FOUR POINTS: Ways to sharpen your magic skills without a single prop

February 25th, 2013 | Joe Hadsall | Filed Under Four Points

It happens to the best of us. We’re supposed to be prepared, to have our four necessary props and anything else we make part of our daily pack. But sometimes we find ourselves without any of those things, meaning we have no way to perform, practice or otherwise make magic.

Forget performing, we just want to practice.

Maybe you’re stuck in a long line for a movie or a nightclub. Maybe you’re out with your special someone, who is trying on outfit after outfit with no sign of making a decision any time soon. Maybe you’re waiting for an appointment, or just at a boring break in your day between classes.

It could be anything. Whatever it is, it’s made worse by how you have no cards and you feel each second wasting away like sand through your fingers.

Waste no more time. Here’s four things you can do without a single card, coin, rubber band, pen, thumb tip or other prop. In fact, each of these four things are so important that we’d recommend finding time to do them anyway — even when you have all your stuff handy.

EXERCISE YOUR HANDS: Truth be told, it’s easy to design routines, sets and careers using nothing but self-working tricks that don’t require a smidge of sleight of hand. If that’s you, then we salute you. But most of our customers have a basic working command of sleight of hand, and a good majority of them have the dexterity to pull off some of the art’s more difficult moves.

That means it helps to keep fingers strong. High-priced, fancy finger strengtheners aren’t necessary for you to increase finger strength, however. There are plenty of finger exercises that you can do anytime, anywhere. Daniel Madison covered several of them in Revelations No. 6. Briefly: Spread your fingers out as far as you can, until you feel a burn in the webbing between them. Then clench your hands into tight fists. Daniel explains in much more depth here.

MAKE EYE CONTACT WITH PEOPLE AROUND YOU: This is an old theater-class exercise that professors taught us to do between classes: As you walk past people, make eye contact with every single one of them. If they look back, just give a little nod, or a “Hi.” No need to start a conversation or a staring contest. You don’t even need to get a response back — in fact, you’ll not get much acknowledgment doing this.

The point is to get you in the habit of making eye contact. Obviously, that’s important for anyone wanting to be an actor, but it’s doubly important for magicians. When we have eye contact with a spectator, we have a wide open channel of communication with them, and we have a valuable source of misdirection. Establishing points of eye contact within routines is critical, and this exercise gets you comfortable with locking in.

RECITE PATTER TO YOURSELF: Usually if a magician wants to run through a routine quickly, we’ll see them run through the moves. They’ll rehearse every sleight, every movement. BUT THEY WON’T SAY A THING. That drives us nuts — routines are powerful! They give a motive for magic moments and provide the kind of deeper meaning that leaves spectators deeply moved.

So run through your routine in your head. Whether you believe in sticking to a script or ticking off big plot points, recite those in your mind. Or whisper them to yourself, if you can get away with it. Any practice you put into your patter or presentation is time well spent.

LET YOUR MIND WANDER: This step is as simple as looking at that half-empty glass of water and calling it half-full. If you know you’ll be stuck in a situation where minutes will tick by, you can look at it as wasting time, and get ticked off about that. You can spend it cursing the situation that left you without cards, and get bitter over the missed practice opportunity.

Or you can look at it as a break. Let your mind wander to whatever it wants to think about. Enjoy the break. Look around you for inspiration — maybe something might trigger a chain of thought that leads to a new routine, presentation or sleight. Maybe you’ll meet someone and start a conversation that leads to a gig. Or maybe you can just enjoy this crazy, insane, wonderful life with our without magic for a few moments. The choice is up to you.

So what did we miss? Is there anything you’d do that we haven’t listed here? Let us know in the comments, or fire back on our Facebook or Twitter pages.

FOUR POINTS is a regular feature that celebrates magicians’ favorite number by highlighting four critical bits of importance, awesomeness or otherwise. Send your suggestions to


  1. Midnightwalker on:

    Maybe you can’t perform but you can always practice. I created my cigarette routine with a folded business card that I found on the floor on streets. If you already have a routine or special move… well, exercise those fingers so you can do that move more smooth and faster if needed.