Hustle: a grifter’s glossary

Don't know your blow-off from your come-on? Well, here's our guide to conman slang


As Hustle returns for its eighth and final series, isn’t it time you finally worked out what the heck Micky Bricks and his crew are on about..?


Blow-off – any technique used to get rid of the victim of a con after it’s complete (such as emitting an unpleasant smell, perhaps?). Also the climax to the con itself

Come-on – the sexy set-up that sucks in a mark, eg information giving them an apparent advantage in a business deal

Con – it can be long (set up and played out over weeks or months, with a large payout) or short (a quick scam for a smaller amount of money) but the con is what pays the grifters’ bills 

Cop and blow – not as saucy as it sounds, it’s when fellow conmen deliberately win and lose bets alongside the mark, to make a rigged game seem fair

Grifter – a con artist. A criminal who lives by their wits, rather than by violence. A gentleman thief, you might even say

Mark – the subject of the con; the intended victim. Derives from the chalk mark once surreptitiously placed on the back of someone seen as an easy target or thought to be carrying a lot of cash. Occasionally and coincidentally also the victim’s name

Monte store – a fake or temporary shop from which a con is operated. From the term for a saloon where three-card monte was played. Not to be confused with TV explorer Monty Halls

Roper (also outside man) – the grifter who finds a mark and gains his trust, roping him in for the con, like a cowboy lassoing a prize steer

Shill – a partner in a con, often acting as an enthusiastic member of the public to lure marks in

Tell – an unconscious signal or discrepancy that the educated observer can use to determine that someone is lying or trying to cheat. Like that involuntary spasm my boss gets every time he tells me I’m doing a good job 


Hustle returns on Friday 13 January at 9pm on BBC1 and BBC1 HD