Start Your Adventure!

Look at me, putting together the baggies that contain a couple of the props that go along with effects from The Jerx, Volume One. I'm a little cutie. 

I'm pretty psyched for you guys to get the book. The last I heard from the publishing company, the books should be arriving at my friend's place in upstate New York in early September. I will be driving up there from Pennsylvania at the same time to rendezvous with my friend (who is helping with the packing and shipping) and the books. Then I'll spend a few days getting everything ready to go. Then the books should start arriving in your mailboxes a few days after that. (In the US, at least. Hopefully not too much longer for international orders.)

I will be sending out an email soon to everyone who ordered the book. The email will link to a form that will ask you to verify the address I have for you, and it will ask you if you want me to inscribe the book, and... I think that's it. I won't be sending your book until you respond to that email. So don't dilly-dally. (But at the same time, don't jump the gun and send me an email now about that stuff. I'm trying to keep everything organized.)

Also, book buyers will be sent a link to a password protected page on this site that's going to have some supplementary information and may eventually have any additions/updates to the material in the book.

And, you'll be getting an ebook soon that describes a few other effects that use the functionality that's coming to the Jerx app, other than the effect in the book. This will be sent out when the new version of the app is released, which will coincide with when people start getting the book. I'll send it to everyone who ordered the book, even those of you who didn't request the app itself. It might make you say, "Fuck it, I'm getting an iPhone."


This is a post for people who have John Bannon's book Destination Zero or his new DVD/download Move Zero (Volume 2), it won't make sense if you don't. I, like everyone, think that Bannon is a brilliant thinker and creator of effects. There is an trick that can be found in that book and on that download called AK-47. This effect is in keeping with that brilliance he is known for. A spectator shuffles a deck of cards and then thinks of any card in the deck. With hardly any process you are able to show you know what card they were thinking of. It's great.

But... I never did it because it had one of my least favorite forms of equivoque in it. 

"It's not a black card, is it?"

I've gone into the specifics of why I don't like this kind of equivoque here. But basically my rationale is that it sounds equivocal. It doesn't sound like a definitive statement. And that's exactly what you don't want at the moment you're making the claim to know something you couldn't know. 

This sort of equivoque usually gets a laugh, because it sounds like a joke. It doesn't sound like someone who knows what they're claiming to know. 

Anyway, I've worked that line out of the effect and now you can too. The statement I've substituted in is one that will be completely correct or be seen as a bit of a joke, but it will never be seen as you fishing for information.

Here's how it works. You're at the point where you've just put the card down in front of the spectator. 

You say: "I think it's pretty obvious. You're thinking of a black card."

Path A: If they say, "yes," you've just nailed the color of a freely thought of card with no questions and you can complete the effect as in the original by determining their card without asking a single question. This replaces a potentially weak spot in the original where it might feel like you're guessing the color and then you have to go back to the deck and swap your prediction card.

Path B: If they say, "no," you say this, "Aww, jeeze. What a blunder. I should be embarrassed. " And you hang your head in a phony, overly dramatic/dejected way. "But I'm not," you say, and slowly lift your head. "Because I know something you don't know." Then you smile, lean in and say softly, "I'm not thinking of a black card either." With the tip of your finger you tap the back of the card on the table.

You see? Now you can complete the effect from there and it doesn't come off as a "miss." It comes off as a bit of showmanship to add drama to things. It couldn't possibly be a miss because you say this after you've already committed to the card on the table and that card never leaves their sight. So clearly you're just toying with them. 

In fact, Path B is similar structurally to a lot of moments we intentionally include in our magic. We act like we're wrong when really our isolated prediction indicates we're right. 

If you have no problem with the statement, "It wasn't a black card, was it?" If you think that comes off as a "hit," then you might not feel this is a significant change. But in my opinion, it's a big improvement and eliminates the weak part of an otherwise strong trick. This is an example of the 3rd Wave equivoque style (as delineated on this site and in the book) where it's based on seemingly definitive statements rather than unclear words or actions, and the two paths you follow are not complements to each other (so one path doesn't immediately suggest the other).

In Search of Lost Time

In Search of Lost Time is the presentation I've been working on for the Invisible Deck.

First and foremost I want to thank Cristian Scaramella for writing in with his similar presentation for a different effect. When I read it, I knew it was a great idea, but I also knew it wouldn't suit me for a couple different reasons. So I changed a couple elements and it evolved further and further into something that is quite similar to his original idea, but quite different as well. I think you will like it, and I think Cristian will like to see how it has evolved. A brief description of his original idea will be at the end of this post.

