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Kansas City Shuffle

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That ninja might as well leave a lampshade.

"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 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 ball isn't under the first shell... or the second shell... or even the third shell. The ball is in the con man's palm the whole time."
Haley Starshine, The Order of the Stick, #428

The Kansas City Shuffle is an old established name for a con game that depends on the mark believing (correctly) that the con artist is trying to con them, but being incorrect about how it's going to be done. There's a reason it's called a "confidence trick", after all. Right for the Wrong Reasons manipulated to benefit the con artist.

All con-games rely on misdirection to some degree. In most, the con artist wants the victim to believe that it's not a con at all. But in a Kansas City Shuffle, the con artist needs the victim to do three things:

  1. To suspect that they are involved in a con-game.
  2. To think that they've figured out how to beat the con.
  3. To be wrong about what the real con is.

All three elements must be present. If the victim doesn't suspect that they're being conned, it's not a Kansas City Shuffle. If the victim doesn't set themselves up for the real con by doing something to beat the con they think they've spotted, it's not a Kansas City Shuffle. If the victim is right about what the real con is, it's not a Kansas City Shuffle (though it might have been a failed attempt at one).


A con can be complicated without being a Kansas City Shuffle, and not all Kansas City Shuffles are complicated. It's also not a Kansas City Shuffle just because the mark goes into the situation aware that something dishonest is going on: most cons are built around convincing the mark that they have an opportunity to benefit from something a bit under the table. To qualify as a Kansas City Shuffle, the mark has to think they've figured out how the con works and — by attempting to outmaneuver or outsmart it — walk right into the real trap.

The audience may or may not be in on the secret themselves. If they are then it can lead to a buildup of Dramatic Irony but often the truth can be saved to The Reveal after the audience has been immersed in the intricacies of the apparent plot so that the shock to the character and the audience match.


The Trope Namer is the song "The Kansas City Shuffle", which is explained in detail in the movie Lucky Number Slevin. In The United States, Kansas City is one of the largest cities in the State of...Missouri. There is a Kansas City, Kansas literally right across the state line, but it's much smaller, more like a suburb of the Missouri city, and usually not what people are talking about when they mention the Kansas City metropolitan area. Thus, it's a near-perfect physical metaphor: "when they look on one side of the river, you're on the other".

Related (but distinct) cons include Violin Scam (where the grifter tricks the mark into trying to con them). A mark who is Too Clever by Half is likely to take the bait and be conned, while another who is Too Dumb to Fool may unwittingly evade the trap by not noticing the "bait" con.

Compare Infraction Distraction, where a similar ploy is used with offenses, and Two Rights Make a Wrong. Feed the Mole may be a tactic done as part of this strategy. May involve Reverse Psychology. Typically a Batman Gambit, insofar the plotter relies on the pawn's predicted reaction to a piece of misinformation, but may be part of a Xanatos Gambit instead if all reasonable outcomes are beneficial to the con-man, regardless of whether or not the attempt at a Kansas City Shuffle itself succeeds. May be employed by means of a Revealing Cover-Up. A key element of (most) Shell Games.

Warning: Be wary of spoilers. On this page, titles alone can (and will) be Walking Spoilers.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • 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.
  • Bungo Stray Dogs: Done to horrifying effect by Fyodor. He instigates a war between the Port Mafia and the ADA by getting both their leaders infected by a virus which will kill them both if one does not die within forty-eight hours. Instead of attacking the mafia as Fyodor wanted, Ranpo uses his Ultra Deduction to come up with another way out, discovering the Ability user responsible for the virus in Suribachi City. Atsushi and Kunikida go to the man's hideout to force him to remove the virus, only for the confrontation to go horrifically wrong, culminating in a young girl killing herself in front of Kunikida. When they finally catch the culprit, he turns out to be a Red Herring planted by Fyodor, who predicted what Ranpo would do and planned everything out to break the ADA members emotionally.
  • 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.
    • His father does the same. As far as everyone knows, he's ruling The Empire and setting up to Take Over the World. No one knows about the Ragnarok Connection he's cooking up behind the scene as no one has any idea that's his true goal. Lelouch had five minutes to come up with a counter to it.
  • Death Note: Testing the thirteen-day rule: 1) L suspects that Light and Misa are plotting to kill him. 2) L believes that he can expose them first if he tests the notebook and disproves the thirteen-day rule. 3) L declares his intentions to test the notebook... and is promptly killed by Rem. Light was never actually planning to kill L himself, because he knew that if he let L drive him into a corner, Rem would be forced to intervene to protect Misa.
  • 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.
  • In Hunter × Hunter, a minor villain challenges Gon to a "simple" contest: he presents two candles, a long one and a short one, and allows Gon to pick one. Whoever's candle burns out first is the loser, and as other characters point out, it's obvious that there's a trick, but impossible to tell whether the longer candle has been tampered with, or if the lopsided choice is meant to trick Gon into falsely suspecting that it has. It turns out that the villain just has a second pair of candles down the back of his shirt and switches them out so he gives Gon an oil-soaked candle whichever he picks.
  • In Jo Jos Bizarre Adventure Stardust Crusaders, Jotaro uses a set of magnets to trick DIO into thinking he can move while DIO has stopped time. DIO laughs at having figured out the trick so easily... except Jotaro really could move freely all along, and was trying to get DIO's guard down by making him think it was only a trick. By the time DIO figures this out, Jotaro has already put a fist through DIO's torso. DIO outright lampshades it.
    DIO: "The magnet wasn't there to make me think he could move... but to trick me into thinking he couldn't, thus luring me closer!"
  • Kaiji:
    • Kaiji defeats Ohtsuki in Underground Chinchirorin by engaging him in a psychological duel, where the crucial component is making him believe he has seen through Kaiji's ploy.
    • The Bog arc contains a masterful example. Shortly after Kaiji and Sakazaki blow most of their money trying to win the jackpot on a heavily rigged pachinko machine, Sakazaki comes back to try again, but quickly grows frustrated and starts smashing up the machine. Ichijou, the casino manager, assumes this must be a distraction and heads to his office to find Kaiji trying to break into the vault. He laughs at the futile attempt to trick him, subjects Kaiji to some light Fingore as punishment... and doesn't realise their true goal was to sabotage the machine during its repairs until it's already too late.
  • 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.
  • Frequently used in Naruto:
    • During the Land of Waves arc, Sasuke uses the shadow shuriken technique, which involves aiming a shuriken at the enemy, with another shuriken hiding in its shadow. His enemy, Zabuza, sees through this and dodges both shuriken. It turns out he used the shadow shuriken just to distract Zabuza from the actual plan, which was Naruto had transformed into the shadow shuriken.
    • 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 the same arc, during his fight against Temari, Shikamaru throws his kunai-laden jacket into the air. Temari (and Shikamaru's teacher Asuma) assumes this is to draw her attention away from the ground so that he can trap her with the Shadow Imitation technique. His actual goal was to force her into a position from where he can make use of a hole in the ground dug earlier by Naruto to increase the range of his technique.
    • And later during the Sasuke Recovery Mission Arc, the Sound Four place an obvious wire trap that Naruto steps over but just before he puts his foot down Shikamaru spots a second almost invisible wire and stops Naruto from stepping on it. Later when they catch up to the Sound Four it turns out that the Sound Four detected them coming and Shikamaru realizes that there was actually a third wire that was totally invisible.
    • During the Pain's Invasion of Konoha arc, Naruto uses smoke bombs and then sends a Rasenshuriken at Pain's Preta Path through the smoke. The Preta Path, which has the ability to absorb any ninjutsu, absorbs the Rasenshuriken. However, the Rasenshuriken was actually Naruto's transformation jutsu. Since the transformation jutsu gets absorbed, Naruto returns to his original form, and physically holds down the Preta Path. It turns out that this trick was not his actual target, it was a distraction to prevent Pain from noticing a couple of Naruto shadow clones flying with a giant Rasengan each aiming for the Naraka Path.
    • In one of the fillers for the 4th Shinobi War, 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.
  • In Negima! Magister Negi Magi, 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.
  • One Piece:
    • In Alabasta, the Baroque Works Officer Agents need to keep Vivi away from the Rebels so she can't warn them about their organization's plot to use the rebellion to take over the kingdom. They seem a group of cloaked figures all riding Supersonic Ducks like Vivi's Team Pet Karoo. The agents split up to pursue each figure, and only learn too late that it's just the Straw Hats, and the real Vivi was waiting for the Agents to leave their post.
    • As part of their scheme to kill Big Mom, Luffy uses a captured Devil Fruit user to create an army of copies- and then reveals himself amid the chaos. With everyone focused on Luffy, no one is paying much attention to his doubles, allowing Brook, wearing a Paper-Thin Disguise, to sneak around and complete the first step of the assassination.
    • Gold has a caper where they lead the mark to believe that the crew, minus Zoro and plus Guest-Star Party Member Carina, are trying to steal the Heavenly Tribute for the Celestial Dragons so they can buy Zoro's freedom. In reality, it's all a ruse to get Franky to connect the pipe system to seawater to wash away the gold controlled by Tesoro's Devil Fruit powers.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In the Touhou Project print work, Silent Sinner in Blue, Yukari pulls off a spectacular Kansas City Shuffle to stump Eirin and the Watatsukis. Specifically, she manipulates Remilia into invading the moon with a highly visible rocket. Eirin warns the Watatsukis about this, while also warning them that Yukari herself was going to try to infiltrate the moon using that as a cover, believing that was Yukari's plan. Eirin is correct in figuring out Yukari's actions- but it turns out that Yukari herself was a decoy for the real thief, Yuyuko, to infiltrate the moon and steal a treasure.

