A common con game in fiction, particularly in comedy. It works like this: Someone challenges a person to a "friendly game" of something, be it cards, some kind of sport or something else. At first, they seem to be bad at the game and will repeatedly lose to the other person. Then they will suggest a wager. The minute the wager is made, they suddenly become good at the game and beat the other person hands down. A longer, and more expensive version, is to lose a series of small bets and then apparently attempt to bluff the mark into going away with a very large, dangerous bet that completely overwrites the previous losses.
The defeated party has just been the unfortunate victim of a clever scam artist. In other words, the mark has just been hustled. Big time.
Often involves the use of Obfuscating Stupidity. A subtrope of Short Con. Truth in Television. There have been many famous hustlers in Real Life. In fiction, the apparent mark will often turn out to be a better hustler than the con-artist.
Note: This trope does not refer to ANY kind of scam. It specficially refers to a particular con involving a competition of some sort.
May contain spoilers.
- Popped up in Hikaru no Go. Hikaru is looking to recruit a kid from his school who is very good at Go, but who prefers to use his skills in semi-shady Go-parlors where money is bet on the outcomes... and he's not shy about cheating to make sure he takes home the cash, either. Eventually, however, he falls prey to this. A drunken patron plays him for a game, screws up impressively, and loses a small bet. Drunkenly complaining, he suggests a second game, with a much bigger bet, and the kid - thinking him an easy mark - agrees, putting all his money down. However, as soon as they start playing, the 'drunkard' changes, turning out to be a highly skilled and intimidating player, who is apt at sleight of hand himself. Turns out, he's actually a famed hustler who was hired by the local players to teach the kid a lesson, since they were tired of being cheated by him all the time. Sure enough, he beats the kid soundly and takes his money.
- In The Legend of Koizumi, George W. Bush does this against Taizo during a game of Mahjong. Yes, it's one of those series.
- Duke Devlin does this to Joey in the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime, pretending to be a total novice at Duel Monsters, only to reveal the skills of an experienced player a few moves into the match.
- Occurs in a Dork Tower story arc. After hearing that Igor has never played poker, Ken eagerly invites him to join his poker game. At first, Igor frustrates the other players with his naive questions and obvious tells, but by the end of the evening he makes off with all of the winnings. The final strip shows Igor talking to someone on a cell phone about how he fooled everyone... while being pursued by a very angry Ken.
- In one Archie story, Mr. Weatherbee reveals he used to hustle people at "pitching pennies" when he was younger. Miss Grundy, who claims to be bad at the pastime, convinces him to show off his skills in a friendly game. If Mr. Weatherbee wins, Miss Grundy buys him lunch and if Miss Grundy wins, he buys her a dozen roses. It turns out Miss Grundy is an expert at the game and she easily defeats him.
- A Lucky Luke album has a scene where hucksters Denver and Colorado join a poker game pretending that they have never played the game before. Naturally, they soon prove themselves to be suspisciously "fast learners".
- The X-Men are playing cards with Cannonball joining them, causing the cards to fly from his hands and other problems that have them rolling their eyes. Cut to an hour later...
Beast: Lady and gent...We've been snookered. Duped. Bamboolezed. We've had the wool pulled over our eyes, we've been hooked, lined, sunk, folded, spindled and otherwise mutilated by one of our own. In the parlance of the game—-we've been hustled!(cut to Cannonball raking in a small mountain of chips and cash)Cannonball: What makes y'say that?Beast: Admit it Sam, you've played this game before!Cannonball: Sure, once or twice. What else was my nine brothers and sisters supposed to do during those long Kentucky winters?
- This gets a Call-Back when the X-Men take part in Ben Grimm's usual poker games and Ben suspects "this lousy hayseed just screams out ringer!"
- In Big Hero 6, Hiro does this in an illegal underground bot-fight. He first loses a game with a small bet and comes across as...well, a kid trying to play in the big leagues. Then he makes a big bet (before his opponent can take the winnings from the betting tray, so his opponent's bet constitutes all the money he'd lost and then some) and completely annihilates his opponent's bot. Since this is an illegal underground fight, though, his opponent is not happy with being hustled, leading to a chase sequence.
