How to do magic trick #14 – The Magician’s Choice

Hi! It has been a long time since my last post. Life is busy, especially when I have not fired my boss. I’ve sold my life for a wage. Furthermore, I believe in only putting up genuine and quality content in this website. I bet you cannot find any website on magic that gives you the kind of insight I am giving you here on my website. If you do come across a better website on magic than mine, let me know. I will visit it.

The Principle of Force

Now I still remember that I am supposed to write on the Principle of Force in performing magic. Before I begin, let me quote myself once again that “the principle of force as the word implies, forces the audience to make a selection that is predetermined by the magician himself”. Another way of saying that is that the magician forces the audience to choose what the magician wants while giving the audience the illusion that he (the audience) is the one who makes the choice. There are many ways to execute a “force”. No matter which way it is done, a force is always based on one of these principles: the use of gimmicks, sleight of hands and verbal manipulation.

For today’s article, I will begin by what is known as “The Magician’s Choice”. This is one of the most basic lessons a magician has to learn to perform magic tricks. The Magician’s Choice is done merely by verbal manipulation although not all verbal manipulation in the performing of a magic trick necessarily constitutes a force.

The Magician’s Choice

In executing a Magician’s Choice, the magician will ask the audience to choose between 2 choices. These choices could be in the form of objects, words, or anything imaginable. However it is easier to illustrate here by referring to these choices as objects.

Say for example, the magician divide a deck of cards into 2 piles which I will refer to them here as the first and the second pile. Let’s say that the magician knows that the card that he wants to reveal at the end of the magic trick is in the first pile. In order to show that everything is done randomly and the final outcome is magical, he allows the audience to choose one of the 2 piles. The simplest statement the magician could say to the audience would be, “Choose one of the two piles.” If the audience chooses the first pile (which is the desired pile), the magician will take the first pile as chosen by the audience and continue with his routine and finally reveals the desired card in the “chosen” pile eventually. On the other hand, if the audience has chosen the second pile, then the magician will take the second pile and discard it by putting it aside. After discarding the second pile that the audience had chosen, the magician now picks up the first pile (which is the desired pile) and continues as in the first scenario.

Notice that the secret lies in what the magician says. He merely asked the audience to choose a pile of cards. But he did not ask the audience what audience want to do with the chosen pile of cards nor did he commit himself to saying what he (the magician) is going to do with the chosen pile of cards. The idea here is being vague with what he says. The magician never commits himself to what he is going to do.

Nasty Audiences

Now can anything go wrong in performing this routine? Yes! Especially if you are performing magic tricks to your friends and it is not an official magic show. In a magic show where you are the professional magician and the audience are usually strangers, they will show more respect to the performer and will not so called, “try to be funny with you” and try to ‘spoil’ your show and embarrass you. Even so, some professional magicians do experience uncooperative audience who try to be funny in more informal settings such as a close-up magic in a bar. So when you are performing magic tricks informally to friends, they tend to have a mindset to sabotage you, spoil your show or do whatever they can to figure out how you do your magic trick.

So now, how do the audience sabotage the magician? I believe that you probably know how to do that too and probably will be very guilty as you have done that very often to friends who performed magic tricks to you. Nevertheless, let me mention 2 very common scenarios here.

Scenario 1: “I want to change my mind”

After either the audience has chosen the first pile or the magician has discarded the second pile that the audience has chosen, the audience will say,

“Oh wait! Can I change my mind?”

“What if I change my mind? Would it make a difference if I have chosen the other pile?”

The audience may not have said all that, but just one of those things or anything to that effect. So now what should the magician do. Do you supposed that the magician is supposed to say,

“No! You can’t change your mind. You have already made your choice and that is final.”

A tug-of-war will occur between the magician and the audience and the whole magic trick is destroyed. Let me tell you what. The magician will be very pissed if this happens. There is only one conclusion. The audience is trying to be nasty. He will vow to himself that he will never show another magic trick to this person ever again.

Scenario 2: “I will decide for you what you are to do.”

In this other scenario, after either the audience had chosen the first pile or the magician had discarded the second pile that the audience had chosen, the audience would insist on what he (the audience) wants to do with the pile of cards he had chosen. If the audience had chosen the second pile of cards and the magician discarded the chosen pile, he would insist that the magician take the second pile that he has chosen. If the audience had chosen the first pile and the magician picked up the first pile that the audience had chosen, the audience would insist that the magician discard away the first pile or the audience insist on holding on to the first pile that he had chosen instead of giving it to the magician. In short, the audience will insist on forcing the magician to do the opposite of what the magician wants do.

