The talented Garrett Thomas, performing one of his signature effects, packs in a load of eye-popping magic into three short minutes.
Thanks to YouTuber Dumitru Mariuta
Pit Hartling has amusing presentations for card magic, along with some of the most clever methods. His book In Order to Amaze should delight most card workers. Here is a fairly recent performance from The Magic Castle.
More Pit Hartling at Pit Hartling
And…time is running out to enter a dead easy contest. Magicians and hobbyists, spend a little time today to get in your entries. Read the details here.
Card mechanic Richard Turner is not shy about revealing his weapons of choice: second deals, bottom deals, even middle deals. But even accounting for the imperceptible execution of the above, how in the world does one account for what happens in the video after the spectator shuffles several points along the way?
More at RichardTurner52
Here’s a first world problem: You have a shuffled deck of cards, and you want to restore the deck to New Deck Order or some other pre-determined stack arrangement.
With a table, it’s easy, but sometimes a table isn’t available, so an in-the-hands-sort is required. Here’s something that might be useful to some card workers. I use the following mainly as an in-the-hands sort for NDO. I’ve used it as well for Aronson, but it can be generalized to any stack:
Run through the deck upjogging all the black cards. Pull out the black cards to the face of deck.
Run through the deck upjogging all the spades and diamonds. Pull out this half to the face of deck.
Spread the bottom 13 spades and arrange in order with the right hand as if arranging a bridge hand. Cut those 13 cards to the top of deck. Repeat with the next three suits. You are now in New Deck Order. Bicycle New Deck Order simply requires you to pull out Spades and Diamonds in descending order, Clubs and Hearts in ascending order.
To generalize for any stack:
1) Upjog all cards within the ranges of 14-26 and 40-52, and cut to face of deck.
2) Upjog all cards within the ranges of 27-52 and cut to the face of the deck.
3) Spread 13 cards at a time and put in ascending order, then cut to back of deck. Repeat three more times.
With practice you can get into stack order quite quickly.
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.
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.
Othello demands from Iago the ocular proof, and I’ve spent the last month or so providing such, in a manner of speaking. I’ve been proofreading and copy editing an excellent new magic book, Details of Deception, by Greg Chapman, and I’m quite enjoying the process. That must seem a strange thing to say for such a potentially tedious assignment, but the book is so intriguing, and the author such a gentleman (not always the case in the niche world of conjuring), that I was glad to take on the assignment.
I’ve written before about some of the challenges of copy editing and writing a book of magic. Stephen Minch, one of the great writers and publishers of magic literature, has given magic writers a unique style guide. Because of magic’s technical nature, the text of a book about card magic in some ways more closely resembles that of a car repair manual than that of, say, a novel, so by all means if you are about to embark on writing a magic book, your first stop should be Minch’s guide. You can download it for free here.
I’d like to just briefly mention a few other practical things that I’ve learned to watch out for in an endeavor like this. Much of this can be applied to non-magic literature as well:
I hope these few pointers will be helpful. But more, I think if you’re a card person you’re really going to like this book. I hope you find it a good read.
The past few months I’ve been enjoying a number of magic books, old and new, which I’d like to share with you.
First is St. George’s Hall: Behind the Scenes at England’s House of Mystery by Anne Davenport and John Salisse. This is a fairly specialized book, but it’s very well done. It’s a history of the London theater venue run by several generations of Maskelynes, starting with the patriarch, J.N. Maskelyne, in partnership with the magician David Devant from 1905 – 1935. Devant of course, along with Nevil Maskyelene, wrote one of the seminal books about the theory of conjuring called Our Magic. That book was unique in that it understood that conjuring was part of the theatrical arts, but at the same time also had its own particular requirements. Devant and Maskelyne, perhaps more than anybody before or since, delineated just how the magician should best walk that fine line between theatrical narrative and conjuring necessity. St. George’s Hall makes clear with its extensive details and photos of thirty years of St. George’s entertainments, that the theory of Our Magic was borne out of hard struggle and daily practical knowledge of what worked and didn’t work. Many of the entertainments were short plays centered around an illusion that Maskelyne or Devant had created and worked into some fantastical plot. The most surprising thing in the book for me were the photos of Devant in the various costumes for his plays; it is clear from the variety of characters and make-ups that he used that he was as interested in the techniques of acting as he was of those of conjuring, and saw them both as allied arts.
