The 3 Egg Monte

This classic trick proves that the hand is quicker than the eye!

How it looks:

You’re sitting down at the table or counter with your audience on the other side. You take the half-egg shells and place 3 of them in a row on the table or counter, rounded side up. “I need a volunteer to do this next trick.” You choose a willing volunteer from the audience. “What I need you to do is remember which egg shell I put the ball underneath. Easy, right?”

You place the ball under the middle egg shell and proceed to slide the shells around the table. After mixing them up, you place the 3 shells back in a row and ask your volunteer to point to the shell with the ball hidden underneath. Whatever shell they chose, you lift it off the table and to everyone’s surprise, there is no ball underneath.

“What happened?” you ask your volunteer. “Did I move too fast for you? I tell you what, we’ll do it again and this time, I will move much slower so you won’t have any trouble following it. And to make things even easier, I will add another, bigger ball to the mix so you have a 2 in 3 chance of picking a shell with a ball underneath.”
You place the bigger ball under a shell. This time you slide the shells around very slowly so there is no chance the volunteer will be confused as to which shell you placed the ball beneath.

After mixing them up, you place the 3 shells back in a row and ask your volunteer to point to the shell with either ball hidden underneath. You lift the shell they chose and there is no ball beneath. “I guess that goes to prove it … the hand is quicker than the eye!”

What you need:

  • 2 large eggs (to make the 3 egg half-shells)
  • Small bowl with lid (need only if saving egg for future use)
  • Water (to wash the egg shells),
  • Paper towel (to dry the egg shells)
  • Scissors
  • Masking tape
  • A small ball (about the size of a marble)
  • A bigger ball (just small enough to fit under a half-shell, about the size of a ping pong ball)
  • Smooth table or counter top
  • A chair
  • 1 piece of gum
  • Black marker (fine-tipped)
  • Adult helper


Carefully, break the two eggs in half and save the yolk and whites for cooking/baking or throw out. If saving, you will need a small bowl with a lid to store; put immediately in the refrigerator for later use. Carefully wash and dry the egg shells. Wrap masking tape around the broken edge of each shell. Cut the taped edges of the shells so that they sit flat. Try to make these all roughly the same height. You will only need 3 egg half shells for this trick.

Before starting the trick, chew a piece of gum and stick it inside of one of the egg shells. Mark this shell with a slight black mark on the side that only you will notice.

How it works:

To make the balls disappear, you use two different methods.

1. Place the small ball beneath the middle shell and shuffle the shells amongst themselves by sliding them around on the table quite close to the edge of the table/counter. Slide the shell with the small ball beneath it toward the edge of the table closest to you and let the ball fall off the table into your lap. Make sure you keep your legs together to “catch” it!! Do this quickly and casually so your volunteer and audience do not notice. Continue sliding the shells around a few more times to throw off any suspicion and to create more confusion. Whatever shell the volunteer picks will now be empty.

2. To make the bigger ball disappear, we use a different method. Place the egg shell with the gum inside (see preparation) on top of the bigger ball. The gum will stick to the ball so that when the shell is lifted, it appears to have vanished. Make sure to lift the shell straight up (but not too high up) so the volunteer and audience do not see the ball sticking to the inside.

Did you know…

This trick, also known as the Shell Game or Thimblerig, has been played in Europe since the Middle Ages.

Sources: Adapted from and