If we knew more about S.W. Erdnase, we might see that he had a lot in common with Daniel Madison.
If we believe what Erndase wrote about himself and the sleights he wrote about in “The Expert at the Card Table,” then maybe he and Madison discovered the same sleights in the same way. Erdnase wrote that while he knew about what conjurors SAID can be used at the card table, but did not know of a publication that discussed how those moves survived the skeptical, dangerous eyes that are often found at the kind of card table where sleight of hand may be used, and had a lot of disdain for the performers who said they braved the back room bordello game and came up aces:
“If terrific denunciation of erstwhile associates, and a diatribe on the awful consequences of gambling are a criterion of ability, these purified prodigals must have been very dangerous companions at the card table.”
Those, among other words Erdnase wrote, kinda ticked off Madison when he finally discovered the book, and that the moves he discovered naturally had been detailed and published about 100 years earlier. Madison’s story of how he got caught cheating and woke up in a hospital room is now well known: Magician Jamie D. Grant told Madison’s story brilliantly in the Feb. 2013 issue of Magic magazine.
The injury led to refocusing his priorities. After putting his knowledge into writing such books as “How to Cheat at Cards,” Madison has now poured his discoveries into Mechanic, a 2-DVD set that exposes what he used at the table to cheat, deceive and win.
In doing so, he has taken a path similar to another important figure in magic: Dai Vernon.
Known as the Professor and the Man Who Fooled Houdini, Vernon was interested in magic as a child, often getting trouble for practicing during school. But unlike Madison, Vernon discovered Erdnase’s now-classic book before he became a teenager. According to Karl Johnson in his book “The Magician and the Cardsharp,” Vernon was obsessed with Erdnase to the point of becoming magic’s preeminent scholar on the work. He later published “Revelation,” an annotated version for magicians that better explained some of the book’s more difficult moves.
But in Vernon’s early days discovering sleight of hand, as he worked as a silhouette artist in Wichita, he specifically sought the moves of the sharp to use for magic. “The Magician and the Cardsharp” describes the long pursuit he went through to find someone who could deal from the center — a feat that appears nowhere in “Expert.” He would find gambling rooms and pass himself off as a card mechanic in order to learn different and more modern techniques for cheating. Believing that natural sleight of hand was better and more mysterious than using gimmicks and gadgets, for magic, he risked his life to dive into the underworld of gaming and escape with its secrets.
Vernon braved the game and came out with knowledge. Madison has also braved the game. The difference: Vernon dived into shark-infested waters in order to learn how the predators found their prey.
Madison dived in to prey on other predators.
Mechanic is his treatise on what he discovered when he was cheating and deceiving at will at the table — many times for not a pound of profit, but just for the thrill of being able to do it. Madison was his own audience for many years.
While Mechanic is not technically a magic video, this is destined to become a classic in magic instruction, because it was developed to fool the sharpest, most dangerous eyes. Mechanic is deep exploration into the most undetectable movements, revealed by a man who nearly lost his life because of one single error.
Mechanic is now available for preorder, exclusively from Ellusionist. Learn how you can pay for the first five minutes with just a tweet or Facebook post, or how you can earn a free deck of Scarlet Rounders.