"The con isn't in getting you to pick the wrong shell. The con is in getting you to accept that the basic premise of the game is still being followed. The con is in getting you to pick a shell at all."The Kansas City Shuffle is an old established name for a con game that depends on the mark believing (correctly) that the conman is trying to con him, but being incorrect about how it's going to be done. Another way to say it is that it relies on the mark being "too smart for their own good". All con-games rely on misdirection to some degree. In most, the conman wants the victim to believe that it's not a con at all. But in a Kansas City Shuffle, the conman
- Needs the victim to suspect that it's a con-game
- Needs the victim to think that they've figured out how to beat the con
- Needs the victim to be wrong about what the con is.
open/close all folders
Anime & Manga
- In Kaiji 2, Kaiji defeats Ohtsuki in Underground Chinchirorin by engaging him in a psychological duel, where the crucial component is making Ohtsuki believe he has seen through Kaiji's ploy.
- In Mahou Sensei Negima!, Negi pulls one off in his fight against Rakan. He blitzes him with superspeed and while Rakan can't keep up with Negi hitting him from every angle at the speed of lightning, he can't get through Rakan's defenses. However, at this time he also sets up a spell circle around the two of them by using his attacks as a disguise since Rakan can't actually keep track of what he's doing anyway. After that he challenges Rakan to a show of strength and while Rakan assumes Negi will either throw a lightning spear at him or nullify Rakan's attack with Asuna's sword, he actually does nothing but activate the spell circle he'd set up beforehand so he could absorb the attack and increase his offenses enough to actually hurt Rakan.
- In one of the fillers for the 4th Shinobi War in Naruto, a group of Redshirts are fleeing from an Edo Tensei zombie who just wiped out their squad. While fleeing, they place some obvious traps along the way. What a bunch of cowards, right? It turns out they were using those to get Ringo to let her guard down so they could lure her into quicksand as revenge. As is usual for Naruto, the audience didn't see it coming, and thought the Redshirt leader was a legit coward.
- Earlier, in the Chuunin Exam Arc, Sasuke makes up a long and complex password for the team to say in case anyone tries to impersonate a team member. Naruto gets separated from the group, and when he returns, says the password. Sasuke then realizes that he's actually an imposter. The real plan was to see if the imposter could remember the password correctly, as there was no way the real Naruto would ever remember the whole password (Sure enough, when the real Naruto shows up, he has forgotten the password).
- In Silent Sinner in Blue, Yukari pulls off a doozy, "trying" to enlist the help of the other youkai for her plan to invade the Lunar Capital with the expectation that Remilia will want to try to beat her there instead, providing a decoy for her to covertly use her boundary powers to infiltrate the Capital. It turns out Yukari had planned even further ahead, and knowing that there were two guardians, set herself up to be a second decoy, while Yuyuko and Youmu were the ones who actually managed to infiltrate the Lunar Palace to steal from it.
- Slayers Xellos has relied on Lina distrusting him to betray her, letting her concerns with how he'll double-cross her cover up how he'll double-cross her.
- This is pretty much how any round of Liar Game works.
- Round 1, Akiyama makes the teacher believe that they are trying to get him away from the safe. In reality he is trying to get the teacher away from receiving info on when the money would be checked.
- Round 2, Akiyama makes Fukunaga think that he is trying to get the three guys to fight over the money prize, and they think that they can beat him by tying the round and continuing negotiations later on. In reality, Akiyama had recruited the third guy and was getting them to think of tying.
- Round 3, Yokoya knows that Akiyama has infiltrated several moles in his country and thinks he can beat the con by reconverting them. He is wrong about the number of moles that have infiltrated. In the same round, Akiyama believes that Yokoya is trying to get their team to lose at a profit. In reality, Yokoya was just trying to run as much funds as he could through his account.
- Round 4, both Yokoya and Harimoto think that Akiyama is trying to dominate the chairs game, when in fact he was trying to lay his hands on the winning medals.
- Revival Round 3, Harimoto and his followers think Nao is trying to trick them into thinking Kimura is a spy. Her actual goal was to confirm Akiyama's hypothesis that Kimura is the real cult leader.
- Final Round, Yokoya thinks Akiyama is trying to get Wei to win, then use Yokoya's obsession with defeating Akiyama to force him to save the other players. Instead, Akiyama allows Yokoya to remove Wo and Wei from the game, then manipulates Wu and Shu into a deadlock that forces the dealers to end the Liar Game altogether.
- Early in Code Geass season 2, Lelouch pulls one on Rolo starting off as a Scheherezade Gambit after Rolo has cornered him with a gun to the head. Lelouch offers to bring Rolo CC. Rolo of course assumes that Lelouch is just trying to con Rolo into letting Lelouch escape, but given that Rolo has the power to stop time he plays along, figuring he can kill CC and Lelouch when they try to double-cross him. Lelouch instead engineers a situation (as part of Xanatos Gambit) in which he saves Rolo's life and then to top it off gives CC to him, knowing that Rolo's desire for family will cause him to have a Heel–Face Turn if he believes Lelouch actually cares about him.
- It actually becomes a major plot point later, because the con was SO effective, that even when Lelouch explicitly told Rolo everything he said was lies, Rolo doesn't actually believe him and winds up sacrificing himself to allow Lelouch to escape.
- Death Note: The 13 Day Test 1) L knows Light is plotting to kill him and he suspects Light is plotting with Misa to do it. 2) L thinks he can prove that both Light and Misa are Kira by testing the 13 Day Rule. 3) Neither Light nor Misa is going to kill him. Rem is going to kill him.
- In Episode 8 of The Heroic Legend of Arslan, Narsus pulls off a textbook example. He sends a peasant to Kharlan's camp, claiming that he was attacked by the heroes and saw them head south. Kharlan tells his troops to head north, into unfavorable terrain, believing that he has seen through Narsus' plot to lure him south. As it turns out, this is part of Narsus' plan to capture Kharlan.
- Assassination Classroom: During Class 3-E's island assassination attempt, Koro-sensei uses his keen sense of smell to deduce that Chiba and Hayami, the class' best snipers, plan to deliver the killing blow from a nearby mountain. What he detected were dummies set up by the students to lure his attention away from the snipers' true hiding spot underneath the ocean.
- In one episode of Pokémon, Ash and the gang discover a plate of delicious-looking fruit sitting in the middle of the road. Ash starts for it, but Misty points out that it's clearly a trap by Team Rocket, and besides, there are perfectly safe fruit trees to the side of the road anyway. They go to the trees, laughing at how dumb Team Rocket was to try to trick them that way... only to fall into the trap Team Rocket set in front of the trees.
Board and Card Games
- Poker lends itself naturally to these. One example is for a player who is holding a strong hand to pull players into the pot. Since (smart) players should pull out from a pot if they know their opponent is strong, a player holding "the nuts" (an unbeatable hand) has to look like he isn't. A player who's bluffing is trying to scare everyone out of the pot and is lying. A player with a strong hand or the nuts could try to look like he's pulling one con (bluffing) while really hoping people "call his bluff." If that player has read books of tells, for example, he could purposefully try to act like a player with "normal" tells to look like he's bluffing. It works best against the half-smart. Really good players may have it figured out, and poker players know "bluffing a monkey," or pretending to bluff a monkey, is a waste of time.
- Diplomacy is a game which consists of seven players guiding European powers through maneuver and negotiation to power. Gameplay consists of rounds of secret negotiations, then writing down one's moves and resolving any conflicts. Since the only mechanic for resolving combat is building alliances, and there is only one winner, every player is always suspecting a con. How you use this atmosphere of suspicion and distrust is up to you. One example: Alice could try to convince Bob to support an action in exchange for mutual support, but Bob refuses, believing he's being suckered. When it's time to write down moves, Alice supports Bob anyway, then acts betrayed when Bob doesn't support her. Bob is now seen as unreliable by Charlie, David, Eve, Trent, and Walter. Alice looks reliable. The reality is, of course, backwards.
- Bullshit (also known as "Cheat", "Shenanigans", or "I Doubt It" - particularly when teaching it to kids) is a card game where players bid books of cards from one to four of a certain number. For example, Alice could bid "One two," and place a two face down on the pile of cards. Bob plays next and could bid, "Three twos," playing three cards on the stack. Players can call "Bullshit!" which forces you to prove your play was legal. If it was, the player who called "Bullshit!" picks up the stack of cards. If it was not legal, you pick up the stack. The object is to empty your hand of all cards. One key component is to make your big bids ("Four fives") in ways where your opponent calls "Bullshit!" when it's real (thereby getting stuck with the cards), often enough that they decline to call it at all, which allows you to dump actual "bullshit" plays.