There are three variations on the effect that follow. Don't be turned off by the first version. It requires a stooge. I'm including it here because it was my first idea as far as this plot goes and I want you to be able to track the progression through the second and third version. I'm also including it because it is a fun version to perform if you have the right person with you to pull it off. 

Version One - Swann's Way


You're sitting at the table with two friends. We'll call one Mary and the other one Bob. 

You're on the subject of magic, or perception, or hypnosis, or the mind, or whatever. And you offer to show them something. 

"A lot of what we think of as 'magic tricks' are just demonstrations of hypnosis but reframed to seem like a trick. Watch... Bob, I'm going to show you a trick and Mary you'll see how it's all done."

You place your hand on Bob's forehead.

"Bob, I want you to close your eyes. And as I count back from three you're going to fall into a deep state of sleep: three, two, one. Okay, Bob, just keep breathing normally and remain in this deep state of sleep.  In your mind I want you to imagine descending a staircase. You go down step by step by step by step. You keep going down, deeper and deeper. You are now in a deep recess of your mind... you can think of it as a 'random' part of your brain. At the bottom of the staircase their is a card on the ground. You pick up the card and it is the four of hearts. Do you understand? The four of hearts. Now, if anyone ever says to you, 'I want you to name any card. The first one that comes to your mind at random.' You are going to say the four of hearts."

During this monologue you remove a deck of cards from its case, take the four of hearts from the face, turn it upside-down, and slide it into the middle of the deck, making it clear to Mary what is going on.

"In a moment I'm going to wake you from your sleep. You will not remember anything I just said to you. You will awake feeling rested and as if you had just shut your eyes a moment ago. You will remember none of the directions I have just given you on a conscious level. Only as I count up from three will you start to remember the things I say. One. Two. Three. Open your eyes. You are now fully awake."

"How do you feel?" you ask.

"Uhm... fine," Bob says.

"Was the process comfortable for you?" you ask.

"You mean the two seconds I had my eyes closed? Yeah, it was fine," Bob says, slightly confused.

"Okay, great. Now Bob, I have a deck of cards here. I'd like you to name any card in the deck. Just any random card you can think of. Just name the first one that pops into your mind."

"Uh... I don't know... the four of hearts."

You give Mary a knowing look. 

"Bob, before we met up today I put one card reversed in this deck. Would you be amazed if it was the four of hearts?"

He says he would be. You spread through the deck to reveal the four of hearts.

"Holy shit!" Bob says. "There is no way. That was a completely random choice. That's crazy."

You look at Mary. "You see?" She gleefully reacts to Bob's amazement. 

"That's just not possible," Bob says to himself as you put the deck back in the case.

Okay, let's pause this description. Bob, as I mentioned, is a stooge, his reactions are all phony. But do you see where we are here? It's a beautiful position because now you say, "Mary, let's try it with you so we can show Bob what happened. We won't use the four of hearts. We'll use something different."

You place your hand on Mary's forehead.

"Mary, I want you to close your eyes. And as I count back from three you're going to fall into a deep state of sleep: three, two, one."

You take a one second pause and immediately you say, "Two. Three. Open your eyes. You are now fully awake.

This will be a very strange moment for Mary. Did you really just do the same thing you did with Bob, or are you screwing around in some way? Now you're going to lay the hammer down and really screw with her mind.

"Now Mary, I have a deck of cards here. I'd like you to name any card in the deck. Just any random card you can think of. Just name the first one that pops into your mind."

She names a card and you show her that yes, that was the card you had reversed in the deck and hypnotically planted in her mind.

What I love about this:

  • I love that you tell them you're going to show them a "demonstrations of hypnosis but reframed to seem like a trick." When really you're showing them a trick reframed to seem like hypnosis.
  • I love an explanation that is crazier than the trick itself.
  • I love the feeling it gives the spectator of actually having lost a minute or so of time, in a way more concrete than any real hypnosis ever could.
  • I love how much fun it is for the stooge. Most of the time a stooge is used to make you look better. But here a stooge is used to establish a false reality in which you expose a trick. And the people who have played that role have really enjoyed messing with the spectator in that way.

