Extra-legal financial markets in contemporary northern India rely on a reputational economy that centres on the communication of moral standing within the market as much as on the knowability of the market participants’ financial solvency. The ‘game’ of bisi – an extra-legal local variant of money circulation schemes otherwise known in India as ‘chit funds’ – provides an arena for the communication of this moral standing that has in recent decades taken on important functional roles for a variety of financial practices that operate without legal sanction. Bereft of legal guarantees on transactional obligations, bisi circles establish trust among (relative) strangers, partially overcoming the deficits of other communication flows in preserving economic relations that necessarily need to rely on high levels of trust: The ‘players’ – by being exposed to significant moral and financial hazards – communicate the extent of their (un)reliability, in the best case allowing the establishment of long-term relationships of trust within the group in addition to the local communication of their moral standing through gossip. At the same time, the inherent risks involved in ‘playing’ bisi make the ‘game’ socially disruptive. In making or breaking reputations, bisi circles provide an entry into the worlds of everyday extra-legal commerce, by providing access to other market participants, but also by enabling prospective extra-legal entrepreneurs to acquire skills in judging the trustworthiness of strangers. The paper studies the operation of bisi circles based on ethnographic research in the north Indian city of Banaras.