A Critical Examination of an Important New Magic Release

Daniel Madison is releasing a version of Expert at the Card Table today. It’s not updated, it’s not annotated. It just has his tattoos added to the hands in the illustrations.

Very funny, Andy.

I’m not kidding. I wish I was this funny. If I was going to make up a stupid Daniel Madison related project it would have been like, a whiskey-scented Octopalm, or a sponge ding-dong with a Prince Albert piercing. I could never have conceived of something this good. It’s legit. Here’s the link.


I know what you’re doing right now. You’re feeling your face to check the beard growth. “Clearly,” you’re thinking, “I was trampled by a team of clydesdales and I have been in a coma and I’ve just woken up and it’s April Fools Day. Oh please, benevolent God, please let it just be four months that I have been away. I shan’t be able to bear it if I have lost multiple years of my precious life with my sweet Alma, and our children, Effie, Jasper, Silas, Edith, Fannie, Wallace, Owen, Ida, Josephine. And Lula, Archie, Claude, Mabel, Leona, Clarence, Cassius, Mercy, and Bernadette. And the little ones, Samson, Augustine, Ephraim, Calvin, Jack, Grover and Marjorie. And the triplets, Chester, Adeline, and Floyd. Blessed be! Please, dear lord. Clearly some time has passed because there is no chance this is not a joke product. And you don’t promote joke products on the 19th of November. You do that on April first. Damn those abominable clydesdales!”

No. It’s not a joke (I don’t think). Someone put money into this project and is hoping to recoup it. Hey, I hope they do. I have my own ideas for some essential editions of The Expert at the Card Table that I will be releasing soon as a c̶a̶s̶h̶ ̶g̶r̶a̶b̶ valuable contribution to the art.

Do you wear a ring? Well wouldn’t you like to see illustrations of someone who is also wearing a ring? We’ve got you covered with…

The Expert at the Card Table: Ring Edition

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Do you wear a lot of rings? Is wearing a lot of rings your “thing”? Do you think it comes off cool but everyone around you thinks you’re trying too hard? Well get ready for…

The Expert at the Card Table: A Lot of Rings Edition

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Are you black? No you’re not. You’re reading a magic blog. I’m just playing the odds here. But let’s say you’re black. Aren’t you sick of the cracker’s “bible” of card magic? A lot of privilege in that book, if you ask me. Must be real nice for whitey to be able to pick up any magic book and find illustrations that look like him. Well, I’ve solved that problem with…

The Expert at the Card Table: Soul Edition

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Lose two fingers grabbing a handful of peach smoothie from a running blender?

The Expert at the Card Table: Smoothie Lover Edition

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Are you wearing short sleeves and have hairy arms?

The Expert at the Card Table: Robin Williams Commemorative Edition

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Do cocaine?

The Expert at the Card Table: Cokehead Edition

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Super gay?

The Expert at the Card Table: Dong Lover’s Edition

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Inspired by this release, this Friday’s post (which is black Friday and the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season) will be a guide to magic’s least essential products. Feel free to nominate any products you think qualify via email.

Gardyloo #81

I need some help tracking down a video I used to have. I don’t remember much about it, but I do remember I learned cool magic from it. Any ideas?

Cafe Soaps: Turner Watch Edition

I always love a good Magic Cafe soap opera. These are threads on the Cafe that go on for at least 10 pages (although 30 or 40 is more indicative of a true Cafe Soap). That’s enough time for characters to emerge and plot lines to come and go. With the “Chef’s Special” section of the Cafe having long gone defunct and discussion and reviews of magic tricks now more in the domain of youtube and facebook, the Cafe Soap is possibly the one genuinely unique thing the Magic Cafe brings to the art at this point.

If you don’t make it a point to follow threads on the Cafe—if you have something better going on in your life, like…oh, say… gradually gauging your rectum over the course of a month with a traffic cone—I will try and keep you abreast of any good soaps that you might miss.

The best drama currently on the Cafe is in regards to the Turner Watch. A gimmicked watch project that was funded this summer and is maybe about to come out now after a short delay.

Lots of good stuff in this thread, I won’t spoil it for you. But if you’re asking if they produced a gimmicked watch with the name of that gimmicked watch on the face of the watch itself, the answer is yes.

