In The Amateur at the Kitchen Table I repeat an assertion made by Bob Farmer that one of the best tricks you can do for someone who hasn't seen you perform is to have a card selected, peek it, and then reveal the details of the card piece by piece. It's not the strongest trick you could do, but it might be the best initial trick to show someone. What Bob wrote, and what I have found to be true, is that if you do a trick that is too good for someone who has never seen high-level close-up magic before, they don't really follow it like you would want them to.
As Bob originally wrote, "You can't start with a really good trick—the audience will not be up to speed and they won't get it."
Something simple, like a peek and a revelation, can be very strong but it's not too far removed from what they're already familiar with. It's a streamlined version of the first card trick most people learn.
In 2012 a magician in NYC that I'd worked with and who knew I was running a bunch of focus groups to test different ideas and handlings for magic effects, gave me some funding to test different peeks. The "testing" was unsophisticated. We would perform a peek and a revelation for someone and then just have them rate the effect on a scale of 1-10.
But we looked at one other thing as well and it was based on a misguided notion I had. I had this idea that if a spectator sees you glance at the deck once, they would find that suspicious. But maybe if you looked at the deck a lot throughout the course of the routine they would find that less suspicious. So we gave people tally counters to click off each time they saw the magician look at the deck during the trick. As it turns out, my notion was way wrong. The more you looked at the deck throughout the trick the less they rated the effect overall (on average).
But while that idea didn't pan out, it did give us some insight into why one peek we tried scored the highest. I call that peek the 10% Peek because only 2 out of the 20 people we tried it on thought the deck was ever looked at during the course of the performance. (That's not to say they caught the peek, just that they believed the magician looked at the deck at some point.) Think of that from their perspective. They grab their own deck from their junk drawer, they shuffle it as much as they want, they peek a card and you're able to name it without ever even looking in the direction of the deck (apparently).
While I can't post the details of the peek here publicly, because it's not mine to give away, the person who funded the testing has agreed to let me write it up in an ebook and distribute it to GLOMM elite members. Expect a short ebook in your email in early November.
For non elites (aka Glomm Riffraff aka Glommoners) don't worry, you're not missing out on some revolutionary technique. It's just, I think, a choreography that disguises the moment of the peek particularly well via the use of some psychologically disarming subtleties. And I can give you some of the lessons we picked up when looking at these peeks in aggregate (I think we looked at around 8 altogether).
- You can't glance at something so quickly that people don't notice. And, in fact, one quick glance is usually more suspicious than just looking at the pack for a moment. It's the difference between watching someone scurry past a doorway, or stroll by it.
- There should be an implied motivation for looking in the direction of the deck, that is not about looking at the deck.
- There should be something psychologically more compelling/distracting than where you're looking at the moment of the peek.
- Try to balance out your peek at the deck with a look somewhere else. I can't say too much along these lines, but think of it this way: if you have a coin and you want to ditch it, it's much more natural to put both hands in your pockets as opposed to just one.
Sorry if that's too cryptic. The full choreography of the 10% Peek will be in the ebook in November.
Speaking of super-funtime secret ebooks. Last week, two members of the GLOMM were sent an ebook containing an effect called Drone Strike: Classified. This is a card to impossible location created by someone you likely know and released in a limited edition of two copies to random GLOMM members. It's one of those tricks I wish I would have seen first because it would have destroyed me. The "impossible location" in this case seems truly impossible. I'll give you more details tomorrow and offer you a not-quite-as-good but still pretty powerful variation called Drone Strike: Public Record.