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Mysterium: The Beginning of Bee

Posted by Jason England on May 8th, 2013 in Mysterium

beginning-of-bee01

You’ve probably never heard of Lewis Cohen. That’s not surprising, considering he was born over 200 years ago. Cohen was the first person to make lead pencils in America, and he invented a four-color printing process that revolutionized the manufacture of playing cards in the late 1830′s.

A son and two nephews of Lewis Cohen merged their respective playing card companies in 1871 and became the Consolidated Card Company. Calling themselves the New York Consolidated Card Co. a few years later, the group became a leading producer of playing cards in a very short period of time. (more…)

Mysterium: Georges Méliès

Posted by Jason England on May 1st, 2013 in Mysterium

melies-georges

There have been a handful of movies over the past decade that feature magic in a prominent role. The Illusionist and The Prestige were released a few years ago, and this year we get The Incredible Burt Wonderstone and Now You See Me. But you may not know that virtually all movies owe a little something to the world of magic.

Marie-Georges-Jean Méliès, better known as simply Georges Méliès, was born in Paris in 1861.

As a young man he worked for his father in the shoe business. In London in 1884, the young Méliès discovered Egyptian Hall, the magic theater run by John Nevil Maskelyne and George Cooke. There, Méliès saw the most incredible illusions of the late 19th century. The effect on him was profound and he ultimately made magic his profession. (more…)

Mysterium: The Best Game in Town

Posted by Jason England on April 10th, 2013 in Mysterium

Editor’s Note: This article is the eleventh in a weekly series by Jason England: MYSTERIUM. Each article will be posted on Wednesday at 11:00am EST – every post on a different subject. This week, Jason discusses which games are the best in a casino, with the odds the most in your favor.

Mysterium – The Best Game in Town

To date, I’ve filmed 24 training videos on card cheat techniques – false shuffles, card controls, and the like. These videos are produced for entertainment purposes only. To win in a REAL casino, fair and square, you need to beat the odds – and that starts with choosing which game to play. In this article, I’ll review which games are the best, with the odds the most in your favor.

Living in Las Vegas, people frequently ask me, “What’s the best game to play in the casino?” To the vast majority of people I simply reply, “Blackjack”.

It’s not that I don’t want to take the time to explain the real answer; it’s just that most people are asking what they perceive to be a simple question and so I don’t disappoint them – I give them a simple answer. (more…)

Mysterium: The Words We Use

Posted by Jason England on March 27th, 2013 in Mysterium

Editor’s Note: This article is the tenth in a weekly series by Jason England: MYSTERIUM. Each article in this series will be posted on Wednesday at 11:00am EST – every post on a different subject. This week, Jason discusses the merit of using a script during a magic performance.

The Words We Use

There is debate in the magic world about whether or not a performer should work from a script or whether it’s sufficient to decide what you’re going to say in the moment (and perhaps make changes from one show to another). My own opinion is this: I believe in scripts for the vast majority of situations, but don’t necessarily have a problem with working from only an outline in informal performances. Let me explain. (more…)

Mysterium – The World’s Oldest Deck of Cards

Posted by Jason England on March 20th, 2013 in Mysterium

Editor’s Note: This article is the ninth in a weekly series by Jason England: MYSTERIUM. Each article in this series will be posted on Wednesday at 11:00am EST – every post on a different subject. This week, Jason shares the history of playing cards – and the world’s OLDEST deck.

The World’s Oldest Deck of Cards

Playing cards weren’t “invented” in the sense that other objects are invented. There isn’t a single day or week in history that we can point to and state that playing cards were invented during that period. Rather, playing cards evolved into their present form. We know that the Chinese were using paper objects very much like playing cards for various games as early as the 9th century and perhaps as much as 500 years earlier. These cards had traditional Chinese pictogram images on them and were related to both dice and dominoes. (more…)

Mysterium: Total Recall

Posted by Jason England on March 13th, 2013 in Mysterium

Editor’s Note: This article is the eighth in a weekly series by Jason England: MYSTERIUM. Each article in this series will be posted on Wednesday at 11:00am EST – every post on a different subject. This week, Jason talks about the the psychology and method behind memorizing the order of an entire deck.

Total Recall

Years ago, I read a story about how Dai Vernon would often try and memorize a deck of playing cards before going to bed. This wasn’t to perform magic with a “Mem-Deck” as we now understand the term, but rather as a pure memory stunt. Although I haven’t been able to locate this story again, I believe Vernon stated that he got his time down to around a minute or so with practice.

The current world record for memorizing a deck of cards is under 30 seconds.

