Recuperating When Tricks Go Wrong

Mar 30, 2008
Last night I was doing some magic at a family reunion and I decided to perform Derren Brown's Smoke to my uncle.

Here is a link to it if any of you do not know:

Anyway, everything was going well until I thought of his card. As soon as I said his card, he told me he knew how I did the trick. He was exactly right and had figured out the secret at one glance of the original spread. When I tried to show him his King Of Diamonds wasn't even in the deck by spreading it again, he picked up the king of ***** and revealed how I did that as well. Giving him the gum wrapper with the card inside became pointless. (I do not smoke)

This completely shocked me because no one had ever dismantled this trick before. I had done it to dozens of people but no one had ever been able to completely figure out Derren Brown's Smoke to the last detail. I had no clue how to recuperate as well. I was stunned. Very rarely do I do a trick so poorly the spectator figures it out.

After this incident, I realized how vulnerable I was when the spectator figures out a trick. So, my questions are:

A) How would you have recuperated from my circumstances last night, as in if your own uncle had figured out Derren Brown's Smoke the first time he saw it?


B)How do you recuperate when you mess up a trick and the spectator figures it out?

Oct 11, 2007
First off, welcome to magic, thats going to happen regardless no matter how good you are. Second, you didn't mess up smoke, smoke is not a technical trick where you messed up sleights. The only advice i can give you on that trick, is maybe your PRESENTATION is week in the trick, and you need to refine your wordage so the trick more fits your presentational style/ hook. you need to hook your audience so they are not so staring at the gimmicked deck but more mesmorized by what you are saying. bring them into the story bring them for a ride, derren brown is an expert at that and points that out many many times. so if that ever does happen. have one trick that stands alone on itself that blowssss people away. perhaps saying, lets move away from the deck because i know nothing is going to get past you, and lets try a test of psychological power, something that isn't "magic" but more pyschological ... then maybe do a strong mentalism piece, i like derrens brown invisible deck routine on devils picturebook, but when they deal the cards out on the table, i feel thats a bad idea because people do it haphazardly so what i found out to work, is put your hands out and have them deal in your empty hands and spread your hands apart so you can have the dealing process more clear for both the spectator and you, hope this helps buddy:)
Jun 10, 2008
Newcastle upon Tyne
well the good news is, you have choices!
you can...

A) Do something stronger.

B) Say "oh thats so embarassing, i could just die..." then stop your pulse. Maybe a tad too...rubbish!

C) Walk away, in a dignified manner, and practice. HARD.

Nov 10, 2007
I perform a lot of street magic, so I have had those incidents where I would mess up on a trick whenever I do, I would forget about that trick and belike watch the card and I would usually go straight into an erdnase color change because that makes them think oh this guys good, lets stick around and they had already forgotten about the other trick. Usually when I do a card trick I force a card because no matter what if you mess up you can read their mind or do something like that because you already know their card.
Hope that helps PM me if you have any other questions.
Nov 17, 2007
Slap your spectator in the face and tell him/her to stop ruining your To be honest, whenever someone tells me they figured out one of my tricks and explains it, even if it is 100% correct, I just tell them they are wrong. I say "Well. I see your point but that's not how I do it." I know. This might not be the best way to get out of a situation like that but it is just what gets me by. BUT, I also understand sometimes if you acually MESS UP and your spectator acually SEES what you did, telling that lie to them probably won't shut them up. In cases like this, I normally admit defeat and say "Wow. Congradulations. But, check this out..." Then, I show them another trick. Most of the time, the next trick you do will stump them. If not...well...river dance the hell out of there. =P Hope this helped.
Nov 20, 2007
Sydney, Australia
Where can I buy smoke and is it just a physiological force?

Michael, Smoke is an effect taught on Disc 1 of Derren Brown's The Devil's Picturebook available from his website. It is not a psychological force (those are on Disc 2). Watch the video of Smoke if you want to see the effect. It does require a little bit of set-up and a gimmick.

Sadly, I don't smoke so I don't get much chance to perform it... I make an exception if I perform to an entire group of complete strangers, but it's not often that every single person present is a stranger either...
May 13, 2008
St Albans, UK
I completely messed up Hoffzy Osbourne the other night at a wedding, luckily my usual style is very shifty for comedic purposes and people don't really realise if i mess stuff up.

I did have to talk for a bit and keep their attention off of the cards in order to set the whole thing up.

Sometimes the spectators don't even know you messed something up so use your patter and calm yourself down.
It is quite simple. Let's say they pick up the double facer and reveal it. you just say, "Well, I didn't know that was in there. But, if I did it would have made my job much easier." Then move on.

however, you could just admit that for once you have failed and move on with life. After all it happens to the best of us.

Dylan P.
Oct 13, 2007
Messing up

Whenever I mess up an effect like a "mind reading effect" (just a force) if I mess up I go into a trick that i saw Bill Malone perform called "I should have done it myself" and use patter like, "Well I admit I messed up the last trick so this time we are gonna have you do everything so I can't get blamed again." This usually either gets some laughs which will calm you down and some might even think it was all part of your plan to mess up so you could go along with your routine. Hope this helps.
Apr 28, 2008
If a trick goes wrong I decide what to do next based on the spectator, if they are intentionally causing trouble I will end the performance. If it was my fault I generally just play it down and keep going, if you nail the next effect they will generally completely forget the mess up.
However, you must be careful to never blame a spectator for seeing a method when it is your fault. It's your job to fool them, if you don't then they have every right to call you on it. If they obviously saw what you did then denying it is just insulting their intelligence.

Also, Smoke is in my opinon one of the most powerful effects possible in card magic. Obviously I don't know anything about you but I get the impression you may be performing it a bit too 'casually'. I would only perform Smoke when the spectators have complete faith in my abilities and are past the point of trying to look for methods. To me, it's something that should only be performed occasionally when the conditions are perfect.
Sep 2, 2007
Canada Toronto
I just say they are wrong....and if they actually see how its done, and they know they know and i know they know (of that made sence) I will make up some random method on the spot which would never work...but they buy it! So if i perform for someone who thinks they know they dont and get kicked in the head!
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