    Board Games 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • There is a rule in Scrabble that you can "challenge" any word you suspect of being a made-up word. If the word is not in the dictionary you've agreed to use, it must be taken off the board and not scored. If, however, it is in the chosen dictionary, the challenger loses their turn or a point penalty. Normally you'd want to bluff your opponent into thinking a phony word is real, but some tournament players have been known to make their real words look phony—if the opponent takes the bait, they get not only the score for the word, but an additional advantage.

    Card Games 
  • 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).
    • Similar games include variations on Liar's Dice and other such dice games, such as Mia.
    • The card game The Great Dalmuti operates on very similar mechanics, with the added incentive that victory or defeat enhances or demotes players' position around the table. The game is built specifically for tactics like the Kansas City Shuffle.
  • 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, leaving two lands, one of which is an Island, untapped is a strong signal that you're saving the mana for a Counterspell, which will make the other player think twice about playing a powerful card lest you just No-Sell it... which, if you don't' actually have a Counterspell handy, can buy you a few precious turns to get your own combos out.
  • 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.

    Comic Books 
  • In Batman Eternal, the true Evil Plan revolves around one of these. Cluemaster, aware that C-List Fodder like himself were Beneath Suspicion, brought on the likes of others in similar situations such as Lock-Up, Ratcatcher, Prankster, and Signalman to cause relatively low level chaos around Gotham to increase distress, while sending out invitations to A-list villains like Hush, The Riddler, and Ra's al Ghul, knowing that everyone, even Batman, would see those as the more likely causes of the issues over looking at the C-listers right in front of him. It actually works up until Lincoln March gives Cluemaster a Slashed Throat for trying to become more than a "nobody."
  • 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 one issue of Marvel Adventures Spider-Man, Spidey takes out Hydro-Man with one of these. After following Spidey into an empty warehouse on the dock, Hydro-Man prepares to attack, only to stop when he notices that Spidey's holding perfectly still. Suspecting a trap, Hydro-Man scans the warehouse, finds another Spidey, lunges at that...and gets zapped into unconsciousness. The first Spidey was the real one and the second was a web-dummy rigged up with electrical cables.
  • In Star Wars Tales #2, 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.
  • Tintin: In The Blue Lotus, after Tintin is broken out of a Shanghai prison on the eve of his execution, the Japanese authorities raise the alarm and intensify their watch at the city gates. When a Chinese cart loaded with rice sacks approaches, the suspicious guards run their bayonets through the sacks. Shortly after this, a Japanese armored car rolls up and tells the guards that Tintin escaped by hiding in one of the sacks. The lieutenant is confused as to how Tintin could have escaped this way. He didn't, of course: he was driving the armored car.

    Fan Works 
  • In But Doctor, I Am Pagliacci, Jack (the former Joker) proves that Sanity Has Advantages by pulling a beautiful one off on the Justice League. Superman (now evil) knows that Jack's goal is to Set Right What Once Went Wrong, so Jack uses the threat of time-travel as a distraction (as he's already realized that he can't do anything before removing Superman as a threat), sending allies to steal various time-travel devices. This distracts the Justice League from his real goal- stealing the Eradicator AI from the Fortress of Solitude, and keeps them barking up the wrong tree for a while while Jack puts his subsequent plans into action.
  • During the second book of Child of the Storm, Harry and his friends are trying to rescue Carol from Dracula. However, the villain of the piece has already creamed Harry and his allies in a straight fight. So instead, Harry borrows power from Jean and Maddie to pretend to be the Dark Phoenix, destroying his castle and leaving him paralyzed with fear. Dracula figures it out after a few minutes...but doesn't realize until too late that Jean-Paul has evacuated her and the Avengers are on the way.
  • Naruto's trickier traps in A Drop of Poison cause someone to notice one "trap" and avoid it, triggering the real trap. Examples include a step that makes a click when stepped on with quick drying glue in the spot someone is most likely to jump towards to avoid the "trap", and several "explosive tags" that are actually just random marks on a piece of chakra charged paper which are spotted then maneuvered around right into actual traps.
  • 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 this Final Fantasy VII fanfiction, Rufus Shinra and Godo Kisaragi are holding a tea ceremony, to be broadcast live as a publicity stunt. Yuffie is none too happy about this, and tries to sabotage the ceremony by stealing the special tea leaves while they're being transported. One wild goose chase with Cloud and the Turks later, she appears to succeed... until the Turks are informed that their mission was a success. Godo anticipated Yuffie's interference, and quietly held a ceremony with Rufus some time in advance. That ceremony was recorded and scheduled to be aired as 'live', making Yuffie strike at the wrong people at the wrong time.
  • During the Rating Game between Rias and Riser in Hero Academia D×D, Yuuto sets up an obvious trap that Riser's pawns trigger and easily get rid of only to then end up triggering another trap that leaves them completely defenseless.
  • In One Eye Full Of Wisdom, a large part of nearly every fight is trying (and often failing) to figure out what an opponent's bluff is.
    • Since Zabuza isn't sure whether the Tazuna at the bridge or at his house is the real one, he goes after one and sends Haku after the other. Turns out the real Tazuna was back at Konoha.
    • Tenten is too afraid to go into melee with Sakura because that's Sakura's specialty but also afraid to stay at ranged because the girl looks so confident. She learns too late that "Sakura" is actually a summons under henge and the real Sakura is laying a trap beneath her feet.
    • Sasuke engages Kankuro in taijutsu until he hears a wooden creak from him, causing Sasuke to realize he's fighting Kankuro's puppet. Sasuke holds a knife to the bundle hiding Kankuro, only for it to launch several kunai at him as Kankuro had hidden pieces of wood in his outfit to make Sasuke think he was a puppet.
  • 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.
  • Soundbite from the One Piece fanfic This Bites! ate the Noise-Noise Fruit, which lets him throw and manipulate his voice to superhuman levels. During a long battle against the Unluckies, Cross and Soundbite hide in one of the two bathrooms in a local bar. As Miss Friday is trying to guess where they're hiding, Soundbite loudly sneezes. Miss Friday then opens fire on the other bathroom, giving Cross time to escape. As Soundbite guessed, the Unluckies learned by then to stop trusting their ears when fighting Soundbite. So when Soundbite made the obvious sound in their hiding spot, Miss Thirteen assumed he was trying to misdirect her and would be in the room where there wasn't a noise.

