shell game

noun
1.
a sleight-of-hand swindling game resembling thimblerig but employing walnut shells or the like instead of thimblelike cups.
2.
any deceit, swindle, fraud, or the like.

Origin:
1885–90, Americanism

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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Collins
World English Dictionary
shell game
 
n
the US name for thimblerig

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Encyclopedia Britannica
Encyclopedia

shell game

oldest and most popular of the tricks traditionally performed by a conjurer. To begin the trick, the performer places a bead or ball (often a pea) under one of three inverted cups (or half-shells). As the cups are rearranged on a flat surface, the ball is made to "jump" invisibly from one cup to another, or to "multiply." The basis for the illusion is a secret additional ball that, by skilled manipulation, is put under one cup while the known ball is removed as secretly from another cup. The manipulative work is aided by the distracting conversation, or patter, of the conjurer.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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Example sentences
It's a shell game that westerners aren't as good in playing.
The pea in the old shell game was often easier to find than is the truth in our courts of law.
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