- Naturally, this trope was used in The Hustler as well as its sequel The Color of Money.
- The entirety of the movie Diggstown is about this: hustles, counter-hustles and counter-counter-hustles.
- It's possibly subverted and played straight in the same scene. Oliver Platt's character tells everyone in the bar that he's good and poker and pool and everyone still accuses him of hustling when he wins, which he calls them on. However, he's also been drinking heavily, but had taken a pill to prevent intoxication which he was feigning.
- Enter the Dragon has Those Two Guys pulling this trick in a tournament fight.
- Henry Gondorff out-cheats Doyle Lonnegan at a poker game as part of the set-up for the larger con in The Sting. Doyle knows Henry cheated but pays him anyway since he can't very well admit that he got beat in a game he himself had tried to rig first.
- Poker tournament mockumentary The Grand features a player who acts like he's never played poker before, not knowing the difference between a good or bad hand, when he should bet or how much, that sort of thing. None of the other players ever find this out, but this was a persona he had constructed based on something he'd read in a veteran pro's book — he's actually a very experienced online poker player.
- How I Unleashed World War II has a rare heroic example, with classic three card Monte. Franek doesn't even have a mark in the crowd to help him, so he starts out literally giving money away. In no time he manages not only to win the cash back, but keep the game up long enough to fill an entire truck full with fresh food and animals, while occasionally still letting the Arab merchants he's hustling win some of his money back to keep up the game. If he had a bit more time to finish the game properly, the traders would never even realise it was a con.
- In an early scene of Maverick, the title character asks to sit in on a poker game, and finding the players reluctant he assures them that he never cheats, hardly ever bluffs, and promises to lose for a full hour. True to his promise, he spends the first hour generally acting the fool and doing things like "accidentally" displaying his hand to the entire table right after it's dealt, and loses a fair amount of money... and then proceeds to clean everyone out once the hour is up because he spent that hour figuring out everyone's tells.
- This happens in several Abbott and Costello movies. Typically it's also subverted in that Abbott 'tricks' seeming clueless innocent Costello into a game of dice or poker, only for Lou to walk away with everyone's money.
- An early scene in Ocean's Eleven has Danny and Rusty hustling a group of actors, who are complete amateurs at poker.
- Woody Allen's film Take the Money and Run sees the main character attempt to become a pool hustler and fails miserably.
- In Rounders Mike and Worm need to win a lot of money in a hurry so they hit up several poker games where they are unknowns. They are both good enough players that they could win the money legitimately but Worm's impatience leads him to cheat while dealing. In a game consisting of law enforcement officers. He's caught and he and Mike take a beating and have their money taken.
- Happens twice in the poker film Shade:
- Small-time hustler Larry hooks up with crew Tiffany, Charlie and Vernon. The plan is to have Larry win big on Vernon's crooked deals so no one will suspect Larry of cheating. Larry gets impatient and on his own crooked deal gets $100,000 in the pot, including money that belongs to Larry's mobster boss, and loses. The whole thing turns out to be a scam by the entire game to take Larry's boss's money.
- In the film's climactic final game, Vernon is going up against legendary underground player The Dean, who he discovers is using a marked deck. In the final hand he deals the Dean Kings and Queens with one Queen in the hole and himself two Jacks with a seven in the hole. With $2,000,000 in the pot at showdown Vernon switches his hole seven for a Jack for three-of-a-kind. However, the Dean has switched out his hole King for a Queen make a higher three-of-a-kind. The next day the Dean and Vernon meet up to split the cash. The whole thing was a scheme between them to rip off Charlie and Tiffany.
- Happened to Nanny Ogg in Witches Abroad, playing the card game Cripple Mr Onion against a group of young men on a riverboat. Then they tried it on Granny Weatherwax. She managed to beat them without even cheating, just using headology (and some magic to destroy their cheating aids).