    Films — Animation 
  • 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.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 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.
    • 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.
      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: ...
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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...
  • 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.
  • Ferris Bueller's Day Off: Ferris Bueller's plan to get his girlfriend Sloane out of school works like this: he has his friend Cameron pose as her father and call Dean Ed Rooney, asking to excuse her since her grandmother just died. Rooney doesn't buy it, but thinks the fake Mr. Peterson is Ferris himself and prepares to set a trap, while in the process repeatedly saying a lot of extremely rude, insulting things that it would be really bad to say to the real Mr. Peterson. Then Ferris calls on the other line...
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. It is noted to be akin to a Dangerous Forbidden Technique, because if the thief slips for even a moment, the target will realize the trick. And then every person in the dream attacks the thief. Cobb had even tried and failed it once before.
  • In the 2003 movie Johnny English, Pascal Sauvage toys around with 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.
  • Averted and lampshaded in Kiss Me Deadly. After Hammer and his mechanic inspect a car delivered to Hammer by someone unknown early in the film, they quickly find a bomb. Hammer says it was the one they were meant to find, and looking further they find the real bomb, set to go off only when the car reaches high speed, i.e. after its recipient was at ease having found the first bomb.
  • Lucky Number Slevin uses the trope by name when explaining the 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.
  • 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 MI6 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.
  • 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 Lulz 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.
    • A love of Kansas City Shuffles runs in the family, as Ocean's 8 has a similar trick. Tess Ocean organizes a team to steal the priceless Toussaint Diamond, set into a necklace, at the Met Gala. The cops and a private investigator familiar with her ways immediately suspect the truth and try to pin the theft on her...but as they're struggling to do so, they fail to notice that Tess's real target was every single jewel from the Met's new Elizabethan fashion exhibit. Notably, most of Tess's squad also fell for this con—everyone but Lou (who pulled off the heist with help from Yen) and Amita (who made fake gems to replace the real ones) thought the Toussaint was the target, and are shocked when Tess reveals the scope of their scheme.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Reindeer Games has a big one. Rudy is posing as his late cellmate Nick (killed in a fight) to be with Nick's girlfriend, Ashley. Ashley's brother, Gabriel, forces "Nick" to help his gang rob the casino Nick used to work at. Rudy goes along with it as he realizes that if they don't need "Nick," Gabriel will kill him and Ashley. Here's where the Shuffle begins...
    • During an escape, Nick overhears Gabriel and Ashley talking as it turns out they're not siblings but lovers who are using "Nick" and planning to kill him anyway when this is done. Rudy plays that he's still in the dark and Ashley loves him so he can figure out a way to sabotage the robbery.
    • The robbery turns into a mess with only Rudy (having his identity exposed), Gabriel and Ashley getting away. At which point, Ashley shoots Gabriel and a very much alive Nick shows up. Ashley is his real girlfriend who was using Gabriel and his gang to rob the casino and Rudy/fake-Nick suckered to take the fall while the two run off with the money.
  • Rendezvous With Death: The hero, Hsin, is assigned to undertake a potential Suicide Mission to deliver a mysterious package from an Imperial Minister to the capital city, on the condition that he doesn't attempt to uncover the package's contents at any point of his journey. After travelling a long, dangerous and perilious route, surviving assasination attempts and bandit attacks from villains intending to seize the package for themselves, Hsin reaches the capital, only to find out the package to be bricks and paper - his role in the mission is a mere decoy, for his rival, Master Gu, who is allied with the Minister, to deliver the real package to the Capital city for a promotion. Needless to say, Hsin is furious at the revelation.
  • 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. This wouldn't have worked, though, had Todd not already had two strikes against him for eating gelato ("It's milk and eggs, bitch") and chicken ("Chicken's not vegan?"). The half-n-half makes it a third strike.
  • 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.
  • Superman II: Superman, at the Fortress of Solitude, renders Zod, Ursa and Non powerless He tells Luthor of a molecule powered by the rays of the red sun; Luthor warns Zod not to go inside. 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. What Luthor doesn't know (until he find out later) is that Superman can remotely control the molecular chamber and where the red solar rays occur in the Fortress of Solitude. As soon as General Zod demands 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 then reveals that he was aware of Luthor's treachery, despite Luthor's insistence that he was helping him.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    Victoria: No audience is that gullible! They'll know he's a phony!
    Toddy: Exactly. They'll know he's a phony.
  • 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 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.

  • 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."
    • Variation: "Wheelbarrows."
    • Or "Cars" with an older person doing the smuggling.
    • An older version of this relates to the Sufi Trickster Mulla Nasruddin (also called Juha or Goha in the Arab World). In his case he was carrying bags of straw on the donkeys that he was actually smuggling.
    • A short story in an issue of Dark Horse Comics' Star Wars Tales has a young Han Friggin' Solo pulling this by smuggling starships.
    • Someone badly disguised as a farmer tries this with a cart full of fresh grain in Edgedancer. After checking for refugees and valuables, the customs official fines him for stealing and smuggling grain from fields abandoned by fleeing refugees.
  • Another joke involving border crossings or checkpoints inverts the trope (i.e., the person who thinks he is being conned is not actually being conned, but finds evidence that "proves" the con—to him, anyway):
    • Someone comes up to the checkpoint driving a Volkswagen Beetle and is stopped by an official. They get out of the car to open the front, since that's where the trunk of a Beetle is, but the official tells them they're not that easily fooled, and despite protestations that that's where the trunk is, they nevertheless follow the instructions and open the back. "Aha!" says the official. "You have stolen a motor. And you must have just stolen it, since it's still running!"
  • Bob was having sex with his mistress. He noticed that he had stayed longer than he expected and got stressed. Took a piece of chalk, smeared his fingers and rushed out the door. At home, Alice was waiting for him. "Where have you been?" she asks. "I've worked overtime, you know" replied Bob. "Show me your hands," she exclaimed. She took one look at his hands and screamed, "you bastard, you spent the whole evening playing pool again!"
    • Sometimes the joke is told with the husband actually admitting that he was having an affair instead of making up the cover story with the wife still falling for the chalk mislead.
  • One joke (sometimes posed as a puzzle) involves a woman from a war-torn country trying to escape to its peaceful neighbor. A long bridge connects the two—it takes eight minutes to cross, but a sentry posted in the exact middle of the bridge comes out to check for passerby every five minutes. The woman starts walking, then, after four minutes have passed, turns around. The sentry emerges and sees her heading toward the warring country, and so demands her papers. Since she doesn't have any, he thinks that she's pulling a con and forces her to "go back" to the other nation, thus assisting in her escape.

