Giving the Devil His Due: Details of Deception



The Devil is back, and the Devil is all in the details.

The Devil, in the guise of card man Greg Chapman, has returned with a new volume of mischievous pasteboard knowledge, Details of Deception: Artifice and Entertainment with Cards. If you thought Greg’s first book, The Devil’s Staircase, was a tour de force of gambling-themed card magic ideas, you’ll be even more delighted with this follow-up. The new book can certainly stand alone as a contribution to the literature, but when seen as a companion book to its predecessor, it really makes its full impact. (Full disclosure: I gladly did some proofreading on this as well as the earlier book.)

Dai Vernon liked to quote Da Vinci, “Details make perfection, but perfection is no detail.” Vernon knew that especially in the art of magic, the difference between the right detail and the wrong detail could mean the difference between success and failure. As Teller once pointed out, magic is very binary in the sense that an effect either fools an audience or it doesn’t. There’s no “sorta” or half pregnant in magic. A slight detail can be the difference between the audience experiencing a sense of verisimilitude or not.

Greg takes on a relatively narrow slice of the magic universe and focuses sharply on the details that make a difference. As he did in his first book, Greg here first introduces the tools he will be discussing: the peek, the key card, the stack, the crimp, even the humble ribbon spread. If you think you know everything about those tools, odds are, you are in for a pleasant surprise.

Greg’s focus as he circles back to these subjects is always how to get ahead while maintaining naturalness in action and speech. To this end, Greg is all about learning how to feel comfortable in one’s habitual environment—in Greg’s case, at the card table. His style is low-key, innocent, and absolutely fooling.

The second chapter of the book introduces effects which require little to no set-up (except for, in one case, the introduction of a gaffed card). Some of them, such as “Rubaway Switch” and “OHSD Switch” are transposition effects which can also be used as utility moves. Others, such as “Any Pair” and “Card at Number,” are basically self-working tricks with a strong impact. And with just a little more faro-ing effort, “The Accomplice” and “PUnDoM” are impressive quick demos of card control.

The following two chapters are, for me, the heart of the book. In the chapter entitled Stacks, Greg goes into greater detail regarding the tools that he mentioned at the beginning of the book. There is a lengthy and invaluable discussion of estimation that opens the chapter, and I can say that for me personally, it took a skill that seemed mysterious and out of my reach, and turned it into something achievable and usable. Greg even provides outs for those times when one’s estimations are a little off. I don’t have to tell anybody who does MD work what a valuable skill estimation is to have.

Equally useful to me was Greg’s discussion of the Ribbon Spread. It really opened my eyes to the devious uses to which this ubiquitous little flourish can be put. In the sections on peeks, shiners, and deck switches, there is also much of use: not only concerning the sleight-of-hand aspects of the moves, but also the timing and body gestalt as well.

The next chapter is devoted to memorized deck routines. There is a clever ACAAN, which has some important features: the spectator can genuinely name any card, and also has a wide range of numbers from which to choose.  More importantly, the spectator can do the final countdown deal to the card. And . . . the method is essentially sleightless. Other tricks that I especially like in this section are “One Card Missing,” a snappy determination of a card missing from a deck under seemingly impossible conditions, and “That Old Trick,” a discovery of a selected four-of-a-kind that is quite enjoyable to perform, and is a painless  and safe way to practice your Mexican Turnover.

The last chapter of the book is called Second Thoughts. It is a detailed mini-treatise on how to perform Greg’s version of a push-off second. This is painstaking, nuanced work, and probably will most interest those who can’t afford the slightest inkling of suspicion. If that sounds up your alley, there are lots of diagrams, advice, and encouragement here for those who decide to tread the path. The good news for the rest of us is that Greg includes in this section an excellent gambling deal effect, “Stacked To Win,” which while requiring some quick thinking and quick second dealing, actually demands less skill than the overall impression of the effect conveys.

Greg ends the book with a wonderful Cards to Pocket that will likely fool most magicians. It incorporates a very clever, efficient gaff. I don’t know if the gaff is original to Greg, but I’ve never seen it before, and I can well imagine its use in other situations as well.

If you have any interest in improving your card magic skills, I highly recommend that you sit down to a deal with the Devil, Greg Chapman’s Details of Deception.



Rock On Little Jane: Mike and Ruthy


Mike Meranda and Ruthy Ungar are two incredible Hudson Valley musicians who I had the pleasure of meeting this week. Here they are singing at the Clearwater Festival 2015. The song was written for their little daughter Opal, but as Mike says, it was hard to rhyme with Opal, so they used Jane. The song is my new morning waker-upper.

Thanks to YouTuber Jim Motavalli

“If You Don’t See Now, You Never See Any More”: Tony Slydini’s Close-Up Magic


You don’t often get to see how the mechanics of sleight of hand and misdirection are accomplished by a master. But in this signature routine of magician Tony Slydini, “Paper Balls Over the Head,” the audience is in on the trick from the beginning.

Thanks to YouTuber Michael Lyons

Something Cool


According to Ever-Reliable Wikipedia, after her death, June Christy was called “one of the finest and most neglected singers of her time.” I only stumbled across her songs this week, and I’m really surprised I hadn’t known of her before that.