"... when an obvious innocent sits down with three experienced card sharpers and says 'How do you play this game, then?', someone is about to be shaken down until their teeth fall out."
- The titular Prince Roger demonstrates the Discworld quote above at the beginning of the second book:
"Spades?" Roger asked. "What's spades?"
"I can' believe I get taken by my own pocking prince," Poertena grumped much later as he and Denat watched Roger walk away, whistling cheerfully while he counted his winnings.
- Gaunt's Ghosts got in trouble pulling this for an unusual reason. One of the people involved was brought up before the Inquisition - and forced to prove that the method he was using to cheat did not involve the use of psychic powers.
- Denna pulls this in The Wise Man's Fear when playing cards with Kvothe and his friends.
- In Neal Shusterman's book Scorpion Shards, Dillion does this with several games of pool. He loses the first, bombs the second, and pulls out his wallet, demanding a rematch. When his opponent (convinced that Dillion's doing this to impress his girlfriend) throws down his own wallet, Dillion doesn't even let his opponent get one shot in.
- In the BattleTech novel By Blood Betrayed, protagonist Harley Rassor finds out in person that being subjected to this is practically an informal rite of passage for new recruits to the mercenary unit Able's Aces — like him. The idea isn't so much to relieve them of their money (although that can happen, a win is a win) as to see how long it takes them to figure out the scam and how they react once they do.
- Partly played straight in Tsar Gorokh's Detective Agency, where Nikita encounters Leshii (forest spirit) and Vodyanoy (water spirit), who are having their regular game of cards. When they refuse to tell him anything of interest, he decides to hustle them for information, showing them a game they haven't heard of before - poker (taught to him by his instructor at the police academy). After they lose and tell him everything they know, he prepares to leave, only for them to burst out laughing. They explain that they've been playing cards for centuries and have tried every game known to man, including poker. They've been hustling him, allowing them to beat them, so they could divulge information without looking like stool pigeons.
- Cheers: Con Man Harry the Hat once helped Coach win his money back by playing poker against a card shark, exclaiming brightly when invited to a poker game, "I heard poker can be a pleasant diversion!"
- Harry was a recurring character who pulled a series of small cons, usually involving getting out of paying his bar tab.
- Card sharps take advantage of Roger Addison in an episode of Mister Ed. Wilbur Post and the titular talking horse cheat them in return and get Addison's money back.
- Full House has D.J. hustle Michelle into doing the dishes after Michelle refuses to do them together. Michelle feels that she would much rather play jacks. D.J. says " Hey, Jacks, gosh, I was never any good at that. " Michelle challenges her to a game and wages that the loser of the game has to do the dishes by themselves. Good Ol' Deej obliterates her little sister in the game. D.J. even says "call me a sucker, but ok." Probably as close to gambling as a show like that can get.
- No, the closest they actually got to gambling was when Jesse and Joey played a game of pool. Jesse beats Joey hands down, but then Danny wants to play. Jesse mocks the strait-laced Danny for wanting to play, especially when Danny seemingly tries to use the wrong end of the stick to break. That's when Danny breaks and sinks three balls on his first shot, before mopping the floor with Jesse. Danny makes a hundred bucks off Jesse, and then gives Joey $10 for keeping his mouth shut about Danny going to college on a billiards scholarship.
- Subverted for laughs when Jessie has to play in a charity basketball game but is so inept, he can't even come near the hoop. While down on the court, Jessie is met by none other than Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and because of his total lack of knowledge of the sport, has no idea he's getting tips from an NBA legend. When Jessie makes a lucky shot that lands a hoop, a suspicious Abdul-Jabbar asks "are you hustling me?" He makes Jessie do a charge which ends with Jessie smacking into the pole and hitting himself in the head with the ball. "Sorry about that hustling crack," Kareem apologizes.