In my opinion, the biggest problem is that we might be, like, two months from the concept of a watch with hands that you can move remotely seeming commonplace. You might be able to fool your grandpa with it, but many people under the age of 50 will probably be familiar with a similar technology. And then they’ll be like, “Oh, is this one of those watches you can control with an app?” And you’ll be like, “Uh…what? No.” And they’ll be like, “Hmmm, maybe I’ll google the name printed across the front of the watch then.” And the next thing you know they’re on the watch’s web page, or their instagram, or that Cafe thread, or maybe here (Hi!).

You might say, “Well, it’s not that common now. Maybe 1 person in 10 has ever heard of a hybrid watch.” Okay, that means if you perform for a group of 6 people, you have a 50% chance that someone in the group will have a good idea what’s going on. What do you think the conversation will be like after you leave that group?

Hey, this shit happens. Before app-controlled lights were completely common, I used them as part of a trick a couple of times. That was just a few years ago, but it wouldn’t fly now. (I still use them in some of the more overt, non-secret ways mentioned in that post.)

With any luck, the people who bought the watch will be able to use it for a good few days before everyone they perform it for is like, “Oh yeah, my nephew has one of those watches.”

Actually, the most depressing thing in that thread are the guys who are like, “I perform corporate magic. If one of my clients saw me wearing a watch like this they’d think I was a worthless piece of human trash and never talk to me again.” Like, sweet christ, that’s your typical audience? Some corny motherfuckers who care about watches? I feel lucky because—while I do engage with a number of very successful individuals—none of them are this type of status-symbol weirdo. I didn’t even know such people existed outside of movies from the 80s.

“Hey, maybe they’re assholes, but they pay well.”


Okay, i kind of get it when someone who sells casino supplies or something like that misguidedly writes me to see if they can have a sponsored post on this site. Clearly they haven’t spent two seconds here to have any idea of the type of content, but I at least know what sort of keywords they entered to find my site.

Yesterday, however, I received an email with the subject “Salvaged Cars,” and I have no clue why I was targeted for this.

Hi there, 

I assume you deal with salvaged and rebuilt titles on cars?

If so I have an article already written that is relevant to your business that overlaps with auto insurance covering the restored, rebuilt, or salvaged car. The article helps people understand that once the salvaged car is rebuilt and restored, people need to get it insured. 

Would you like to look at it?
I work for an insurance comparison company called QuoteWizard and have a lot of knowledge on this subject. 

I am only allowing one company to use it for duplication concerns. Shall I send it to you? 

I am looking forward to your thoughts,

Nathan Barber

My response:

Hi Nathan. It’s a shrewd assumption on your part that I deal with salvaged and rebuilt cars. I haven’t explicitly stated this on my site, but it has been subtext for most of my posts. Like when I talk about “mechanic’s grips.” That’s a nod to the manner in which people who rebuild cars hold their wrenches.

I’m a little bummed you’re just bringing me this offer now. It would have been great to have your already written article for inclusion in my forthcoming book, but sadly that is in the hands of the publishers.

I would very much be interested in this article. Would you accept $8000 for allowing me to be the “one company” that is allowed to distribute it? Originally that money was going to be used to make a pilot for my improv group (The Shennanigoats) to pitch to the WB. But I’m not sure if that’s going to happen because Kurt and Tonya are fighting, and Kurt might quit. Also The WB doesn’t exist anymore. Do you do improv?

Anyway, great to hear from you. Can’t wait to read the article! Sounds like it’s a real doozy.

Your pal,


Can anyone put me in touch with someone at L&L? Specifically I’m looking for someone who can connect me with the regulars from the old L&L audience. I have some projects I’m thinking about that I’d like to involve them in. I’m not kidding.

Oh, and you can forget about that first question at the top of this post. I found the video I was thinking about.


Critical Conditions

A few years ago, we had the ability to quantify “suspicion” in the magic focus group testing we did. I’ve mentioned this before, but the way it would work is the people watching the performance would rest their thumb on the screen of an iphone and they would raise their thumb on the screen to indicate a moment when they thought something suspicious was happening and lower it back down when they were no longer suspicious. See the post Suspicious Minds for more details on this.

The app would record the position of the person’s thumb on the screen over time, so we would get a little seismograph type read out when we were done. We could then watch that graph alongside a recording of the performance and see the areas where suspicion was generated.

It was super helpful to be able to capture this information and it was also a gigantic fucking pain in the ass. We had to jailbreak our own phones to load the app on them. Then we had to give our phones to the respondents who would manhandle them with their grubby hands. And we could only perform for a few people at a time because we only had a few phones to go around. Then we would have to go through everyone’s feedback individually. It was a lot of work.

