Ideas on deception that I've learned the hard way

Jun 27, 2014
I have these two friends, my closest friends. When we hang out, we are usually under the influence of certain medicinal herbs ;). Sometimes we make music, sometimes we go on walks, sometimes I do magic/cardistry. The problem is, they keep figuring out all my tricks. The only time I've ever really fooled one of them (and he's still stumped as to how I did it) is by having the other friend be my stooge and doing a word prediction trick.

So I've realized something:

You shouldn't perform a trick for people. You should perform a routine.

Even though I've practiced the moves 1000 times, and my technique is amazing, my deception is not very good. When I perform a single trick, I leave too much time at the end for people to think and reverse engineer the trick in their mind. Most people are intelligent enough to figure out how something might be done (given enough time). So don't give them time.

When you perform magic, perform a routine that you have crafted and carefully designed. Theres a reason why my ambitious card routine gets better reactions than any other trick I do. Because it's not a trick, it's a routine. I've thought about the fact that if I do a double lift for the first phase, a pass for the second phase, the venus trap for the third phase, the crease on the fourth phase, and end with card to mouth, then I'm doing the 'same trick' 5 times with different methods. Which means that right when they think they have me figured out, I change my method and show them that I'm not doing it the way they think I am.

The biggest benefit you have as a magician is not your intellect. You're not so much more clever than other people that you can comprehend things they can't. You're real advantage is time and preparation.

You have days, weeks, months, and years to prepare a complex set of events that cannot possibly be fully understood in the span of a few minutes by someone who didn't already know the moves/techniques.

I need to take this advice as well, it's not something that I execute perfectly, it's just something I've realized. But then again, maybe I'm wrong about all of this and the only reason they figure out my magic is because I'm performing while high hahaha.
May 21, 2014
Staunton, VA
On a general basis, you want your magic to do something besides trick or deceive people. That's what will really make them leave behind the notion of thinking about how it's done. If your magic grabs their interest and tells a complete story they can follow and be captivated by, then you can get the audience on your side so that they'll willingly go along with you for the journey. As soon as somebody decides it's a challenge to their intellect, you can get into heckler territory.

It is for this reason that magicians, in my humble opinion, do best not to think of themselves as practicing the "art of deception." The deception itself is best treated as a tool to deliver performance in another medium, be it comedy, mentalism, storytelling, dance, music, or some combination of these or other things. Deception is like the brush with which we apply our art, but it's not the focus or the final product.

To be fair, there is definite artistry in various levels of deceptive performance (sleight of hand, misdirection, lying, etc.), but only in the same sense that there's an artistry to a painter's brushwork; you definitely see it in the final product, but it's not the focus unless it's intentionally focused upon by the painter or the painting itself lacks anything to hold the attention, at which point we might start nit-picking the brushwork from boredom.

In general, routines are better for this kind of delivery than isolated tricks because they're easier to format into a compelling performance. A stand-alone trick usually isn't much aside from spectacle. Like a story, a good effect or routine will have a rhythm and layout that includes hooking the interest, creating rising action and tension, and delivering a satisfying, surprising, and potentially distressing climax.
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