How to Cheat at Everything: an encyclopedia of cons

Back in 2007, I reviewed a great book called How to Cheat at Everything, by Simon Lovell. Lovell's book, nominally a guide to committing fraud, was really a tremendous catalog of all the ways that we get conned — all the deceptive psychology that goes into cons long and short. It's a book that's simultaneously paranoid and liberating, and I've turned to it several times in the years since. I'm not the only one — I still get email from people who found it through my review, years later. So I thought I'd revisit it today — including the colorful notes about Lovell that readers sent in back in 2007.

Simon Lovell's "How to Cheat at Everything: A Con Man Reveals the Secrets of the Esoteric Trade of Cheating, Scams and Hustles," is a veritable encyclopedia of cons, scams, tricks and rip-offs. Lovell is a magician by trade, and much of the book is given over to detailed sleight-of-hand HOWTOs for palming, greasing, fixing and cheating cards, dice, coins, and so on. Truth be told, this section bogged down a little for me — unlike, say, The Big Con, which tries to give a representative sample of the world's con-games, Lovell is bent on detailing all of them. But this is more than made up for by the charming, breezy anaecdotes about rip-off bar-bets, boiler-room operations, and so on. I picked this up as reference for stories — con-jobs are great fiction fodder — but found myself absorbing its message in pro-active self-defense. Reading this thing cover-to-cover can leave you feeling pretty damned paranoid.

Harry sez, "For one summer Simon Lovell was a Councilor at "Camp Island Lake" where he headed up the card magic program. Somehow he had convinced the management to let him teach an activity called "Cheats, Con's and Swindles" which was very popular. About three weeks in however management shut the activity down because, shockingly, many of the kids taking it were swindling other campers out of cash."

Evan adds, "Simon Lovell is crazy but extremely nice, I've known him for quite a while and seen him perform. He was once gambling with an asshole in Macau who was being rude to a cocktail waitress. To get him back he scammed him out of his car and gave the keys directly to the cocktail waitress as a tip. He was formally trained in Oxford as a mathematician but has spent years in jail for cons and scams. As a joke he once slid into the back seat of his friends car, put a burlap sack over him and while they passed a police car he wiggled around as if trying to escape just to see how the cops would react. He was arrested."