I like the idea of having little magic pamphlets to read on a subway ride, and recently I came across an old pamphlet called Bunny Bill. The booklet by Robert Neale is an easy to follow origami project that teaches you how to fold a dollar bill into the shape of a top hat. When you squeeze the sides of the hat, out pops a little paper rabbit. It’s all done with one bill without any cuts, tears or tape. Cuteness factor is high, and children enjoy it.
Magician Dai Vernon was the greatest influence on close-up magic in the twentieth century, and for over 25 years, Vernon contributed a column to Genii Magazine called The Vernon Touch. His columns have all been collected in a compilation also called The Vernon Touch, brought out by Rickard Kaufman. The Vernon Touch had an extraordinary run considering that Vernon was in his seventies when he began the column, and he was over ninety when he contributed his last one. Much of the column was devoted to his reports on the scene at The Magic Castle, where he was in residence. Lots of history and anecdotes, along with many insights into the Vernon conception of magic, but I liked the photos the best, many not published before, of Vernon with his fellow magicians, and Vernon’s Harlequin and Chinese acts. If you subscribe to Genii you can purchase the book at a bargain price.
A few years ago I had the good fortune to be involved with the proofreading of a wonderful book of card magic called The Devil’s Staircase by Greg Chapman. Fans of that book will be very happy to learn that Mr. Chapman is about to release a new book of card magic, kind of a companion piece to TDS, called Details of Deception. It’s an excellent title, because in this book Chapman focuses on the fine details of what makes a sleight, and a performance of card magic, deceptive. As in the last book, most of the material is gambling-themed, but a careful reading of the book will be highly instructive for any intermediate-to-advanced card worker. There are some excellent memorized deck effects, poker demonstrations, an extensive section on estimation with information which to my knowledge has never seen print before, and a large chapter on the second deal which gives detailed instructions of how to do several kinds of push-off seconds, along with some killer tricks that utilize the sleight. While most of the effects are difficult—the ability to do three perfect faros in some routines is taken as a given—there are a few effects for the mere mortals among us, including a very clever ACAAN routine. I highly recommend this book if you’re looking to improve your card magic, if you’re a memdeck guy or gal, or if you just want to see how deeply a guy like Chapman can think about card magic.
When would-be magicians first start out learning sleight of hand as applied to cards, they often worry that their hands are too small to do the dirty work. Magician Mahdi Gilbert puts that concern to rest, as you’ll see in the above video.
He became a sensation on YouTube and then went on to fool Penn &Teller on their show.
Thanks to YouTuber Riffle Shuffle
In 2013 I attended my first magic convention. I was very enthusiastic, and I got to all the events a little bit early. I was also kind of lonely, not knowing anyone, so I was happy to strike up a conversation with the young man seated next to me in the auditorium. We exchanged pleasantries and then got into an interesting conversation. He told me that he used to be a concert pianist, and that he had also tried his hand at film making. What he did not tell me at that time, though, was that in a few minutes he would be up on stage performing!
It was only then that I learned that his name was Shin Lim, and that he was one of the most amazingly creative card magicians to come along in this decade. He soon became very well known among magicians, and went on to fool Penn & Teller on their television show, Fool Us.
The act that he used to fool Penn & Teller was the same one I had seen back in 2013. Stick with the routine until the end—you may think you know how parts of it are done, but I assure you that by the end you too will be amazed.
When I was an adolescent, I delightedly stumbled across a book in my local library called Marked Cards and Loaded Dice, a volume which purportedly exposed the tools and methods of crooked gamblers. The book was written by an excellent magician named Frank Garcia, who I later learned often held court at the local magic establishment, Tannen’s. His genial manner was very smooth and convincing.
At that time in NYC, David Susskind, a theater, film and television producer, had a late night television program called Open End that seemed to go on for hours. Susskind was often derided as being insufferably pompous, so it was with some happiness that I came across this video of Garcia with his magic rendering Susskind nearly speechless.
Click on the video to play. Thanks to YouTuber MrMagicbymax
What magician Steven Brundage performed for the America’s Got Talent judges may not have been the most difficult thing he’s ever done with a Rubik’s Cube, but it was, in my opinion, his most magical effect with one. Watch the absolutely uncanny Steven Brundage make the AGT judges’ jaws drop with this impossible effect.