In an ideal world we would have had an app that anyone could download and that would aggregate all the feedback from each performance into one average “line of suspicion.”

I think we’ve now identified an app that will allow this to happen and we will likely be using it next year in our testing.

For today I want to give you the results of something we tested a few years ago which is related to Monday’s subject.

Before I started this site, most of the testing we did was to settle disagreements.

“People understand when something’s ‘floating’ it’s really just dangling from something they can’t see.”

“No they don’t.”

“Okay, let’s test it.”

“Many people know that when you borrow a bill and make a gag about keeping it and put it in your pocket, you probably switched it.”

“No they don’t.”

“Okay, let’s test it.”

So, one time, two of my friends had a disagreement about a business card peek they were using. The peek was essentially this: The spectator writes something on a business card, the performer buries it in the stack of business cards. Then, after he goes through whatever his process is, the magician turns over the top card and writes the word or picture he “received” on that card.

The method is essentially a tilt and a neck-tied double turnover and an adjustment of the cards. I’m not going to go into too many details. I assume this method is ancient, but if not I don’t want to completely give away someone else’s idea. There are enough details there for you to figure out what I’m talking about.

Anyway, the debate was this… Magician A would take the card back and just put it back in the “middle” of the pile without saying anything really. Magician B would take it back and say, “I’m going to keep it here, right in the middle of this packet of cards. So there’s no way I could see what you wrote on it.”

Magician A’s contention was that people could see what you were doing and they would make their own rationalization for it. “Oh, he’s putting it in the middle of the packet to hide it away.” And because they were telling themselves this, that it was much stronger than you giving them the rationale. If you say you’re going to put it in the middle of the packet, then you give them something to be suspicious of. “Did he really do what he just said?”

Magician B felt his way clarified the conditions and that people wouldn’t be any more suspicious whether you said something or didn’t.

So we had a third person, Magician C, perform the effect for 30 people in ten groups of three. For 15 people he performed it as Magician A would, for 15 he performed it as Magician B would.

The results? Magician A was right. When you say, “I’m going to place this card back in the middle of this stack of cards,” there is much more suspicion generated than when you just go ahead and do it.

But, that’s not the complete story.

Because while there was more suspicion on the replacement of the card when the magician explained what he was doing, when the magician didn’t explicitly state he was placing the card in the middle of the stack, there was more suspicion later on when he later turned over the top card to write down the word he received.

And, in the end, Magician A’s version (no narration of the replacement) scored lower when the tricks were rated on how strong/”amazing” they were. Why? My assumption is because the magician never stressed the conditions that made what was about to happen impossible.

Because people’s memories are imperfect and they don’t know what’s about to happen, they don’t always concentrate and absorb what you think is obvious. In this case they didn’t really take in the fact the card was placed in the “middle” under (supposedly) many cards. So when the magician went back to the stack later on, they may have thought their card was near the top and therefore in a position to be looked at.

Whereas the other group thought, “He says he’s going to place my card in the middle… is he really doing that? [Suspicion goes up.]… Okay, it seems he is.” So later when you turn over the top card they have a more concrete memory that their card is in the middle of the stack.

One of my favorite examples of how audiences fail to notice things happened when we tested the cups and balls. At the end we asked them where they thought the final loads came from. Going into the testing, I was convinced people noticed or at least intuitively understood they were being loaded in from the pockets. And it’s true, a lot of people did say that. But you know what people said the most? Almost 40% of the time they replied something like, “I assume the fruit was in there the whole time.”

Of course, the cups were shown empty throughout the routine, and they were often stacked inside one another so the fruit couldn’t have been in there. But the spectators didn’t know that was going to be important so they never truly absorbed the information of the cup being empty or having another cup inside of it.

Yes, people almost always react to the fruit, but frequently that reaction is, “I can’t believe he had that lemon in there this whole time.”

With that in mind, here is my process when creating a “script” for an effect where the conditions don’t get lost. (I don’t really sit down and write a “script” per se, but I do have an idea of what kind of beats I want to hit during the presentation.)

Step 1. I create a version of the script that just explicitly states all the conditions that will make what they’re about to see impossible. “These cards all have red backs. They’re going to remain in your hands and I’m not going to touch them. You’re going to have a free choice of a number. Blah, blah, blah.”

Step 2. I determine at what point in the presentation the audience knows what the effect is and I leave in all the explicitly stated conditions up until that point (at least).

For example, one thing you often hear is, “Don’t say, ‘My hand is empty,’ just show it empty.” But that’s only true in certain circumstances.