- The Suite Life of Zack and Cody had a girl who was an expert at this. She hustled Zack out of some money and cleaned Maddie out of a large number of candy bars.
Girl: ''(to London) "Nice watch. Wanna play some cards?"Maddie: Don't do it! She'll have the hotel within the hour.
- A Hang Time episode is called "The Hustlers" as, while in L.A., Julie and Teddy are talked into a game with some local guys and do well. They agree to "up the ante" with cash only to find too late these guys are college players who take them for a loss. They try for a rematch only for Coach Fuller to interrupt. Fuller offers to play but the hustlers refuse as he's a former NBA star. Fuller suggests a buddy of his who's the same age as Julie and Teddy. After the hustlers agree, Fuller calls in his friend: Kobe Bryant. Needless to say, the game does not go well for the hustlers.
- In an episode of Jonas LA, Macy pulled this off on Nick and Kevin during a game of golf.
- Used by Mimi one time on The Drew Carey Show when she was going to hustle Drew at bowling, but then some other guys challenged them and she & Drew ended up teaming up on the Short Con.
- Happens in an episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. First Will racks up considerable debt to a pool shark and has to call Uncle Phil to bail him out. Uncle Phil refuses to give his money to the pool shark, and instead challenges him to a game, unfortunately not being very good at it. However Phil requests another game and the shark, ironically not seeing the signs, agrees, leading to...
- Supernatural has Sam and Dean hustling a pool player like this once onscreen. Though that particular occasion falls through, it is implied that this is how they make a good deal of their money usually, since they don't exactly get paid for their other kind of work.
- Averted with the poker-playing warlock, who tells all his opponents straight up that he's very good. This doesn't stop most from trying to beat him, playing for years of life. He will, however, occasionally fold on a great hand, if he feels sympathy for his opponent (e.g. an old man, trying to get a few more years to see his granddaughter grow up).
- Played straight on a episode of Family Matters in which Eddie and Urkel get hustled at a pool hall for more money than they have and require Carl and Grandma Winslow to get them out of their mess in yet another game of pool.
- Once in Drake & Josh, Megan first hustled Drake in a game of darts. Drawing inspiration, he goes to the pool hall and starts hustling there. Josh disapproves of the dishonest way to earn money, so he hires his two burly camp counselors to scare Drake straight afterwards.
- Hilariously subverted in an episode of Bunk'd. Ravi and Xander try to hustle Emma and Lou during a game of billiard where the losers would have to stand outside for a whole day dressed as chickens. However, Ravi becomes so pressured over hitting the final hole that he misses, and he and Xander get themselves hustled instead with The Stinger showing them trapped outside covered in clay and feathers and betting attacked by a hawk while Emma and Lou watch them victoriously.
- Appears in one episode of Degrassi High. The cool kids invite nerdy, insecure Arthur to their poker party so they can take him for all he's worth. He's totally out of his depth — at one point, he asks, "does three of a kind beat a full house?" But he suddenly starts winning, and by the last hand, it's down to Arthur and the host ...and Arthur wins almost all the money by bluffing when his hand is complete junk. The cool kids are amazed, then Arthur grins and says, "'Does three of a kind beat a full house?' You guys are so gullible."
- In the Victorious episode Freak The Freak Out, Jade, Tori, and Cat pull off a rather awesome example on Haley and Tara. Jade and Cat had been gypped out of winning a singing contest as Haley was the daughter of the club owner. They challenged the duo to a bet with the winner having to take care of a sick (and thus more awful than usual) Trina. The bet is to pick any club-goer at random and see if she can sing better than Haley and Tara. They choose a dressed down gangly girl with a bad nose and nasal voice and Cat and Sam's protests on her as a "loser" just confirm the choice. As soon as she takes to the mic, the "loser" peels off her disguise to reveal herself as Tori who brings down the house with a great song. (Complete with Oh, Crap! looks on Haley and Tara's faces when they realized Tori wasn't the pushover they thought she would be.)
