Jan 12, 2022
Hi, I'll start by introducing myself.

My name's Conor, I'm a magician and graphic designer in my third year of University in the UK, and for my Final Major Project I am looking to create a printed artefact that breaks down the elements of a card trick, answering the complete question "How did you do that?", and designed to be sold specifically to magicians. In my experience, there is so much that goes into a card trick, beyond the manipulation of cards. This is a passion project for me to finish of my studies, breaking down everything I love about magic and design and putting it into a book that is designed to be unravelled, destroyed and pieced together as it is read.

I want to know about what your thoughts are about an artefact like this, and what, in your individual experiences, contributes to a powerful card trick, or any form of deception, misdirection, conjuring or magic that you do, regardless of what your style of performing is. Do you find the way that you move your body is undervalued and important? Do you use any "psychological" techniques to enhance what you do? Is the performance the key element or do you actually think it all comes down to physical technique?


Elite Member
Jul 25, 2015
It depends on the performer. Some like self working magic so they can focus on presentation. Some are good at story telling and some, like me, rely on technique. We play to our strengths and there are a variety of ways to do this in this arena.

There are no answers, but many truths.


Elite Member
Nov 1, 2009
New Jersey
What contributes to a powerful card trick?

1. The effect needs to demonstrate impossibility by not having an obvious method and by not encouraging the audience to care about the method.

As long as the method is not obvious, you should be fine. I'm one who will choose an easier method than some difficult sleight of hand. Simpler is better.

Also, see Roberto Giobbi's writings about naturalness in handling. I've seen many well-known magicians who's card handling is so "tight" that it looks like they are doing sleights even when they aren't. Magic should look like you are doing nothing abnormal. If the audience thinks you did something, they think they figured out the method (he did something right before he showed us the cards).

I disagree with Tamariz's theory in The Magic Way where he suggests that you lead the audience down a path and then disprove the possibility of that path. Instead, I think the key is to present the effect in a manner that the audience doesn't care about the method. This means avoiding a "say-do-see" presentation that is essentially the magician demonstrating what they can do. Such presentations place the magician above the audience (I know the method and you don't) and lead to the audience wanting to figure out the method. This is discussed by Ortiz in Strong Magic when he talks about "challenge" magic. However, I disagree with Ortiz's analysis of Slydini's performance as being an example and would argue just saying what you are doing is more of an unstated but inherent challenge.

2. The presentation needs to engage the audience.

If the audience is engaged, they won't be thinking about the method. If your presentation makes sense and leads them to WANT the magic to succeed, the effect will be powerful. Presentations can be serious or whimsical, stories or expositions, poetry or prose, meaningful or abstract. Just don't, as Eugene Burger would say, narrate the adventure of the props in your hands. The presentation need to be integral to the magic and the magic integral to the presentation - one should not be able to make sense without the other.

Do you find the way that you move your body is undervalued and important?

Tamariz's Five Points and a lot of Giobbi's writing addresses how to use your body in magic. Behaviors that project confidence, trust, likability and openness will make your presentations stronger. I like to think that my actions tell my audience, "come and join me in what I'm doing and we'll have some fun."

Do you use any "psychological" techniques to enhance what you do?

Isn't all of magic a psychological technique? That is, you are creating a setting where you are trying to get the audience to believe something that isn't happening? The entire concept of "misdirection" (or just direction as Tommy Wonder puts it) is psychological. See the idea of inattention blindness and the work of psychologist / magician Richard Weisman on change blindness.

One major technique that I use is being conscious of the wording I use because that wording dictates the spectator's memory. For example, if you are doing an effect where the spectator cuts the deck twice, after they do the second cut you can spread the deck and ask them, "it looks pretty well shuffled doesn't it?" Later you recap by saying "I had you shuffle the deck." Nobody will remember it was two cuts of the deck. In one effect I do, I have a spectator shuffle the deck, hand it back to me to spread out, pick a card and return it to the spread while the deck is in my hands. I then close the deck and hand it to them saying "I don't even want to touch the deck." Later, I tell them "You shuffled the deck, picked a card, you returned the card the deck and you've been holding the deck ever since." You would be surprised how many spectators forget that I even touched the deck!

Even if you are a magician, Banachek's Psychological Subtleties is a great book that gets you thinking about this.

Is the performance the key element or do you actually think it all comes down to physical technique?

Physical technique is the least important element of a magic trick. Let me explain... I can do amazing things using gimmicks, non-sleights (think about the cross-cut force), self-working techniques and simple techniques (Elmsley Count, Double Lift, Top Palm). You don't need difficult sleights. However, the slights you perform should be done openly and smoothly. That said, the method is important. It has to be simple (as possible), motivated (no unnecessary moves or phases) and you get bonus points for ingenious (because that makes it more simple and smooth).

Performance includes a lot. It includes the proficiency of your sleights (you don't want to flash, look sloppy or be tense) which comes from practice. You need a good script (which engages the audience) and good presentation of the script. You also need a developed character and a comfortable performance.

I like what Larry Haas says in his book Transformations about performance pieces and the amount of effort that goes into taking an idea and turning it into a performance ready piece.

I'd be glad to talk further about your project.
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