Of this photograph, Nacio Jan Brown has commented that it came partly out of his desire to frame his compositions in ways that were less centered, less obviously ‘well made’. Here the camera shoots down on the three card molly hustler, and much of the photograph is populated by lower legs and feet.
In his photographer’s notes to Rag Theater, Brown wrote: “This game is called Three Card Molly, which is a variation of the shell game. There are two black jacks and a red queen, and you try to pick the red queen. The dealer, using both his hands at once, picks up the cards one after the other and moves them around, changing their order left to right, inside to outside. Periodically he turns one face up so you can keep track of what’s going where. The trick comes when the dealer picks up a card between his thumb and middle finger and then sets it down on top of another card and picks both of them up together. Then with a flick of his wrist he drops a card and the sucker assumes it’s the bottom card, while in fact the dealer has held onto the edges of the bottom card and let the top card slide off. There was always a shill secretly working with the dealer who showed how easy it was to win money. The minimum bet was usually ten or twenty dollars, and the shill would come up and proceed to win eighty or a hundred dollars. These guys made a lot of money.”