Wire Game

Basic Information

The wire game, as depicted in the movie The Sting, is a confidence game that trades on the promise of insider knowledge to beat a gamble, stock trade or other monetary action. In the wire game, a "mob" composed of dozens of grifters simulates a "wire store", i.e., a place where results from horse races are received by telegram and posted on a large board, while also being read aloud by an announcer. The griftee is given secret foreknowledge of the race results minutes before the race is broadcast, and is therefore able to place a sure bet at the wire store. In reality, of course, the con artists who set up the wire store are the providers of the inside information, and the mark eventually is led to place a large bet, thinking it to be a sure win. At this point, some "mistake" is made, which actually makes the bet a loss. The grifters in The Sting use miscommunication about the race results to simulate a big mistake, and the bet is lost.



A good example of this is found in the movie The Sting.

Game and Story Use

  • With a little work, the wire game (or a wire store) could be ported over to settings where it might not normally be expected. In a game with telepaths or wizards, a magical version of a wire store is a possibility.
  • This is a fairly elaborate scam. To pull off the wire game, you need a large number of con men and shills. What big prize or bet would get this many grifters to work together? It must be something special.
    • Another possibility is for this to be a "sideline" for an otherwise legitimate wire store.
  • Establishing that a wiregame (or some other elaborate mult-grifter scam) is happening in the background of a setting is a way to make it feel like the local Thieve's Guild is really organized. This sort of detail goes a long way to creating verisimilitude and really selling a setting to the players.
  • Pushing the mark to place larger and larger bets is itself a gamble of sorts; if the con men get greedy, the mark might have business elsewhere (or otherwise decide to leave) before they can get their money back. Likewise, someone trying to turn this con around on the grifters needs to be able to judge when they're about to turn it into a loss.
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