Swedish magician Lennart Green’s characterization of a shambling, seemingly clumsy performer of magic is carefully calculated to both conceal and reveal one of the most clever and most original sleight-of-hand card artists of the modern era. The above is from a TED talk that he did.
Magician Derren Brown fries writer and actor Stephen Fry with one of his signature card routines.
This is one of Derren’s early routines, back when he was still doing card magic. It is a beautiful example of how Derren just thinks harder and longer about what he does than most other magicians. I also really enjoy the way he underplays his role in the effect.
Richard Pitchford, better known by his stage name, Cardini, was a master of sleight of hand. But extraordinary as his manipulation was, what elevated him to the top of his art was the creation of his unique character, a tipsy ne’er-do-well who has trouble keeping reality in focus. If Keaton or Chaplin did flawless magic, Cardini would be the result.
The above clip is from his only television performance in 1957. It was the re-creation of his nightclub act for which he earned a very handsome salary. His assistant in the clip is Swan Walker, also his wife.
Magician Harry Riser, who was a friend of Cardini, tells the story that in the rehearsal for the show, Cardini, who had never performed on television before, had gotten flustered by the cameras and burnt his fingers on his cigarettes. So all the manipulation, especially with the 2 1/2 inch billiard ball, was extremely painful for him that night. We are lucky to have this clip for posterity as it is the only recording of his act.
Thanks to YouTuber sameermagic21
(Remember that Twilight Zone episode with Burgess Meredith?)
I thought it would be fun to talk a little—but not too much!—about what I’ve been reading in the last few months. I seem to go in four month cycles with reading—four months on avidly reading, and then four months off when I don’t want to read at all. Since this seems to be my four months on…
A Star Called Henry by Roddy Doyle–a very fine writer in my opinion. This is the first novel in a trilogy about the life of Dublin-born Henry Smart, IRA gun runner, explosives expert, and lover. Doyle writes with great lyricism and imagination, and each scene is brought vividly to life, both visually and aurally. The fictional character Henry Smart has interactions with the real-life Irish Republican Army figures of Michael Collins, James Connelly, and Ernst O’Malley, and Doyle describes the passion, cynicism, and double-dealing that goes into the making of a revolution and a revolutionary.
Last year I read Doyle’s second book in the trilogy, Oh Play That Thing! and also greatly enjoyed that book. It has the disillusioned Henry jumping ship to the United States where he manages to land a job working as the bodyguard of Louis Armstrong. It sounds improbable, but somehow Doyle makes it all sing, and the book itself is a jazzy improvisation of plot and character that Doyle brings to a stunning conclusion.
The Secret Miracle, edited by Daniel Alarcon, is an excellent set of interviews with contemporary authors, focusing on the writers’ work strategies. The book is organized by question, so that all the interviewees’ answers are recorded as if they were in conversation with each other. The authors interviewed include Stephen King, Jennifer Egan, Paul Auster, Michael Chabon, Edwidge Danticat, Roddy Doyle, Allegra Goodman, Jonathan Letham, Haruki Murakami, and many others, so you expect an absorbing read, and it is. They answer questions about their influences, how they prepare to write a novel, their work habits, how they go about revision, how long it takes them to write a draft, whether they draw on real life for their characters or not, who they allow to read their drafts, how they know when they’ve reached a final draft, and so on.
It’s the kind of book about the arts that I really enjoy reading—experts at their craft talking about what they really do. The most comforting part for anyone hoping to learn more about writing from such a book is the wide diversity of habits, styles, and practices that are described. Each author, Machado-like, has carved out his or her own path.
No Applause—Just Throw Money by Trav S. D. (Yes!) is a chatty, informative book about the creation and evolution of vaudeville. The author neatly explains the rise of vaudeville as the standardization and rehabilitation of the other forms of variety entertainments that had played across America at one time or another since the country’s inception. The lecture hall, the dime museum, the circus, the minstrel show, the medicine show were the sometimes measly but ubiquitous entertainments criss-crossing the country. After women got the right to vote, the theater entrepreneurs understood that they could make more money by sanitizing the previously primarily male enclaves of variety entertainment. So vaudeville provided entertainment to men, women, and children, and at the same time provided a venue for the audience to see themselves on stage in the form of immigrant singers and comedians.