- One particularly tricky tactic, which may or may not be allowed by House Rules, is to play more cards than are actually declared. For example, Bob bids "three twos" but actually plays four cards. If Alice calls his bluff and checks the top three cards (which are the aforementioned twos), she would be obliged to take the stack. Only if Bob is sloppy with his sleight-of-hand, or Alice is savvy enough to check the next card on the stack and find out that it's not what the previous player played, would he lose the bluff. House Rules may either make that play illegal, and/or force a player to play the cards in front of them before adding them to the stack (giving a fair chance for the other players to call the bluff, and also making it easier to tell when a player has attempted this move).
- A little-known boardgame called "Lie, Cheat, and Steal" is essentially a Kansas City Shuffle variant of Monopoly. The only restriction that the rules place on dishonest play is that no-one may directly steal from the bank. When you draw the equivalent of a "Chance" or "Community Chest" card, you don't have to tell the truth about what it says. Other players can challenge your claim, but if they're wrong and you were telling the truth about what it said, they are penalized. As with other games of this nature, the skill lies in convincing the other players that you're lying when you're really telling the truth, to the point that they become wary of challenging you at all, even when they should.
- A significant amount of the difference between a good Magic: The Gathering player and a pro is not in their deck, but in their ability to play mind games like this. For example, an attacking player may bluff having combat tricks (spells playable during the game's combat phase that make your creatures stronger or better) to try to trick the opponent into an unfavorable block, or to convince a player to play around a counterspell he doesn't have.
- In one Duck story ("As Good As Old"), Scrooge McDuck needs to get a load of money out of a small country in large part controlled by the local bandit lord, who has spies everywhere and knows about the money. Scrooge lets a spy see him hide the money inside carpets he takes with him, while he sends the safe he had with him ahead by a train. The bandits figure the safe must be a ruse, especially when the railways are hardly reliable, and attack him on the way back and open up the carpet rolls — which are empty, of course, and Scrooge asks whether the bandit lord hadn't noticed his sending the safe along before. The bandits rush ahead to stop the train, only to find the safe empty when they finally get it open. Meanwhile, Donald, whom no-one was paying attention to at this point, has made his way back to the border alone, with the money hidden inside some jugs. So, the trope is actually applied doubly; even once they know it was a Kansas City Shuffle, they're still wrong about how the con works, and trying to beat it still only gets them out of the way.
- In the Star Wars Tales story Routine, Han Solo gets repeatedly stopped by an Imperial Customs officer who is convinced that Han is smuggling contraband in his starship but detailed inspections always say the ship is completely empty. It's only after Han escapes that the officer finally realizes that he was smuggling starships.
- In the Death Note fic Fever Dreams: 1) L knows Light is planning something to derail his investigation and it's clearly all going according to plan 2) Light is counting on L to make this assumption in order to stay close to him. 3) L is now wrong about what Light's ultimate goal is: L is waiting for Light to murder him or try to murder him. L thinks he can can defeat Light either by finding the evidence before Light can kill him or if he does kill him that can be used as evidence against him. Light is no longer trying to kill him...
- In The (Questionable) Burdens of Leadership of a Troll Emperor many of the more skeptical politicians (and people in general) on Earth think Naruto is using his obvious fun loving party boy demeanor to convince the world he's harmless so he can take over the world. In reality, his antics are to keep everyone from realizing his wife Xanna is already taking over Africa which they use as a foothold to take over the rest of the world, albeit mostly nonviolently.
- Saito refers to it as a shell game in Soldier of Zero when he realizes that none of the attackers he's facing is the real one. Though he doesn't realize that Wardes is the real attacker.
- The Trope Namer is Lucky Number Slevin, which uses "Kansas City Shuffle" as a code for a type of con that Mr. Goodkat enacts; "...when everybody looks right, you go left." The antagonistic Boss and Rabbi both assume that Mr. Goodkat and his seeming patsy Slevin / "Nick Fisher" are being manipulated by their enemy to con them. Both proceed to attempt to bring in and manipulate Slevin themselves to exploit their enemy's con to their own advantage, only for the end of the film to reveal the true con was being run by Slevin himself, who wanted access to both the Boss and the Rabbi to exact revenge for their murder of his parents decades earlier. As soon as they attempted to bring him in to stop the apparent con of their opponent, he'd already won.
- In The Princess Bride, the man in black convinces Vizzini that he has placed poison in one of two cups of wine and asks him to choose. Vizzini quickly deduces that he cannot choose either cup with any degree of certainty, but also assumes that the man in black will surely not drink the wine that he knows is poisoned even if Vizzini chooses correctly. Vizzini distracts him for a moment and switches the cups, assuming the man in black will not hesitate to drink from the cup he thinks is unpoisoned. Vizzini thinks his gambit has succeeded when he makes his choice and the man in black starts drinking first. It turns out both cups were poisoned and the man in black is simply immune to it.
- Ocean's Eleven and both sequels depend heavily on this to pull off their heists.
- Ocean's Twelve less so, as they had won against Toulour before they'd even begun the real heist, they were really just doing it for the LO Ls for him and actually to reunite Lemarc with his lost daughter Detective Lahiri.
- Ocean's Thirteen more so, as they knew Benedict would double-cross them once they brought him in and he made an outrageous demand for seemingly petty reasons and no want of the reward, and had already prepared for it long before Toulour even showed up.
- In the 2003 movie Johnny English, Pascal Sauvage toys around with the the idea of having a fake Archbishop of Canterbury to preside at his coronation; however, once English is caught trespassing at Sauvage's office building, and later tries to unmask the Archbishop, he finds out that Sauvage had scrapped the fake Archbishop plot when Johnny attempts to unmask the fake Archbishop and reveal the impostor's tattoo, only to discover that the Archbishop at Sauvage's coronation ceremony is the genuine one.
- In the 2009 movie Push, Nick Grant has a grand one. Now, given how seeing the future works in this, knowing what you're doing lets people see your plan. So with a little memory manipulation, he plays out his plan like he intends to get and use the deadly phlebotinum... twice, to cover the fact that his friends already had it.
- Duplicity - The whole movie is about a pair of ex-spies hired by industrialist Dick Garsik to infiltrate his archrival Howard Tully's company and steal his mysterious new product. The spies, meanwhile, are plotting to betray Garsik (and perhaps each other) and take the product for themselves. The shuffle: Tully has no product. He knew all about the spies, and set up an elaborate hoax to waste their time and make Garsik look foolish. At the end, Garsik is announcing the miraculous new cure for baldness he just "developed" to the world, while the spies' buyer tells them that their "cure" is a worthless formula for skin lotion...
- The 1959 House on Haunted Hill is essentially a whole load of characters going around trying to trap and falling into the traps of others. We can particularly point out the trope use in the use of the characters who are playing dead. In Annabelle's case it is a simple misdirection as part of the plot in which she is involved. However when Vincent Price's character reveals himself to have not only been playing dead but also been playing along with his wife's entire plot to just switch out key elements so that it turns back on her, that takes the biscuit.
- In Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Scott tries to defeat Todd Ingram's vegan-based psychic powers by offering him a cup of coffee, putting soy milk in one cup of coffee and half-n-half in the other. Todd correctly assumes Scott is trying to trick him and reads Scott's mind, "discovering" that he put half-n-half in the cup he's offering. However, Scott in fact put half-n-half in the cup he's not offering to Todd, and "thought real hard" about putting half-n-half in the cup he originally offered.
- In Superman II, Superman, at the Fortress of Solitude, uses a rare heroic instance to render Zod, Ursa and Non powerless:
Superman (whispering to Luthor): Try and get them all into this molecule chamber; it turns them all into ordinary human beings, see, and it takes away their powers. Now if you could—Lex Luthor: General, don't go in there, it's a trap.Superman: Luthor, you poisonous snake!Lex Luthor: That's a molecule chamber. It turns people like you into people like me.General Zod: You've done well, Lex Luthor.Lex Luthor: The crystal there activates the mechanism.General Zod: Lex Luthor, ruler of Australia, activate the machine.
Lex Luthor (astonished): He switched it, he did it to them! I mean, the lights were on out here... while he was safe in there![Superman nods]
- Superman goes into a chamber, which actually shields him from the effects of the red solar rays, which unbeknownst to Zod, Ursa, and Non, deprives them of their Kryptonian super powers. As soon as General Zod demands that Superman pledge his loyalty to him, the Man of Steel crushes Zod's now-mortal body, and his partners-in-crime meet their demise soon afterwards.
Superman: I knew you'd double-cross me, Luthor. A lying weasel like you couldn't resist the chance.Lex Luthor: Me? Are you kidding? I was with you all the time! That was beautiful! Did you see the way they fell into our trap?Superman: Too late, Luthor! Too late.
- Nevertheless, Superman remains unimpressed by Lex Luthor's devious attempts when the Man of Steel calls Luthor's bluff:
- The Mr. Charles con in Inception, where the mark is made aware that thieves are secretly trying to get into their subconscious in order to con the mark into attempting to stop it, thereby letting the thieves deeper into their subconscious.