Five things:

  1. Here's how to set this up. Take your invisible deck in your hand, oriented so the first card you'll use with your stooge is face down in the deck (the four of hearts, in this case). Spread through the deck, remove that card, and place it face up on top of the deck. So it is opposite of its normal orientation in the deck and not with its rough/smooth partner card. Put the deck in the case. When you run through the effect with the stooge you will remove the deck from the case, take the top card (4H) and apparently put it face down in a face-up deck. In reality you're putting it back in its place in the invisible deck. This is all just an act so the spectator can have some sense of what happened when her eyes are closed later on.
  2. It's better if there's not a clock in direct line of sight for the spectator. You want her to not have any way of knowing how much time has truly passed.
  3. Don't do anything close to a real hypnotic induction. You want it to feel like there's no way you could have really hypnotized your spectator just by counting down from three.
  4. You have to make it clear you're going to be using an entirely different card. You don't want her to say the four of hearts too just because she thinks that's what was expected of her.
  5. If you want to add an extra little element, you can have your stooge get a sandwich or a big glass of beer or something. Then, in the two seconds your spectator has her eyes closed, your stooge quickly and quietly discards 90% of this sandwich or chugs most of his beer. So when she opens her eyes again, there is a subtle suggestion that more time has passed. At the very least have him change his position in his chair.

Version Two: In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower

I love that presentation. But I wanted to be able to do it without a stooge. Not just without a stooge, but one on one with a person.

Well, you don't really need a stooge. All you need to do is establish in your spectator's mind what the baseline effect is. 

So this is how it can play out one-on-one, no stooge.

You and your spectator are talking. Perhaps you've just met. She's asking you what you do for a living or what your interests are. You throw out a bunch of jargon about psychology, influence, hypnotic suggestion—a bunch of words that might capture her attention. You tell her you study that sort of thing (as either part of your profession or a hobby).

"Would you like to see the type of stuff I do?" you ask.

She quickly says yes. Why wouldn't she? This sounds pretty interesting.

You take out your phone and show her a video. It's you and another person and you essentially have the same interaction that you do with the stooge in version 1. 

When it's over your new friend will think about what she just watched. "Hmm... that's interesting," she'll say.

"Actually," you say, searching through your bag. "I have a deck of cards here. Would you like to try that same experiment?"

In my limited experience, she will happily agree. You see, when you offered to show her what you do, she was a little excited to see something interesting. Showing her the video, instead of something in the here and now was a bit of a letdown, even if it's a somewhat interesting subject. So when you offer to do it in real life, with her as the subject, it's very intriguing.

Then you just complete the performance as in version one. 

So in this version you just need to have that video on your phone. So, I guess technically it does you a stooge. But you just need him once and you can perform this over and over.

Version Three: The Past Recaptured

This version might be my favorite. It doesn't require a stooge or a pre-recorded video on your phone.

You do need to have your phone (or something that records video), but most people have that on them at all times anyway. Other than that, all you need is an invisible deck.

What I find so delightful about this version is that the spectator plays the role of the stooge and the mark. It's almost an instant stooge trick for one person.

Here's how it works. You ask your friend if they can help you out with something.

"I'm submitting a trick to a magazine. They want to see what it looks like on video first before they know if they'll accept it. Will you be my spectator for the sake of the video?" (You could also say it's an audition video for a tv show or whatever you want.)

You then go on to tell her that you're going to need her to fake her reaction. That you're just going to pretend to hypnotize her instead of using the real hypnotic induction process you've come up with.  "If I go through the real process in the video, they'll just take it from me and not give me the credit, so I'm only going to show them part of it," you say. (Alternatively, if you say it's an audition video you could say it needs to be under 2 mins but the "real" induction technique takes 5 minutes. So you're just going to fake it for the video.)

So you stooge her and tell her what to say and do. Then you record that video.

You scan through it with her when you're done to see if it looks alright, and then you say, "Hey, can I try it with you for real?"

Now you do the second half of the trick as described in version one. She herself has taken part in establishing the false narrative of what the baseline effect is. And then she is fooled by what happens. In a way she takes part in fooling herself. It's a totally great moment.

You can even take this one step further. Imagine you do version three for someone, we'll call her Amanda. So you do version three for Amanda and she's completely amazed by it. Then at some point down the road, you show version two to a mutual friend (we'll call her Nicole) using Amanda's video for the first part of the effect. So Nicole sees a video of how the trick played out with Amanda (but she doesn't know it's a "fake" version). Then she gets fooled by the effect. So now if Nicole and Amanda talk they will both be like, "Oh my god. That was so weird!" And Amanda will be talking about the second go-around, non-video-recorded version. But Nicole will be assuming she's talking about the video she watched, the stooged-version that she has no idea is a stooged version. Which will reinforce with her that there really was a chunk of time lost when you performed it for her because the same thing happened to her friend and she saw the video of that encounter. (Or so she thinks.) And even if Amanda were to clarify things ("Oh, in the video I was acting. But then he did it after for real.") it wouldn't negate anything you did for either of them. 

