Follow TV Tropes


Delayed Wire

Go To

The Con Man and his crew represent that they can give access to advance information available to no one else, for a price. The kinds of information for sale differs; "advance" stock-price movement, "hacked" access to currency fluctuations, a "tip" on zoning regulations that will boost the price of real get the picture. The oldest form of this game, which gave it the name, involves supposedly shaking down a crooked off-track betting house by delaying telegraphed horse-race results long enough for the con men and The Mark to bet heavily on the winners. A key element of the tale (called the "hook") lies in convincing The Mark that he has a short window of opportunity to cash in, in a situation where he has all the control. Often the mark is steered toward "discovering" the illicit operation in such a way that he feels he can threaten to call in the police.


A variant, crossed with Snake Oil Salesman, is the Reverse Pyramid Scheme, where a large pool of potential marks are given predictions about events, and only those marks who have received correct predictions are retained. The pool dwindles to a small pool of marks who have received a stunningly accurate series of correct calls and are then offered one last prediction at an obscene price.


    open/close all folders 

     Anime and Manga 
  • In Heat Guy J, Clair does something like this with the commodities exchange. (Specifically, the tomato commodity.) He intentionally sets it up so Daisuke will go investigate something on the agricultural island where the tomatoes are being grown, in order to manipulate the price of that commodity and generate a profit for Company Vita.

  • The Sting shows the horse racing variant.
  • The immortal "tootsie-frootsie ice cream" scene from A Day at the Races.
  • The Grifters uses this as a long con.
  • The end of Trading Places, in which the Dukes are given a fake crop report that leads them to believe the Department of Agriculture will announce a shortage of oranges. The Dukes then go in big on frozen concentrated orange juice on the commodities market, with disastrous consequences for them, and untold riches for Winthorpe and Valentine. It should be noted that, at the time, using misappropriated or "insider" information to invest in commodities (as opposed to the stock and bond market) was not illegal, although a government courier could still get in trouble for unauthorized release of government information. In the aftermath of the 2008 recession, the law that changed this, Section 136 of the Wall Street Transparency and Accountability Act, note  was enacted in 2010, and informally known as "The Eddie Murphy Rule" thanks to this film. The chairman of the Commodities Futures Trading Commission specifically referred to the film when first publicly proposing the rule change.
  • Wall Street has Bud Fox tell corporate raider Gordon Gekko that Bluestar Airlines is about to settle a legal dispute and the stock should soar on this news while Gekko is interviewing him for a high-level Wall Street role. Bud is desperate to impress the man and passes it off as his research. In reality, this is insider trading, since Bud knows it because his dad is a union rep for the airline. Of course, Gekko then learns the truth — and doesn't care, because insider trading and manipulating the financial press are all in his bag of tricks.
  • Boiler Room features the "pump-and-dump" variant, where brokers employed by J.T. Marlin are selling bogus shares of non-existent companies to unsuspecting investors. Once the operators dump their holdings, the stock price crashes and the investors lose their money while the brokers move on to their next victim. The main protagonist gets a job at said brokerage firm just to please his father, but is unaware that the company is an illegal operation. It's only after a bit of snooping around and realizing he unwittingly robbed countless clients of their hard-earned savings does he realize how big the problem is.

  • Older Than Radio: The Count of Monte Cristo uses an early wire scheme to bankrupt his enemy Danglars.
  • An Ellery Queen short story has Ellery investigating a Reverse Pyramid Scheme.
  • The Sherlock Holmes Stories of Edward D. Hoch: In "The Adventure of the Cipher in the Sand", Holmes discovers that the murder he is investigating is connected to the theft of a ticker tape machine that transmits horse race results to a casino. The manager of the casino explains how possession of the machine would allow the criminals to place bets with bookmakers knowing the results but before they had officially been posted.