- A simple one happens in Goldeneye. Xenia massacres the programmers at Severnaya, and hears Natalya in the kitchen. She goes in, sees the ceiling vent half-open, and shoots it up without checking for a body. After she and General Ouromov leave, it turns out Natalya was hiding in the cupboard the whole time.
- The entire plot of Wild Things revolves around Suzie convincing the other conspirators into thinking they know what the con is. Kelly thinks she and Sam will get rid of Suzie and run off together with the money. Ray thinks he and Sam will get rid of both girls, implicate Kelly in Suzie's murder, and split the money two-ways before parting. Sam thinks he and Suzie will frame Kelly for Suzie's "murder", kill Ray, and run off together with the money. Turns out the real plan was for Suzie to fake her own death with Sam's assistance, implicate Kelly, kill both Ray and Sam, and take all the money.
- In The Usual Suspects, Agent Kujan strongly suspects that Verbal Kint is hiding something and is covering for ex-cop Dean Keaton, who is Kujan's real target. He's right about the first part, but he doesn't realize how badly off he is about the second until after he lets Verbal — aka Keyser Söze — walk out of his office.
- In House of Games, the affluent heroine realizes that she's being conned and exposes the conman. Impressed, the conman shows her a little bit of his lifestyle, and she quickly gets wrapped up in his exotic world of shadows. In the end, the whole thing was one bigger con to get even more money out of her.
- A minor version exists in Heat — Neil McCauley, Chris Shiherlis and Michael Cheritto discuss their possible escape routes from their next heist right in plain sight where the cops can overhear them (despite being a group of professional thieves). Cue Lt. Vincent Hanna and his team heading down to the scene for additional clues, only for Hanna to realize that it was probably misinformation they were fed, and that the entire meeting was to get the detectives in the open, allowing Neil to counterspy on them and learn their identities. Indeed, we see Neil taking pictures of them from the same vantage point Hanna was using earlier.
- Escape Plan: Breslin's titular plan involves one of these — he makes Hobbs think that he's going to start a riot in Block C, making Hobbs move most of his guards there... at which point, Breslin starts a riot in the now vastly understaffed Block A, creating a diversion so that he, Rottmayer, and Javen can make a run for it.
- The Bourne Series: Jason Bourne is arguably a master at this. Particularly any time Jason asks to meet someone and the CIA knows about it.
Vosen: If it's me you want to talk to, perhaps we can arrange a meeting.Bourne: Where are you now?Vosen: I'm sitting in my office.Bourne: I doubt that.Vosen: Why would you doubt that?Bourne: If you were in your office right now, we'd be having this conversation face-to-face. [hangs up phone]Vosen: ...
- Towards the end of The Bourne Identity, he phones in Conklin to come alone. Conklin brings backup disguised as bystanders but Jason knows he's not alone. He was just using this ploy so he could put a bug on one of their vans to track them to their hideout
- In The Bourne Supremacy, he uses a crowd from a protest to mask his movements while extracting Nicky to a subway station, and out of sight, to get answers.
- In The Bourne Ultimatum, he asks to meet Pamela Landy at a particular location. Noah Vosen, the antagonist after Bourne, follows Landy and despite that he knows the location is a wide open space, he follows her anyway to get Bourne. He later gets a call from Bourne and tries to set up a meeting with him and claims he's at his office. Except Bourne already sneaked into the CRI headquarters into his office.
- In The Dark Knight Rises, the police discover Bane uses the sewers as an intricate network for his base of operations, as to remain undetected; when the police suspect this is his trick to hiding, they counter it by swarming the sewers with every available cop. Right as almost every officer available is underground, it turns out Bane set everything up so he could cause several explosions, revealing his true intent was to trap them all underground and leave Gotham undefended.
- In Would You Rather, one of the characters (Peter) is a gambler who thinks he has outsmarted the rich sadist leading him and others through the titular game: given the choice between having your head held underwater for two minutes or chancing what's in a sealed envelope, he explains why the envelope is the safe bet. In fact, the envelope choice is to have a firecracker explode in your hand. Unfortunately for Peter, the "firecracker" in question is a massive M-80 duct-taped to his hand - most of which he loses in the explosion.
- The Spanish Prisoner is all about this. It includes a detailed explanation of the Spanish Prisoner con, which is designed to distract the mark (and the audience) from the fact that this is not actually the con being performed.
- Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation: Ethan Hunt requires the British Prime Minister's fingerprint, retinal scan, and voice pattern to decrypt a virtual redbox. Brandt sells him out to Hunley, who informs MI-6 chairman Attley, who ushers the Prime Minister to safety, because Hunt going after the Prime Minister would cause an international incident. Once safely in a room, Brandt manages to manipulate the Prime Minister and Attley into revealing the existence of the Syndicate. With this knowledge in hand, Hunley and Brandt, knowing Hunt's previous track record of anticipating his opponent's every move (conversation included), decide the best course of action is to stay put. Turns out, that was the action Ethan planned for, and that Brandt was in on it all along.
- Diggstown uses this heavily with both sides trying to cheat/outcon the other. The end hinges on a Exact Words clause in the initial bet that the villain/mark believes he's using to his advantage, but the protagonist has actually been ready for it since before the movie actually began.
- Toddy uses this to set up the titular act in Victor/Victoria, disguising Victoria as a man so she can become a drag queen. The cover story is that "he" is Count Victor Krazinski, a Polish aristocrat thrown out by his family for being gay. Once everyone sees through that story, they won't look for any other deception. Later, Toddy eavesdrops on a couple of dancers commenting that the Count is clearly not a count, but he is still gorgeous.
- The Joker's plot in The LEGO Batman Movie revolves around him being sent to the Phantom Zone, an extradimensional prison where the most evil villains are kept. To do this, he willingly surrenders himself to the Gotham City Police in order to be thrown into Arkham Asylum. Batman assumes that his easy capture must mean that Joker is plotting something bigger, and sends him to the Phantom Zone, which Joker promptly escapes from, along with the rest of its occupants.
- A little Mexican boy rides his bicycle up to a border control station with a sack slung over one shoulder. The American agent working the station checks out his papers and asks to search his bag, but the boy tells him that it's full of sand. The agent searches the bag and finds out that it really is full of sand, but he gets suspicious and confiscates it anyway. This goes on for several months, with the boy regularly crossing the border on his bicycle with his bag of sand, and the agent confiscating it every time. Then one day, years after the agent has retired, he meets the boy in a bar in Texas. "I know you had to have been up to something," he tells the boy. "I'm off the job now. Can you tell me what you were trying to smuggle all that time?" The boy just grins and says, "Bicycles."
- A fairly regular occurrence in Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files.
- In White Night, Lara Raith suggested to a member of another family in the White Court that they should kill off weak female magical practitioners. She did this so that she could rope the other White Court family into the scheme because she knew that eventually Harry Dresden would get involved and generally smash everyone in sight before he realized she came up with the whole thing. He didn't realize until he'd already played straight into the plot because what this amounted to was a ruler of a vampire court deliberately getting their minions to try to supplant the ruler. And nearly dying in the process due to interference by Cowl's Outsider ghouls.
- In Small Favor, the Order of the Blackened Denarius kidnap a freeholding lord, a recent signatory to the Unseelie Accords, simultaneously threatening that lord, disrupting his power base, and placing the Order in violation of the Accords (thus challenging the weakened White Council to choose risking a multi-front war if they enforce the Accords, and offending the Unseelie Court if they don't). Harry manipulates the White Council into acting, selecting a particular charater as arbiter which is what the Order wanted, as it made her vulnerable to a kidnap attempt.
- There's a less visible example (because it doesn't involve the protagonists) going on at the same time. There's an ongoing power struggle which resumes any time most of the Order get together, and while this plot stands to benefit the entire Order at each stage Nicodemus is clearly either increasing his own influence or setting up potential future problems for rivals. This is obvious to the rest of the Order, as is that they're all being given rope to oppose or betray his "side" without really ruining the plot, implying he's in some way preparing a personal "traitor sweep". What's not obvious is that the situation's set up to look for a member of the Order sabotaging the entire plot to do irreparable damage to their mutual goals - he suspects Outsider infiltration, and the situation is designed to spur such an infiltrator to act; nobody will be willing to get together afterwards to honestly compare who did what when if the damage looks like the fallout of "normal" betrayals. While it's unclear how much good it does him, Nicodemus walks away from the affair with confirmation of this and the identity of their puppet.
- The Jorge Luis Borges story Death and the Compass, where Erik Lonnrot follows a Connect the Deaths around the city, only to find that his nemesis Red Scharlach made a series of fortuitous coincidences look like it had happened on purpose so Lonnrot would find him and Scharlach could kill him without trouble. Just before dying, Lonnrot suggests a simpler puzzle for Scharlach to use in case the two of them ever reincarnate.