Knowing Who To Stay Away From

How do I know? As a hobbyist (a non-professional magician), I perform magic tricks to my friends frequently and I have experienced this many times. This is not meant to be a complaint here but to point out that it is useful to test out your performance first before you actually put on the real show. These annoying audiences will prepare you for the real thing and at the same time it teaches you who to avoid performing magic tricks to in real life. Don’t entertain these smart asses who are unappreciative. Talking about unappreciative audience, avoid such people at all cost. This kind of people who are all out to examine you as if they have set an examination for you to take or they are the police officers interrogating you as a suspect. They have forgotten that you are giving them a free entertainment. They will want to examine all your props and if possible strip search you. They will disrupt you in your routine and dictate to you how you should carry out your routine. And in the event that you manage to survive all the ordeals and still perform a miraculous ending, they will say things like, “I don’t believe that you can really read my mind. Surely there is a trick in it.” Of course there is a trick in it because it is a magic trick, not sorcery or witchcraft. And of course I am supposed to look like I can read your mind and not really read your mind. That’s why I am only a magician, not a wizard or sorcerer. If I am truly a mind reader, I would rather read somebody else’s mind who has more value and not yours. Some others might tell you that they have not seen such a magic trick before and therefore it is not a magic trick to them. They will insist that you should be pulling a rabbit out of a hat or saw a lady in half in order to call it a magic trick. Just tell yourself that these people are absolutely not worth your time and effort. They don’t deserve to be entertained as an audience. They should be abducted and chained up like monkeys by some aliens and made to perform like monkeys to the aliens. That is what I call ENTERTAINMENT!

Fine Tuning The Magician’s Choice

Alright! After that big side step, let’s get back to how to prevent those two nasty scenarios described above from occurring. A professional magician who is experienced will pre-empt something similar to the above two scenarios to happen. Therefore, he would qualify his words and actions a little more in order to seal off objections that may arise later. In using verbal manipulation, you need to gather enough experience to handle objections before they arise. How can this be done?

To avoid scenario 1, after the audience has chosen the first or second pile of cards, the magician could say, “Do you want to change your mind? Is that final? Now, notice that you could have changed your mind but you didn’t (or did). You could have chosen the other pile but you have decided to choose this pile.” All these are said so that the audience could no longer go back on his choice. At the same time, the magician elaborate at great length that the whole process was absolutely random and the audience was absolutely free in making his choice.

To avoid scenario 2, the magician could have chosen to be a little more specific in his instructions instead of being too vague. Let me elaborate on this point. When I first learned the Magician’s Force, I was taught to use the statement, “choose this or that”. More often than not, I encountered scenario 2. The open-endedness of the statement “… choose …” is left to too much interpretation and room for argument. So instead of just say, “choose”, it is better to instruct the audience to do something without any specification of what it is leading to. In our example of 2 piles of cards here, the magician could have said, “pick up a pile of cards”. If the audience pick up the first pile of card, then the magician will ask the audience to hand the pile of card to him (magician). If the audience picks up the second pile of card, then the magician will continue to instruct the audience to put that pile of cards aside elsewhere.

So now you may ask, which approach should I use then since I wouldn’t know which scenario will I encounter. I would suggest that you use the approach in scenario 2. And just in case the audience would say that he wants to change his mind after you have given the second instruction, it would be good to ask audience whether he wants to change his mind after he has picked up a pile of cards before giving him a second instruction such as “hand the pile of cards to me”.


That’s more than enough for today’s post on the Magician’s Choice. In my next post, I teach a simple magic trick that shows you how to apply the Magician’s Force.

How to do magic tricks #13 – Four Key Principles

I have just concluded my series on misdirection and I was looking through my earlier postings, namely, “How To Do Magic Tricks #7 – Principles and Techniques Used in Performing Magic”. In that articles I mentioned about the four principles of how to do magic tricks, namely, “The Principle of Force”, “The Art of Misdirection”, “Verbal Manipulation” and “The Art of Sleight of Hands”. I have also submitted an article on that topic to Ezine Articles and upon comparison, I found that the article that was submitted to Ezine Articles was clearer and more concise. I am therefore re-posting my article here for reference.

Daniel Sunyd, Basic Author

How to Do Magic Tricks – Four Key Principles

Have you ever wondered how magic tricks work? As an ignorant child, I was told by my brother that magicians have very fast hands. The magician’s hands move so fast that you cannot see it. Otherwise, magic tricks are done by using camera tricks. To say that a magician uses camera tricks to perform his magic would have been one of the greatest insults directed at a magician. This is as good as saying that the magician is unskillful and uses the camera to deceive the audience. You do not need a magician to do that. Any Tom, Dick or Harry can perform magic using camera tricks.

Generally, magicians design and perform their magic tricks by operating according to a few principles. They are the principles of force, misdirection and verbal manipulation. Besides these, magicians spend a great amount of time practicing what is known as the sleight of hands. These are skillful hand movements used to conceal, deceive and confuse what the hands are actually doing. It is not true like what my brother told me that magicians have hands that move so fast to a point that the movement is invisible to the audience. Although certain sleight of hands do require the hand movements to be quick but most other sleights do not necessarily require quick hand movements. Sleights done skillfully can be performed before your very eyes and you will not notice what has been done. Some master magicians who possessed such skills are Tony Slydini and Dai Vernon.

