Posts Tagged ‘Sleight of hand’

NEED TO READ: ‘Magician and the Cardsharp’ shows Vernon’s dedication to sleight of hand

Monday, June 29th, 2015

There’s a reason Dai Vernon is regarded as “The Professor,” and is one of the most esteemed, legendary names in magic. Actually, there’s a myriad of reasons, from his attention to detail and dogged determination, to his willingness to share what he’d learned with deserving students.

“The Magician and the Cardsharp,” by Karl Johnson, shows another reason: His dedication to pursuing sleight of hand. As the title suggests, the book covers two people: Vernon and Allen Kennedy, a shifty gambler who dealt his trade at card tables in Pleasant Hill, Missouri.

We’ve written before about the lengths Daniel Madison went to learn the moves and skills needed to cheat against actual players. That pursuit led to Mechanic and fueled the devotion to deception behind Moves. Vernon’s path to learn many of those same moves, and apply them to magical presentations, is similar, and well documented in Johnson’s book — making it a perfect summer read.

Vernon’s hunt for Kennedy began in the ’30s, after the Great Depression had quelled America’s appetite for magic. Long known as a persistent, focused artist, he approached magic from an engineering standpoint. He was one of the first to expand the gambling lessons of S.W. Erdnase’s “Expert at the Card Table” — while other magicians relied on trick cards, gimmicks and gaffs, Vernon saw how sleight of hand could help him accomplish the same kinds of miracles, only with a more natural flow and feel. The moves of the gambler fueled him, and gave him the skill to fool Houdini.

He had to learn firsthand, however.

In order to learn more than what Erdnase could teach, Vernon sought out gambling rooms and pass himself off as a mechanic so that he could win the trust of crooked dealers and learn their techniques. Johnson does a brilliant job of telling how Vernon risked his life in order to steal the secrets of the crooked and use them for magical purposes. Bottom deals, second deals, stacks, deck replacements; he learned them all.

So when Vernon heard about Kennedy, who had allegedly mastered a deal from the center of the deck — a move that appears nowhere in Erdnase’s book — he had to hunt the secret down. Instantly understanding the value of such a move, he started a hunt to track down the creator.

And speaking of Kennedy: Johnson also details his life, and how the dealer drifted through gambling halls, learning a lot, practicing his trade and learning crucial lessons about timing. One of the most powerful lessons he learned was that there was no need to fully stack a deck, because all it took to swing a hand was one single card. That lesson stuck with Vernon, who repeated it often to anyone who would listen.

There are plenty of fantastic passages in “The Magician and the Cardsharp,” including how Houdini was affected by Vernon’s “fooling.” But the most compelling part of the book is how it demonstrates how all-encompassing the pursuit of magic can be. We can’t recommend everyone follow Vernon’s exact path, especially in these dangerous days. But Vernon’s efforts show exactly what it takes to blaze a trail.

While you wait for Purple Artifice, study the man who inspired them

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

No one knows who S.W. Erdnase really was.

He is known well to us magicians as the author of the seminal book on sleight of hand with cards, “Expert at the Card Table.” His work on sleight of hand has been studied by virtually every master of card magic, including Dai Vernon and Ed Marlo. But that’s all we know — well, and that he needed money enough to publish his works.

Some of you caught the Erdnase quote before it was identified in the Purple Artifice trailer, featuring Shade and his incredible handling. Erdnase’s methods, and his philosophies about card handling, are a foundation of today’s close-up magic. Many of the techniques, strategies and philosophies that we put into practice when we perform, he wrote about in 1902. Though his writing style is dated (as is his patter), his methods are timeless. His attitude of learning the art of sleight of hand matches spot on with our own.

“Expert at the Card Table” is inspirational. Erdnase is behind the creation of the Artifice deck. So while you wait for the Purple Artifice, read some of our favorite quotes from the man behind it. And tell us YOUR favorite quotes.

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Vector: An impromptu Haunted Pack effect that’s all style, no setup

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

Haunted Pack: Great effect, but the setup can be challenging if you’re not prepared or don’t have the right stuff. That’s what Patrick Kun thought about the classic trick. Building on the work of others, he figured out a way to present an authentic Haunted Pack effect without a lick of setup.

That’s a big deal, because the Haunted Pack is one of the creepiest, bizarre card tricks ever created. With either the power of your mind, the whim of your imagination or with the help of the spirit world (pick your favorite presentation), the cards move by themselves in front of your spectators’ eyes. Heck yeah.

Vector is a 100 percent off-the-cuff presentation of a Haunted Pack. Your spectators will choose a card and lose it in the deck. Then they will see the deck move itself slowly, like that steak creeping across the counter in “Poltergeist,” then it will eject itself and shoot out like Carol Anne across the kitchen floor. Creepy as get out. Or funny as heck, depending on your presentation.

Vector is available right now as a download. Get it, learn it, then go creep some peeps.

Five things to remember when bringing magic to work

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

One of the first things people realize when they start learning magic is that their brains begin to work differently. Especially those who find magic later in life: They go from people who generally take things at face value to those who wonder what’s going on behind the scenes. They learn to size things up more. From our experience, we see people get more confident, assertive and charismatic.

That’s why it doesn’t surprise us that a lot of our customers and members turn to us to gain advantages in the workplace.

But a lot of guys rush into magic headlong — trust us, we’ve been there — and end up in embarrassing situations. Maybe they become known as that weirdo magic guy. Maybe they don’t fool anybody. Maybe their mentalism is so good that it freaks out co-workers. Or maybe they cause more distractions than pleasant diversions. The transition doesn’t go well, and the guy ends up never picking up a deck of cards again.

If you’re getting into magic, congratulations. This craft will change your life for the better. Your co-workers may not be ready for that change, however. So here’s five steps to make the transformation smoothly: (more…)

Five reasons why magicians are beating you at poker

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

When we follow the World Series of Poker, the World Poker Tour and other Texas Hold’em games, we root for Antonio Esfandiari for the obvious reason: Dude is a professional magician who worked restaurants before breaking into the game. He’s a great reminder of something we think is a given: Magicians are better poker players.

But not for the reason you think. It has nothing to do with cheating or sleight of hand. We do not need it.

Sure, you might think we can work some sleight of hand past you and unfairly gain an edge. But the truth of the matter is that it is nearly impossible to cheat at a casino or professional poker room. Casinos hire magicians to instruct them about sleights of hand, so they know exactly what to look for.

So why are we taking your money like you’re giving it to a busking magician at the state fair? We can think of five reasons. (more…)