- Subverted in an episode of Leverage, in which Ford pretends to pull this trick on his mark, in a game of poker. When the mark realizes he's been scammed, he pulls a gun on Ford in front of a room full of undercover cops, which was the actual con.
- Hustle, obviously. Though, being Long Con artists, they tend not to go for competition hustles as often as they might. Still frequently enough to be mentioned here, though.
- Daphne does this at a pool hall in the Frasier episode "You Can't Tell a Crook by His Cover":
Opponent: All you have to do to win the game is pot those five balls. So what do you say we double our bet?Daphne: Oh, I might as well. I never really have understood this game. Never understood it, when I started playing with me older brothers, at the age of six. And I never understood it during all my formative years, spent mostly in the pool halls of Manchester. Playing in local competitions and club tournaments ... winning cup after cup after cup ... until our poor dad had to convert the pantry into a trophy room. And I can't really claim to understand it — eight ball in far corner — even today. But I certainly do enjoy it.
- In Auction Hunters, Allen and Ton are negotiating with a potential buyer over the price of a pool table. Eventually, Allen convinces the buyer to settle the final price over a game of pool: the buyer wins, the buyer pays his last offer; the auction hunters win, the buyer pays their last offer. The buyer is allowed to pick the game; the buyer picks nine-ball. Cue Ton: "Dude, what's nine-ball?" The buyer is then asked which of the two auction hunters he'll face. Naturally, he picks Ton. The moment the two shake on it, Ton grins very widely, letting the buyer know he's in trouble. After the buyer scratches on the break, Ton proceeds to pot all the balls on the table, finishing with a two-rail shot on the nine ball.
- In one Mad TV sketch, a pool hustler and his accomplice try to con someone, but fail because it is very obvious that they�re hustlers.
- In Dracula, Dracula is playing cards with some rich gentlemen and seems to have already lost a lot of money. However, we are shown that he can use his vampiric Super Senses to see the reflection his opponents' cards make on their eyeballs, so it is obvious that he is hustling them. Sure enough, the next day Dracula is the owner of the company shares one of his opponents owned which were the real reason he was playing cards with the man.
- Farscape: Rygel at one point gets beaten by a pirate captain in a game of "Tadek", basically space chess, while providing a location for another character. After the game, he tells Moya's other crew that he deliberately lost in order to keep the captain from being suspicious of the fake coordinates, and the pirate was so bad at the game that losing required a great deal of skill.
- In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Time's Arrow", Data finds himself stranded in Earth's past in San Fransisco in the 1800s. How does he make some quick money for means of acquisition? Hustle some card sharks who assume he's "fresh off the boat". Not only can the android card-count like no organic sentient could ever hope to, not only does he have the ultimate poker-face, but the sharks let him deal, and a previous episode established he has the ability to stack a deck more quickly than the human eye can see. Needless to say, Data cleaned house. The mark hustled the hustlers.
- The fourth episode ("Replacements") of Band of Brothers has Lt. Buck Compton playing darts - and losing badly - against some of the titular replacement soldiers. As soon as the replacements agree to a wager, however, a fellow veteran asks Buck if he's going to keep shooting lefty all night. Buck scores a bullseye with his first shot after switching hands.
- This trope is in the DNA of White Collar with a few episodes directly involving gambling, including high stakes poker and pai-gow. Neal and Mozzie met while Mozzie was dealing three-card monte and Neal took him several times.
- An episode of The Brady Bunch saw Bobby become an expert pool player and hustle his dad's boss for over a hundred packs of chewing gum.
- On Murphy Brown, Murphy's mom, Avery, comes for a visit and they go on a double-date with a father and son. It goes well until they start playing pool at which point, it turns out the two men are total chauvinists who openly claim men are better at many things as "it's just genetics." At which point, the polished and socialite Avery, who didn't seem to know one end of a cue from the other, proceeds to clean their clocks at the pool table.
Murphy: Mother, how are you doing this?!Avery: You remember your father's pool table? When it's 1952 and your husband doesn't want you to have a career and you're home alone all day, you have to find some way to amuse yourself. This was mine.
