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Presidential politics mesh with the shell game on the Red Line

A friend shares this Tattler Tale from a Saturday night on the southbound Red Line.

At Loyola, a large black man boards the train, urging riders to vote for Barack Obama for president: "We need some collard greens in the White House!" (Yes, folks, this time I think you may agree that identifying his race here is important.)

He walks up to people and unabashedly asks them who they plan to vote for. Usually he hears the name of the man he supports and shares a high five or fist bump.

Then at Wilson, the shell game crew boards the train, and opens for business. First, the accomplice wins $20, then the operator asks for other players. Our Obama lobbyist tries to play, but the operator refuses, saying he doesn't have any money.

As he tries to recruit other players, the Obama supporter warns: "Aw, c'mon man! I've been doing this shit since 5th grade, I know what you're pullin'. Just don't pull that shit on the Obama supporters."

Meanwhile, my friend is surreptitiously calling the police. He tells them where they are on the Red Line, and what car he is in. The dispatcher thanks him and said she would inform the transit unit.

Back to our friendly Obama supporter: He keeps moving throughout the car. "Excuse me. I have to harass some more Republicans here."

We pull into the Addison, and the shell game is going strong, about to claim its first victim. The doors begin to close, when a big burly cop muscles the door open. He swoops in on the game operator, yanks him out of his seat, and hussles him off the train. His partner grabs the game board and other accoutrements and off they go.


Now if the cops would only start arresting the jerks who sell crap or spout their religious nonsense, usually doing a bad rap, the train rides would be much more pleasant!
All of that happens only south of Roosevelt.
Exactly how hard is it to target them?

@ undecided

You answered your own question! Its very easy to target them, they're pretty much at every station south of Roosevelt on the red line.

I would even go so far as to suggest that people who peddle religion should be given much more costly fines. At least homeless people kind of have an excuse.

I'm glad people are willing to shut the game down. I don't think I have the courage to report the activity (I lack the required stealth to go unnoticed).

I think the political action is kind of bogus, too. (Though "Excuse me. I have to harass some more Republicans here." makes me laugh!) I don't want some old man on the bus to tell me to vote McCain. I guess I should just be glad he wasn't on McCain's side. :)

Someone supporting McCain? in Chicago? on the RED LINE? They'd last 2 seconds... thats something you dont need to worry about.

Nice story, but am I supposed to be pleased they shut the shell game down?

p.s.- It's characters like the Obama man that make me appreciate the people of Chicago.

At the risk of being thought an accomplice myself, I actually won $1 at the shell game 10 or 15 years ago on the Green Line.

The trick was likely that they let me win the $1 so they could cheat me on the next, higher stakes round, but I just pocketed the $1 and quit.

A friend of mine used to head up a team on transit. There are transit cops (that are part of the CPD) but I've noticed there doesn't seem to be a lot heard about them. They would arrest people who are threatening another person or robbing them. I used to hear more about them up to around 5 years ago. I have to wonder if this is a funding issue if they've cut the amount of transit cops down, even before the city's budget issues. They work undercover so they could look like a homeless guy (although they wouldn't be wearing the same fragrance).

I bet the stinky bums monopolizing the benches in the Monroe St. subway aren't cops.

I don't mean to be a pain in the ass, or get all "legal" but I am pretty sure that the there would be First Amendment issues with arresting and fining people for the content of their speech ("religious should be fined more"). Arrest everyone causing a rawkus works, but not based on the content of their speech.

Well you don't have to say you're arresting them because of their religion, just say you'd arrest anyone else who would do the same, but its only them and homeless people who are peddling... so it makes it real easy. 1st amendment issue solved :)

CTA trains are not considered to be a public space for First Amendment purposes.
You have to pay to enter that space or if you're one of those who rides for free, you still have to use a card to enter.
Plus they are interfering with the free flow of people moving on & off the train.
Those are two reasons the religious nuts can be arrested.

"At the risk of being thought an accomplice myself, I actually won $1 at the shell game 10 or 15 years ago on the Green Line.

The trick was likely that they let me win the $1 so they could cheat me on the next, higher stakes round, but I just pocketed the $1 and quit."

LOL. Thanks for the laugh. Seen a lot of people get taken by this. How they didn't notice that the "manager" and the "players" all got on and off at the same time amazes me. The biggest time of year on the Red Line used to be Christmas. And the bus that runs west on 95th Street to the shopping mall was a big deal too. It was always crowded during the holidays and the driver couldn't see them in the back working their same.

This brings back memories of my first time witnessing the shell game. It was 25 years ago and I was commuting downtown for a temp job in the summer. Riding home one evening on a Howard-Englewood/Jackson Park train, a well-dressed business type got sucked into the shell game. When he didn't win on his third try, he began arguing loudly and threatening the operators of the shell game at which point they drew a gun on him. Needless to say, I was a little freaked out.

Glad to hear that calling the police works. I plan to do that next time the damned shell game shows up again.

Me too. Call 911 when you see illegal activity on the CTA. I usually don't do anything when people are begging, but shell game grifters are definitely criminals, so I call. I don't have a ton of sympathy for their victims, but they're still blatantly breaking the law and usually cause a loud commotion when their shills board the train and start screaming about how much money they're making. It's shitty, anti-social behavior and they expect everyone to just sit there and take it.

I enjoy watching the old shell game. I think these folks are some interesting characters. I find it amusing watching the losers lose there hard earned money.

Yeah, it's so gritty and urban. I loved it that one time when they shell game guy threatened someone on the train and his shills all joined in and screamed in agreement. Or that time one of the shills got off at Belmont and screamed to the whole car that she had to go because she had a court date. Real characters those grifters. By relieving the desperate and the stupid of what little money they have, causing loud disturbances, and further pushing the line of bad behavior that the law abiders ignore, they're performing a real service to society. They're worse than pickpockets because they do it openly and blatantly, and people encourage them by tolerating it. I wouldn't bother involving the cops and wasting their time if I knew a select few other commuters as exasperated as me would join me in drop-kicking their asses off the train.

Are people seeing the shell game all over the Lines or just on the Belmont-Howard stretch of the Red? I've seen it a couple times between riding between Wilson and Bryn Mawr. The marks that I've seen look like Loyola Freshmen, and I really concur with the other posters, it's rather fun to see the kids get their beer money hustled away from them.

It takes real skill to run a good shell game. In New York they often use three playing cards & you must chase the queen. My problem is with those kids who give you a poem or something & then expect a "donation".

i was on the train one time, and I actually saw the shell game.. well i knew what it was all about and i actually had the nerve to speak to one of them and say rather loudly "Your a shill in that shell game" and the guy looked at me and said "yeah right, shill" but i was glad coz i pointed them out loudly!!! right to the guys face!!!!

i'm pretty sure first amendment rights still apply on the el. of course the no threatening people and such is still illegal, but religious people? not so much.

a seasoned el rider can tune almost anything out ...

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