Let’s say the effect is Card to Pocket. You’re my spectator. If I say, “Your card will travel to my pocket,” you now know what the effect is. So now I can just flash my empty hand before I reach in my pocket and you’ll know that that’s important.

But let’s say you don’t know it’s card to pocket. I’m just in the middle of a card trick. I flash my hand, I reach into my pocket, I pull out a card, I turn it over and it’s your card. But you see… you didn’t know that was going to be your card, you didn’t know I had a card in my pocket, you didn’t even know I was going to put my hand in my pocket, so you don’t necessarily know to register the moment I show my hand empty. Your memory is likely to be that you think my empty hand pulled out a card, but you’re not sure because you didn’t know to take note of it. So in that instance it would make sense for me to call attention to my empty hand.

We often treat spectators like they’re cyborgs with cameras for eyes, noting everything that happens. But at least 80% of the time, I’m guessing, that’s not the case.

So I leave in all the explicitly stated conditions until the point where the spectator would know what the effect to come is. If that effect is meant to be a surprise, then I need to leave the clearly stated conditions in the whole way through.

But won’t that blow the surprise of the trick?

In some tricks it will. So I now go on to Step 3 to attempt to alleviate that.

Step 3. I go through and try and rewrite any of these overt statements in a subtler way, or create processes that emphasize the same points in a way that is clear and memorable. For example, in the John Carey trick from Monday. I could say, “I have eight cards and they all have red backs,” and that would establish the conditions in a straightforward way. But you might feel that spoils the color change at the end.

If that’s the case, I need to say or do something that achieves the same purpose in a subtler way. I could ask someone to remove eight cards from a red-backed deck (and then switch in the other four). There would then be no doubt how many cards are involved and what color the backs are. I wouldn’t need to state it.

But if I can’t replace the overt statement with something more subtle that will still get the job done, then I don’t. I just leave it in there. I can’t just assume the audience will recognize and remember some gesture on my part that establishes one of the conditions of the effect.

Step 4 (optional). I will add in some lines that may misdirect people’s suspicion. “Don’t run when you’re not being chased” would tell us that we should never say, “I have here an ordinary deck of cards.” Okay, but what if you do really have an ordinary deck of cards? If so, you might be able to direct someone’s suspicion towards the deck and away from some other area where you’re being a sneaky bitch. At the end of the trick they may say, “Wait, let me see that deck,” because you’ve aroused their suspicions. But if that’s the case you should be fine because you’ve “run” away from the solution.

When I have a trick that’s not hitting with my audience like I would expect it to, before worrying too much about the presentation, I first make sure the conditions are clear to the spectator. Because if those aren’t clear, it won’t matter what the presentation is. Magic is ultimately the defiance of the conditions we know to be true. The more definitive the conditions are, the stronger the magic is.


From the post, “If It's All The Same With You, I'd Like to Never Fucking Hear These Three Things Ever Again, Thanks” From the Magic Circle Jerk blog, April 15, 2005.

“Don't run when you're not being chased."

First off, even non-metaphorically it doesn't make that much sense. There are plenty of reasons to run when you're not being chased. Maybe it's raining out. Maybe you're trying to drop some pounds. Or maybe you got a little turd beginning to inch its way out your butthole so you decide to run home and the whole time you're thinking that maybe the running is actually making it worse, like maybe your scissoring legs are squeezing your bowels as you would squeeze a toothpaste tube, and maybe you should just walk or something, but hell now you really gotta go. You know what happens if you only run when being chased? You shit your drawers, that's what.

“Don’t run when you’re not being chased,” is a seductive bit of advice for the magician. First because it’s rooted in some common sense. Second because it sounds like advice that is telling you to play it cool. “Don’t be a spaz. Chill out. Don’t run when you’re not being chased.”

But it’s advice that, in my opinion, has become a little perverted over time to the point where some people are undermining their own effects because they’re so desperate to “not run.”

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about. It’s John Carey performing a trick called Kaleidoscope.

Regardless of whether you think that trick is good or not, there’s a kind of fatal flaw in performing it the way he does in the video. I tried it out myself on a couple people and both said the same thing.

“You never showed me the backs of those four cards.”

“Yes I did.”

“No you didn’t.”

“At the beginning. I counted eight red-backed cards.”

“You did?”


“I don’t remember that.”

I think anyone who has performed card magic for some time has been in this position. The spectator has failed to notice some element of the effect during the initial stages, and then later on you have to, sort of, retroactively convince them you did something amazing.

