Posts Tagged ‘card’

FOUR POINTS: Reasons why teaching the ACR took a full video

Thursday, February 5th, 2015

Despite the amount of material we’ve released over an almost 15-year period, our older material still draws attention, and none more so than Crash Course 2. The video teaching the ambitious card routine (ACR) has been one of our best-reviewed videos because it features Brad’s teaching style at its best, and it’s packed full like a Southern bell’s suitcase with sleights, moves and ideas.

Released in 2003, it marked a departure from Crash Course 1, which taught several stand-alone routines from beginning to end. With a concept of teaching the ACR, it taught so much more than a routine — it taught how to make OUR OWN routines. The ACR is a classic of magic: It was a specific variation of that trick that Dai Vernon used to fool Houdini. It can be done myriad ways with a borrowed deck of cards. Every card worker has their take on it, and usually relies on some form of it as their go-to trick.

That means there’s no one way to teach an ACR. There are multiple ways, and that’s exactly the approach Brad Christian took with the video. And that approach makes Crash Course 2.


Crash Course 2 offers some of the best examples of learning by watching. The video was PACKED with performances of the effects taught. It gave watchers a chance to see exactly how the sleights played to real people, and how some performances don’t exactly go as planned, but still look magical. We also got to see so many great reactions, from the kid with the “Jackass” shirt to the girls Nate Staniforth performed for.


At its core, Crash Course 2 is a video packed with controls — a lot of different ways to accomplish the same thing. How many different ways do we REALLY need to know how to get a card to a certain position? The serious answer is simple: A LOT. For many, Crash Course 2 was a first toolbox, or arsenal. It gave magicians many options of accomplishing a certain task, and that freed up creativity.


The moves taught in Crash Course 2 go way beyond one-hit wonders. Many of those moves can be adapted for other purposes. Take the push-off double lift, for instance: It works at either the front of a trick to show a card going somewhere it’s really not, or it can be used at the end of a trick to reveal what a card really isn’t. By learning all the different uses for a sleight, the video taught a powerful lesson about using sleights in different ways.


This is probably the most important point: The other three points basically give magicians the power to create their own routines based on their performance character. David Blaine got many interested in magic, but one thing the video drives home is that people don’t want to see magic tricks performed — they want to see a GREAT MAGICIAN performing magic. Learning a variety of sleights and different ways to use them lets magicians take ownership of their own magic, and that’s the best lesson of all.

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

Would Paul LePaul be a flourisher?

Sunday, August 4th, 2013

Paul LePaul is a historic figure in magic for many reasons. The creator of the LePaul spread, LePaul bluff pass and author of “The Card Magic of LePaul” is respected and admired for his love of performance and his precision manipulations. When we look for magic quotes to publish on our Facebook and Twitter pages, we visit his work often.

In fact, we printed one of his quotes yesterday on our Facebook page:

“Much of the charm and beauty of card magic lies in the skillful and adroit handling of the pasteboards. Flourishes, therefore, are a very essential part of the stock-in-trade of every manipulator. Do not underestimate their value; they play a very important role in arousing interest and have a terrific appeal to the imagination of an audience.”

A couple of people were quick to point out that LePaul was talking about basic flourishes, such as fans, cascades, spreads. That kind of thing. The point being that LePaul wouldn’t dive into the world of non-magical flourishing, what with all those crazy cuts, throws and such.

That got us thinking: Would he?

If LePaul were alive today, would he be a flourisher?

Man, do we wish there was performance footage available today. We’d love to be able to watch him perform. Judging from research by the Conjuring Arts Research Center, LePaul was a polished performer who prioritized precision and panache, all with an eye on pleasing his audiences. He didn’t talk much, and didn’t use complicated displays.

In “Card Magic,” published in 1949, Robert Parrish writes that he could play to a small room or a large room with equal aplomb, because he had enough showmanship to make a small card trick play big. When writing about LePaul’s version of a Ten Card Trick, he wrote that “…When three cards disappear from a packet held by a spectator and are found among ten cards of differently colored backs, to the accompaniment of fine comedy, the effect is as impressive as that of a major stage illusion.”

LePaul was also known for his manipulations. From the vaudeville circuit to the hotels and nightclubs he filled, his act was based on his manipulation routines.