  • 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.
  • An African Millionaire by Grant Allen is about a conman who repeatedly targets a corrupt mining magnate with a series of increasingly elaborate scams. It doesn't take long for the mark to start expecting and looking out for the next con — at which point there's a con that depends on him thinking he's spotted the next con and taking certain actions to defeat it that actually play right into the conman's hands.
  • 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.
  • Taurau pulls one on Sabrina in Birthright (2017) during a game of Catur. He fools her into thinking he's using a beginner's strategy. Being a more advanced player, Sabrina immediately starts playing the counter-strategy—which Taurau's real strategy is designed to counter. The game is used to foreshadow Ko-Kraham pulling a similar strategy.
  • If a hand in any part of Bridge in the Menagerie is shown from the viewpoint of Papa the Greek, and his opponent is the Hideous Hog, the reader can be certain that the Hog is running a hustle against the Greek in some fashion. Both are expert players that know all sort of clever tricky plays, but the Hog is very consistently the winner at being able to predict which tricky play is actually happening between the two. Part of the fun for the reader is trying to figure out the Hog's actual hand before the play of the hand is finished.
  • 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 
  • In the Hercule Poirot novel Cards on the Table, Poirot asks one of the murder suspects a leading question, trying to get her to admit that she knew where the murder weapon was before the crime was committed. She deftly claims not to have noticed the weapon, whereupon Poirot nods and smiles and asks her to help him pick out some appropriate presents for his nieces back in Belgium. Poirot has no nieces back in Belgium; by asking the suspect to help choose presents - some of which have disappeared by the time she's done - he tricks her into demonstrating she's a compulsive thief, and thus reveals her motive for committing a previous murder.
  • 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.
  • Rysn and the Sleepless set up one at the end of Dawnshard. They tell the general public that Rysn managed to defeat the challenges the Sleepless set on Aimia, winning the Soulcasters that the Sleepless had been guarding for millennia. They then tell the inner circle something much closer to the truth: that the Sleepless agreed to give Rysn the Soulcasters in exchange for training at imitating humans. Anyone digging for secrets will find that story, and stop before uncovering the real secret: that Rysn has become one of the four Dawnshards, and that the Sleepless are protecting her against anyone who would seek to abuse her power.
  • 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 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.
  • Discworld:
    • 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.
    • Commander Vimes created an undercover Watchman program, and enlisted Corporal Nobbs and Sergeant Detritus, neither of whom can act. In Maskerade, they attend the opera, and onlookers lambast their obvious disguises—unaware that the real undercover cop infiltrated the opera house ages ago. As Andre points out, no police presence at all would be suspicious, but an obvious police presence lures criminals into a false sense of security.
    • 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.
      • Gilt is using a variant. The board of the Clacks know he helped them steal the company and that the way he's running it is intended to milk it of profits in the short term; this keeps them from realizing that he's robbing them blind.
  • 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 then having them destroyed without having to lift a finger herself. And nearly dying in the process due to interference by Cowl's Outsider ghouls, but hey, no plan is perfect, right?
    • 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 character 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.
    • In Skin Game, Mab charges Harry with repaying a debt to Nicodemus Archleone by helping him steal the Holy Grail from Hades' vault in the Underworld, along with a crew of other people Nicodemus hired for the job. After setting it up, Mab tells Harry that it's a setup: she only intends for Harry to help him get the Grail; she never said anything about what Harry would do after he got his hands on it. Both Harry and Nicodemus figure that the other is going to betray him as soon as Nicodemus obtains the Grail, so Harry asks for a second person to watch his back, while Nicodemus has secretly given Coins to Hannah Ascher and the Genoskwa (Lasciel and Ursiel, respectively), and hired Goodman Grey for the secondary reason of helping him kill Harry when it comes time. However, it is later revealed that Harry figured out that Grey was the only person Nicodemus could hire to get access to the location where the Way to Hades' vault could be opened, and secretly hired him first, with the purpose of turning on Nicodemus after he got the Grail. The resulting brouhaha leaves Nicodemus defeated and alone, with Deirdre dead by his hand (to get through the Gate of Blood), his power broken, and his reputation destroyed. Sure, he got the Grail, but he lost the item he really wanted: the knife that Christ was stabbed with while he was on the Cross, along with three other artifacts. It turns out the whole plot was a scheme by Mab and John Marcone, with Uriel and Hades' help, to get back at Nicodemus for the events of Small Favor.
    • Battle Ground: It's revealed right before the epilogue that the entire battle between Ethniu and the Formor against Mab, the Accorded Nations, and the people of Chicago was a huge example of this being played on Harry himself. The plan was to keep the latter utterly distracted by placing every person he cares about in mortal danger so he wouldn't realize that taking Justine as his guest to Demonreach so she could see Thomas would allow Nemesis (who is possessing her) to use her as a Trojan Horse to accomplish what the Outsiders failed to do in Cold Days: bring The End of the World as We Know It by releasing Demonreach's apocalyptic prisoners. It's only thanks to Harry connecting the dots before he and Justine could arrive at the island that the worst didn't come to pass.
  • 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.
  • Gentleman Bastard: 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 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.
  • Johannes Cabal the Necromancer: Having fallen one short in his wager with Satan to collect 100 souls in exchange for the return of his own, Johannes tries to renegotiate with the box of 99 signed contracts. Satan expects a hustle, immediately sees through his offer of "the box", and insists on the contents of the box, which Cabal reluctantly accepts. Only later does Satan realize that Johannes had already removed the two soul contracts he actually wanted.
  • Emotional Allomancy in Mistborn either amplifies or weakens existing emotions in the target, and are commonly used to influence others. However, if the mark knows that they're being influenced, they'll probably reject any suggestions the Allomancer would make, which would also open the mark to reverse psychology, or reverse reverse psychology. Breeze, a known Soother, keeps his marks guessing on what he's doing.
    • Wayne pulls one on a gondolier in the sequel Wax and Wayne. He wants to ride to a certain part of the city, so he dresses and acts like a rich lord, asking for the gondolier's service for the whole day for an inflated fee. His first request is to go to a bad part of the city, and he lets the accent slip from posh to slightly thuggish. The gondolier suspects that he's a mugger in disguise setting him up for a robbery, and quickly drops him off at the nearest port before rushing off—not bothering to ask for the fare.
    • This is how the Bands of Mourning are guarded. At the center of the Temple of Doom, behind a hallway filled with traps is an ornate throne room. It appears to have been ransacked years ago, but investigating reveals that the treasure was never there. Falling into a safe pitfall trap reveals a second, plain chamber with a simple set of Bands, tricking you into thinking that you were too smart to take the decoy. Those Bands are also fake. The trick wasn't to make you stop looking, it was to make you explore the deadly temple in the first place. The real "Bands" are Hidden in Plain Sight right outside of the temple: it's the spearhead on the statue. Not for nothing was the builder the greatest Con Man in the Final Empire...
  • President Snow pulls off a version of this in Mockingjay, the third book of The Hunger Games series. 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.
  • 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".
  • 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.
  • Ranger's Apprentice: After challenging Deparnieux to a duel, Halt practices shooting arrows through a helmet balanced on a lance as Horace rides toward him at full gallop. The two see Deparnieux watching them at it, and Halt does stick to that method in the first part of the duel. Deparnieux, an experienced fighter, changes from a full charge to a slower approach with his shield up to deflect arrows from his face, smugly confident he has thwarted Halt's plan. Then the ranger lets fly with a special arrow designed to pierce armor and hits him in the chest before he knows what's happening.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Sir Apropos of Nothing: Apropos' army advances on a fort held by the Mad King Meander and sees Meander singing alone atop the wall, apparently repeating the same Empty Fort Gambit that Apropos himself had helped him pull off in the previous book. Delighted that Meander has apparently lost the last of his wits along with the last of his army, Apropos orders his troops towards the gates... and Meander's army, camouflaged in the mud of the battlefield, rise up behind them.
  • The Sister Verse and the Talons of Ruin is essentially a massive sequence of these, mostly revolving around the destruction of the wall of Yath, where the resident Eldritch Abominations try and bait each other into making fatal decisions.