- In Memory, Sorrow and Thorn, this forms the core element of the Big Bad Storm King's Evil Plan, which is to trick the heroes into delivering the Three Swords to him that contain the power necessary to summon him back into Osten Ard, thinking that they are actually the key to defeating him. He and his allies liberally employ harassment, Prophetic Fallacy, and false dreams in service of this notion.
- Most of the goings on in the Night Watch series involve the good and evil chessmasters Geser and Zabulon (respectively) using the protagonist Anton as an Unwitting Pawn to pull off one of these. Typically, Geser tells Anton to do "w" and Zabulon will have a scheme trying to force Anton to do "x". Anton takes a third option and does "y", which is what Zabulon actually wanted him to choose. However, when things go well, Geser is able to pull off "z" which was his plan all along and which wouldn't have worked had he not instructed Anton to do "w".
- In Romance of the Three Kingdoms.
- Zhuge Liang's "Empty Fortress Strategy", which relied on Sima Yi thinking that Zhuge Liang was not willing to take such a risk as revealing an actual weakness. (Sima Yi's son Zhao saw through it but was overruled, and in any case Zhuge Liang admitted that he would have been completely screwed had Sima Yi drawn the same conclusion.)
- Used as part of Cao Cao's Humiliation Conga. Cao Cao, while fleeing from ambush after ambush, comes to a fork in the road. On one fork, is a quantity of smoke, as if from an army's cooking fires. That is the fork that Cao Cao takes, as he knows that his opponent is too smart to really allow his position to be given away like that. Of course, his opponents knew that Cao Cao would head towards the smoke, so the path Cao Cao took had an ambush waiting.
- In Ringworld's Children, protector-stage Louis Wu intentionally reveals the existence of his son Wembleth to Tunesmith just before escaping, thus leading Tunesmith to believe that Louis is going to try to smuggle Wembleth off the Ringworld and leaving Tunesmith with no way to control Louis (since Wembleth's life is the leverage Tunesmith has over Louis, or so Tunesmith thinks). Louis's actual plan is to smuggle himself and the Hindmost off the Ringworld and out of Tunesmith's control, since he (Louis) believes that hiding amongst the Ringworld's billions of inhabitants is actually the safest place for Wembleth to be.
- Ardneh, from the Empire of the East trilogy by Fred Saberhagen loves to use this one. For example, in the first book, he lets Ekuman know that finding and controlling the mysterious "Elephant" super-weapon is the key to holding or losing the west coast. Ekuman concludes that the resistance plans to find the Elephant and use it to destroy him, and not unreasonably decides that he has to get it first. That turns out to be exactly how Ardneh liberates the entire west coast. In the second book, the demon Zapranoth worries that Ardneh might find out where his life is hidden, so he moves it to where he can better keep an eye on it and guard it. That turns out to be exactly how Ardneh destroys it. In the third book, Ardneh becomes much more powerful than ever before, which leads Wood and John Ominor to conclude that Ardneh will use that power to destroy their empire, so they free the demon-king Orcus, the only force powerful enough to stop Ardneh. That enables Ardneh to destroy both Orcus and the entire empire, along with most of the world's most powerful demons, in a single stroke.
- Locke Lamora attempts this one when he cons a nobleman into giving him money for a business venture. Two members of the Duke's secret police contact Locke's mark to alert him that his new business partner is actually a con man. The mark won't investigate Locke or their joint business venture any more since he knows it's all a scam, but at the same time Locke keeps receiving money because the mark is told that the police is about to make an arrest and if the money stops Locke will flee with all the money he already has. Obviously there will be no arrest, because the "secret police" is actually Locke and his accomplice.
- In Carpe Jugulum, the vampyres are well-aware of Granny Weatherwax's skill at "Borrowing" (the ability to put a part of her mind into another creature). Even after they suck Granny's blood and try to turn her into a vampire, they suspect Granny's used Borrowing to put part of herself elsewhere, either in Magrat's newborn daughter or into wishy-washy priest Mightily Oats. It turns out, Granny put herself into her own blood, meaning when the Magpyr clan members drank her blood, she was ready to tear down their mental defenses from the inside once she shrugged off the vampirism by Heroic Willpower.
- Moist Von Lipwig, the protagonist of Going Postal and Making Money, is rather fond of this. In Postal he reminisces on using this with one of his old alternate identities, "lack-of-confidence trickster" Edwin Streep:
He was so patently, obviously bad at running a bent Find-the-Lady game and other street scams that people positively queued up to trick the dumb trickster and walked away grinning... right up to the moment when they tried to spend the coins they'd scooped up so quickly... Later on they learned that Streep might be rubbish with a deck of cards but also that his lack was more than made up for by his exceptional skill as a pickpocket.
- Moist does this later on in the Clacks vs. Post race against the Grand Trunk. He knows that the Trunk's chairman, Reacher Gilt, is just as much a conman as he, so he provides him with a fake con to foil. First he turns up to the race with a broomstick that has silver stars painted on it, making it seem like it is a magic broomstick and he intends to win the race by flying. When Gilt points out that this is against the rules, Lipwig points out that each Clacks tower has a horse available to deliver messages when the towers break, and that using them would be cheating as well. Thus both methods are disqualified. Gilt naturally assumes that this was Moist's plan all along, but in actuality he doesn't intend to "win" at all. At the time his plan was to alter the message to one that deigned to damage the mechanisms in the tower, and it could be countered if they sent horses to warn later towers. He ends up changing the message along the way to reveal the Trunk's treachery in front of everyone, disguised as a message from beyond the grave, instead.
- Another that he does in the story is act desperate and try to pawn a diamond. The victim then tries to rip him off, but he palms it and substitutes a fake at the last second. At one point he tries to argue to his parole officer that it shouldn't count as wrong if the victim thought they were conning him, but nobody's buying it.
- In "The Acquisitive Chuckle" (the first of Isaac Asimov's Black Widowers mysteries), the protagonist had been bankrupted by his crooked business partner, who was also an inveterate collector with more stuff than he could keep track of. The protagonist was seen leaving the ex-partner's house with a briefcase, while chuckling in the exact same way the ex-partner always did after acquiring something in a not-entirely-honest way. For years, the ex-partner went nuts trying to figure out just what had been stolen. What did the protagonist take? Only the ex-partner's peace of mind. The briefcase was empty.
- The August Derleth short-short story, "A Battle Over the Teacups" is entirely about a Kansas City Shuffle. An elderly Chinese dignitary traveling on a train is accosted by a warlord who wants him dead. The dignitary offers tea, and openly adds a sweetener to his own cup. Then his niece (who is traveling with him) drops a tray and while the warlord is distracted, the dignitary clumsily pours something into the warlord's cup. The warlord insists that they trade cups before drinking. The dignitary objects, but finally acquiesces, and they trade cups and drink. The warlord is found dead in his compartment the next day — the "sweetener" was the poison, and the "poison" was simple sugar. By insisting on the cup trade, the warlord gave himself the poisoned cup.
- In Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, the President of the United States invents a convoluted device that would be used to kill flies. It is basically a walkway mounted on two miniature ladders on each side, with a cube of sugar hanging from the center of the walkway. As the President explains, the fly would climb up the first ladder and would be traversing the walkway when it would catch sight of the sugar cube and become tempted by it; just before it decided to make its way down the hanging string to eat the sugar, however, it would realize that there is a bowl of water directly beneath the hanging cube, meaning that the fly would drown if it fell. As a result, the fly would continue walking over to the second ladder, feeling smug that it had avoided the water trap - until it started to descend the second ladder and fell to its death because the President had left off one of the ladder's rungs near the top. (Also counts as Awesome, but Impractical.) It's parodious, too, since flies obviously aren't smart enough for such an overelaborate trick to work, and they can't fall to their deaths because they can, y'know, fly.
- In Carcinoma Angels Harrison Wintergreen reverses the Mexican joke above. He drives his very nice car into Tijuana and buys some marijuana from a local. When he then crosses back into the USA, he's stopped and searched by the border guards who have, of course, been tipped off by Wintergreen's connection. They don't find the marijuana, which he threw away earlier, so they let him go, having just smuggled a very nice car into Mexico, sold it for several times what he paid for it and not paid a cent of import duty or capital gains tax.note
- President Snow pulls off a version of this in Mockingjay. He is holding Peeta captured and shows him off on TV, letting Katniss understand that anything she does to help the rebellion will result in torture for Peeta, thereby attempting - and succeeding - to make it impossible for her to be the Mockingjay. Once District 13's leader Alma Coin realizes that Katniss is useless to their cause so long as she's worried sick about Peeta she sends in a team to retrieve him and take that ace out of Snow's deck. Turns out this is what Snow wanted them to do all along, as the torture he inflicted on Peeta included hijacking, a method of brainwashing that essentially turned Peeta into a human terminator focused only on killing Katniss.