Whenever we get chances to dive into card magic history, we see two major paths that magicians can follow. One is that of Dai Vernon, who is a self-assigned protege of S.W. Erdnase and who brought casual, non-flashy, efficient yet subdued moves to the card magician. The other is LePaul, who showed that expert manipulation, which clearly pointed to practice and skill, could indeed be magical. (These two paths are very close together, have plenty of spots where they intersect and both lead to the same place, so we don’t advocate choosing one over the other.)

The most revealing passage of Parrish’s preface to “Card Magic” deals with how much importance LePaul gave to practicing:

“LePaul was a successful professional magician from the beginning of his career because he found a medium and style which suited his personality and because he spent a great deal of time practicing his manipulation. He realize that even to layemen who could not appreciate technical accomplishments, his work would appear the most magical if his sleights were executed with absolute precision.”

Parrish also noted that his two main idols were Nate Leipzig and Howard Thurston — Thurston is significant because, like Jim Steinmeyer, we believe that he bested Houdini for the claim of greatest magician in the world.

And that gets us back to the main question: Would LePaul flourish non-magically? What would he do with Sybil, or an Anaconda Dribble, or Daniel Madison’s Cardistry?

We think he would embrace those moves. And perform then magically.

We don’t think LePaul would ever abandon magical presentations. LePaul was a brilliant magician because he was a brilliant performer. His innovations were based on simplicity, and he carefully chose his material for each audience. So if he were alive today, we’d like to think that a handful of flourishing’s modern moves might appear in some of his routines. But never at the expense of his love for precision and performing.

It’s worth your time to research him. The Conjuring Arts Research Society has recently opened up a display of LePaul’s personal notebook. And if you haven’t read “Card Magic” yet, do so.

Madison’s dive into gambling’s underworld similar to The Professor

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

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.


Artist Interviews: Concert causes switch in Nate Staniforth’s style

Saturday, November 3rd, 2012

Most of our customers first saw Nate Staniforth in Crash Course 2. Near the end, he did a performance of an ambitious card routine that turned out to be a highlight of the video, for a lot of reasons. His routine structure was brilliant, he got crazy reactions and his hands were shaking like crazy.

Nate doesn’t shake much anymore. But he still gets a thrill from performing. He has performed in hundreds of shows across the country and world, and is known for one of the most subtle, stripped, bare bones magic shows in the business. You’ve probably heard his opener about how he uses no smoke machines, laser beams or dance numbers. But there’s not even a spotlight, background music or stage decoration. Just him, a handful of pocket-sized props and a few chairs.

He’s one of the most sought-after magicians in the college circuit, by the way.

Yet Staniforth didn’t start out so streamlined. At one point, he was stage magic to the max: flowy shirt, tight leather pants, motorcycle on stage.

What made him change his style? A simple music concert.

We caught up with Staniforth after a recent show in Nevada, Mo. We talked to him about that concert and why it was so influential, how he reads audience members, a future YouTube project he’s working on, why he couldn’t stop a show for an injury and how he keeps astonishment alive for his spectators, and himself.

Staniforth will perform in Hartford, Conn. and Portland, Ore., in November. Keep an eye on his tour schedule, and don’t miss him when he comes to your town. Or find a copy of “Magician,” his performance video.


Vernon’s fooling of Houdini shows why we should never stop learning

Monday, October 1st, 2012

So I’m reading “The Magician and the Card Sharp,” by Karl Johnson, which is about Dai Vernon and the hunt for an elusive mechanic who can center deal like nobody’s business. Vernon’s search is pretty important for a number of reasons:

  • ~ Vernon was relentless in his pursuit of knowledge, and went to great lengths to learn about cons, sleights and other hustles.
  • ~ While other magicians thought S.W. Erdnase’s “Expert at the Card Table” was so technical that it was impossible to learn from, Vernon devoured it and found it incredibly detailed.
  • ~ At the time, a center deal was fairly unknown. Not even Erdnase tackled it.
  • ~ Because Vernon favored the mechanics of the sharps over the gimmicked gadgets of the stage magicians, a method for a reliable center deal was invaluable.

The book is, so far, quite compelling. Johnson has taken the biographies of two interesting figures and woven them into a compelling narrative that reads like fiction. It’s almost like Erik Larson wrote one of his “Devil in the White City” books about magicians. As far as the first few chapters, anyway… I’m not done reading the book yet, and a part about Vernon’s famous moniker kind of distracted me.

Vernon is known by two nicknames: The Professor, and the Man Who Fooled Houdini. The story of how Houdini was taken by Vernon’s Ambitious Card Routine is legendary, but what struck me was what happened afterward.