“Follow the money card.”

That is all you need to do to win.

As far as gambling card games go, the Three-card Monte is just about the simplest game you can find.

There are three cards, placed face down on a table.

One of the cards is the “money” card, usually the queen of hearts. The other two cards are knaves—the jack of spades and the jack of clubs.

The dealer shows you the money card, places it down again, and then quickly rearranges the cards.

All you need to do to win is keep your eye on the money card and follow its position as it shifts positions in a blur of motion. Once the dealer stops, you select the card you believe is the money card. If you are right, you win, else the staked bet is lost.

Simple, right?

In theory, yes.

But in the real world, not quite.

You see, in the real world, the Three-card Monte is a universe in itself. A complex ecosystem of game theory, intrigue, gamesmanship and sleight of hand peopled by a network of participants from tricksters to shills to nimble artists where fortunes are made and destroyed within the flick of a card.

More importantly, it is a classic example of a “confidence game”.

What is a confidence game? Perhaps you are more familiar with its short form—a “con” game. The Three-card Monte is a classic “short con”, in which a shill pretends to conspire with the mark to cheat the dealer, while in fact conspiring with the dealer to cheat the mark. The mark has no chance whatsoever of winning at any point in the game.

If that sounds ominous; Kunal Shah is not worried.

Shah is famous for being the founder of Freecharge, an online recharge company that was sold for a nose-bleed sum of $400 million to Snapdeal in the halcyon days of 2015. After a gap of a few years, Shah has started up again—his new startup is called CRED, “a platform to aggregate and reward people who have good credit scores”. CRED is an interesting startup for many reasons, but none more so than the fact that it seems to be playing the “follow the money” game and playing it not just once but three times over.

How so?

Follow the money 1: Funding – “Money follows money”

Long before the product went live, CRED was in the news for having raised a seed round from an array of marquee investors such as Sequoia, Ribbit and Ru-Net.


Sumanth Raghavendra

Sumanth is a serial entrepreneur with more than eighteen years experience in running startups. He is currently the founder of Deck App Technologies, a Bangalore-based startup attempting to re-imagine productivity software for the Post-PC era. Sumanth’s columns appear regularly in leading publications. He holds MBA degrees from the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore and Thunderbird, The American Graduate School of International Management, USA.

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