- The book version of The Princess Bride has a Zoo of Death instead of the Pit of Despair. It has multiple levels of basement, and as you go down the enemies get scarier. One level has absolutely nothing in it. Just a long, black tunnel with the exit door at the other end. For Inigo and Fezzik, this is goddamn disturbing. Something should be happening! This is the level of the Enemies of Fear. The idea is that you panic, run for the opposite door, and let the venomous spider under the handle kill you. It ends up working too well; Fezzik just kept on running without bothering with the handle, and the spider was trampled without either of them ever noticing it.
- In Deltora Quest Endon's wife does this against his treacherous adviser. While they're on the top floor of a tall tower, she glances out the window and reacts as if she'd seen something, and then very unconvincingly claims she saw nothing. When the advisor moves over to the window to check, she shoves him out of the window and to his death. She really did see nothing, but she knew that he wouldn't accept that.
- In The Girl From The Miracles District, the Big Bad's plan hinges on Nikita realizing that someone close to her is in danger, but thinking that it's one of her friends rather than her mother.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: ex-spymaster Garak pulls off a classic in the episode In the Pale Moonlight.
- The Federation is failing in their war with The Dominion, so Sisko has Garak make a fake recording of the Dominion planning a surprise attack on the neutral Romulans, and then invites a prominent Romulan Senator on a diplomatic mission in Dominion space to secretly visit Deep Space Nine and see the forgery. The senator correctly realizes that "It's a fake!!!" and departs to expose the fraud. However, on route the Senator's ship explodes. Garak suspected the fake wouldn't hold up to scrutiny, and planted a bomb on the politician's ship. When the recording is found by Romulan salvage teams, its imperfections are presumed to be damage from the explosion. Further, the Romulans conclude that the Senator was killed by the Dominion to prevent the leak, as no one else knew he visited DS9. The Romulans promptly join the war against the Dominion.
- Doubles as a Batman Gambit, as Garak's plan is based on the Romulans assuming the Dominion would kill someone to prevent a leak, as the Romulans would readily do the same, and the Federation themselves are too goody-two-shoes to be involved in an assassination of a person they'd invited into their space (unlike Garak himself).
Garak: And the more they deny it, the more the Romulans will think that they are guilty, because it is exactly what they would have done in their place.
- Done on Dollhouse a lot, but particularly in "Briar Rose."
- The Jackass guys like to do this to each other; they'll set the victim up to do a stunt or prank skit, only to switch everything on him mid-skit. Here's an example.
- In Season Six, a character explains to the surviving castaways that he wants them to leave the Island with him in the Ajira plane, but when the good guys ditch him and lock themselves inside Widmore's submarine in "The Candidate," it looks like they've outsmarted him...that is, until he grins and says to survivor Claire, "You don't want to be anywhere on that sub." 'Cause the Magnificent Bastard snuck a bomb onboard. Cue the cruelest twenty minutes of the show's history, as Sayid, Jin, and Sun all perish, Lapidus is left for dead, and the four survivors barely escape and are left to sob on a beach at night. Then there is the second layer to that con. He cannot kill the castaways himself so he lets them think that he conned them into locking themselves in the submarine with a bomb. They discover the bomb before the timer runs down so they figure that they can just disarm the bomb to neutralize the trap. However, 'disarming' the bomb actually arms it so the castaways are causing their own deaths which is the Loophole Abuse he needed. Ironically Jack figured it out ahead of time but the experienced conman Sawyer insisted on pulling the wires on the bomb.
- In the season two episode "The Long Con", Sawyer plays this straight as can be in his flashback, making a woman think she has caught him trying to con her while that is actually the setup for a much longer and more profitable con.
- Lightly done in Phoenix Nights, in which club owner Brian Potter seemingly backs a team he picks himself, to enter in a pub quiz for a year's supply of lager. His rival then sabotages them so they lose, however Brian has selected another team to win, behind his rival's back. Of course, this backfires when it's non-alcoholic lager....
- That time Angel pretended to go evil in season 3 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, to get information out of the current Big Bad.
- All of season 5 of Angel, but by the bad guys. Get the good guys so tangled up trying to deal with Wolfram & Hart that they don't notice they're being corrupted.
- Hustle. All the time. If it's obvious how the scam works ten minutes in, you can bet your life that's just what The Mark is supposed to think he's supposed to think.
- Hustle had one involving a roulette table and a Sheriff from The Wild West. The original roulette wheel from the 1800's was mechanised and could be controlled with a sheriff's badge in a slot on the top. Of course the team couldn't let the mark know this, so they went to the trouble of constructing (and auctioning off) a fake table just so that their mark could get it. However it was more of "We have to make him think that we are up to something when we aren't".
- This is common on Leverage; for example, it was the key of the Pilot Episode:
Dubenich: I found the transmitter.
Nate: Oh, you found the transmitter with the blinking light. Yeah, we wanted you to figure some of it out. Then we just gave you what you were expecting.
- "The Boiler Room Job" is one huge Shuffle, though it's called something else (see this link). The team couldn't con The Mark, because he knew every con and every con man in the country...so they distracted him with an elaborate Big Store con, knowing he'd see right through it, and forget that Hardison was waiting with a trace on his bank account. They even called it the Moonwalking Bear. The guy can't believe they'd just steal from him and even as he's dragged out by the Feds, is convinced they have to be part of the con.
- "The Gold Job" has Hardison taking the lead on a job and boasting of a brand-new style of con, a ridiculously complex series of moves that basically is just a land deal. However, it falls apart because the marks get tired of jumping through all the convoluted hoops Hardison has set up and just quit. Luckily, Nate has already set up a (far simpler) backup plan to get them. Nate tells Hardison that the problem with such ultra-complex plans is because you can never predict how a mark will react, so Nate always starts with the simple ones and then works his way into slightly more complex if need be.
- The series finale takes this Up to Eleven. Sterling finally catches on by the end, but decides to let Nate go and gives him a card saying, "Now we're even. Tell Sophie to drive carefully."
- Mission: Impossible does this in a number of episodes.
- The Mind of Stefan Miklos had the IMF team fooling a brilliant intelligence officer with a photographic memory, from whom it would be impossible to hide the fact that they were scamming him; the scam they actually pulled was very carefully staged so that he would draw the wrong conclusions about what he saw and what they wanted him to believe.
- In another case, they conned the warden and second-in-command of a prison with an escape-proof cell into believing that a political prisoner in the cell had been switched with a double during the distraction caused by another pair of prisoners attempting escape (when, in fact, the prisoner never left his cell). The "double" and the two "escapees" are then taken away for interrogation by some helpful state security agents who "coincidentally" happened to be present.
- In the American version of The Office (US), Dwight plants an obvious bug in Jim's office in the form of a huge wooden duck (er, mallard). Jim quickly finds it and has some fun at Dwight's expense, eventually telling Dwight to stop trying these tricks. In the tag, however, we find out that Dwight actually planted a second, much less conspicuous bug (in the form of a pen) and that the duck (mallard) was just a decoy.
- Veronica Mars: Veronica once pulled this kind of trick on sleazy private detective Vinnie Van Lowe, giving him a bugged pen that he immediately identified and mocked her for—but he didn't realize that the pin she'd given to his secretary was also a bug.
- In Mad Men, Don Draper executes a magnificent one against his self-proclaimed rival Ted Chaough in "The Chrysanthemum and the Sword." During the competition over the Honda Motorcycles account, the Honda execs make certain rules to ensure a level playing field: each agency is given $3000 to make boards and copy—no finished work allowed. Don goes to great lengths to hint that SCDP is going to make a big, expensive spec commercial for Honda (which is finished work and therefore not allowed) convincing Ted Chaough that his firm should do the same. But SCDP isn't making a commercial at all (leading to a pretty hilarious scene with Peggy riding around an empty set on a Honda motorcycle◊) Draper's intention was to severely damage Chaough's firm's budget by fooling them into making the big, expensive commercial. Don resigns the Honda account, returning the $3000, on the grounds that Honda had broken its own rules and he could not honorably do business with them. Chaough's firm is now a mess, and while Honda doesn't end up giving anyone their main motorcycle account, SCDP gets a shot at the advertising for their new automotive division.
- The Unusuals, in the episode "The Dentist," features a couple of con artists stealing evidence from the precinct. They make a big production of making off with a backpack, indicating that the evidence was in it when they made their getaway. Turns out, the money didn't leave the precinct when they did. They boxed it up and left it with the outgoing mail.
- In the Doctor Who episode "A Good Man Goes to War", The Doctor dresses as a headless monk in order to apparently turn them and the marines against each other. When Colonel Manton calms the situation down by having everyone disarm and having them chant "we are not fools" The Doctor reveals his true plan, warping in his own army and capturing his now defenseless enemies in one fell swoop. Unfortunately for the Doctor, his enemies are also pulling the Kansas City Shuffle in this episode- there is another armed force on its way and it kills off several of his allies, and the baby he's there to rescue is a fake. In fact the whole point of this seems to have been to humiliate him; they knew he would show up, so all the dupes were sacrificed while the people in the actual conspiracy ran off with the baby.
