Coin Flipping Scams

Coin Flipping

Spinning Coins, Double Faced Coins, Controlled Toss


Anyone who makes a choice or bet via an old fashioned toss of a coin.

The Scam
The con artist actually controls the outcome of the coin toss

Controlled Toss: Magician Gary Kosnitzky has written a booklet called “Heads or Tails” in which he teaches how to control the toss of coin so that it wobbles in the air rather then spinning. This allows the magician or con artist to choose heads or tails before the throw.

Double Faced Coin: The coin has two heads or two tails. The con artist may use two coins and switch them invisibly depending on which face the victim calls. These are created by grinding down the thickness of two coins by half then glueing them together. Often, a new ridged band is added to the coin so that the join is invisible. John Scarne mentions a proposition bet with a double sided coin. You say that you’ll let the coin land on the floor, and ask the victim to call it in the air. If they call the winner, you catch the coin and say “No bet. I just wanted to see if you had any sporting blood in your veins.”

Marked Coin: The coin has a dab of glue or wax on one face. When the coin is caught, the con artist can feel which side is which. In slapping the coin on the back of his hand, he arranges the coin so that the desired side is face up.

Spinning Coins: A spinning coin has it’s edges bevelled down so that one face is smaller then the other. You can see the edge of a bevelled coin and regular coin to the left.

When a coin is spun on a table, it begins spinning quickly, the centrifugal force stopping it from falling over. At some point the spin will slow to a point where the force no longer has effect. At this point the coin will fall over. The bevel guides the fall of the coin so that it always lands with the smaller face, face down.

The Bluff Toss: This rarely works but at the right moment, in the right circumstances, the con artist can swiftly say “heads I win tails you lose” and then toss the coin!

The Smack: Two con artists, who pretend they don’t know one another, flip coins with the mark. They all flip a coin at once. If all the coins are the same, they flip again. If they are all the same, they flip again. The odd coin out wins.

The Wobble: There is a method for tossing a coin in the air and making it wobble but not spin on page 142 of Bigger Secrets by William Poundstone. The coin rests on the palm of the hand and is tossed upward from there. By pulling the hand back right as the coin leaves the palm, you give the coin a bit of a wobble, but it doesn’t actually spin.

Dunninger Flip: Something similar to the wobble, but done from a more natural starting position, is on page 65 of Dunninger’s Complete Encyclopedia of Magic, under “Scientific Coin Puzzles.” You start like you’re doing a normal coin flip, but place the coin farther back on the hand, closer to the wrist, balanced between the knuckle of the thumb and the base of the forefinger. Flip like you normally would, and the coin wobbles but doesn’t spin. The trick is to have it far enough back that the nail of the thumb doesn’t touch it when you do the flip. The sound isn’t quite right, but that would be difficult to tell in a noisy place like a bar or a casino.

Feeling The Coin: Pages 813 and 814 of Scarne’s New Complete Guide to Gambling discuss catching the coin on the fingers, feeling it with your thumb, and flipping it over or not as you slap it down.

Uniform Flip: Page 167 of The Amateur Magician’s Handbook has a trick called “Heads or Tails” which is supposedly based on complete uniformity of action. By using the same amount of force and catching the coin at the same height every time, you are supposed to be able to reliably have the coin fall either the same or opposite as before it was tossed.

Paddle Flip: 400 Fascinating Magic Tricks You Can Do has a trick called “Heads and Tails” (page varies by edition) where you show a coin in the palm of your right hand, slap it onto the back of your left hand, and the same side of the coin still faces upwards. The secret is giving the coin a little toss and moving the hand around the coin. As described, it sounds like a very dry trick. It’s possible that it was actually meant for use in controlling a coin toss, but explicitly discussing cheating at gambling in a book partially targeted at children might have been considered bad form in those days.

Andru Luvisi has related a guy showing him a method where the operator would catch the coin in the palm of his right hand, feel it with the tips of his second and third fingers, and as he went to slap it on the back of his left hand, he would slap it down with his fingertips or palm, depending on which side he wanted up.

Large stakes rarely fall to the toss of a coin, but the flip can give an advantage in many games.

Gambling, coins, short con

Created by Nicholas J. Johnson
Australia’s Honest Con Man

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