  • The seventh volume of The Unexplored Summon://Blood-Sign is essentially an extended example of this. Kyousuke meets and contracts with Aoi, to use her to summon a being capable of defeating the White Queen. However, it turns out that the Queen disguised herself as Aoi, and she launches a surprise attack that rips off Kyousuke's right arm. But it then turns out that Kyousuke realized the deception, and hid a fake arm in his sleeve, anticipating this attack. He's able to complete his summoning and seemingly destroy the Queen. And then it's revealed that the Queen didn't just manage to survive, but this was her plan all along. She deliberately allowed Kyousuke to create and summon something capable of defeating her, because that being would inevitably become an even greater threat to the world than she was. This leaves Kyousuke with no choice but to work with her to defeat what he's unleashed. Not only that, but the real reason she disguised herself as Aoi was to test if she and Kyousuke could work together effectively... which also succeeds.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the 30 Rock episode "Game Over", Jack plans to expose Kaylee Hooper, the granddaughter of Kabletown CEO Hank Hooper, as ineligible 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.
  • B.A Baracus in The A-Team becomes Genre Savvy in one episode when he gets very suspicious about being handed a burger shortly after hearing about the option of flying. He forces Murdock to give him his burger, the latter biting into B.A's burger and falling asleep because of all the drugs they put in it. B.A is satisfied of this outcome... only to then fall asleep after eating Murdock's burger since that one was drugged in the first place and Murdock was actually faking it.
    • B.A later goes through a complex version when he repeatedly swaps burgers with his teammates like in the previous example. He does impressively well... only for him to fall asleep again along with Hannibal implying that he flopped at the last swap since he deduced that the last burger expected to be drugged was the one he had in the first place.
    • When Hannibal, B.A. and Face are going to face a military firing squad, Murdock shows up at the island prison disguised as a priest. It doesn't take long for them to stumble onto his identity as the priest Murdock waylaid shows up, head bandaged, to forgive Murdock. What the soldiers don't know is this "priest" is really the team's new ally Frankie and with them focusing on Murdock, he's able to swap the bullets in the execution's guns for blanks to set up an escape.
  • 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.
  • Happens a few times on Battle Creek.
    • The cops interrogate a brother and sister on how they murdered a woman who could have taken away their fortune, emphasizing they know the pair still have the bloody clothes from the murder somewhere. The two refuse to confess and Milt and Russ find them at their mansion burning the bloody clothes. The two smugly say the cops have no evidence but Milt and Russ grin they have something better: a confession as what other explanation is a jury going to accept as to why two rich people would be burning their clothes in the middle of the day right after talking to the cops about a murder?
    • When a young girl is found with a brick of cocaine, the gang realizes it came from her uncle cop, who stole it from a bust. Guz goes to the cop to tell him they know what he did and to turn himself in to help his niece. Convinced she's wearing a wire, the cop refuses to admit it. He then goes to his niece to press her on being quiet about it all...unaware she's wearing a wire.
    • When Russ' con artist mother shows up, it's almost impossible to count the number of shuffles going on.
  • 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.
  • Black Sails: Flint pulls one early in season 2 to regain his command after Dufresne's mutiny. He approaches Dufresne privately and warns him not to take a popular and quick trade route home, as they are likely to run into merchant vessels and the crew will want to raid them, which, with their numbers depleted from previous battles, they are in no in condition for. However, Dufresne decides that with their newly captured Spanish warship, they have nothing to fear from a merchant vessel, and Flint is merely trying to trick him into avoiding an easy and profitable victory that will win him popularity with the crew and cement him as the new Captain. He takes the trade route, and sure enough, they come across a vessel to plunder. But the battle goes poorly, largely due to Dufresne's lack of experience in command, and humiliates him while allowing Flint the perfect opportunity to step in and play the hero, earning the trust of the crew back. After the crew votes for Flint to return as Captain, Dufresne muses that this was what Flint had intended all along, and wonders whether they would have even considered taking the trade route home in the first place had Flint not advised against it.
  • Blake's 7. In "Gold", our heroes take part in The Caper to rob a spaceship shipping gold from the planet Zerok. The gold has been atomically altered to prevent theft, but the inside man claims he has a contact that can convert the gold back to normal. However the Seven discover that Servalan is behind the whole scheme, so the Seven force her to exchange 10 billion in Zerok currency for the useless black gold. Then they discover that Zerok has just joined the Federation — Servalan can now get her gold converted legally, while all Zerok currency has been declared invalid, leaving our heroes with worthless paper.
  • 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.
  • Buffyverse:
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • Cheers has Harry the Hat, played by Harry Anderson who himself was a magician and con artist expert, who did several cons. The biggest one was "Pick a Con... Any Con", with Reid Shelton as a con man grifting Coach. The episode has a reveal that Harry and the con man had teamed up to con Sam and the regulars. It's turned on its head when it's revealed that it was Harry and Coach who had played an even longer con on the con man.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Doctor Who:
    • "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 a 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. After all, to the collected villains of the show, he is the monster they could never defeat.
    • "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.
  • In one episode of Frasier, the titular psychiatrist gets involved in a prank war with Bulldog, the sports commentator for the radio station where they work. Frasier naturally concocts overly-complicated, psychologically-based schemes, such as creating subconscious pathological fear in Bulldog via a red balloon appearing randomly. Frasier's dad Martin and producer Roz endlessly mock him for his ideas, and decide to team up with Bulldog to scare Frasier with a prank involving zombies. The joke goes off without a hitch, and Frasier is terrified... until one of the actors they hired actually drops dead. Martin and Roz panic, while Frasier grabs a walkie-talkie to call for help... or rather, announce the greatest prank ever. He figured out that Martin and Roz secretly joined forces with Bulldog, and the two created their own alliance to get back at them.
  • The Golden Girls episode "The Case of the Libertine Belle" features this. The girls participate in a murder mystery weekend with the staff of Blanche's museum, and Dorothy, who loves crime novels, proves to be quite adept at solving the phony cases. Later, Blanche's boss is found dead in her room, making her the main suspect in an actual crime. Dorothy insists it's just another mock-murder for the guests to figure out, until she puts a mirror under the man's nose and sees that it's not fogging up, which convinces her that he's dead for real. The actual cops are called in, and just as Blanche is about to be taken away, Dorothy notices a flaw in Blanche's rival Posey's testimony and exposes her as the true culprit. The cops put the cuffs on Posey...and then Blanche's boss comes downstairs, revealing that it was all another staged crime. As for the mirror: it turns out that Rose, of all people, secretly sprayed it with defogger (at the request of the mystery club's staff) to make the corpse appear dead. Why? To get back at Blanche for lying about borrowing a pair of her earrings, of course. Beware the Nice Ones indeed.
    • Dorothy and Sophia inadvertently create one in another episode. Rose has trouble sleeping, so Sophia offers to make her a "Sicilian sleeping potion." Dorothy figures out the real cause of Rose's insomnia (she's confused caffeine with calcium and has been downing it every night), but Sophia still whips up the potion, and Dorothy takes a sip—then immediately falls over on the bed. Sophia is thrilled, as it was apparently a fake ("I gotta remember what I put in this thing!") and runs out of the room, at which points Dorothy gets up—she was faking. Then, as the episode ends, Dorothy actually keels over, fast asleep. It's not clear if Sophia's comment was part of the con, or if she genuinely didn't know that the potion would work.
  • How I Met Your Mother. After Barney goads Lily and 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 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.
  • 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".
  • 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 the show Joy of Life, this happens several times, between several parties/all the chessmasters running about.
    • Xiao En is convinced that Chen Pingping withdrawing his protection from Fan Xian's diplomatic party is a trick to get him to kill Fan Xian who he suspects based on hints of information fed to him by Chen Pingping is his grandson, stolen away and brainwashed to be an Overwatch Council agent. It's really a trick to help convince him that Fan Xian is his grandson, thus tricking him into spilling his secret to Fan Xian.
    • In Northern Qi, Shen Zhong thinks Fan Xian's plan to loop Northern Qi into an embezzelment scheme with the Qing imperial treasury is an attempt to scam them. It's really an attempt to ruin his favor with the empress by manipulating him into loudly voicing disapproval of a publicly popular venture.
  • 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 the cunning and misdirection he's learnt. He performs a fairly basic card trick that the magician is well familiar with. He sees through straight away, but then looks around to find that they're sitting in what now resembles a Mexican restaurant.
  • This is common on Leverage.
    • For example, it is 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 Three-Card Monte Job" shows that Nate learned it from his father and the mark of the episode, Jimmy Ford. As a child, Jimmy would keep challenging Nate to find the queen in the titular game in order to teach him this concept. In the present day Jimmy is working with the Russian mob to stage three bank robberies so that while the police are scrambling to respond the robberies, the Russians can retrieve their seized goods from te evidence locker, and Jimmy can retrieve the ledger of the Irish mob he used to work for. Nate pulls one back on him when it turns out that instead of killing him or letting him go free, he called up the mob in advance and told them Jimmy was planning to blackmail them, forcing Jimmy out of town in order to escape the mob now out for his blood.