To me, she is reminiscent of Rosemary Clooney, Keely Smith, and also Anita O’Day, who she replaced as singer for the Stan Kenton Orchestra. The melancholy bar song, “Something Cool” was one of her biggest hits.

Thanks to YouTuber MexicoCityFood

Avner The Eccentric


One of the great modern clowns, I first saw Avner perform sometime in the early 80s at the Hudson River Clearwater Folk Festival. He is still performing, and combines a love of clowning, new vaudeville, juggling, and magic to create a character always bound to amuse and amaze.

More of Avner here: Avner Eisenberg

The Voice Actor: Fireside Mystery Theater




The suspenseful Fireside Mystery Theater has become an unexpected podcast success, with over a million downloads of its contemporary radio performances of macabre and off-center scripts, reminiscent of the Golden Age of Radio. You can listen to an interview broadcast yesterday on the Arts Express radio program over WBAI FM that I did with the two creators of the company, Ali Silva and Gus Rodriguez, by clicking on the grey triangle above.

“It’s 1-2-3, What Are We Fighting For?”


As we continue making war in Afganistan and Iraq, and head towards more war in Syria, let’s remember Country Joe and the Fish, back in the day when there was actually an anti-war movement.

Will The Cards Match: A Formula

cut cards


Today’s post is for the magic nerds among us. An excellent staple of mental card magic is an effect by Larry Becker called “Will The Cards Match?” It’s based upon a clever math principle first used in magic by Howard Adams, and the trick itself can take many forms depending on the performer’s imagination. My favorite presentation is one that uses a set of business cards: each card has a famous name written on the back, and the cards are torn in half into two mates. After turning all the pieces face down and subjecting them to shuffles, cuts, and a spectator-controlled sorting procedure, the pieces, against all odds, end up paired next to their mates.

Since the standard method of doing this trick uses the spelling of the title phrase, many magicians are curious about 1) What other phrases would also work, and 2) What if instead of using the usual five cards, one wishes to use some other number of cards?

So quite a number of years ago, I worked out a method to determine phrases for any number of cards.  This will allow the performer to customize by occasion and venue the phrase that is used.

Here’s a modified version of how I described it on one of the magic forums about a decade ago:

“A) Suppose each pile of cards contains X cards to begin with. Then a workable phrase could have for its first word X-1 letters, the second word X-2 letters, the third word X-3 letters, the Nth word X-N letters and so on. So, for example, for five cards, four words of lengths 4-3-2-1 will work.

B) But those word lengths are not unique. Each of the word lengths can be adjusted in the following way:

At any point, you may add to any of the above lengths any multiple of the number that is one more than the original word length. That is, at word N, you may add any multiple of X -N+1.

Example: I have two five card piles. By the first formula, I can have a phrase consisting of 4 letters, then 3 letters, then 2 letters, then one letter.

So the first word has length 4—WILL

The second word has length 3—THE

The third word should have length 2—but we’re going to adjust its length for a better phrase.

I can add as many multiples of the original number plus one that I like. Since at this point the original word length would have been 2, I  can add any multiple of three (one more than 2) to the original word length of two.. For instance I can add exactly three to two to get five letters for the third word—CARDS

On the fourth word (on which I originally had 1 letter) I can add any multiple of 2 (one more than one) to my original 1. If I add 2×2 to 1, then I get five—MATCH

So, in this example, I have a phrase consisting of 4-3-5-5 which is Will The Cards Match.

Now let’s try this with six cards in each pile to make this more clear.

To start with:
First word . . . five letters
Second word , . . four letters
Third word . . . three letters
Fourth word . . . Two letters
Fifth word. . . One letter

So a workable sequence of word lengths for 6 cards could be a phrase with 5-4-3-2-1 letters

Now I’ll make some adjustments so that I can get a more convenient phrase:

First word, leave as is . . . five letters—MAGIC.
Second word, leave as is, . . . four letters—WILL.
Third word, originally three letters, which means I can add any multiple of four (one more than three). So I’ll add just 4 to the original three to get seven letters—ASTOUND.
Fourth word, originally two letters, so I can add any multiple of three (one more than two). In this case I’ll add 3 to the original two to get five letters—EVERY.
Fifth word, originally one letter, so I can add any multiple of two (one more than one). In this case, I choose to add two times two to the original one, to get five letters—CHILD.

So my sequence could be 5-4-7-5-5.

For example, “Magic Will Astound Every Child.”

Another sequence that will work using the above instructions is 5-4-3-2-5. Only the last word length needs to be adjusted here. So, “Every Body Can Do Magic.”

It may seem a little complicated, but if you’ll follow along with cards in hand, you’ll see that it works easily, and you can create your own phrase for any number of cards. Let me know if you have any questions.

Carpool Lane Magician: Zabrecky


A quirky, funny, and ultimately cryptic short film about a would-be magician who can’t seem to find his way in life.  Rob Zabrecky plays the stunted soul under the thumb of his mother. Zabrecky is a true film actor: his face, even in silence, reveals the anguish within.

Thanks to director and YouTuber Andrew Madsen Jasperson

I’ll Be Back: The Beatles


There’s something about the musical structure of this song that made it one of my favorites from the first time I heard it. Great lead by John and harmonies by Paul.

Thanks to YouTuber MrSquooze