Actually, 21.90 seconds to be exact. It’s held by Simon Reinhard of Germany. Other sub-60 second past champions are Ben Pridmore (24.9 seconds), Andi Bell (32.9 seconds), and Dominic O’Brien (38.29 seconds). Dominic O’Brien appears to be the first person to break the 60-second “barrier” in an official event, although other memory experts are likely to have duplicated the feat long before official records were kept. (more…)

Mysterium: Old Dog, New Trick

Posted by Jason England on March 6th, 2013 in Mysterium

Editor’s Note: This article is the seventh in a weekly series by Jason England: MYSTERIUM. Each article in this series will be posted on Wednesday at 11:00am EST – every post on a different subject. This week, Jason shares his experience from a recent cruise ship gig, where he performed close up shows for 10 days, while cruising around the tip of South America.

Old Dog, New Trick

As some of you know, I was recently on a cruise ship that sailed around the tip of South America. I was hired to perform close-up magic in a small theater on the ship for up to 22 guests at a time. This meant that I did two shows per day for about 10 of the 21 days I was there. When not performing in the theater, I had full guest status and was encouraged, but not required to mingle with the other guests and to do some informal performing if the situation was right and I felt comfortable doing so.

Although I’m known primarily for my abilities with a regular deck of cards and for my penchant for gambling-related routines and moves, I’ve never let go of my magic roots completely. I still enjoy a wide assortment of great close-up magic effects both with and without playing cards, even though I rarely perform with anything other than cards these days. (more…)

Mysterium: Stranger in a Strange Land

Posted by Jason England on February 28th, 2013 in Mysterium

Editor’s Note: This article is the sixth in a new, weekly series by Jason England: MYSTERIUM. Each article in this series will be posted on Wednesday at 11:00am EST – every post on a different subject. This week, Jason shares several cheating moves and techniques he saw while hosting the 2013 World Game Protection Conference in Las Vegas.

Hosting the World Game Protection Conference

As most of the readers of this new column know, I’m a magician with a serious, long-term interest in gambling moves. By “gambling moves”, I mean of course the techniques and principles that card, dice and roulette cheaters use to win money in both private games and in casino games.

This interest of mine has resulted in me hosting for the past two years in a row, the World Game Protection Conference here in Las Vegas, Nevada. As host, my duties include introducing the speakers to a large (over 400 attendees) audience and ensuring the day proceeds smoothly. I also facilitate Q&A sessions between the speakers and the audience. From time to time, I’ll chime in and participate in discussions where it’s appropriate, but only if I feel I have some insight into the subject matter at hand.

The 2013 conference ended this afternoon (it’s very late on February 27th as I type this) and I thought I’d give those of you who share my interest in “real” – as opposed to “theatrical” – cheating moves and techniques a glimpse into what I saw and learned over the past 3 days. (more…)

Mysterium: Difficult Spectators

Posted by Jason England on February 20th, 2013 in Articles, Mysterium

Editor’s Note: This article is the fifth in a new, weekly series by Jason England: MYSTERIUM. Each article in this series will be posted on Wednesday at 11:00am EST – every post on a different subject. This week, Jason talks about how to manage performing for “difficult” spectators.

It’s better to maintain control than try and regain it.

As I type this, I’m sitting on a cruise ship docked in the southernmost city in the world, Ushuaia, Argentina, at the very southern tip of South America.

While I’ve been on the ship the past few weeks, I’ve been performing close-up magic shows for approximately twenty guests at a time in a small theater that’s been set up on board just for these performances. It’s very much like performing at the Close-up Room at The Magic Castle, only without the raked seating. Still, the room is intimate enough that sight lines are not a problem and I don’t need a microphone.

Over the past fifteen or so shows, I’ve begun to realize that I don’t have a lot of the problems that other, less experienced close-up performers often have with non-magician spectators. Until I gave this some thought recently, I had always shrugged off my success with “good” spectators as mere luck. Now that I’ve been thinking about writing an article once a week however, I’ve begun to analyze my act a bit more and I think I realized something these past few weeks: I’m not lucky at all. (more…)

Mysterium: Come Sail Away

Posted by Jason England on February 13th, 2013 in Articles, Mysterium

Editor’s Note: This article is the fourth in a new, weekly series by Jason England: MYSTERIUM. Each article in this series will be posted on Wednesday at 11:00am EST – every post on a different subject. This week, Jason describes a practical way to practice and master The Bottom Deal.

The Bottom Deal is a classic sleight-of-hand card movement that enables you to covertly deal the bottom card of the deck while in play. With practice, the move can be done without detection.

Come Sail Away - A Practical Way to Practice and Master the Bottom Deal

I no longer have a set practice schedule. These days I find that frequent performing, even if they are only informal performances for friends and family, is enough to keep my physical skills with the cards reasonably sharp. I do still practice quite often. It’s just that I no longer need to sit down for formal practice sessions every day like I did when I was first starting out in magic. (more…)

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