- It happens to him earlier in "The Pandorica Opens". At first, the Doctor thinks that the Pandorica is just a fairy tale...until River Song brings him face to face with it. According to the legend, it contains a horrible evil that couldn't be defeated, only contained...and now it is starting to open. The Doctor is standing by with River, Amy, and a bunch of Roman Legionnaires to combat the monster that is to emerge, and manages to drive off a collection of his greatest enemies with deliciously-hammy Badass Boast. Unfortunately for him, the enemy retreat was a ruse to lure him into a false sense of security, the legionnaires are a bunch of Autons working with them, and there is no monster in the Pandorica; it was built by them specifically to contain the Doctor.
- How I Met Your Mother. After Barney goads Lily & Marshall into betting that he can't perform several fancy hibachi cooking tricks (with the right to touch Lily's breasts being his prize if he can), Barney starts dropping hints that the bet is a hustle and he's actually a professionally trained hibachi chef. When Lily freaks out about possibly losing, Barney says that if he can just see her breasts they can call the bet off. However, just before Lily bares her chest, Marshall stops her, having deduced that it's a Kansas City Shuffle: Barney was only acting like he could easily win the bet to trick Lily into exposing herself. Marshall and Lily share a laugh at their own cleverness . . . then stare dumbfounded when Barney shows off his hibachi cooking skills for real. Thus actually making it a Xanatos Gambit: no matter what they did, Barney would either see Lily's tracts of land (partial victory), or touch them (complete victory).
- The episode The Playbook was an elaborate con to get Lily to think she was sabotaging all of Barney's usual cons to get women, only to have it been a ploy to get her to set him up with one.
- In the final episode of the fourth series of Spooks, Rogue Agent Angela Wells infiltrates Section D and holds the team hostage in order to find evidence that the Security Services killed Princess Diana. After the situation's been resolved, Ruth discovers that documents relating to security at Buckingham Palace are missing and deduces that Wells intends to attack the Royal Family. Because of this, the Royals are evacuated to their secure bunker, Pegasus — which an associate of Wells has secretly planted a bomb inside, meaning the evacuation was playing right into her hands.
- Babylon 5 had one of the more amusing examples of this as Sheridan suckers the entire League of Non-Aligned Worlds into allowing White Stars to patrol their borders and protect them by fueling their paranoia with such acts such as planting a true but very Suspiciously Specific Denial on the Voice of the Resistance broadcast, refusing any explanation for his erratic actions, and letting the League convince themselves that Sheridan was hiding some dire threat, thus making them demand the very thing Sheridan was trying to get them to do.
- In the 30 Rock episode "Game Over," Jack plans to expose Kaylee Hooper, the granddaughter of Kabletown CEO Hank Hooper, as ineligible to to inherit because Kaylee might not be related to Hank after all. Kaylee figures out his plan and avoids it by planting Jenna's DNA for Jack to find and test, instead of her own (thus making Jack look like a conniving traitor for trying to mail Hank an unauthorized paternity test that doesn't prove anything). However, the only thing Hank Hooper loves more than his family is his birthday. The DNA was a distraction to prevent Kaylee from doing anything to celebrate Hank's birthday, whereas the envelope of DNA results actually contained a birthday card from Jack.
- In M*A*S*H, BJ convinces Hawkeye that he's pranking everyone in the camp, and is saving the best one for Hawkeye. He puts a snake in Charles' bed, puts shaving cream in Colonel Potter's toothpaste, cuts the back off of Margret's bathrobe, poisons Father Mulcahy and sets off a bomb in Klinger's filing cabinet, each one making Hawkeye increasingly paranoid. After the last two, he sets up a cot outside in a barb-wire enclosure, resulting in him getting no sleep from all the background noise. At the end everyone reveals they were in on it and either did everything themselves or simply lied to Hawkeye, and that Hawkeye was the actual victim.
- In Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Captain Holt and Detective Peralta make a bet that Peralta can't steal Holt's Medal of Valor from his office, where Holt has placed it inside a safe within a locked cabinet. Holt proceeds to catch Peralta out in a series of lame attempts to break into the office and steal the medal using what seem to be feeble disguises and distractions, until he ends up being locked in an interrogation room and handcuffed to a table... whereupon Peralta explains to Holt the real plan; while Peralta was distracting Holt with his increasingly feeble attempts to break into Holt's office, the other detectives in the squad — whom Peralta had bribed with an offer to do their paperwork for them — were subtly breaking through Holt's defences and stealing the medal for him. Since he lost the bet, Holt now has to do all of Peralta's paperwork, which now includes the entire squad's.
- Come Halloween next year, Jake once again makes a bet with Captain Holt, with the challenge this time being that Jake will steal Captain Holt's watch right off of his wrist. Once again Jake convinces the other detectives to help him, as well as conscripting a previously arrested pickpocket to actually steal the watch and replace it with a perfect replica. This time around, however, everyone except Jake (and Charles) is working with Holt, including the pickpocket, and so the plan fails. Holt has apparently been planning his revenge for last year from the moment he sat down to do everyone's paperwork, going so far as to subtly convince Jake that an ordinary watch was somehow his most prized personal possession.
- The fourth Halloween has Holt, Jake, and Amy all competing. The winner is Gina who went out of their way to fake an injury to remove them from the team they were on and then come back and hide in the background while completing the rest of their plan. They also use Terry as an obvious Red Herring since he's trying to work instead of participate, which makes people think he's pulling his own shuffle. Gina manipulated everyone simply because the winner is the ultimate "detective"-slash-genius which she felt was rude and left her out and made sure everything went as planned.
- And on a much grander scale, the reason Captain Holt agrees to Jake's zany challenges in the first place; Jake is an Insufferable Ditzy Genius who fancies himself a maverick Cowboy Cop, and his ability to work together with others as part of a team is sorely lacking as a result. Every time he attempts one of these grandiose bets, Peralta has to get help from the other detectives, and the exercise ultimately contributes to team building, something Holt has been trying to encourage from the beginning.
- A pulls one on Pretty Little Liars. The girls go to a magic show and deduce that the mime running the show is A and Aria agrees to be part of the show, but what A wanted was to distract the girls, so they could kidnap Emily while the other two were focused on the show, while the mime was just a magician.
- In an episode of V.I.P., Val and the crew get away from an apartment that the villains are staking out by making them think they've sent decoys for them to follow. In fact they've escaped already by disguising themselves with variations of their own clothing and hairstyles while the oblivious villains ignore them and continue to stake out the now empty apartment.
- Richard Castle Castle and Jackson Hunt pull one off in "Hunt" to rescue Alexis: Hunt sends Castle to sneak into the bad guy's compound through the sewers; he's easily caught, and the bad guy stows him with Alexis and calls Hunt (his archnemesis) over Castle's radio, and warns them that he'll shoot both of them if he doesn't come out...all of which Hunt wanted him to do, so he could blow him up through the radio and let Alexis and Castle escape.
- Castle does it himself when he tracks down Jerry "3XK" Tyson, who is holding Beckett, by getting information out of Tyson's former cellmate and using it to find an isolated house Tyson had mentioned which would be ideal for hiding her. Tyson, well aware of Castle's ability to ferret out information, assumed Castle would do something like that and would try to catch him by surprise to rescue Beckett, and so had Beckett in another location with his co-conspirator with a video feed from that location. He successfully ambushed Castle with the intent to force him to watch Beckett being killed before being killed himself. When he makes the call to his partner to tell her he had captured Castle, Castle reveals the truth: he anticipated Tyson would be waiting, would have Beckett somewhere else, and would somehow arrange things to make him witness her death first, so he had walked into the ambush for the sole purpose of getting Tyson to make the call, allowing the police to trace it and identify where Beckett was being held. And to get Tyson in front of a window so Esposito could snipe him.
- Only Fools and Horses had Granddad tell a story similar to the joke example above. He used to work as a security guard for a fancy company, and there was one suspicious employee who would always leave the building with a fancy briefcase. For an entire year, Granddad would check his briefcase, only to find nothing in there. When the employee quit the company, it turned out over three-hundred and sixty-five fancy briefcases had gone missing.
- One episode of Lawrence Leung's Unbelievable is about magic tricks. At the end of the episode, Lawrence invites a magician he consulted earlier to lunch at a Chinese restaurant and promises him he can bamboozle him with with the cunning and misdirection he's learnt. He performs a fairly basic card trick that is well familiar with and sees through straight away, but then he looks around to find that they're sitting in what now resembles a Mexican restaurant.