    • "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 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. He also schools a geek on the concept of Rage Quit (since Hardison styled his con like a videogame).
    • 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."
  • Lexx "A Midsummer's Nightmare" is a slight subversion. Actually no con was ever planned (unless Titania planned the whole course of events in advance). But given that the Lexxverse is full of idiots, rather not. The arrogance and paranoia of Oberon made him believe he was being hoodwinked, and the plot unfolded like a straight example of the trope: All three conditions were met, and Oberon married Titania-in-the-body-of-Titania-who-he-thought-was-guaranteedly-not-Titania. A case of royally outgambitting yourself.
  • The Lizzie Mcguire episode "Lizzie's Eleven" involved Lizzie recruiting her friends and family to swap out Kate's planned yearbook photo array (which excluded every picture of Lizzie) for the more accurate one (which included eleven pictures of Lizzie, to justify the title drop). Right at the end, Lizzie, running the DJ booth, accidentally announces Kate's movements to the room, alerting her to the plan, and Lizzie's mother (who'd been excluded from the con) steps in to give Kate her photo disk back and chide Lizzie for being silly. Kate walks away smirking at how she bested Lizzie, then it reveals that Lizzie's mom used her Chekhov's Skill at slight-of-hand to swap out the disks, meaning she handed Kate Lizzie's disk. Though it isn't exactly clear why the subterfuge was necessary. As far as the audience could tell, they'd already swapped out the disks without Kate being remotely aware anything was happening. Presumably, if Lizzie hadn't alerted her, she still would have wound up with Lizzie's disk anyway. Meaning it was basically to trick the audience into thinking Lizzie got caught and complete the Shout-Out (or to make her mother feel included since she felt her talent with cards was being wasted).
  • Lost:
    • 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.
  • 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. After Roger Sterling makes a point of displaying what he thinks of the Japanese (not very much) to the visiting Honda executives, Don decides that by way of damage control, he needs to make sure Chaough doesn't use this to sail to victory. Don thus 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 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • This has happened more than once on Monk, where other crimes or happenings are being perpetrated to distract the police from the real problem. In one episode Monk is forced to work with FBI agents who are investigating the possible start of a serial killer, who has killed one man with six different methods and threatened to do so again in 36 hours. After Monk gets over his feelings of inadequacy over not being tech-savvy (not helped by the FBI agents being arrogant jerks), Monk reasons out in fairly short order that the "Six-Way Killer" murder was a distraction from the original murder he had been investigating at the start of the episode, and that he was forced by the FBI agents to ignore because they thought the second one was more important. Turns out, the original murder victim had been killed by her date after he tried to rape her, and he needed to keep the police occupied for 36 hours so the special dessert they had ordered would deteriorate in her system and be useless as evidence to implicate him. He committed the Six-Way murder to start the serial killer scare necessary to distract the police. How did Monk figure this out? Because he was bothered by the fact that the Six-Way Killer had set such an arbitrary time limit instead of 24 hours or naming a specific date and time.
  • On Modern Family, Jay, Gloria and Cam are an "Alliance" to try to get the Pritchetts on board with their plans. Each of them sabotages various efforts of their spouses and, in retaliation, they're cut out of the plans to vote on a family trip to Italy. At which point, the Alliance smirk at the camera on how they've been secretly manipulating their spouses with subtle hints to pick Italy for a trip.
  • In 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.
  • 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.
  • Penn & Teller:
    • The 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 that it's a "sucker" trick (see above), i.e. that 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.
    • In one episode there's a sword swallower who, well, swallows a sword (first a straight one, then a curvy one). In perhaps a reverse case of the trope, he didn't win. He was very good but Penn, who had done a sword swallowing act himself in the past, explained that while he was extremely impressed by the guy's technique, it wasn't a "trick" because he actually did everything he said he was doing and there was no illusion or sleight-of-hand involved at all.
  • 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...
  • 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.
  • This becomes the main plot in the Cult Classic mini-series Profit. Jack, a fellow employee and Profit's boss and Joanne, a private investigator Jack had an affair with, figure out early that Jim Profit isn't who he claims to be and might be very dangerous. However, instead of trying to prove to them that he is innocent, Jim Profit plays on their suspicions by making himself look like the monster they think he is so they won't discover his real plan until its too late. It works and it results in Profit getting everything he wants in the end.
  • The first season finale of Sneaky Pete has Marius pulling off a brilliant one on crime boss Vince. He organizes a big poker game with a known Indian tech millionaire. Vince becomes convinced the guy is a ringer and the game is rigged and calls Marius on it with guns pointed. The millionaire's bodyguard pulls out his phone and announces the man is a protected informant, he's an FBI agent and has just called reinforcements. Vince openly laughs on how "this guy is dedicated to the act" and shoots him in the chest. At which point, the man reveals he has a Bulletproof Vest on as he shoots Vince. As he falls, Vince hears police sirens and then agents pouring in. Too late, Vince realizes he just shot an actual federal agent which means a minimum of 20 years in prison.
    • Marius' brother is thrown as he thought the guy was a fake too. Marius tells him that the millionaire was totally for real but he knew Vince would be expecting a con. And as it happens, his team took advantage of the chaos of the raid to rob Vince's safe of millions while he heads to jail.
    • The season 2 finale has Marius pulling off the heist of a buffalo statue supposedly containing $11 million stolen years ago by Maggie. Complicating things are a pair of FBI agents threatening his gang unless they help take down the vicious mobster who wants his money back. It turns out the money is not inside...which Marius had already figured out but uses the confusion to take out the mobster himself while his crew locate the boxes containing the real money from a storage facility. Then, the FBI agents are revealed to be con artists themselves as Marius was using them as cover to make the mobster think he was under coercion. But when going over the money, Marius discovers that instead of hundred dollar bills, the cash in the boxes are merely $1. He calls up Maggie who reveals she knew all along the "agents" weren't real and was using Marius to get the money...which she destroys as revenge for the mobster killing her lover. Marius' gang isn't happy that this shuffle turns what should have been a huge score into a mere pittance.
  • 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.
  • 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 the Dominion protests its innocence, the more the Romulans will believe they're guilty, because it's exactly what the Romulans would have done in their place!
    • In a more minor case, in "Sacrifice of Angels", Quark and Ziyal go to the jail cells to supposedly deliver a hasperat souffle to a set of prisoners. The guard suspects a Jail Bake and begins examining it closely — giving Ziyal a chance to slip in behind him unnoticed and inject him with a hypospray, knocking him out.
  • In the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Think Tank", the titular consortium offers to find a solution to Voyager's conflict with the Hazari in exchange for Seven of Nine joining them. It turns out they'd actually been playing Voyager and the Hazari against each other to that end. The crew are able to get the Hazari on side after learning this, but they know the Think Tank won't give up trying to acquire Seven, so they have the Hazari stage an attack on Voyager as a pretext for Seven to enter the Think Tank's ship. The Think Tank's representative Kurros figures out that the Hazari's "attack" is a ruse and accesses Seven's implants in order to learn what she plans to do. It turns out Kurros was supposed to see through the first layer of deception, while the real deception was making him think it was it was prudent to establish a link to Seven. Voyager sends a signal through her, severing the telepathic link between the Think Tank's members and bringing its ship out of subspace, leaving it vunerable to the Hazari.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • The Walking Dead: The main cast is in their RV on a desperate mission to get the ailing Maggie to Hilltop Colony for medical aid (their own medic has recently been slain, and Hilltop's medic is an obstetrician and thus the only one who can treat her anyway). En-route they're confronted by the villainous Saviors, who demand they surrender themselves. The group backs up and tries another route to Hilltop, only to find a larger group of Saviors waiting for them. Several more attempts fail as the group is harassed by progressively larger groups of enemies. As night is falling, Eugene posits that the Saviors don't know how many people are actually in their RV, and suggests that while the others take Maggie to Hilltop on foot, he will drive the RV to distract the Saviors. The others flee into the woods, only for them to end up captured less than an hour later, as this was exactly what the Saviors were hoping for. The group runs right into about a hundred assembled Saviors and see Eugene has already been captured as well. They're forced to their knees and ordered to submit to Negan, who follows up by killing two of their group and torturing them into submission.

