentially magic. Take the five toothpicks and break them into two equal halves, taking care to leave them slightly connected in the middle. Now arrange them in a circle so that they form a ten-pointed star. Now to get them to turn into a five-pointed star, trap a drop of water in the straw, and drip it delicately into the center of the star, being sure not to disturb the arrangement. As the toothpicks soak up the water they will expand in widening v’s pushing the ends together until their are only five points. However the toothpicks just look like they have come to life. It’s awesome.
7. The Backward Dog
The Bet: That you can make a dog made of matchsticks look the other way by moving only two of the matches.
- 11 matches
The Cheat: Here we have a little mind game that nonetheless seems to baffle full grown adults. Take you matches and place them so they form the shape of a dog, using four for the body, four for the legs, two for the snout, and one for the tail. Now get it to turn around in only two moves (for effect, barking commands at it is pretty funny). There are actually two solutions to this puzzle. Either move one of the face matches to the back of the dog, and tilt the tail to form a new snout, or move the two matches into the body box so that they are pointed backwards making it look like the dog is looking backwards. You can also make a variation of the dog, into a cow by adding two more matches for horns, making the only solution to MOOve the face matches into the body.
8. Washington’s Moving Coaster
The Bet: That you can move a dollar bill out from under a precariously balanced beer bottle without knocking it over or even touching it.
- A dollar bill
- An empty beer bottle
The Cheat: Ah, the trick that has sent a million beer bottles shattering to the ground. Set up this trick by balancing your empty beer bottle upside down on top of the dollar bill, right in the middle. Now simply start rolling the dollar bill towards the bottle. The rolling bill should gently push the bottle off the other end of the dollar and onto the bar, without knocking it over. Of course your mark is likely to try the old swiping-the-table-cloth-out-from-under-the-dinner trick, which will send the bottle flying, so be ready to catch it, and then be ready to rake in your winnings.
9. The Contortionist’s Cigarette
The Bet: That you can bend a normal cigarette completely in half, making it tough end to end, without breaking it.
- A dollar bill
- A normal cigarette
The Cheat: While we do not promote smoking, messing around with cigarettes is a classic. After challenging some rube to this seemingly impossible feat, and watching them break a number of your precious cigarettes, take out your dollar bill and tightly roll it around the cigarette, leaving the ends exposed. Once it is completely wrapped in the dollar, crimp it in the middle, and dramatically bend it in half, making the ends touch. Surely the cigarette has broken, but miraculously, when you unroll the package, the cig should be completely intact, and ready to give you cancer. Although it’ll be hard to worry about that through the glow of a successful cheat.