- On The Blacklist, Tom pretends to be a conman who goes to underground casinos and cheats at craps by distracting the casino employees and other players with an elaborate story of how he once went on vacation and found a watch worth thousands of dollars. A rich playboy quickly realizes that the story is bogus, since he knows the area where the story supposedly took place and the story does not fully match reality. The playboy also spots Tom's cheating, but rather than report him to the casino, he befriends Tom. This was Tom's plan all along. He deliberately added flaws to his story that only the mark would spot. The mark has a habit of befriending conmen, and Tom needed a way to get into his confidence quickly. Tom is actually looking for a quick way to get close to some Russian criminals who are blackmailing the mark.
- CSI has the aptly titled episode "Suckers," one of the few cases where there's no murder involved whatsoever. The bad guys set up no less than three fake crimes to distract from the real one (insurance fraud) that they're trying to pull off.
- Reid on Criminal Minds used this tactic to retaliate for a prank Morgan had pulled on him, adding a taunting message to Morgan's iPod in place of his favorite tune. This message ended with Reid's voice screaming in Morgan's ear, but warned him what was coming so he wasn't that surprised. Poo-pooing the lameness of Reid's effort, Morgan gets a call on his smartphone, ID-stamped as coming from Garcia ... but that's Reid screaming in his ear too.
- Niels Lykke, the adversary of Lady Inger at Austraat, manages to use a Kansas City Shuffle on Inger, after developing a Xanatos Speed Chess during the play. He cons her into ordering the death of her own son, believing said son to be someone else. Niels exploits the situation by misdirecting both Inger, her son, and her faithful friend, Norwegian nobleman Olaf Skaktavl (who executed the son). Thus, the trope was used before anything significant ever happened in Kansas.
- Exit Fate has several characters who love to construct plans that involve deliberately leaking information to the enemy. When two of them team up, they ensure that their ruse will be believed despite their known history of using that tactic by leaking two reports- the enemy commander assumes that the one which was obtained more easily was misdirection, and that therefore the other information, which required far more effort to obtain, is trustworthy.
- Chzo's plans in the Chzo Mythos go off without a hitch because everyone thought it wanted to invade our world when all it really wanted was a new servant.
- In Baten Kaitos, the Six Man Band suspect that there is a mole amongst them for quite some time. The player will probably assume it to be either Lyude (who is susceptible to brainwashing), Savyna (who is the Mysterious Stranger to a T) or Mizuti (for dressing uncannily similarly to the Big Bad, except with a Cool Mask on). As it turns out, The Mole was Kalas, whom the player (and the party!) would never suspect due to him being The Hero. When the other heroes find this out, they're completely out of cards to play.
- In Loom, Bishop Mandible traps Bobbin in a cage, but doesn't take the magical distaff Bobbin carries. Big mistake, right? Not quite — Mandible is actually after the Draft of Opening. He watches Bobbin cast the spell to unlock the cage and then takes the distaff.
- In Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, Snake rescues Paz only to find she has a huge abdominal scar, as XOF tricked him into saving her while she had a bomb inside of her. Extracting the bomb without killing her, she awakens a scene later to explain she has a second bomb inside of her, as XOF knew Snake wouldn't expect it.
- Frank Fontaine references the general concept in BioShock. Quoth Fontaine, "I'm gonna miss this place. Rapture was a candy store for a guy like me. Guys who thought they knew it all. Dames who thought they'd SEEN it all. Give me a smart mark over a dumb one every time."
- How Lenni is screwed with in Watch_Dogs 2. Marcus needs to get at her arm's internal devicenote to scan the RFID chip inside to locate and break into her Hacker Cave, so he tries to scan it with his cell phone... only for Lenni to angrily push his phone away and taunt him over thinking that "a simple trick" could fool her. She's unaware that Wrench, a friend of Marcus, is atop a nearby building with a long-range scanner.
- Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Trials & Tribulations: In the beginning of the second case, you unravel Luke Atmey's deception and uncover him as (supposedly) the true identity of master thief Masque de Masque...only for that to turn out to be have been his plan all along, so his presence at a theft will serve as an alibi for the murder he committed and pinned on the actual de Masque.
- In Freefall, the ninja waiters operate on this basis. By making sure that the customers spot that the screen slides up, they ensure that the customers will be watching it trying to spot them, and not looking in any other direction. Later, after the customers are convinced that the screen is just a ruse, they can actually use it to deliver food.
- Along with a plethora of other plans this is the primary tool of Doc Scratch in Homestuck. His crowning moment is undoubtedly convincing the heroes they are destroying the Green Sun, an extremely powerful and dangerous energy source, when in fact they are participating in its creation - and in turn, the creation of an immortal, time-travelling demon. He accomplishes this without telling a single falsehood.
- The Order of the Stick:
- Haley runs a textbook example of a Shuffle on the rest of the party while dividing up the treasure in this comic. If they hadn't assumed she was trying to cheat them and tried to counter it, she would have wound up with five worthless rocks as her share of the booty.
- During the battle of Azure City, Redcloak creates three duplicates of Xykon, having two lead separate charges against the city's defenses and the third one hang back with Redcloak himself. The plan is for the heroes to assume that only two are decoys, waste time trying to deduce which one is the real one, and ultimately attack a decoy regardless of their choice, all while the real Xykon sneaks into the city atop an invisible zombie dragon. Fortunately, Roy is able to go after the real Xykon after Haley works out the con, complete with a discussion of the trope:
Haley: A con man doesn't choose to play the shell game with you if there is any possibility of him actually losing. The con isn't getting you to pick the wrong shell. The con is in getting you to accept that the basic premise of the game is still being followed. The con is in getting you to pick a shell at all.
- In Goblin Hollow, during the bank robbery arc (more or less starting HERE, Ben and Lily get entangled in a bank heist which is only part of the guest villain's double and possibly triple-fakeout plot which involves multiple simultaneous armed robberies, a mysterious pearl necklace, a jade box full of Boggarts and an army of mooks in clown suits.....
- In Tower of God Yu Hansung pulls this on Koon and several government agencies, making them think he is trying to get rid of Baam by underhanded means for being a dangerous individual, but actually, he is trying to make Baam disappear from the public eye so that the government won't interfere with his career in Yu's secret terrorist organization.
- In Weregeek, Murdoch finds himself hanging from the edge of a building with four geeks hanging off of him. Joel is waiting on the roof, offering a hand up, but Murdoch guesses that he'll only be captured if he accepts the offer. Instead, he opts to fall to his death and take the four geeks with him. Instead, he falls into the net Joel set up and realizes this was what was intended the whole time.
- The final antic in Viva La Fegel has Gunsche informing Hitler that Fegelein is outside with something for Hitler. Hitler immediately assumes that he'll fall victim to the antic if he does so, and for all he knows, "a fucking piano will fall on [him] out of nowhere. Guess what happens.
- A couple in a row get pulled off in season 12 of Red vs. Blue: first, it looks like the Reds and Blues' big plan is for Carolina to infiltrate Locus' soldiers, like she did earlier in the season. Then, when that plan is revealed, it looks like the plan was really for Wash to sneak in and hold Felix at gunpoint while he's distracted by Carolina. In reality, all of this was just setup for the Reds and Blues to take out Felix and Locus' minions while they're distracted by the Freelancers... which in turn is all just setup to get Felix to rant about their evil plans while facing off with Tucker, who is secretly recording the whole thing!
- Whateley Universe: The supervillain Mephisto the Mystic says that most of his more public capers were set up primarily to distract the heroes from more mundane crimes done by his Mob associates.
- In King of the Hill, Peggy (and several other Arlenites) get scammed by a con man and work together to craft a counter-con in order to make their money back. They set up a fairly transparent off-track betting scam, but the con man stops cashes out before he can suffer the inevitable "lose everything" step. Hank shows up and sees Peggy sobbing over her failure and goes to confront the con man in his hotel room, prompting him to stash his winnings in the hotel safe...and after Hank's left, he discovers the safe is empty and the staff says that this hotel doesn't provide safes. It turns out Peggy anticipated all of this, including Hank's interference, and snuck the money out through a false back wall. Hank asks what she'd done if things hadn't gone as planned; Peggy responds that they also faked valet parking and would have taken his car.
- The Futurama episode "Law and Oracle" has one when Fry is told of a future crime he has to solve; an oracle robot called "Pickles" gives Fry the prediction that one of the following will happen: 1. He will shoot Bender, causing him to destroy the Maltese Liquor and die; 2. He won't shoot Bender, but Bender will share the priceless alcohol with Planet Express, killing everyone due to its lethality. Fry attempts to pick neither, but Pickles appears at the crime and reveals it wasn't a prediction, but a set up. After Fry accidentally shoots Bender, Pickles shoots Fry and drinks the real liquor to kill his human brain, thus removing his psychic abilities (being unable to stand seeing the future); however, it is then revealed that the prediction came true simply because Fry figured out Pickles was the mastermind (due to the inconsistency of Bender sharing) and thus set up Pickles' con, causing Pickles to lose his oracle powers and allowing them to arrest him.