- In The Muppets, Rizzo and Pepe invite Joseph Gordon-Levitt to a friendly poker game, because he always wanted to learn poker, and Rizzo always wanted to teach poker to a rich guy who doesn't know how to play poker. It doesn't go like they expected.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt: A flush, huh? Okay, so is that better than ... three of one thing and ... two of another?
Pepe: Unbelievable! How you do this?
Joseph Gordon-Levitt: That, my dear prawn, is called ACTING!
- In Mass Effect 2, the Normandy's engineers at one point invite Shepard to participate in a 'friendly' game of Skyllian Five (the local IN SPACE! version of poker). If Shepard simply accepts, you lose some credits, having been hustled by Donnelly. If you tell them you play for keeps, you win some credits. Then there are the Charm / Intimidate conversation options: in the former, you hustle the hustler, and in the latter you basically order the engineers to let you win.
- The scene is revisited in Dragon Age: Inquisition, with Josephine hustling the rest of the table.
Josephine: I think... I'll start at... three coppers! Do you think that's too daring?
Iron Bull: Seriously, who starts with coppers? Silver, or go home.
One game of Wicked Grace later
Josephine: And the dealer takes everything! I win again!
- In Warframe, one quest has you helping a hustling: go in an arena contest and win by just enough to win a significant bet, but not so much that your opponent won't believe he can't win the next round by sending a more powerful force.
- In Shenmue II, you can gamble and earn money by playing darts against various opponents. Among them is a Jamaican man named Barry Jones who isn't too bright or skilled. You can play against him for a small bit of easy money ($10-$30), but beat him twice in a row and you can raise the bet to $200-$300. The background music changes, Barry starts throwing with his right hand, and the player makes a nasty discovery that he was Obfuscating Stupidity the entire time, and is by far the toughest darts opponent in the entire game.
- Plankton in SpongeBob SquarePants takes the long view with this trope. He threw friendly poker games to Krabs for fifteen years until he finally got him to wager SpongeBob and won.
- In the Bugs Bunny cartoon "Barbary Coast Bunny", Bugs is disguised as a gullible country bumpkin in a poker game against the villain. The villain gets a full house, to which a dejected Bugs moans, "Gee, all I got is two pair. A pair of ones, and another pair of ones." (That's a Quad of Aces, an extremely high hand that can only be topped by a Straight Flush. note )
- Attempted by Peggy in King of the Hill after she and several friends had been conned by a diploma mill. She failed at hustling, but succeeded in the Kansas City Shuffle.
- The Simpsons,
- Homer is hustled at checkers by a chicken in one episode. The bird was apparently clever enough to lose the first few games to build up Homer's confidence.
- Homer once bulked up one of his arms and goaded his mark into an arm wrestle while keeping only his weaker arm visible.
- Snake hustles Homer this way in three-card-Monte. Marge realizes Snake's accomplice is likely his brother. (And then does something few marks, for some reason, ever consider - revealing the two other cards to show everyone that all three are the same.)
- In beginning of an episode of The Penguins of Madagascar, the gang of sewer rats do this to the penguins with a game of ice hockey.
- The Powerpuff Girls (2016): In Hustlecup, Buttercup disobeys the Professor and takes his new experimental hat (which can stop, slow down and freeze people and objects) to the park. The Gangrene Gang are likewise there and Ace challenges Buttercup to a game of "Horse", betting his new scooter. She accepts, loses and ends up losing the hat, forcing her to tell Blossom and Bubbles. After their attempts to win the hat back likewise fail, they go to the Professor who challenges Ace for the winnings he won from the girls. He loses his initial match, but after one more bet in which the Professor agrees the girls and he leave town if he loses. Ace accepts... and the Professor lands the first shot no problem before ripping away his lab coat to show he's wearing a jersey and shorts underneath, ready to play. Cue Big "WHAT?!" from the girls and an Oh, Crap! from Ace.