Matchbox Monte

What you see and hear aren’t always as they seem. Try this as a classic case of misdirection. You’ll need four matchboxes, a rubber band and a long-sleeve shirt or jacket.

Guide lines
Ready, Steady, Go!

Before calling someone over, use the rubber band to attach a box of matches under your wrist. Be sure to keep them out of site. Place the three other empty matchboxes in front of you, like a street hustler.


Tell me, are you feeling lucky? Because I’ve got a game of chance for you.

Lend me your ears

Point to the three matchboxes on the table in front of you.


Okay, two empty matchboxes and one full, your job is to find the full one. My job is to make sure you don’t…

Shake the full box (that’s actually empty) by using the hand with the full box stuck to your wrist.


This is the lucky box that you need to keep an eye on. These two are the empty boxes, to throw you off.

Mix up the boxes at speed to throw off your onlooker. Let them have a guess – use your non-matchbox hand and shake the box.


I’m sorry, you’re wrong… let me slow down a bit.

Do it again, a bit slower. But still fast enough so when your onlooker gets it wrong, they’ll think they missed it. They’ll be stumped.

Seal the Deal and Reveal


Ready for the secret? The trick is to always have something up your sleeve… literally.

Pull up your sleeve and show the matchbox with matches inside stuck to your arm with the rubber band.


Nothing in these matchboxes. Matches in this one.

Some extra lines you can try

  • It pays to always have something up your sleeve.
  • I’ve just saved your cash from the street hustlers.
  • Gambling in the office isn’t encouraged, but I don’t mind if I’m winning.
Alternative ending

Get your onlooker in on the action as a sidekick. Run the sequence again with a newbie, but with the first onlooker always able to guess the correct box - while the newbie never gets it correct. They’ll be doubly confused.

Anticipated responses and retorts

Can you ever lose?

Only if I take my eyes off the ball, er, matchbox.

Do you ever take people’s money?

Nah. And I don’t suggest you do either. This is just to get people engaged.

Have you ever peed in your bed?

Funny! But I think we have heard this one before.
Good follow ups
When & where
When to use it
  • When you want to get people thinking outside of the matchbox.
  • When you want to get people into the game.
  • When you need to capture imaginations.
Where to use it
  • the canteen
  • informal gatherings
  • team building events
  • customer visits
  • at a restaurant
  • socializing at the bar
Getting ready
Items required
  • Four matchboxes and a rubber band – the secret matchbox needs matches inside
  • Secure the matchbox with the matches to your wrist with the rubber hand, and then make sure it is out of site under your shirt sleeve or jacket.
Training required
  • Shake you wrist and get a sense of the sound of rattling matches in a matchbox.
Watch out (potential unexpected effects)
  • You may inspire some illegal gambling.

type type

Do It Yourself (DIY)

material material

four matchboxes, one with matches inside, and a rubber band

size size

this could all fit in your jacket pocket

durability durability

don’t light up and it should last you a while

source source

the ether

time to impact time to impact

pretty much there and then

size of audience size of audience

one-on-one or a small group

possible health risk possible health risk

could inspire gambling

reusable how many times you can use it

probably just once

training needed training needed

you may need to practice once or twice to get a feel for this

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