The formula of variety family entertainment made huge stars of many, and the same formula was put to work with the advent of television, which catered to the same audience. The new medium eventually killed off vaudeville. The likes of Ed Sullivan and Saturday Night Live were the direct descendants of that format. The book also does a nice job talking about some of the well-known vaudevillians—George M. Cohan, Eddie Cantor, Sophie Tucker—and some of the lesser known personalities, such as comedians Weber and Fields, and tap dancer Joe Frisco who were also huge stars in their time. Some great insight here on what it is to take an act, hone it to perfection, and perform it hundreds or even thousands (six a day!) of times a year.
And in the Magic Department we have The Chicago Surprise by Whit (“Pop”) Haydn. I first read Whit’s monograph detailing his unique handling of the classic card routine “Chicago Opener” quite a while ago, but it’s a booklet that I keep going back to. First of all, it’s a damn good trick, and as my skill at card magic improves, I want to make sure I’ve got it right. But even more importantly, it details a whole theory of performance magic
Briefly, the plot is this: a spectator chooses any card from an ordinary red-backed deck and it turns out to be the one card in the pack with a blue back. The blue-backed card is placed face down on the table. The magician then gives the spectator another choice of cards—offering the spectator a chance to change to another card if so desired. The card is lost in the deck, but when the spectator names the chosen card, the face-down blue-backed card is turned over to reveal that it is the same one that the spectator chose.
What is so valuable about Whit’s booklet is that it’s not just a description of a trick, but the outlining of a whole philosophy of magic, his now famous “dilemma” theory. Haydn holds nothing back, and the routine is there with a complete script, and with some great tips about the use of the major sleights involved: the palm, the DL and the CF. But in addition, Whit tells you why he constructed the routine the way he did, and his explanation yields great insight into audience perception and psychology. What with an included bonus routine for the Brainwave Deck, this is a must for any card worker.
And in progress: Arthur Phillips’s first novel, Prague; C. Wright Mills’s survey and critique of marxisms, The Marxists; The inventive Swedish magician Tomas Blomberg’s compilation of eclectic conjuring effects, Blomberg Laboratories; Michelle Alexander’s description of the new era of oppression for African-Americans through the criminal injustice system, The New Jim Crow; and a very interesting nuts and bolts book about writing, Building Great Sentences by Brooks Landon. I hope to report on all of these at another time. Until then, happy reading!
If the title seems cryptic, that’s because this post is another one for the magic geeks. So if you’re not a magic fan, this post may not be that interesting to you.
One of the many pleasant contributions to magic of the esteemed card magician Darwin Ortiz is his way of opening up a new deck of US Playing Card Company cards (Bicycles, Tallys) and rapidly shuffling them into Si Stebbins order. He described his method in a book that is long out of print and expensive to find, even on eBay.
So, some time ago, I tried to reverse engineer the Ortiz method. In so doing, I didn’t discover his method, but I did come up with my own. After finally finding out what the Ortiz method actually was, I realized just how inferior my own attempt was. But here it is, my own (clunky) method for free, just for fun. Perhaps someone can make use of it.
For USPCC NDO to Si Stebbins
1) Run 10 cards, throw deck on top.
2) Run 3 cards, throw deck on top.
3) Say “Oh I forgot about the jokers,” and turn deck face up. Cut the hearts to the top of the deck.
4) Take out the jokers. Say, “I don’t know if there are any more.” Spread the spades, cut at the 7 (that is, the 7 is now the card closest to your palm in the right hand), put the rest of the spades on top of these (without reversing them), then cut all the spades to the top of the deck.
5) Spread the diamonds, cut at the 4, put the rest of the diamonds on top of these, then cut all the diamonds to the top of the deck.
6) Reverse count the clubs into your right hand, stop at the 2 in your right hand, put the Ace under those cards, then cut all the clubs to the top of the deck.
7) Two out faros –keys are 5D and then 8S. You are now in Si Stebbins with the AC on top, JH on the bottom, in CoDfiSH order.
So now for the real value in this post. Last year I was at a magic convention where Gene Anderson slayed a large roomful of magicians with his Si Stebbins routine. He sells the manuscript describing the routine for a laughably small amount on his website.