  • The description of this very trope used to incorporate a poem about it from the point-of-view of a certain Discredited Meme.
    My name is Candle Jack, I don't write in black, it's part of my Kansas City Shuffle
    They call my name, but with rope and a duffel sack, they're calling for trouble
    See, you fear shadows, but I'm too bright
    I hit submit after you type
    So one quickstep is all it takes to fall into a Kansas City Shuffle

    Tabletop Games 

  • 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.
  • This is the basic premise behind most "sucker" tricks. The magician performs a trick and either explains how they did it, or seems to accidentally expose or otherwise use an obvious method to perform the trick, enhancing the effect when the final illusion is actually presented. In many cases, the audience looking for the "exposed" method provides the misdirection necessary to actually perform the trick.

    Video Games 
  • 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.
  • 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."
  • Chzo's plans in the Chzo Mythos ultimately go off without a hitch because everyone misunderstood what it wanted. Everyone in the story, from the good guys to the bad guys, thought Chzo wanted to invade our world and caused endless amounts of pain and suffering, since what else would an Eldritch Abomination want with us? Actually, all Chzo really wanted was a new servant after the old servant caught wind of this and sought to stop his own replacement.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Visual Novels 
  • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Trials and 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 Mask☆DeMasque...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 DeMasque.

    Web Animation 
  • Red vs. Blue:
    • Tex pulls this off against Wash and the Meta by setting up a textbook trap in Sidewinder. Wash, of course, recognized it from his military training, and didn't enter... which left him vulnerable to the proximity mines she'd set up right where he parked his vehicle. Doc noticed, but Wash brushed it off.
      Doc: Told ya so.
    • A couple in a row get pulled off in season 12- 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!
    • They later pull it off again in season 13, when they launch an assault on the Communication Temple (to send an SOS to the rest of the galaxy) and get Wash and Carolina to protect the Purge Temple. They were actually trying to draw the pirates' forces to the Communication Temple, and sneak over to the now-undefended tractor beam at Crash Site Alpha to crash the pirates' ship into the Purge Temple, while Wash and Carolina stalled for time.
    • And even later, Grif's laughable attempt at infiltrating the Blues and Reds' base fails miserably and gets him thrown into jail with the rest of the group... while Locus breaks in unimpeded.

    Web Comics 
  • In El Goonish Shive, Magus attempts to convince abberation Sirleck to help him in his plan to regain a body. Because of the danger, Sirleck is disinclined to help. Magus appears to try to tempt Sirleck into helping anyway by offering him his services as a powerful wizard, and in the end, making an appeal to Sirleck's conscience that reveals that once he returns, he will be utterly alone and friendless, and Sirleck will have him in his debt. Sirleck, who is looking for a new body to inhabit, notices that Magus would make a fantastic new host, and so agrees, planning to double-cross Magus once he has a corporeal body again. However, Magus is quite prepared for that when it happens, pointing out that the fact he'd never asked Sirleck who he was planning to inahbit next "should have been a red flag". Magus *appeared* to be dangling the debt as an incentive, but it was actually his expectation all along that Sirleck would actually take the bait of a body of someone who was friendless, undocumented, and obscenely powerful.
  • 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.
  • 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...
  • 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, the heroes see three people who look like Xykon — two leading separate charges against the city's defenses, and the third one hanging back with Redcloak. As they try to figure out which one is real and should be their main target, Haley works out the con — if Redcloak can make two duplicates, why not three? (She's right; Redcloak conjured a death knight, a huecuva, and an Eye of Fear and Flame. As Xykon is just a humanoid skeleton, all he had to do to perfectly disguise them was put blue robes and red capes on them and call it a night. Heck, he had to put colored pendants on them just to tell them apart enough to give them specific orders. The real Xykon tries to sneak invisibly into the city on zombie-dragonback while they're distracted.)
      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.
    • Girard's Pyramid allegedly contains his Gate, and is heavily fortified to prevent you from getting to the center chamber... but it turns out, all that's there is a big pillar saying "Sorry, your Gate is in another pyramid". Scanning it with magic confirms this. Ha ha, wasted your time! Really, it's to be expected, given that he lied about the Pyramid's location, obviously he also lied about its purpose. Except, of course, he didn't. The Gate is inside the pillar. The pillar is lead-lined to block divination magic. On top of being Genre Savvy enough to expect a triple-bluff at this point, Roy's cross-class skill ranks in Knowledge (Architecture and Engineering) let him notice that the pillar isn't load-bearing.
    • In "Run to Ground", Durkon and Minrah are running from Xykon and Redcloak in a place with a lot of doors. Durkon suggests that they escape with magic by melding into the stone, but Minrah has the idea to open a lot of the doors first and then open one and close it again to leave tracks that make it look like they went that way. It nearly doesn't work: Redcloak starts to question whether they went through any door since the open doors already show they're trying to pull a trick, but Xykon is too impatient to stay to think about it any longer.
  • Sluggy Freelance: The climax of "Torg Potter and the Chamberpot of Secretions" has the Big Bad forcing Torg to make a wish from a Jackass Genie who has so far interpreted everyone's wishes to mean "turn me into chocolate." Torg makes the wish "Turn Torg Potter into chocolate." The villain thinks he's trying to use Reverse Psychology and thus orders the djinn to do exactly as he asked. Thus, Torg ends up being the first one not turned into chocolate, because he's not really Torg Potter, even though everyone thinks so.
  • Tower of God
    • Khun's plan to beat the physically immensely superior Quant in the Hide and Seek test depends on several layers of this: first, Quant thinks he's figured out they've set up a bait to lure him away from their tag, then that they actually did that to ambush him, and so on, until finally comes the one he can't anticipate: Khun tells him that the tag has jumped down from the bridge — something that the tag, Khun and Quant all might be Nigh-Invulnerable enough to survive without getting injured — and taunts Quant that he can't follow. Quant infers that Khun just wants him to jump down and that the tag is really hiding on one of Khun's floating "Lighthouses" under the bridge. He elects to jump down and take Khun with him, which should cause all three of them to fall down, since Khun wouldn't be able to maintain control of the Lighthouse. Except Khun and the tag are both suspended in a different way that keeps them from falling, while Quant does fall.
    • In "The Room That Cannot Be Trusted", Prince is approached by a couple of suspicious guys who say they can help him beat Jue Viole Grace. They give him a drink that they say can prevent Viole from using his ability to freeze the drinker. Prince suspects the drink has something funny in it and lets Ehwa drink it first. That's just what they wanted; it enables them to take control of her mind, and she's a much more valuable prize than Prince.
    • In "The Wool's Knot", Khun makes a bet with Edin Dan that he can't get out of the café, even with his Super Speed, before Khun can catch him. After they've made the deal, Khun first claims to have hired everyone in the café to stop him (though that's not the Kansas City Shuffle yet). But Dan notices there's an exit right behind Khun that he seems to have missed and makes a run for it. That way is blocked, and Khun makes Dan believe that was his real scheme and he didn't hire anyone in the café. Dan thinks he beat the scam when he runs out of the dead end too fast for Khun to catch him, only to be shot with a tranquiliser dart by the bartender, because Khun lied about not hiring anyone.
    • In "The Last Station", the main characters make Jahad's army think they were trying to create a distraction in order to sneak off in one of the Hell Train's cars, but the car that gets all the attention is actually one that only contains a bunch of minor villains who were on the train with them. (For some reason this also involves teleporting entire train cars around, but this is the basic idea.) Since the army commander doesn't know who exactly is to be arrested other than the Regulars on the train, it looks to her like she got "them".
    • During Baylord Doom's invasion of the Cage, Doom's team agrees to hold a contest against Karaka and Bam. Karaka then suggests that, as part of the contest, Bam could fight one of the Rankers on Doom's side. This throws them off completely, because Bam is only a Regular, and only one Regular (that wasn't also an Irregular) has ever beaten a Ranker in the history of the Tower. It's like Regulars are still levelling up, whereas Rankers have already reached maximum level and received a massive power boost at that last level. So Doom's team is sure that, whatever the heck Karaka is trying to make them do, it can't be to accept the bet for the Ranker to fight Bam, so logically they must accept it along with the obvious win it brings. That just makes them fall for what would otherwise have been the obvious trap, since Bam is an Irregular and at this point perfectly capable of defeating an ordinary Ranker.
    • Aria seems to do it at least half-accidentally to White during "52F - Battle Royale". She's using her time-manipulation abilities to be able to dodge his sword, which is both a normally Always Accurate Attack and simply faster than she is. He starts to suspect she's kicking a lot to direct attention to her legs when it's really her left arm that's important because it holds the time device. So he cuts off her left arm. Unfortunately for him, it's her left arm being attacked and reverted back to normal with time manipulation that gives her the extra time she uses for other things.
  • 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.

