The punchboard scam in “The Flim Flam Man”

The punchboard scam in "The Flim Flam Man"
The board is as seductive as the blonde –
a "girlie" punchboard

What is the keyed punchboard con?

Punchboards were a way to gamble in a bar or shop. A punchboard was a board drilled with small holes and covered in paper with a number on top of each hole. A player paid an entry fee and then punched through a hole on the board to pop out a small piece of folded or rolled paper with the prize written on it.

Of course, since this is gambling, some punchboards were rigged by being "keyed," which meant that the locations of the prizes were known. Punchboard owners could punch through these holes and remove the top prizes in advance so they wouldn’t have to pay out. Or a con man could sell keyed punchboards to shopkeepers and bar owners, and later have associates come by and win the top prizes.

The punchboard scam in "The Flim Flam Man"
Since punchboards were considered immoral or illegal,
some punchboards were disguised as other items.
Here, the good book opens up.

In this clip from the film The Flim Flam Man, George C. Scott plays Mordecai Jones, a con man who teaches his trade to army deserter Curley Treadaway, played by Michael Sarrazin.

Here he sells a crooked, "keyed" punchboard to a shopkeeper.

The complete film also has two great scenes of more short-con scams:

The first is a three card monte sequence. The magician Jay Ose, one of the founding member of The Magic Castle, manipulated playing cards as George C. Scott’s hands and played a bit part as the "Second Fertilizer Man."

The second amazing scene is of the lost wallet / pigeon-drop scam, starring Scott, Sarrazin and a greedy victim played by the immortal Slim Pickens.

The book the movie was based on, The Ballad of the Flim-Flam Man, written by Guy Owen, is out of print.

Probably the biggest collection of punchboards anywhere was the Rangel Collection>>
Some more punchboard history from conman>>
Here’s an entire website devoted to punchboards>>
A website devoted to The Flim-Flam Man>>

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