“No, no,” you say, “The cards were all face down.”

“They were?” they say.

“Yeah, when we started. I spread the deck and the were face down.”

“Ok… yeah… I don’t remember that.”

And you’re just thinking, “Agggh…Fuck this dude. I’m never hanging out with him again.”

The problem is that (at least in this particular performance) John never clearly demonstrates he has eight red-backed cards. Yes, he shows them at the beginning using a Hamman Count (or something similar, I don’t know my shit.) But without drawing attention to it, why would he expect anyone to ever absorb that information? He’s talking to them when he does the count so they’d be looking at his face, not his hands at that moment, so how are they ever expected to understand what the situation is at the outset?

The issue is, we’ve come to feel that saying something like, “I have eight cards and they all have red backs,” is bad patter because you’re emphasizing something that should be obvious. You’re running without being chased.

But here’s the thing, at some point in your trick you need to emphasize that which contradicts the magic effect to come. This is what magic is. If they don’t understand that the cards are all red, or that you never look towards the business card with their word on it, or that the coins never leave their sight, then there is no trick.

And, in fact, “I have eight cards and they all have red backs,” is bad patter. But it’s serving purpose. If you’re going to remove that patter, great. But you need to do something to serve the same purpose. Certainly there are more elegant ways to emphasize the color of the cards without just saying it directly. You could have all eight picked from a red-backed deck and switch in the four odd-backed cards during the strip-out. Or you could show the cards face-up first and then say, “All the cards are different on this side,” turn them over and Hamman Count them, “But they’re all the same on this side. Because this is a demonstration in free choices and blind choices,” or whatever the point of your trick may be. Regardless of what you say or do, you can’t just eliminate the part where you establish what the situation is at the start of the trick.

But I don’t want to spoil the surprise of the different colored backs by indicating the back color might be important in some way.

I get that. But here is what you’re shooting for then, “Oh wow, different colored backs! Wait… did I ever see these backs originally?” That’s the best you’re going to get if they’re never convinced they’re looking at eight red-backed cards.

Carey’s trick is just an example, of course. This is an issue with all sorts of tricks. Not just card magic or visual magic.

Remember, the audience doesn’t know where things are going, so they don’t know what to focus on unless you tell them.

You would be shocked if you knew how many people walk away from a business card peek thinking, “Well, he must have looked at the card at some point.” Only by strongly emphasizing that you will never look in the direction of the card will they ever be certain of it.

But if I just turn my head away they’ll know I can’t see. Possibly, but they’ll never be completely sure. I’m in a cafe writing this. There is a girl sitting next to me. Has she gotten up from her table at all since I’ve been here? No. At least I’m pretty sure not. But I’m not 100% sure because I didn’t know that was something to concern myself with.

But surely spectators know to be concerned about whether or not you see their card. You would think so, but I can’t tell you how many times in the testing I’ve been involved with, that someone will get information via a peek and the spectator, when breaking down the effect, will say, “He must have seen the information some how.” We’d ask if they saw the magician look at the card. “No, but he must have.” This type of response would only go away when we consistently emphasized the card was in a position where it could not be looked at.

(This, by the way, is one of the decent justifications for using a peek wallet. “For this to work I need to hold your card, but I don’t want you to think I sneak a peek at it while it’s in my hands so… let’s put it in my wallet.”)

This is something I have to remind myself over and over because my instinct is that these things should be done with some subtlety. If we were real mind readers/magicians, would we constantly be emphasizing the conditions? Probably not. But most of the people you perform for in social situations don’t believe you’re a real mind reader or a magician. So that argument doesn’t fly.

There are certainly situation where “don’t run when you’re not being chased” makes sense. But it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t establish the conditions of an effect or make clear the nature of the impossibility.

If a friend of mine can track down the data, Wednesday’s post will have some information about a similar concept we tested years ago in our focus groups. Something that had an interesting twist in how the results turned out.

Gardyloo #80

Now that the second book is no longer for sale, I feel more comfortable selling you on it. I think it’s pretty great. I think it’s at least as good as the first book, you know, the Tarbell Award Winning, Jerx, Volume 1? Although it may appeal to even a smaller audience. While editing the book I had to try and cut out all the times I was saying, “Oh, I love this trick,” because most of the write-ups for each trick were done after I had been deeply engaged with performing a given effect pretty intensely for a few weeks. So I was particularly enamored with each trick as I was writing it up. That makes it hard to pick favorites, but some of the ones I’ve been having the most fun with recently are:

Two Dying Worlds In Orbit - You and the spectator each freely shuffle two decks of cards and the order ends up matching. More-so than the trick itself, the presentation on this one is one of my favorites.

