Green’s Dictionary of Slang

nuts, the n.3

(US Und.) the shell game under shell n.; lit. the shells that are used to hide the pea.

[US]R. McCardell Conversations of a Chorus Girl 15: ‘Circus Joe,’ who worked the nuts on the edge of the crowd.
[US]F. Hutchison Philosophy of Johnny the Gent 37: I'd like to have the privilege o' playin' the nuts in the middle of the main street of the town for just about a week, an’ I'd have all the dough I'd need for the rest o' me life.
[US]Jackson & Hellyer Vocab. Criminal Sl.

In compounds

nut-spieler (n.)

(US und.) the operator of a shell game under shell n.; thus nut-spieling, operating such a game.

[US]F. Hutcheson Barkeep Stories 59: ‘I was joined out wid a nut-spieler an’ we was hop-skotchin’ t’roo Texas’.
[US]Nat. Police Gaz. (NY) 17 Mar. 6/1: Smith started life [...] selling little cakes of soap with money wrapped around it [...] From that he drifted to ‘nut spieling,’ working the three-shell game in mining camps.