- Cartman pulls this off in the South Park episode "Scott Tenorman Must Die". Cartman is scammed out of some money by Scott, and after several failed attempts to counter Scott's initial con, Cartman brags to Stan and Kyle about his ultimate plan to have a farmer's pony bite Scott's penis off in front of his favorite band, Radiohead, whom he has invited to a local Chili Cookoff. Cartman actually counts on Stan and Kyle to "sabotage" him by informing Scott of the plan, and counts on Scott to try to get rid of the pony (but not to risk getting his penis bit off by going himself). Scott tells his parents a pony is being abused and has them try to "rescue" it. However, Cartman has already tipped off the farmer that someone is trying to kill it, and the farmer resolves to shoot the tresspassers. After Scott's parents are shot and killed, Cartman steals their bodies and grinds them into mincemeat, feeding them to Scott in the form of "chili." After the plan succeeds, he gloats about it to Scott (who is further humiliated when Radiohead show up and mock his emotional breakdown), and the rest of the cast vow not to mess with Cartman in the future.
- The Simpsons:
- In the episode "The Book Job", Bart and Homer form a gang to make big bucks in the field of YA lit. They con the publisher, who one-ups them by recruiting Lisa. Who actually takes their side. But none of them should have trusted team Butt Monkey Neil Gaiman. Bart and Homer even refer to a Noodle Incident known only as Kansas City.
- Sideshow Bob does one in Funeral for a Fiend; he sets up a fake restaurant and pretends that that's his plan to kill The Simpson's once and for all. It turns out it's all a fake to get to court again to make everyone think Bart killed him by throwing away his heart medicine.
- Young Justice:
- The Big Bad group "The Light" regularly uses the superheroes' attempts to "stop the evil plan" to further their real machinations. In "Usual Suspects" for instance, The Light stages an attack on the heroes so the good guys will bring dangerous devices the Light's agents are carrying at the time to their secret base to stop the Light from getting to them. The Light promptly uses the devices to take the heroes' secret base over.
- The good guys manage this too in the second season. While all their minor attempts to thwart The Light fail, they've had a mole (and later upped to two moles) on the Light for the whole season who have been recording everything and waiting for the right moment to publicly broadcast that footage while also sowing discord within The Light with the shuffle's only flaw being the members of the team who didn't know about the plan almost causing it to go Off the Rails a few times. It still all finally comes together in "Summit" and it's a thing of beauty.
- The second season premiere of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has this pulled by Discord. He makes the Mane Six believe the Elements of Harmony were hidden in the hedge maze, which set off the trap turning the ponies against each other. They were really hidden back where the series began — Twilight's reference book on the Elements.
Flam: Oh, brother of mine, I think it's time for a little payback!Flim: The Canterlot Two-Step?Flam: Mmm, we don't have the chickens. How about the Baltimare Flair?Flim: Ah, my flair isn't what it used to be.Gladmane: [over loudspeaker] Listen here, y'all! If you're a friend of mine, you're entitled to a free night's stay, and everypony is a friend of mine! Thank you. Thank you very much.Flim: Are you thinking what I am?Flam: The High Roller Hustle!Applejack: The what now?Flam: Trust us. When we're done, there won't be a pony in town who doesn't know the Applejack-iest truth about Gladmane! That is, assuming you two are willing to help.Flim (to Fluttershy): What size gown do you wear?
- Happens again in the Season 6 episode "Viva Las Pegasus". Applejack, Fluttershy, Flim, and Flam, who are currently in an Enemy Mine situation, attempt to trick the con-artist owner of a resort into confessing that he sabotages his employees' relationships to keep them under his hoof. He easily dodges the initial attempt and mocks them for their feeble hustle... only to later pull a real Engineered Public Confession when he gets cocky and decides to gloat, Just as Planned.
- The Family Guy episode "Peter-assment" has Peter's boss, Angela, sexually harassing him until Peter snaps at her, pushing her to attempt suicide; after rescuing her, Peter realizes he must have sex with her to stop her feeling so lonely, which he finds disgusting. Donning a disguise, he then takes her on a date as "Peter's friend," but refuses to have sex with her due to a weak excuse; soon buckling under pressure, he finally agrees to have sex with her, after which Angela confides she knew it was Peter, much to his horror. It turns out Peter counted on her seeing through his disguise and pushing him into sex, as he prepared by paying Mort to hide in the front of his clothes; by thus making Mort have sex with her, Angela's confidence would be repaired, and Peter would be spared the trauma.
- In an early episode of Xiaolin Showdown, Jack Spicer of all people pulls this off. He sends in a robot clone of Kimiko to thwart the Xiaolin Dragons and steal their Shen Gong Wu. Omi identifies and destroys the clone, but it's too late - while the Dragons were distracted, Jack snuck in and out of the vault with the Wu, leaving them at a sudden and major disadvantage. A rare moment of sheer triumph for Jack.
- Penn and Teller's Red Ball Trick. Penn tells you beforehand how the trick is done (with a thread) and then storms offstage. Then for three and a half minutes you watch Teller and a red ball while you try in vain to spot the thread. Most people conclude there's actually no thread and the ball is controlled in some other way. The fact is that Teller is just that good; he's rehearsed it so much that even when you know the gimmick you can't see him doing it. Some other magicians have said that the trick is even more impressive to them, since they know how he's doing it and still can't catch him at it.
- At Penn and Teller's Las Vegas stage show, they will often remind you that the tricks they're doing aren't necessarily the tricks you think they're doing. This still doesn't stop you from being caught out, though.
- Some of the magicians performing on Penn & Teller: Fool Us attempt this by developing a new technique for a well-known illusion, but then performing it in a way that deliberately makes it look like they are using one (or more) of the well-known techniques, rather than the new technique. When Penn starts describing the well-known techniques, they can honestly say that they did not use those techniques to perform the illusion.
- During World War II, during the preparation for Operation Overlord (D-Day), the allies made a series of fictional armies with objectives all across Europe (Operation Fortitude). The most well known was an army that was supposedly intending to attack the port at Calais rather than Normandy. When the Allies landed in Normandy, they were able to convince Hitler that this was a diversion to get him to move troops away from the "real" landing site at Calais—when in fact Calais was the diversion from Normandy. (Of course, Charles de Gaulle, being Charles de Gaulle, let the cat out of the bag, loudly announcing the Normandy invasion to be the real thing. Fortunately, being Charles de Gaulle, nobody on the other side listened to him.)
- The famous Ethiopian leader Haile Selassie (aka Ras Tafari) once pulled this off. A local warlord named Balcha Safo parked a massive army outside the city Selassie was in in an attempt to intimidate him. Selassie responded by acting submissive and inviting Safo to a dinner in his honor; Safo was certain this was a trick, and took 600 men from his army to go to the dinner with him and watch for any signs of foul play. Safo kept his guard up at the party at all times, which, of course, was Selassie's plan all along, because after the dinner when Safo returned to where he had camped his army, his army was nowhere to be found. While he was watching for treachery at the dinner, Selassie's men had bribed the army to leave.
- When Diamond Comic Distributors introduced a "street date" system for comics in 2011 (so that instead of being delivered on Wednesday morning, so shopkeepers had to race to get them out on the shelves, new comics would be delivered on Tuesday, with a strict rule that they could not be sold until the start of Wednesday business hours) there were mocking reports of elderly female secret shoppers trying to do trap purchases on Tuesday evenings for stereotypical fanboy-appeal comics, with fans laughing at how transparent it was. Turns out that after the little old lady walked out, a real trap purchase secret shopper dressed like a fanboy would go in...
- The famous "Monty Hall" problem uses this trope to illustrate probability theory. In the problem, a contestant on a game show is given the opportunity to win a new car by choosing one of three doors—one of which has a car behind it, and two of which have goats behind them. After the contestant makes his choice, the game show host opens one of the two other doors to reveal one of the two goats, then asks the contestant if he would rather choose the prize behind the third and final door, which could either be the car or the second goat. By focusing one's attention on the two remaining closed doors (one of which conceals a car, and one of which conceals a goat), the problem manages to make it look like one has a simple 50/50 chance of winning the car. In fact, the contestant has a 2 in 3 chance of choosing a goat on his first guess, but only a 1 in 3 chance of choosing the car...meaning that the contestant will always have a better chance of getting the car if he changes his choice when given the chance.
- The contest, as seen on the original game show, had a psychological element too. As Monty Hall pointed out, he didn't have to let you switch. If you picked the wrong door, he could just open that door and send you home with a goat. He was more likely to let you switch if you guessed right, and he'd sometimes offer you money to stick with your original (correct) choice. Contestants usually took this as proof that they were on the right track, so they'd turn down the money and get a goat for their trouble. Monty Hall concluded, "if you can get me to offer you $5,000 not to open the door, take the money and go home."