I'm not sure if that makes sense. 

I want to again thank Cristian Scaramella. The original idea he sent me was to actually hypnotize someone amongst a group of friends, and to hypnotize him to name a card you had in your wallet. And that's how the group of friends would feel the trick is done. At a later date you could do some super quick, phony fake induction for a member of the group. And they would think they had been hypnotized to name a particular card when really you were just prepared to remove any card from your wallet via Kolossal Killer. I changed it up because I don't do hypnotism, I hate Kolossal Killer, and I wanted it to be more practical for my purposes. 

I can't emphasize how much fun this trick is to perform. Each version has its own benefits. It's a mixture of two of my favorite performing styles (what I define in The Jerx, Volume One as The Peek Backstage and The Romantic Adventure). And, like most of my favorite tricks, it's something that happens to and with the spectator, it's not just something that happens in front of the spectator.

As I wrote in a post a year ago...

And the trick will almost certainly be more powerful to her because she is central to the presentation and the effect, rather than just a witness to it. This is the locus of audience-centric magic. Bring them an experience that happens to them, in real time, and would not be the same without them there. "Magic is the only art form that doesn't exist without an audience," magicians are fond of saying. And then they perform for people the same way they would for a tree stump. 

450 Minutes: Thumb-Writing

I was gifted a Vernet Band Writer from a friend of mine. As far as anything in the nail-writer/thumb-writer area is concerned, this feels pretty stable and usable to me. 

I've never been really good with a thumb-writer. I'm not a total spazz, I can write a couple of digits, or make a checkmark fairly easily. Especially when I have two hands holding a stiff pad. But I think the ideal would be able to write a word or two quickly and legibly with one hand holding a business card. And then not to have to come up with some excuse why it looks so bad. "Oh, I wrote this in the middle of the night, with the lights off, and the pencil in my butthole because my hands were holding a birthday cake."

Now, the truth is I haven't really seen many professionals use a thumb/nail-writer to write full words regularly either. And on the rare cases I do, their legibility can be squarely put at "peeing your name in the snow" levels. So is it even possible to get really good at it?

If you're like me, you're willing to put practice into something, but if you don't see some signs of improvement somewhat quickly, you're likely to abandon that pursuit. With this new series, 450 Minutes, I'm going to practice something for 15 minutes a day, every day, for 30 days. I will commit to putting in the time regardless of whether I see improvement or not. Then we'll see to what extent I improved over the course of the month—if at all.

So, let's see where things stand now. Here's my one-handed thumb-writing abilities as of today, having not practiced anything more than a couple numbers or letters in many years.

This has been sped up 50% for GIF purposes. It took me 15 seconds to do that. And no, I haven't changed the name of this site to The Jeiv. I just suck. Meet me back here in a month to see if I've gotten any better.

What's my plan? Well, I bought one of these books and I'm going to work my way through it as if I was first learning to write.

That seems like a logical first step. Then I'll just use a random word generator to shoot words out at me and I'll attempt writing them, hopefully getting a little smoother over time. I've been playing the long con with my thumb-writing game because my normal handwriting is already pretty shitty, so I don't have to worry too much about being overly neat.

See you in a month.

Well... I'll see you before that. But I mean I'll check back with you on this particular subject in a month.

Handling Hecklers The Jerx Way

I hope everyone is having fun at Magic LIVE. I was asked to speak there but had another engagement. Here is part of the lecture I would have given.

How to Deftly Handle Hecklers The Jerx Way

"Thank you. Thank you. Please, please, stop your thunderous applause. Please. I only have 15 minutes. Thank you. Thank you.

Wow. What a great crowd we have here tonight. I see Joshua Jay in the audience. And there's David Penn. And here we have Jeff McBride. Incredible. For magicians, this place is a real Who's Who of the industry. For non-magicians, this place is a real Who's That of the industry. No, no. I kid, I kid. But seriously, how does it feel that Rick Lax has 50 million more hits on his latest Facebook video than you've had on all your social media combined?

And here's a transcript of his video:

I want you to think of a common four-legged house-pet. Like a cat. But not a cat, because I just said that. Lock in your answer by hitting the like button. (Don't question the technology, that's just how it works.) Are you thinking of a dog? KNEEL BEFORE YOUR GOD!

That guy is more famous than you. That, I'm afraid, is a scientific fact. 

But I tease you because I love you. 

Today I'd like to talk about a subject that's very important to magicians, if the number of times it has been brought up on the Magic Cafe is any evidence. And that is the question of how to handle hecklers. 

Ma'am, would you assist me and heckle me as I perform this next trick? This will help me demonstrate The Jerx Way to deal with hecklers. Just let me get a line or two into the performance.

Say there, do you know how a deck of cards is like a calendar? Well, it's not really, but it's the only premise I've got-

[Woman] Boo. You aren't very good.


You see what I did there? I took control of the situation and I demonstrated that my position is one of higher value. It's subtle, but it works.

Let's try it again. Sir, would you help me out and play a heckler? Just say something like, 'I know how this one is done.'

[Man] I know how this one is done.

You know... it seems like you really like opening that mouth of yours. You open it again and I'm going to fill it with something. You hear me? It's rock hard and 8 inches long. It's either going to be my cock, or the barrel of my Colt Python .357 Magnum? Got it? It's your choice. Either way you're getting a hot load down your throat if you don't keep your mouth shut, you fucking inbred.

Now this is the type of line that's really going to make your heckler think. And if you can get them to really contemplate your art they will be much less likely to demean it with rude comments.

One last time. Sir, would you just say, 'It's in your other hand.'

[Man] It's in your other hand.

OKAY, THAT'S IT, YOU COCKSUCKING PIECE OF HUMAN GARBAGE! Ring-Ring! Ring-Ring! [mime answering a phone] 'Hello? Who's this?' Oh, it's my ballsack calling. 'Yes? Okay, I'll tell him.' It says you better be ready to straight gargle my nuts if you can't keep your trap shut for another 10 minutes while I do my show. Do we have an understanding? For your sake you better keep that mouth shut tight. If you make any sound—if you so much as hiccup—you better lock your doors tonight, motherfucker, because I will give up magic, and my new hobby will be hunting you down, tying each of your buttcheeks to a clydesdale like the jeans in the fucking Levi's logo, and having them pull your asshole apart until I can fit my skull in there. Then I'll wear you around on my head like you're a goddamn Kentucky Derby hat, so everyone can see what happens to people who interrupt my show.

A line like this will have people say, "Gee... I thought I was helping the show with my interjections, but... what if I'm not?" And isn't that the insight we hope they walk away with?

That's all my time. Thank you for your attention. You've been a great audience. And remember, with MAGIC Magazine shutting down, and Genii moving all of its content distribution to Snapchat, The Jerx is your #1 source for articles about the important issues that face todays performer. Read it every day as part of a complete breakfast."

The Invisible Deck

I am going to be off-the-grid for most of this week. I have a couple shorter posts that will pop up later this week, including the first in a new series called 450 Minutes. I may be a little slower responding to emails as well. But still please send me any gossip from Magic Live.

On Friday I will be posting the Jerx Invisible Deck routine. This is brand new and has already undergone three big evolutionary stages just in the past few days. I want to perform it in its current state a few more times before I write it up, but I think those of you who enjoy my routines will really like it. It's not just a different presentation really, it puts the effect in a very different context and makes it a very unreal experience for the spectator.

You'll see on Friday.

Some of my favorite variations on the Invisible Deck are:

The X Deck by Jay Sankey - A simple little addition to the ID which negates the idea of sleight of hand.

The Inevitable by Mark Elsdon - A nice way to extend the trick and make the "moment" in the ID seemingly grander. (Even though it's ultimately the same trick, it seems much more amazing.)

Shake, Shuffle and Twist by Steve Bedwell - I was much younger when I first saw this and wasn't really cognizant of the idea of using an Invisible Deck in a way other than the standard way, so I was fooled by it. Sadly, I don't know where this is available anymore.

I was looking up the Invisible Deck on wikipedia and it says, 

"Joe Berg created the Invisible Deck in the 1930s, originally calling it the Ultra Mental Deck. It was Eddie Fields who came up with the invisible presentation after watching a patient in a psychiatric unit of a hospital shuffling an imaginary deck of cards."

That seems too good to be true. And, as I mentioned to someone recently, miming an overhand shuffle looks identical to miming cupping the balls and stroking a huge shaft, so maybe that's what the guy in the psychiatric unit was doing.

I do think it's a pretty interesting and slightly creepy idea. It might make a good halloween presentation. I'm a fan of those types of things.

You could tell the story of Eddie Fields and how he was in a psychiatric unit and saw a guy shuffling an invisible deck of cards. Then you have the spectator play the part of the crazy person and you play Eddie Fields. "And Eddie wanted to engage the patient so he asked him what card was now on top of the deck and the patient said...." Here you wait for your spectator to name one. "And Eddie said, 'Oh, the seven clubs, is that so?' And he mimed taking the card and looking at it. He was just playing along and said, 'Yup, that's the seven clubs, you're right.' And he put the card back in the 'deck' but the patient started flipping out and cursing him out. He said Eddie was 'ruining the deck' because he put the card in upside down and he better fix it. Eddie went to take the non-existent deck back to 'fix' it and the patient was like, 'What are you doing? Are you out of your fucking mind? There's no deck there. The deck is over there.' And he pointed to a table across the room where there was a deck of cards on the table." Matching your actions to the story you're telling, you point across the room to a deck of cards on the table in real life. You walk over to deck, uncase it, and continue your story. "As he spread through the deck he found one card turned the other way. The seven of clubs. Just like that crazy fucking lunatic [here you point to your spectator] had said."

Magic Words

As I mentioned on Monday, I will occasionally be posting on the weekend in the future and these posts will be non-magic related, similar to the stuff I was writing during The Splooge days of this site.

Today I'm going to offer you some magic words.

I travel a lot so I spend a lot of time in hotels, restaurants, and on various means of transportation. I'm fairly low-maintenance so I don't like to spend a ton of money on these sorts of things. I do appreciate a really good meal, a nice room, or better travel accommodations, I just don't care enough about them to pay for them. I've read articles about ways to "socially engineer" your way into upgrades on these sorts of things and the advice is usually ridiculous or obvious. How do you get the best available room when you check in at a hotel? Smile when you approach the front desk, the articles say. Gee, thanks! I never would have thought of that. I've been scowling and hammering that little bell on the desk and screaming, "Where you at, cocksucker?!"

You can try to be funny or charming, but you never know how that is going to be received. The person might not find words like "cocksucker" funny. Or they might think you're hitting on them or something weird. 

I've found one line to work well in numerous situations. It works well with men and women, fun people and humorless people, regardless of if they're having a good or bad day. It's a line to use whenever you're asked for your preference in regards to something you don't have a particular preference on. I stumbled across it accidentally one day when I was checking into a hotel.

The girl behind the counter said, "And what floor would you like to be on? The first floor or a higher floor?"

And I said, "Hmmm... you know, I think I trust your judgment on this. Just put me in whatever room you would want yourself."

"Well, I would want to stay in one of our one-bedroom suites," she said. 

"Perfect," I said. And with that I got a $500 a night room for the $82 I paid on Priceline. 

That was the most extreme example, but I've since used variations on that statement with other hotel desk clerks, concierges, chefs, and travel staff and have had similarly good results with it. 

The other night I went out to dinner with four friends. The chef/owner greeted us at the restaurant and asked what we were considering for dinner. I said, "Hmmm... you know, I think I trust your judgment on this. Can you just bring me whatever your favorite is?" My friends agreed with this and we ended up getting a five course meal for about $20 a piece, which was 50% less than a single entree would have been.

Why does this work so well? Well, I guess it's probably obvious, but if someone was to say they trusted your judgment and then ask you to choose the best whatever for them, I think it's human nature to give that person the best you have to offer. You don't want to put someone in a shitty room with a window that faces an alleyway after they asked you for the room you would want for yourself. It would reflect poorly on you. 

I think it also helps that it's not just some line I give. For me it's true. I do trust the judgment of the person who works there to know what's best. 

You might think this is no different than asking for someone's recommendation. "What room do I want? Well, what do you recommend?" "What seat do I want on the plane? Well, what do you recommend?" The difference is that they hear that said to them all day everyday, so it carries significantly less weight. And also, a recommendation isn't binding. "You recommend the Tiramisu? Hmmm... actually I'll go with the chocolate cake." But when you give your power over to someone—when your attitude is, "I couldn't possibly know better than you. Just choose for me."—I think people take that as a sign of some respect and then want to do well by you. I mean, it's annoying when you're with a friend and they foist the decision making onto you. But this is a different situation. They're supposed to be the expert. And people in the service industry are often in a position where they're treated like shit, so showing some deference is probably an attitude they appreciate. Well, it's worked for me, at least. (To be fair, I'm super delightful and charming by nature. You on the other hand....)