Card Libs - You and your spectators play a prototype of a new game you’re thinking of pitching to some game manufacturers. It does not go well. In a magical way.

Ass To Mouth - My friend Andrew’s version of Card to Mouth. The only version that has ever fooled me. Completely impossible and impromptu.

With the books likely coming to me mid-December-ish, they will probably go out either the week after Christmas or the week after New Years. On the Season 3 rewards page, I’ve put an estimated shipping date at the top. I will push that forward or back as needed so you can check there if you’re ever curious. If there is a significant change in the ship date, I will announce it here.

The same friend who created the card to mouth effect that’s in the book also purchased tickets to Joshua Jay’s show in NYC. Immediately he got an email from his bank…

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Even Citi Bank is like, “Someone’s spending $250 for a Joshua Jay show? This must be fraud.” No, surprisingly it’s the real deal.

I’ll be seeing the show myself in May. If I do a write-up here, it will mostly be bullshit because I know Josh wants to keep things under wraps.

I received an email from Hector Chadwick with a suggestion in regards the Blow Up My Phone idea from Wednesday. I like the idea and plan on working on a version and trying it out over the next couple weeks. I’ll let you know how it goes.

With Hector and I together, we just need S.W. Erdnase for the greatest meeting of the pseudonymous/anonymous magic minds in history.

Actually, here is what collaborating with Erdnase would be like. “You know what we should do here? A diagonal palm shift.” That would be his answer to everything. “You don’t think the audience would be that intrigued by this premise? Hmmm… ok… well… let’s see. Maybe a couple diagonal palm shifts would help.”

Does anyone know if the magician named Martyn Smith who created this trick, Up the Ante, is the same magician named Martyn Smith who just was arrested for murdering someone?

I hope not. Up the Ante is a decent effect.

Not that it really matters, I’m just curious. I mean, either way, it’s a magician who killed someone. A tragedy regardless of which Martyn Smith it is. And—while not nearly as important as the pain the victims’ families endured—it’s just never a good reflection on the magic community. No matter what the crime, if it’s a magician, they’ll make sure to mention the

Hey, good news, Andy. At least he didn’t rape them first. (As far as we know.)

Good point. Some might call that a hollow victory. But I’ll take it.

I got a number of nice comments on last Friday’s post, The Power of a Little Emotional Doubt. And I got one strange criticism via email,

“I thought today’s post offered a good summary regarding why you perform the way you do. It just seems odd that it came out after three years of writing routines in that style. It seems like you’re trying to retroactively fit your performance philosophy to the routines.”

Yeah. That’s 100% true. I never had a “performance philosophy” of my own that wasn’t dictated by the spectators. I started exploring some different styles of performance and some worked and some didn’t. The ones that worked I pursued, and after a while I thought I had a good understanding in regards to why they seemed to work. So my “performance philosophy,” to the extent that it exists, developed backwards based on the reactions to the effects, breaking them down with the audience afterwards, and putting ideas through testing.

I think magic has enough people coming up with how they think magic should be done and then making proclamations based on their own artistic preferences. I’m no artist. I just do whatever people seem to like. If they flipped out over rhyming patter and hot rods, I sure as shit would be doing that.

Six jewels I have on this stick, so you see
And I’d like you to choose one jewel for me
Pick a number in the 1 thru 6 range
And to that stone, the others will change
We’ll count to 3 and to 4 as well
But the other numbers we’re going to spell
Spelling a number might seem a bit wonky
But it’s normal if you’ve been kicked in the head by a donkey

Seedling: Blow Up My Phone


This is, at the moment, a very small idea. Consider it a brainstorming session.

It was inspired by something Joe Mckay sent me in an email which was, in turn, inspired by a Paul Gertner idea. Both Joe’s and Paul’s ideas were more for a stage scenario and intended as something of a marketing tool. My idea is for casual situations when you’re in a small group (although I guess I could see something like it being used in a formal show) and it’s just a straight-up trick.

The ideas I have so far in relation to this concept aren’t very good. I’ve only been thinking about it for two days. Usually I need to sit on something for a few weeks or months or more if I’m going to come up with anything particularly clever. But I have a feeling that something good might come out of this eventually so I thought it could be interesting to explain the basic idea now and then we can revisit it at some point down the road, if I come up with any good ideas utilizing this concept. And certainly if you come up with some variation on this that you’d like to share, feel free to send it my way.

Here’s the idea. I’ll explain it with a nail-writer prediction of a two digit number, but it can be applied to other types of effects too. So, typically you would ask one person to think of a two digit number and then you would reveal it’s the number you wrote down.

Instead, let’s assume you’re with a group of five or six people. You ask all of them to think of a two-digit number. You write something down. You have them go to their phones and open up their text messaging app to send you a message. You have them each put their two digit number in the message field and you tell them to all hit send simultaneously when you say “Now.” Whatever number gets to your phone first is the number you’ve predicted.

Is this just a needlessly complicated way of predicting something? That’s what I’m kind of wondering. It could be. But I think it has a few benefits:

  1. It eliminates the excuse that, “I guess everybody thinks of the same number,” since you had five people and they all sent you different numbers.

  2. It adds a layer of impossibility which is something I’m all for. It’s one thing to read someone’s mind. But for this version to work you would have to… what… read everyone’s mind? And have some idea of their reaction time when hitting the send button. And know something about the way different phone networks connect to yours and the priority given to messages or something? I don’t know.

  3. It gets other information in play which could be useful in a follow up effect.

Let’s think about that last point.

Imagine you were doing this with cards. “Everyone think of a card and text it to me simultaneously… Look, the card that came to me first is the one card that’s in my wallet.” Then, at a later point, you could have a deck cut into four and it’s found the deck has been cut to the other four cards. That’s how you might do it with two unrelated effects.

Or you could have everyone send you a number between 1 and 10 and a playing card. The first card to get through is your target card and you add up the other numbers people sent to find its location in the deck. So it’s just a presentation for ACAAN that seemingly involves the whole group on a small level.

Or if you’re doing it with just numbers, you could predict the first number that comes to you and then the other numbers could be added together and that number could be… something. I’m not sure what. Another prediction? There’s probably something better than that. Same thing with words. You predict the first one, but then it turns out the other ones are all… again… I have no clue. As I said, this idea is in its earliest stages.

I never wear an apple watch, but I do have one and I sometimes just finger-palm the face of the watch and use it to peek stuff. I’m wondering if the notifications on the apple watch are definitely in sync with those on your phone. Assuming you have five people sending you a text simultaneously. Can you be sure that the first notification you get on your phone is the same as the first one you’ll get in your watch? I may have to test that.

There are probably technological things you could do to your phone that might work with this premise. There may be a way to bias your phone towards certain phone-numbers, so you could actually know which person will get through first.

If you knew who would get through first, there are other things you could do. For example you could combine this with Phill Smith’s Quinta. Everyone texts you a single digit number. You predict whose number will get through first, you predict the number that person would think of, and the other people’s numbers—when added together—lead to that person when you count back and forth along the row of your spectators.

Again, these ideas are all at the early-early stages. It will be some time before they germinate into something good. And that will likely be a the point where the idea meshes with a broader presentation, probably something beyond just predicting things. We’ll see. If something interesting comes of this, I’ll update you.

Two Ways to Get Out of Traffic Tickets

[NOTE: The link to buy book number two will be taken down at 12:01 AM EST on Tuesday. So tonight, if you’re reading this on Monday.]

I’ll be honest, I don’t know if these two techniques I’m going to write about will actually get people in general out of traffic tickets. Combined, the two techniques have gotten me out of three tickets in 10 years (and most of that time I lived in NYC with no car). I’m not someone who drives like an asshole and then has this unbeatable method to get out of tickets, that’s not what I’m suggesting.

The times I’ve been pulled over it’s usually for speeding on relatively empty streets or for running red lights in the middle of the night. (I mean, I stop, I look to make sure there are no pedestrians or card, then I run through the red lights because I don’t feel like sitting around to allow non-existent traffic to pass through. I’ve got things to do.)

The Psychological Technique

Here’s how this works.

1 - I follow all the normal rules for when you get pulled over. I pull off to a safe place. Turn off my engine. Have my license and registration ready. Act polite. Essentially I don’t give them any reason to think I’m a prick.

2 - I admit guilt. I know they say never to do this, but this is part of my technique. What I do is I admit guilt and give them any somewhat rational reason for what I was doing. So I might say I was speeding because I wasn’t feeling well and wanted to get home as fast as possible. Or I might say I was speeding but I thought I was driving safely for the flow of traffic. Or I might say I ran the light because it seemed safer to drive on with no cars around than sit there at the intersection in the middle of the night. It really doesn’t matter what my rationale is, the important part is admitting guilt. Some people say cops have to give you a ticket if you admit guilt, but I know that can’t be true—at least not everywhere—because I’ve used this technique and gotten out of tickets in the past.