    Web Original 
  • Oinkbane the Were-hog assassin, whose tactics (which are too subtle for you) are nearly parodic versions of these. You'll know he's after you, you'll see an idiotically obvious ploy right in front of you, and right as you make a move to put an end to his shenanigans he'll get you from a different and utterly unexpected angle, and end you with a giant mallet. As an example, he'll hide inside a crate labeled "NOT AN ASSASSIN" whose contents are breathing, and when you move to open the crate it'll turn out to pack a sheep; Oinkbane will then roll out from under your bed and crush your head into paste.
  • Near the end of Volume 7 in RWBY, Dr. Watts turns off the heating for Mantle, which, combined with the pent-up resentment the city has for Atlas already, spurs a massive Grimm attack. Luckily, the heroes are able to come together to defend Mantle and capture Watts...but then learn that while they were doing so, something shut off the long-range sensors surrounding the kingdom. Salem herself contacts them, and reveals that Watts' actions were in fact a diversion so her own army of Grimm can approach the kingdom unnoticed. The revelation that Salem's outsmarted him again sends General Ironwood Jumping Off the Slippery Slope.
  • 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.

    Web Videos 
  • During the "Ship Happens" episode of Outside Xbox D&D Oxventure campaign, the group is hired by an Obviously Evil group of cultists, who ostensibly hire the Oxventure to entertain them during a bachelor party headed for a destination wedding. The group fully suspects the cultists are trying to do something evil and attempt to thwart the cultists while keeping the itinerary to be above suspicion. The itinerary ends up being the five parts of the ritual needed to summon their dark god from the depths.
  • 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.

    Western Animation 
  • In one episode of American Dad!, Steve pulls an Ocean's Eleven-style heist to rob a rich boy's Bar Mitzvah for revenge for stealing his girlfriend. This trope came into effect when he made the boy think he was going to steal his presents, but was actually after his Bar Mitzvah money.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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. After Hank leaves, the con man discovers the safe is now gone. He complains to the staff, who are just confused by his complaint, since 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 have done if things hadn't gone as planned. Peggy responds that they also faked valet parking and would have taken his car.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • The second season premiere has this pulled by Discord. He tells the Mane Six that the Elements of Harmony are hidden "back where it all began". The group assume that he means the hedge maze where his prison statue was kept, setting off a trap that turns the ponies against each other. It's only after five of them have already been "discorded" that Twilight realizes they were really hidden back where the series began — her reference book on the Elements.
    • 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.
      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?
  • 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.
  • 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 train a pony to 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 who owns the pony that there are two sickos going around at night killing ponies for kicks, and the farmer resolves to shoot anyone who tries it with his pony. After Scott's parents are shot and killed, Cartman steals their bodies and grinds them into mincemeat, cooks them into chili, and feeds them to Scott. After the plan succeeds, he gloats about it to Scott (who is further humiliated when Radiohead shows up and mock his emotional breakdown without knowing the full story behind it), and the rest of the cast vow not to mess with Cartman in the future.
  • In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Plankton's Army," a robot made to look like a customer enters the Krusty Krab right after Mr. Krabs warns his employees that Plankton will probably make another attempt to steal the secret Krabby Patty formula. Mr. Krabs is instantly suspicious and takes the robot's order himself, but much to his surprise, the robot turns down the offer of a Krabby Patty and orders chili coral bits instead, which it pays for with a real dollar. It turns out that Plankton was hiding inside the dollar bill itself, and he quickly jumps out and demands that Krabs hand over the formula. Unfortunately for Plankton, he has no means of actually forcing Krabs to give up the formula, so he gets flushed down the toilet for his trouble.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Real Life 
  • 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 (a.k.a. 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.
  • Diamond Comic Distributors introduced a "street date" system for comics in 2011. Instead of being delivered on Wednesday morning where shopkeepers had to race to get the comics 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. But after the little old lady walked out, a real trap purchase secret shopper dressed like a comic fanboy would walk in.
  • The 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 the doors has a car behind it, and two of which have goats behind them. After the contestant makes their choice, the game show host opens one of the two other doors to reveal one of the goats, then asks the contestant if they 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 their 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 they change their 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 to another door. 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 five thousand dollars not to open the door, take the money and go home."
  • The (now defunct) deep web marketplace Silk Road was hit with an elaborate scam like this, as chronicled in this video by Barely Sociable. A user named "FriendlyChemist" tried to blackmail the site's owner "Dread Pirate Roberts", threatening to release the personal information of thousands of customers and vendors publicly unless he was paid $500,000. According to him, his business partner had run off with the money and left him deeply in debt to the Hell's Angels, and this was his only way of paying them back. DPR asked to be put into contact with his supplier in the Angels to talk things over, but once he was, he ordered a hit placed on FriendlyChemist to silence him permanently. When the supplier came back to tell him the deed had been done, and furthermore, they'd learned FriendlyChemist was colluding with a group of other scammers, DPR ordered them to be taken care of too, paying the hitmen around a million dollars in total. The "supplier", however, turned out to just be FriendlyChemist under a different account, and none of the other scammers even existed, meaning in his attempts to get rid of him, DPR had given FriendlyChemist twice as much money as he was originally asking for.