The Bammo Flim-Flam Conglomeration by Bob Farmer
Review by Michael Close
By now, my admiration for Bob Farmer, expressed both publicly and privately, is well known. Bob’s brilliance, deviousness, and creativity are perfectly balanced by his wacky sense of humor (or humour, as he would prefer). I would offer these sentiments even if Bob were not a friend of forty years, because his published legacy has thoroughly established his credentials. But I am delighted he is my friend; we’ve shared a lot laughs.
In addition to his interest in conjuring, Bob also has a deep passion for scams, con games, bar bets, and other sneaky ways to separate a Mark from his money. (Those of you who have listened to my interview with Bob in the August 2021 issue of the newsletter may recall the story of how he landed a cushy government job during his college days.) Over the years, Bob collected a vast amount of scam-related material, which began to appear in print in the early 1990s. Bob tells the story of this in his Foreword to The Bammo Flim-Flam Conglomeration:
“When Richard Kaufman suggested I write a few columns on bar bets for Stan Allen’s then newly minted magazine, MAGIC, I thought it would be a pleasant and short-lived diversion. In the early days, after the latest issue of the magazine was almost ready to go to press, Stan would fax me a piece of paper on which he had drawn a square or a rectangle. This represented how much space he had left to fill, and I usually had twenty-four hours to come up with the filler…I decided that the column had to be funny, or at least mildly amusing (at least to me), and it had to be written with a bit of an edge…Over time, my column became, according to reader surveys, one of the most popular in MAGIC (and repeated that feat when, as “Flim-Flamagic,” it moved over to Richard Kaufman’s Genii magazine in later years). It was more infectious and influential than I knew…”
I was one of the early subscribers to MAGIC, and I eagerly awaited reading Bob’s Flim-Flam column each month. For many years, rumors circulated that all this material would eventually be collated into one big volume, and happily that day is here. The Bammo Flim-Flam Conglomeration is 453 pages of sneaky goodness. For those of you who may have followed the columns back in the day, here’s what Bob says about the contents:
“This is more than a simple compilation: I have added material, moved it around, and reorganized and indexed it, so that even if you have read the original columns, you will find much that is new and different here. There is a rough chronological progression, but in some cases I have ignored the timeline in favor of a more logical organization. A couple of columns on marked cards have not been included in their entirety because that material, and a lot more, is contained in Hidden in Plain Sight by Kirk Charles and Boris Wild (Fun Incorporated, 2005). All the Ten Card Deal material can be found in The Bammo Ten Card Deal Dossier.”
Bob has arranged the material around what he refers to as “The Ten Scammandments,” which explain the mindset you should adopt if you’re going to try any of these on your pals. They are:
The book is divided into ten sections, each headed by one of the Scammandments. You’ll find scams, cons, bar bets, and tricks using ordinary cards, bills, coins, matches, pencil and paper, dice, glasses, dominoes, a paper calendar, poker dice, silverware, and corks. A few gaffed items are occasionally required (double-sided coins, marked cards, stripper deck, Svengali deck), but these are inexpensive and easy to find.
With this much material included in the book, it is impossible for me to give even a superficial overview. Of course, I have my favorites, but I won’t share with you what those are. (I’m keeping them to myself on the offhand chance I am eventually released from my basement back into the real world; I’m eager to try them out on you.) You should know that, in addition to the bar bets and scams, there are full routines and sleights explained; these routines could certainly find their way into your performing repertoire.
Because these are con games and scams, there is an important warning at the front of the book; you should read it. It is also worthwhile to understand Bob’s approach to cheating:
“In the words of the late President Richard Nixon, I am not a crook and I assume that most of the people reading this book are not either (there are exceptions, and you know who you are). Some readers, perhaps not understanding that I am (usually) just kidding, might complain that I seem to be riding shotgun for Satan – but this is simply not true. I do not counsel or countenance stealing, no matter how elegant the con, but I have no problem with ethical hustling and CON-utainment.
“The difference between just plain thievery, on the one hand, and ethical hustling and CON-utainment, on the other, is in whether you educate the Mark or not. If he knows he is about to lose – if you have told him it is a scam and he cannot win – and he still wants to bet, you have done your moral and ethical duty, because he has agreed to hand over his money, no matter what. Why he agrees to hand over his money is another story…”
Here’s the bottom line: With The Bammo Flim-Flam Conglomeration you get everything you expect from a Bob Farmer book: an off-the-wall sense of humor, laser-sharp intelligence, clear and concise writing, and a mountain of intriguing and entertaining scams, cons, betchas, and tricks – enough to amuse any magic enthusiast of any skill level, whether or not they have larceny in their heart.
And now that you’ve been warned, please feel comfortable giving your money to Bob Farmer. Highly Recommended