Why admit guilt? Well, here’s my theory. People like to be in a position to forgive someone or do someone a favor. If you don’t admit guilt, you can’t put the person in that position. If you say, “No way man. I never speed,” the officer is just going to trust their radar and know you’re lying. They can’t “forgive” you for your transgression because you’re not admitting to it.

3 - But that’s still probably not enough for them to let you go. So the next step is this: I restate my case, but then suggest it doesn’t matter anyway because I understand they have rules to follow. So I’ll say something like, “It just seemed safer to go through the intersection when it was obvious no one was around rather than sit here and potentially have a drunk driver t-bone me while I’m waiting. You know? You understand. I mean, I know it doesn’t make a difference. You have to do what they tell you to. It’s not your choice. I just wanted you to understand where I was coming from on a person-to-person basis.”

Here’s the thing, no one likes to feel powerless. Especially not cops. So I’m subverting the power dynamic here. Instead of having the situation be, “You’re the cop and you have the power and that’s why you’re giving me a ticket for breaking the law.” I’m reframing the situation as, “You’re a cop and you have to give me this ticket. I get it. You’re just following the rules. Go do what your masters tell you to do.” Obviously I don’t say those words, but that’s the idea behind what I’m saying.

So now, not giving me the ticket is a demonstration of their independence and power. It’s like, “Oh yeah? You think I’m just some mindless automaton following rules and not using my own judgment? I’ll show you. I’ll not give you a ticket. How do you like that?”

Will this work with you and the officers you encounter in your jurisdiction? I have no idea. I don’t know if it will work for me the next time I try it. But it’s worked twice in the past, and I’ll undoubtedly give it a shot in the future.

The Magic Technique

I’ve tried this once and I got out of that ticket. Yes, it’s a small sample size (some would say the smallest) but it’s still a 100% success rate.

Here’s what it looks like.

The cop pulls me over, walks up to the car and asks for my license and registration. I pull out a $100 bill and say, “Is this what you’re looking for officer?” and hold it out the window. She looks at me. I act all innocent. “What? That’s what you asked for, right?” And when she looks again the bill has transformed into my license.

“Are you okay?” I ask.


When I stopped living in NYC full time and needed a car to travel, I had the idea for this trick and bought the gimmick it’s based on. It hung out in my car’s console for a couple of years until a few months ago when I finally got to use it.

The trick is Dollar to Credit Card 2.0 by Twister Magic.

You can make up the trick with any type of credit card (or in my case, an expired license) and a bill of any denomination.

Here’s how I do it. I offer the bill with it completely unfolded. Then I fold it half way and hold it out with two fingers. Then it depends on what the police officer does. If he/she looks at the bill or tries to take it, I do a visual change. If they look at me, I just do the change without them seeing, so it will just be a license when they look back.

Here’s what it looks like. This is using the credit card and single dollar bill the trick comes with. I’m not dumb enough to upload a video with my license information on it. (And, like most of the videos/gifs here, I didn’t record this myself.)


Once the officer sees the license and I’ve casually shown it on both sides, I pull my hand back into the car and kind of lean out the window in a “huh? what’s the issue?” sort of way. While I do this I drop the gimmick down at my side. I then take my registration (with my actual license under it) in my right hand and put it into my left and put both out the window. So it looks like I had my license in my left hand, brought it inside the car, then added my registration on top of it and handed both back out.

Now, here’s the thing, I don’t think police officers like the idea of being confused or fooled on the job, even if it’s in a harmless/fun way. They’re on edge. So you want to clarify what’s going on immediately.

“Sorry. I’m a magician. I just always wanted to try that.”

Now they’re back on solid ground, and at this point it’s your chance to get out of the ticket.

When I did it, the officer was immediately interested. And why wouldn’t she be? She’s probably had a day full of dealing with angry or upset people, and here’s someone who added a moment of levity to her day and doesn’t seem pissed or anything. She asked me about being a magician and I showed her a couple other tricks with stuff I had on me and she let me go. I don’t even remember what she pulled me over for.

I don’t think it’s the magic trick itself that will get you out of a ticket, but it gives you the chance to interact with the officer and come off as a real human. And when you’re as delightful as I am, it’s hard to give such a person a ticket.