    Live Action TV 
  • Done in the first series finale of Hustle, which references The Sting, then again in the first episode of fifth season.
  • Twice on Leverage:
    • In "The Bottle Job," a variant is used as the initial con on the Irish gangster.
    • Used as part of a Kansas City Shuffle on another episode.
  • The Remington Steele episode "Sting of Steele", inspired by the movie The Sting, plays this trick with betting on overseas sports results.
  • An inversion of this took place in an episode of F/X: The Series, where Rollie delayed the transmission at the gambling house so he could find out the winner and relay the info to his father (a gambling addict who owed a lot of money), who would then bet on the horse and get out of debt.
  • The Dukes of Hazzard had an episode involving a gambling operation like this. The Dukes turn the tables on them by Luke intercepting the phone call with the winner, giving the gambling house fake results and a disguised Daisy (wearing the most unflattering outfit she ever wore on the show) bet on the real winner.
  • Used in an episode of The Riches, as are several other types of cons,
  • Alias Smith and Jones, in "The Great Shell Game"
  • Neal and Peter have to pull one in the White Collar episode "The Dentist of Detroit". Several references to The Sting are made. It's even an off-track betting tale.
  • The Reverse Pyramid variant was used in one of Square One TV's Mathnet serials—the first serial after their transfer to New York, in fact. A character calling himself "the Swami" sent predictions to pretty much all the retired lawyers in the city, including a basketball game, a football game, and a trial, before separately offering the last seven the name of the winner of a horse race for $5,000.
  • In an episode of M*A*S*H Hawkeye discovers that Frank has been cheating enlisted men by betting on baseball games. The broadcasts of these games are delayed until midday for the sake of the troops, but Frank listens to the live broadcasts the previous night. Hawkeye breaks into the radio feed (with Radar's help) and broadcasts a bogus game, which Frank then loses big time on.
  • Mission: Impossible episode "The Money Machine" uses 'advance information' about a copper mine and a moved-up government deadline on a loan to reel in the mark.
  • An episode of Las Vegas ran around a similar scan. It involved delaying the satellite broadcast of East Coast football games and waiting until the last possible minute to enter the bet (and seeing who won).
  • An episode of Elementary had a former insider trader giving the computerised trading house that managed his blind trust an advantage by delaying the signal to their competitors by microseconds.


  • In The Golden Apple, Mr. Scylla persuades Ajax to bet the boys' return fares on the Manila hemp market, which his accomplice Mr. Charybdis (otherwise Hector) was pretending to have sold short so as not to let anyone else in on a lucrative investment opportunity. Of course, it turns out that hemp really is a bust and Mr. Charybdis has moved on to another commodity.

    Western Animation 
  • A self-running version of the Reverse Pyramid was a minor plot point in an episode of The Simpsons. When Homer mentions "Professor Pigskin" and says it is a pamphlet that predicts winners of future sports matches and that they had (correctly) guessed the winners for the previous ones, Lisa (correctly) points out that they print both possible outcomes in different sets of pamphlets, thus priming the handful of people who only got correct predictions to blow loads of cash on their call-in line. Cue Homer calling in, following their advice, losing the bet and being in debt to Fat Tony.

    Real Life 
  • Truth in Television! Those who can act on changing market conditions first hold an advantage over those who get the word later and allows the first movers to profit from arbitrage. Advances in communications like carrier pigeons, stock tickets and telephones would provide sizable profits to early adopters in the finance industry. Currently companies are battling over who can build the shortest fiber option line between the commodities markets in Chicago and the Stock Exchanges in New York as a time advantage of even a few milliseconds can generate substantial profits.
    • Though this is not a scam - it is simply a competitive advantage - regulators have been trying to ban high-frequency trading (computer automated trades that can detect minute fluctuation in the market and buy/sell stocks within milliseconds) for years now.
    • On the other hand, some information about a business is illegal to use as the basis of a stock trade—but that's insider trading, which is not exactly a scam.
  • A common variant, called Pump and Dump, is heavily promoting a stock with false and wildly-optimistic information (often one the promoter bought at a low price) and taking advantage of the resulting buzz to artificially inflate the value of that stock, then selling out all at once before any of the other investors get wise. This can happen through TV shows, podcasts, and even internet forums. Of course, since so many are receiving the same information (often of dubious quality) and act on it, the prediction becomes self-fulfilling. Boiler Room depicts one such firm promoting the shares of nonexistent or expired companies, as well as microcap and penny stock as a way to defraud investors.
    • The Motley Fool podcast includes a disclaimer that its panel guests may own or have interests in companies they talk about. So at least they put it out in the open.
  • The Reverse Pyramid Scheme is a favorite for scammers when it comes to sports bets. Find a pool of pigeons, send them predictions for big games, then offer to sell your "insider" picks for a game which is sure to have heavy betting. NFL games in the US are a favorite target.
  • When the 1970s pan-European Game Show Jeux sans frontières (UK title It's a Knockout) was shown on The BBC, many viewers were unaware that episodes were not broadcast live. This allowed con artists to attend the tapings, then return home and take bets on the outcomes.
  • Also known as the daily number, the policy game is an illegal gambling racket in which money is betted on a certain combination of digits appearing at the beginning of a series of numbers published in a newspaper, such as stock market prices or sports results. Unlike state lotteries, bookies could extend credit to the bettors and policy winners could dodge the income tax. Different policy banks would offer different rates, although a payoff of 600 to 1 was typical, and since the odds were stacked against the bettors, numbers runners raked in huge profits. In fact, this was one of the earliest lucrative rackets The Mafia got into, alongside rumrunning and extortion.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: