Teenage Dream aka The SSP


My friend Justin is at my apartment for the first time. He’s checking out my playing card collection and asking the good, standard questions you should ask when looking at anyone’s collection of anything.

“What’s your favorite one?”

“What’s the rarest one?”

“What’s the most you paid for one?”

“Which was the first one you obtained?”

“The first one?” I say, “Oh, I don’t keep it out here. It’s not really in very good condition like these other decks. Actually, there’s something I’d like to try with you and that deck. I’m glad you brought it up. Hold on, I’ll get it.”

I come back a minute later with an old, bridge sized deck. The cards are kind of warped. There is no case. They’re just held together with a rubber band.

I take off the band and shuffle up the cards and ask him to sit on the floor with me.

“I found this deck years ago when I was a teenager, in the woods near my house. It was near an empty case of beer. There were probably some older teens playing some sort of game in the woods, I guess, and they just left it behind. But I found it and it immediately became my favorite deck.”

“I don’t want to look at the cards just yet. Instead I want you to just take the cards and deal them into two relatively equal piles, just by instinct. Not just back and forth, but in a random way. Some here and some here.”

I finish shuffling and give him the deck. He deals the cards into two piles at random. There are no breaks in this procedure.

When he’s done I say, “Let’s see if this worked.” I start turning the cards over from top of each pile simultaneously into a new face up pile. As I turn over the first cards, he realizes that this is a deck of nudie playing cards.


I continue to turn over cards into a pile.

“Oh my god, that’s crazy. I thought maybe you’d be able to do it, but it still seemed unlikely.”

He’s wondering what the heck I’m talking about.

“You don’t see it?” I ask. I pause the dealing and spread the face up piles to give him a closer look. “Take a look… I think you’re perfect so far,” I say as I peruse through the cards.

The rest of the cards are turned face up and spread as well.

“That is unbelievable,” I say. Justin looks at me dumbly. “You did it!” I say. He’s still confused.

“You separated all my favorite cards,” I gesture to one pile. “From my least favorite,” I gesture to the other. “That’s really amazing.”

His face is asking if this is a joke. If it is, it’s not really that funny. Usually I have a better payoff for jokes than this.

“I’m serious,” I say. “Hold on.” I get up and go to the kitchen for a second and come back with a small black object. It’s not immediately clear what it is.

“You did it,” I say. “You found all my favorite cards. These are my favorites,” I say, pointing to one of the piles. “I’ll prove it to you.”

I take the item in my hand and point it at the pile.

It’s a flashlight.

A blacklight/UV flashlight.

I turn it on and my “favorite” cards glow with the unmistakable splatter of jiz-stains gone by. The other pile is completely clean.



Okay, first, while this is my presentation and handling, the idea for the routine goes to friend-of-the-site, Jon Shaw. Also, the real name of this trick isn’t Teenage Dream. I just didn’t want to give too much away at the start of the effect. In recognition of Jon Shaw’s inspiration and concept behind this trick, the real name is:

The Shaw Skank Prediction

Andy, just because a woman posed for a nudie deck of cards, that doesn’t make her a skank.

Beat it, dude. I'm trying to have fun here.

And it’s not quite a prediction it’s more of—

Fuck off, man! It’s a grade-A pun. Leave me alone.

You can probably put the pieces together in how to construct and routine the effect, but let me give you my experience.

Constructing the Deck

Get a nudie deck of cards.

Get some UV ink. (That’s the one I used, but there could be better options.)

Get a small blacklight flashlight.

Shuffle up the deck and deal out 26 random cards.

Mark the back of those 26 cards in some manner (filling in a circle, or crossing out a line or something.

Lay out those 26 cards face up on a towel or newspaper or something.

Let the UV ink drip over the cards. Try not to get the cards too wet, but make sure there’s some ink on all 26 cards. Then let it dry over the course of a couple hours.

Couldn’t I actually just jerk off on the cards?

Hmm… fair question. Maybe? But your friends are going to be handling these cards. Don’t be a scumbag.

Now, contrary to my hope, the UV ink does not dry completely clear. The problem is, I think, that it’s designed to soak into something like skin or paper, and the plastic coated cards aren’t an ideal substrate for the ink.

There may be a different sort of ink that disappears more, or a different sort of nudie deck that absorbs the ink more, I don’t know. You can figure that out if you want. In an ideal world someone would print the cards with the UV ink within the cards, so it would be genuinely invisible. But that seems like an expensive proposition.

So I went the opposite direction. Instead of trying to make the jiz cards seem as perfect as possible, I made the other half of the deck equally jacked up. I sprinkled water on it, scuffed up the cards, and just generally messed them up so all the cards—whether they glowed or not—would feel weird. Then I made up the story that this was a deck I found in the woods many years ago, and that accounts for them being spotty and wavy and imperfect.


You can use any OOTW handling you like. I use the one that follows because it feels completely straightforward and it takes advantage of the fact that it’s not clear what’s happening even after the cards are being turned face up.

So your deck is separated into glow and no-glow cards. Give the deck some red/black (Ireland) shuffles. This keeps the halves separated, but it looks like a real shuffle because it is a real shuffle.

Give the deck to the person to deal into two piles.

Count one of the piles “to see if they’re even.” In actuality, by counting that pile you’re reversing the cards.

If the piles aren’t even, have the person slide out enough cards from anywhere in the large pile so that it will now have 26 cards. Replace those cards into the smaller pile (so that pile will now have 26 cards too). You will know if the cards are glow or non-glow cards because they’re marked. This will tell you if you should replace them in the top or bottom half of the smaller pile.

Here is the switch I use. I’ve used it in other OOTW variations where it’s not immediately apparent anything has happened. It’s not a slick or clean looking switch by any means, and wouldn’t work in a normal OOTW context.

You’re flipping the cards into a face up pile in front of the face down piles you’re pulling from. At some point the markings will switch, indicating you can’t flip anymore. It’s at this point I pause and I’m like, “Do you see what’s going on? Take a look.” All attention is on the face-up cards. I set the two face down piles aside, so I can clear the space in front of me so I can pull the face up piles inward. Then I finger through the face-up cards for a minute, like I’m just checking on how things are going.

Then when I take back the face-down piles, I just put them back behind the opposite piles.

Here’s a sped-up version…


There’s not really intended to be a “secret” switch here. What I mean is there’s not a “move” going on. You’re just taking advantage of the fact they don’t know they need to be concerned about which cards are coming from which pile. You can certainly do a more invisible switch if you feel it’s necessary. I don’t feel like it’s necessary because A) the focus is on the face-up cards B) for all they know we might be done with the face-down piles at that point, they don’t know they’re coming back in play. When you’re turning over all red and all black cards, as in a typical OOTW, then it becomes clear where things are going and it makes sense you might need to concentrate on what happens with those piles. But when you’re just turning over seemingly random cards, there isn’t the same feeling that they need to focus on what cards are coming from where. But again, feel free to go with something slicker if you disagree.

And there you have it. If you attempt to construct the deck, let me know if you have better luck with the application of a different sort of ink.

Thanks again to Jon Shaw.

I’m off next week, I’l see you when I return on the 22nd.

Mailbag #3


Did you mention you were going to review Tenyo’s new releases? —DM

I think I may have, but I decided against it as I didn’t have much to say.

Here’s the thing… up until recently, I was not someone who followed the Tenyo releases every year. I knew of them, but they weren’t really “my thing” so I didn’t pay that much attention. Only in recent years have I found some ways to perform them in a manner that suited my style. So when I came to Tenyo, I was coming to their extensive back catalog, which includes a number of ingenious and classic tricks. And discovering those tricks en masse was great, but it probably leads the annual releases to feel like a bit of a letdown to me. It would be like discovering a band via a “Best Of” album that spanned their 40 year career and then expecting their new releases to live up to that Best Of album.

All of that is to say, I didn’t really love any of the new releases. And when it comes to magic props/gimmicks—physical objects that I need to hold onto in order to perform a trick—I’m just not going to hang onto them unless I’m 100% in love with performing them for real people. I’m a minimalist. If it’s a clever method but isn’t something I’d perform, then it’s not for me, because I’m not that kind of collector. So I’m probably the wrong person to review Tenyo because I don’t think they’re intended to be the most practical and performable stuff.

So, let’s have a contest. I’m going to give away a box of Tenyo tricks that I don’t use, including the full 2019 Tenyo line of tricks.

The contest?

The Exaltation of Joshua Jay Contest

Similar to “tableaux vivants” where people re-enact classic paintings…


In this contest you will be re-enacting an image of Joshua Jay.

The Rules:

1. To enter this contest, just find any picture of Joshua Jay and do your best to recreate the photo with yourself in Josh’s place.

2. No photoshop allowed.

3. Must be the magician Joshua Jay, we’re not here to glorify some random guy with the same name

Screen Shot 2019-04-10 at 5.16.51 PM.png

4. Send me your recreation and the original it was by two weeks from today with the subject line JJ Contest.

5. The winner will be picked by me. Points will be awarded for attention to detail and if it makes me laugh.

6. Win or lose, your entry may be posted on the site.

7. The prize will be a couple hundred dollars worth of open, but unused Tenyo items from the past couple of years. And some special bonus items not pictured below.


This is legit, so if you’re at all interested, definitely submit a pic by the deadline.

I really like your new presentation for Miraskill, which I think solves a problem with the effect […] Playing cards tend to get spectators, particularly family and close friends of a magician, thinking about math. I think you've written about this too, how getting away from cards is always a good idea with self-working methods. […} Predicting the breakdown of laundry types, on the other hand, is not the sort of thing spectators would attempt to do on their own, the "skill" looks too specific to be practical; and non-mathematical methods are likely to be assumed. That there is no such thing as standard sets of laundry with, say, 26 pieces of each type, I think further hides the method. —CZ

Thanks. That presentation does add a weakness though, in that I think dealing through cards in pairs can probably be justified more easily (as part of a game or procedure) than pulling out clothes in pairs. That’s why, in keeping with Monday’s post, I would keep them in the dark about what’s going to happen until past the point that the laundry has been divvied up.

I guess if one was really into the idea, they could come up with something where they had a bag of laundry with just pants and shirts and the person would remove one pair of pants and one shirt blindly and if they matched (in some manner) they would go in the dryer and if they didn't match they'd go in the washer. Then the removing of pairs would make more sense, because they are “putting together outfits.” Or something like that. But that's way too much work. 

The nice thing about this is, if you understand the workings of Miraskill well enough, it's something that you can have in the back of your mind, and if you're ever staying at a friend or relatives house it's something you can show them with their socks or underwear or laundry pretty much at a moment's notice without much set-up (other than determining the breakdown of the items involved) and it's not going to feel like any other trick you or anyone else has ever shown them. And that's even if they've seen Miraskill at some point.

I'm compelled by your desire for anonymity.  Most magicians want the opposite, and in spades. […] You certainly have earned the appreciation of many respectable people in the field. Do you ever wish you could accept some of that praise in a conventional way?  Or toy with the idea of making your identity public? — BS


For whatever reason, I don’t get much from that kind of validation. I appreciate it that people like the site, and it’s cool when people I admire have something nice to say about it, and I love hearing about or seeing people performing something I created, but it doesn’t make me feel any better about myself (I’m already pretty delighted with myself).

It’s not just with magic. In most of my freelance writing work outside of magic I’m uncredited, or credited as part of a group, and that’s perfectly fine with me. In fact, I prefer it.

I’ve always been this way. I think when I was writing the Magic Circle Jerk and calling Steve Brooks a fat slob, people assumed, “Oh, he’s anonymous so he can say these awful things without fear of retribution,” but that wasn’t the case. Now I’m writing a site that is, I think, exceedingly positive (Look, I don’t care, I’ll say it. I was wrong. Steve Brooks has the most beautiful body I’ve ever seen.) and I still prefer to keep it anonymous.

In fact, now it’s more important to me, because I want to be able to write about these interactions I have with real people in my real life and I wouldn’t be able to do that freely if I wasn’t doing it anonymously. The people in my life know I have an interest in magic, and some know I do some work related to it, but they don’t know to the extent that I do. Which is good because it allows me to have some genuine interactions with them without them saying or thinking, “Oh, is this something for your magic blog?”

Believe me, if there was a way around that part of it, I probably wouldn’t be anonymous. It’s a bit of pain in the ass. Originally it was kind of fun. I laid some misdirection seeds about my identity back in the MCJ days and even in the years between the two sites. But it was easier then because I just had to account for the blog and emails. Now, in addition to doing that stuff through a proxy: all the business dealings for the publishers and printers are done through someone else, the phone I use for Jerx stuff isn’t in my name, all incoming and outgoing physical mail is handled by other people. (If you swabbed an envelope I sent you for DNA, it wouldn’t come back to me. (That’s not to say you won’t find my DNA on some of the things I send you… but ♪that’s not saliva!♪ (I wish there was a font that meant, “I’m saying this in a sing-songy voice.”)))

The truth is almost nobody really cares. In fact, I think the overwhelming majority of readers prefer I stay anonymous. It’s just more interesting that way. I’m not trying to create a mystery here. I’m trying to deflate one. It doesn’t matter who I am. Does it really make a difference if you credit my work/thoughts to Andy at The Jerx or to my real name: Chauncey von Bassermann-Jordan? [Oh FUCK! Dammit! Great job, Chauncey, you fucking moron. Now everyone is going to know! Why isn’t my backspace key working? Siri, delete name. Siri, listen to me, DELETE NAME. Uuggghhh.]

The final point I’ll make on this—and the main reason why it’s nothing anyone should be concerned with—is that it’s not really a mystery that can be solved. There is an element to the situation that you don’t know about, so you can’t really put the pieces together even if you were inclined to. It’s like… you know how Kreskin will have his check hidden in the theater and he’ll use muscle reading to find it? Well, imagine he searched all over the theater and couldn’t find the check and then said, “Okay, I give up, where did you hide it?” And the person said, “Oh, at the Wetzel’s Pretzels in the mall.” Saying, “Who is the Jerx?” is like asking, “Where in the theater is the check hidden?” It can’t be answered because it’s the wrong question.

I understand why you never use playing cards to “represent” something else. I also understand why you’re not a fan of Sam the Bellhop or Vernon Triumph stories of events that happened in the past being recreated for the trick. We want to perform magic that is happening in the present moment. Makes sense. 

That said, I’m sure you have some fantastic true, real life stories that your friends would enjoy. Do you prefer to just tell good stories and not complicate them with a trick, or has there ever been a story that you’ve wanted to elevate with an accompanying magic trick?

I’ve always been jealous of how music can tell a story. Magic seems to fall short and, at best, appears like a Broadway play with the magician talking about when he first saw snow.

Perhaps magic isn’t the medium to TELL stories but to CREATE them. —JF

Yes, your last line gets it, I think. Somewhere else, I can't remember where, I wrote that I see magic less as a way to tell people stories, and more as a way of giving them stories to tell.

Music, books, movies, etc. they can all take your conscious mind and project it somewhere else. You're sitting in your living room, but the song brings you to a honky-tonk bar approaching a pretty lady, or the book projects you to a place where you're trapped in a car with a rabid dog outside the door, or the movie puts you on a spacecraft with your oxygen supply rapidly decreasing. 

Those storytelling vehicles are great at taking you somewhere else. But magic is at its strongest when it pulls you into the present moment (because that's when the magic is taking place). So trying to tell a story about another place or time has you working at cross-purposes to what magic does best.

That's why I feel the best stories you can tell with magic are "present tense" stories. (More about that in this post.) 

What you can do—and something I do frequently—is tell a story that sets up a trick, finish it, and then go into the trick. Do one after the other, not the two in parallel. That way you're not splitting their focus between something that happened and something that is happening.

(The way theatrical magic relates to storytelling is different. I'm really just speaking from the perspective of the social performer.)

It's another way where I think magic is like sex. Could you use a sexual encounter to tell a story about something that happened at some other point in time in some other place with other people? I suppose you could. ("And then the scout master got behind me like this....") But it's really not what the act is best suited for. Sex and magic are all about pulling your focus into the here and now and sharing this moment, not talking about some other one.

Upcoming Schedule

1. There will be new posts here Thursday and Friday of this week and then I am off next week for Spring Break.

2. For Season 4 supporters, expect the first issue of the review newsletter to hit your email boxes at the end of next week (around the 20th/21st).

3. If you have the Jerx app, an updated version of that will be released in the next couple of weeks as well. I think you can get that at Walgreens. But let me double check with Marc Kerstein on that…

Okay, my bad. It will just be on your phone like every other app update.

This version has an updated design and a couple tweaks to the functionality as well. Check out the Instructions page in the app for those details once the update arrives.

4. If you ordered the AATKT edition offered last Friday, it will be sent in a couple days. It took a little while for my lawyer to get the right legalese for the certificate of authenticity.


Justification in Social Magic

[UPDATE TO FRIDAY’S POST: Apparently what people were waiting for was for me to offer some imperfect copies of AATKT. The Aw Crud! The Print Shop Guy is Drunk Edition of that book is now sold out. They will be shipped out later this week. But don't worry, I've heard your cries, in the future I will bend the covers on all of my releases.]


Last month I wrote about the Hoy book test and some of the different ways that I use it. After that post I received an email asking how I justify using the second book to pick a page number.

I’ll get into that, but first I want you to close your eyes and imagine the following situation. Oh… wait… you’re reading. Don’t close your eyes then. Just picture the following scenario.

You and I have been dating for two years. The relationship is really strong. We get along great and have a lot of fun together. We’ve been living together for a few months and even that hasn’t tested our bond in any real way.

One night you’re watching TV in the living room and I come to you and say, “Hey, I have something I want to give you. It’s a surprise.” I take your hand and bring you upstairs. I sit you in a chair in our bedroom. I go to the closet and pull out a box that’s about eight inches squares. “Here, open it,” I say.

“What is this?” you ask, a little smile on your face. “It’s not my birthday.”

You open the box and inside you find… garbage.

You furrow your brow. “I don’t get it,” you say. I tell you to take a closer look.

You start poking through the bits of trash in the box and you begin to realize that it’s not what you initially thought. Yes, the box is full of stuff that is technically “garbage,” but all of it has some meaning. There are ticket stubs to every movie we ever attended. Receipts from restaurants we visited. The condom wrapper from our first time together. The peanut bag from our first date at the baseball game. Pieces of wrapping paper from our first Christmas together. And on and on.

At the bottom of the box you find a couple bottle caps. “Are these from that weird Ukrainian bar on the Lower East Side? From your office party? The night we met?” I nod yes.

“But…,” you say, “that was six months before we got together. We were both still in other relationships. Why would you keep these?”

“I just knew,” I say. “I knew it the moment I met you that there was something special about you and that one day we’d be together. I’ve kept all this stuff so I can remember all those little moments leading to this big moment.”

I take the condom wrapper and reach inside and pull out an engagement ring. “Will you marry me?” I ask.

What do you say?

Well, maybe you say yes, maybe you say no. But you know what you definitely don’t say?

You don’t say, “Why did you bring me upstairs?”

Why did I? Why didn’t I just bring the box down to you in the living room?

The reason you don’t question it is because at the time you didn’t know what was about to happen, and at the end of the interaction, it’s some insignificant barely memorable thing that is overshadowed by what just occurred.


This is my preferred method of “justification” when it comes to magic. The justification is no justification, but instead, pacing the interaction in such a way that a justification is probably not needed.

Actions need to be justified when they don’t match up with expectations. If people don’t know whats about to happen, then they don’t have expectations, and your actions don’t need to be justified (at least not initially, if at all.) If all you know is I want to show you “something interesting,” or “something strange,” or “this thing I’m working on,” then you don’t know to question a specific action, because you don’t have expectations yet.

(Now, this again is more of a social/amateur technique. It wouldn’t work as well in a professional situation. I’ll explain why near the end of this post.)


Let’s imagine this in action, around a table with a group of people.

“I’m going to read your mind. Here, write down a word on this business card. Now let’s put it in my wallet.” In this case, I do need justification, because their expectation is I’m going to read their mind. So why do I need to have something written down? Why do I have to put it in a wallet? That’s not how they imagine mind reading works. That’s not to say they’ll immediately call me out on it, but they may make a mental note of it.

But if I say, “Hey, I want to try something. Let me see… here, take this business card and write something down on it. Don’t let me see it. I’ll keep it here in my wallet for later.” Same exact handling. But only now do I introduce mind reading. “Okay. Now you’re committed to a word that I don’t know and no one else at this table knows. That word is locked in your mind. I want you to sit up straight and breathe deep and I’m going to try and read your mind, [blah, blah, blah].”

Okay, so now they know what to expect so you have to go back and justify the writing and the wallet, right?

No. We’re on the train now and the train is moving. Their focus is now on what’s about to happen. Not what has already happened. It’s the same thing as me bringing you upstairs to give you a gift. Your focus is on what’s in the box, not why I brought you upstairs rather than bringing the box downstairs.

Alright, that makes sense. They might not be seeking a justification in the moment. But at the end of the effect surely they’re going to question why you had them write something down, or why you used one book to select a page in the other.

Yes, this will occasionally happen—and you should have a justification you can pull out when it does—but I’ve found it to happen significantly less frequently when you introduce questionable elements before the audience knows they’re questionable.


Of course, some things require a justification. A center tear is one of those things. Writing something down only to immediately tear it up is an inherently nonsensical act. So, in that case, whether they know where it’s going or not, you need to preface that with some rationale.


Going back to the Hoy book test, my attitude is, “Let’s try something. Here, I’ll flip through the pages, just say stop at any point as I do. Okay, page 193.” They don’t know where this is leading. So while these actions might be out of the norm, they don’t defy expectations so they don’t really stick out that much. In fact, in preparation for writing this post, I asked a couple of friends who have seen some version I’ve done of the Hoy book test to describe what they remember. Both of them just remembered flipping to a random page in their book. They didn’t remember another book in play. I have a feeling that would be true for a lot of people—if not most of the people—who have seen me perform that trick.

But I suspect they’d be much less likely to forget that moment if I justified it beforehand. “We’re going to use my book to choose a random page in your book. This is the fairest way to do it, because there’s no way I could know where you will say stop. Sometimes books have a little break in the spine so they open to the same page over and over, and I don’t want you to think I knew what page or area of the book you’d end up at. So by using a second book we eliminate that possibility.” Etc., etc.

When you give a justification, you’re also giving them an opportunity to call bullshit.


I mentioned that this doesn’t really work for professionals and that’s because the audience has established expectations in that situation. If you’re Pete the Mentalist then they’re going in expecting you to read their mind, and your actions should align with that or they’ll be questioned. (Also, change your stage name. It sucks.)

But, for the social magician, you’re performing for people either you’ve just met (so they have no assumptions regarding what you’re going to show them) or you’re performing for people who have seen you do a bunch of different types of things (hopefully), so they’re not sure what to expect.

When I say to someone, “Hey, can I try something with you?” They don’t know what’s to come. Is it a straight magic trick, or a mind-reading thing, or a game, or an experiment, or a joke, or an optical illusion, or something related to gambling, or body language, or fortune telling, or a psychological test, or 100 other things. They may have seen me perform dozens of times before, but they don’t know quite what direction the interaction is going to take. And that uncertainty leads them to have an unfocused critical eye, which can allow me to get away with some things.

But, Andy, I only perform mentalism. So when I show people something, they do have expectations from the very start.

Okay, well, that’s a problem of your own making. I can understand the professional mentalist who says, “I only do mentalism with a psychological presentation.” I think it’s a completely unnecessary limitation, and is driven by a creepy desire for people to think they’re “the real thing,” but I understand why people do it. I don’t understand limiting yourself in that way as an amateur/social magician. You’re performing for people who are going to be seeing you do many things, potentially, over the course of years. Why not use these skills to give them a wide variety of experiences, not just to “read their mind” 1000 times. But that’s a conversation for another day.


This post may make it sound like I’m anti-justification. I’m not. I think too little, and too much justification are both problems in magic. But if you’re reading this site then you’re probably someone who gives some thought to your performances, and over-justification is a problem of the thoughtful performer.

It’s very much a balancing act. Do I justify this thing, or not? Do I bring attention to this moment, or not? It’s all depends on the trick and presentation, so there are no hard and fast rules.

Some effects rely on the spectator being hyper aware of the conditions of the trick in order for it to be really strong. In emphasizing the conditions, you will often create expectations (“Oh, he’s pointing out the glass is empty, that must mean something is going to appear there.”) And once you create expectations, then you need to justify your actions. It’s all connected.

The purpose of this post is to highlight that relationship between expectations and justification. Certainly I think it’s smart to always have a good justification in your back pocket. But if you can maintain the strength of the trick, and get the dirty work done, while keeping them in the dark in regards to what’s about to happen, then I think it’s best to use that justification only if someone asks. Otherwise you might be shining a spotlight on a moment that may have slipped by completely unnoticed or have been forgotten entirely had you not drawn attention to it.


The Amateur at the Kitchen Table booklet is going out of print. I don’t know if this will be forever, but I have no plans for a reprint any time soon. A couple people have suggested doing a limited, expanded, hardbound version in the future, and I may do something like that. But if so, that’s years away.

I have 30 copies of the book remaining, but they’re a little… special.

Here’s the deal. You know how there’s this subset of junk food products that are marketed as if they’re some sort of factory mishap?

You have your classic Oops! All Berries version of Cap’n Crunch.


Then you have Uh-Oh Oreos


Also in the cookie aisle you have Whoopsy! Fudge Stripe Cookies (and the disgusting hashtag, #FullyFudged)


And, of course, there’s “Sweet Christ! Terry Took A Shit In the Dough! Pop Tarts”

In keeping with this fine tradition, I will be offering the last remaining copies of The Amateur at the Kitchen Table in a special Aw Crud! The Print Shop Guy is Drunk Edition.


When printing the AATKT, the print shop jammed too many copies into a box, causing them to bend and press in on themselves creating a permanent crease or bend in some of the covers. There also seemed to be some issue with some small splotches of yellow ink appearing on the covers (like when your printer is acting up and some ink gets speckled along the page). Other than that, everything is like new. The binding is tight and the pages are fine. It’s just the covers that are a little whack.

If you order one of the remaining copies, you will receive a numbered certificate of authenticity proving you own one of the highly limited Aw Crud! The Print Shop Guy is Drunk Edition copies of The Amateur at the Kitchen Table. They will also be the only ones signed by the author, S.W. Erdnase III, the great-great-grandson of the author of The Expert at the Card Table.

If you’re interested in a copy, they are $22 and can be ordered below. [Updated: This is now sold out.]

Interaction Mathematics

I’ve always felt about magic the way that George Michael felt about sex in his 1987 hit, “I Want Your Sex.” (I’ve substituted “magic” for “sex” in the lyrics below.)

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There's things that you guess
And things that you know
There's boys you can trust
And girls that you don't
There's little things you hide
And little things that you show
Sometimes you think you're gonna get it
But you don't and that's just the way it goes

Okay, well not all the lyrics from the song apply…

It's natural
It's chemical (let's do it)
It's logical
Habitual (can we do it?)
It's sensual
But most of all
Magic is something that we should do
Magic is something for me and you

Again, I should have clarified at the start that it’s really just one part of the song that’s applicable.

Magic is natural, magic is good
Not everybody does it
But everybody should
Magic is natural, magic is fun
Magic is best when it's
one on one

Okay, there you go. That’s the spot. I guess it’s really just that one line, now that I think about it.

Magic is best when it’s one-on-one.

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Let me qualify that some.

I perform one-on-one probably about 50% of the time I perform.

However, if you asked me to make a list of the 100 strongest reactions I’ve ever received from magic, I would estimate that probably 95 of them would come from a one-on-one performance.

I think there are three primary reasons for this.

First, as I’ve mentioned before, you can really craft an effect/experience to a particular person when you’re performing one-on-one. There are a number of ways this can manifest itself.

  • You can work with their own interests to create a more immediately intriguing presentation.

  • You can capitalize on their particular blindspots to use methods you know they’d never conceive of.

  • Logistically you only have one set of eyes to concern yourself with in regards to angles.

  • 100% of the audience (One person) get’s the complete experience.  If you’re doing some mind-reading, for example, nobody is watching you read someone’s mind (which is almost always going to be a “lesser” experience than having their own mind read).

Second, when you’re a lone spectator, you don’t have to worry about what anyone else thinks of your reaction.  You don’t have to think, “Should I play it cool? Will these other people think I’m dumb if I’m fooled by this?” I find that as long as someone trusts you, they’re more willing to become vulnerable to the experience when no one else is around.

The third reason I think you get powerful reactions in one-on-one situations is in regards to the math of social/amateur interactions.

If you agree that social magic is more powerful when it feels like an interaction rather than a performance or a show, then here’s how to think about the math of it all. If we sit down and have a conversation, we might have something like a 50/50 split in regards to our input into the interaction.

With a magic trick, you’re unlikely to get a real 50/50 split. You might be able to get close. For example, if you’re my spectator and I sit down with you and I’m like, “Check out this interesting [whatever] that I found.” We may be able to explore this object or game or fortune telling protocol or whatever in a way that feels close to 50/50.

But you don’t have to get to 50/50. Even if you have a trick that requires you to contribute 80% to the interaction and the spectator to contribute just 20%, that’s still pretty good. You’ve been involved in many legitimate interactions in your life where someone else is doing 80% of the work and you’ve still felt involved and like an important element to the interaction.

So any 80/20 split of involvement in the interaction is still fine for social magic, in a one-on-one situation.

But when the audience grows, your 80% doesn’t diminish. Instead, their 20% gets split up between all of them.  If you’re performing for 10 people, and they’re all equally involved in the interaction, then they’re contributing 2% each, compared to your 80%. So what felt like a 4:1 split to a spectator in a one-on-one performance, feels like a 40:1 split to that spectator in an an audience of ten.

And that’s how you take something that could be seen as an interaction, a conversation, or a shared experience between two people and turn it into a “performance” or a “demonstration” for a group. A performance or demonstration may still be very impressive and amazing, but it’s very difficult for it to capture people in the same way as an experience that makes them feel like they’re a critical element of the proceedings.

I occasionally get emails from professional magicians who are very complimentary about the site and they ask if I think there’s a way to incorporate the ideas from this site into a professional show. While I certainly think some of the tricks and concepts I talk about here would work fine in a proper show (and I know of people who do use them professionally), the “audience-centric” approach that works so well in amateur/social magic, is probably just not possible in a professional situation. You can have elements of it, but you can’t have it completely. Why not? Well, because the notion of magic as “an interaction, a conversation, or a shared experience” is accomplished, in part, by emphasizing your actual relationship with the person. “I’m your [friend/brother/lover/co-worker/seat partner on this bus trip] do you want to see something interesting?” That can feel like a real interaction, even if they know it’s a set-up for a trick. But if your only relationship to your spectators is a magician-to-audience relationship, you can’t really make that feel like anything other than a performance because “performance” is how the magician/audience relationship is defined.

This is another reason why performing one-on-one can be so powerful: you get to maintain the nature of your relationship with your spectator. If I’m showing a trick to my girlfriend, then she is experiencing me (her boyfriend) showing her a trick. If I’m showing a trick to ten people, one of whom is my girlfriend, then she is experiencing me as I would relate to ten people at a time. It’s just not the same level of connection.

That’s not to say I don’t enjoy performing for groups of friends. I do. I’m just pointing out that the mathematics of the interaction allow for some very intimate and powerful performances in one-on-one situations.

I’ve had some people tell me they’re uncomfortable performing one-on-one. Perhaps part of the reason they got into magic was to hide themselves a little behind the role of the “performer.” That’s understandable. But if you can push past that, I recommend it, because the majority of the truly profound reactions I’ve had to my magic have been with one other person.

If you don’t know how to approach someone as an individual to see some magic, I recommend just saying this:

What's your definition of dirty baby?
What do you consider pornography?
Don't you know I love you till it hurts me baby?
Don't you think it's time you took part in a magic trick with me?

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Dirty Laundry

You bring a bag of your laundry to a friend’s house. The laundry is a mix of whites and colors. You reassure her that nothing in there is too gross.

You have her go into the laundry room without you. Following a random procedure, you direct her to place some of the clothes into the washing machine and some of the clothes into the dryer. You legitimately have no idea what clothes are where.

She starts up the dryer.

You enter the room and conclude the effect in one of two ways:

If the dryer has a glass door, you are able to take a half-second glance at the spinning laundry and tell her the breakdown between whites and colors in the dryer.

If the dryer has no glass door, then you push yourself up and sit on top of it and—via the vibrations to your anus—you are able to tell the breakdown between whites and colors.


Miraskill with laundry.

(If you don’t know Miraskill, look it up. There are plenty of places to learn it.)

Instead of predicting red/black, you’re predicting whites/colors. You’ll want a variety of different types of clothing in each group. (In other words, don’t just have all white socks, and then shirts and pants of color.)

Your spectator will remove two items, blindly, at a time. If they’re one of each (one white/one color) she’ll throw them in the washing machine. If they match (both white or both colors), she’ll throw them in the dryer. You’ll want to walk her through the process a couple times from the other room.

Don’t use your actual disgusting dirty laundry. Wash it first and then put it back in the laundry bag.

The first time I tried this, the person suggested I had a camera in the laundry room. That’s why I recommend doing it at someone else’s house.

The only other time I did this, I did it with my friend’s clothes, instead of mine. We raided her underwear drawer and I asked her to remove a bunch of patterned underwear, and then a bunch of solid color ones, and I just kept track of the number of each that we removed from her drawer so I could figure out what the Miraskill result would be.

(I told her I wanted to improve my pervert skills by enhancing my psychic powers. “When you go to the laundromat to steal panties, you don’t want to be digging around in a bunch of different washers and dryers to find the right pair. So many times I’ve ended up pulling out some children’s underwear. I’m not that kind of creep! Or I’ll pull out some large, floppy granny-panties. What am I supposed to do with that? They’re too bulky. How am I supposed to tie that around my scrotum sack in order to get myself off?” I then introduce the Miraskill process as a procedure I’m using to develop my pervert intuition to be able to hone in on what machine holds the perfect pair for me. I’m still at the early stages, and I can just pick up on some basic traits of the garments. This is, admittedly, not a presentation suitable for many audiences (or performers)).

You can wrap this up a few different ways:

You could predict the outcome.

If the dryer has a glass door you can act like this is a feat of lightning perception.

I like the idea of sitting on the dryer and picking up something based on the way it’s spinning. If you don’t want to sit on it, then you could just place your hand on the dryer. Maybe pull out a dry erase marker and start writing down calculations on top of the machine.

Or you could have an odd number of garments in the bag. This would leave one left at the end (and whether it’s white or colored would change your final revelation). You could ask for the final item of clothing and rub and stretch the fabric between your hands as you furrow your brow and act like—based on this final item—you are able to reconstruct exactly how the other items were removed, and what the net result in the dryer will be, like a useless Sherlock Holmes.