The principle of force as the word implies, forces the audience to make a selection that is predetermined by the magician himself. This can be done in many ways. Where counting and mathematics is involved, the magician is using some mathematical formula that work out to a unique answer. Otherwise, it can be done using a gimmick such as a trick deck. Most of the time, it is pure sleight of hands where playing cards are involved. A force is used particularly in magic tricks where the magician tells you what you have selected such as a card or a word from certain pages of a book.

The principle of misdirection aims at directing the audience attention away from what the magician is actually doing. Simply said, it is misleading you to look away in another direction from where the magician is doing his stuff. The master of misdirection is the late Tony Slydini, possibly the only person who could still fool the late Dai Vernon (master of sleight of hands). One of the way where misdirection operates is to use big hand movement and looking at the movement of the hand intently. This is a body language that will naturally lead the audience to look in the same direction as you (the magician) are looking. At this moment, you (the magician) will be able to do what you need to do quickly with the other hand where the audience is not looking. I have noticed that Tony Slydini often confused his audience by making repeated hand movements. While the audience suspected him to do something with a certain hand movement, he had not done anything absolutely. However, during one of those times when he repeated the same movement, he would have done something sneaky when the audience had dropped their guard after seeing the same movement several times. Tony Slydini is known not to use any gimmicks in performing his magic tricks. He relies purely on misdirection and his sleight of hands.

Finally, magicians use verbal manipulation to talk you into doing what he wants you to do as well as convincing you of what he has done and predicted. It is like saying nothing and yet seems like having said everything at the same time. The use of verbal manipulation is also another way to operate the principle of force. Fortune tellers and spiritual mediums often use such skills to deceive people who seek guidance from them. Witches back in the dark ages who were burned may not necessarily truly know the art of black magic but merely convinces people of their power by using verbal manipulation as well as a combination of the above principles.

– The Professor

The author maintains a website that teaches and discusses how to do magic tricks. Visit the blog to learn more about how to do magic tricks. Watch magic videos and learn the principles of how the magic tricks are performed.

Daniel Sunyd, Basic Author

In my next posting, I will cover on the “Principle of Force” in how to do magic tricks.

How to do magic tricks #12 – Slydini’s Secrets Exposed!

I hope you have been amazed by Tony Slydini and his magic tricks, his ingenious art of misdirection and his excellent sleight of hands. Perhaps you have already become a fan of Tony Slydini. There are more to what Tony Slydini has performed than what have been posted on this website. 

If you wish to watch more of Tony Slydini’s magic tricks and to learn the secrets behind these magic tricks, you can find them in this almost 2-hour long Slydini Lecture by Jim Cellini – DVD .

Slydini Lecture by Jim Cellini - DVD





In this DVD (Slydini Lecture), Jim Cellini (Slydini’s disciple) performed the following magic tricks designed by Slydini.

  1. Slydini Silks Routine.
  2. Cut and Restored Rope.
  3. Vanishing Silk.
  4. Chinese Linking Rings.
  5. Paperbox and Balls Routine.
  6. Coins Through Table.
  7. Silk Fountain (performed by Jim Cellini’s wife).

You may want to get this 312-page book. “Slydini Book, Annotated Magic of” written by Lewis Gansons. There you may find the explanations of most of Slydini’s magic tricks or perhaps all of them.

Following these performances, Jim Cellini proceeded to explain each magic trick with the exception of the Chinese Linking Rings and the Silk Fountain. Anyway, the secret behind the Chinese Linking Rings is the same to any other magic performance using Chinese Linking Rings. In fact at one point, he carelessly exposed one of the ring’s opening at the early stage of the performance. The Silk Fountain performed by Jim Cellini’s wife was not skillful enough. For those who are fairly experienced with knowing how to do magic tricks will be able to figure out how this magic trick is done. If not, just watch closely several times and you will be able to figure them out by yourself. She is not experienced enough and her lack of proficiency in her sleight of hands actually gave away the secret of the magic trick. May be that was why the secret to this magic trick was not explained in this DVD. 

For the “Coins Through Table” magic trick, Jim Cellini explained in detail the ‘7 coins routine”, “6 coins routine”, “4 coins routine”, “2 coins routine” and “1 coin routine”. He covered the subtlety of the hand movements Slydini made and how he personally modified them for himself, as well as how to create the sound of the coins penetrating through the table and falling into the hand under the table. He went on to discuss an unpublished “Unique Coin Routine” which is the one where Slydini fooled Dai Vernon. I have left out the explanation in my earlier posting for this magic trick. Please refer to “How to do magic tricks #9 –  Slydini’s The Helicopter Card”.

The invaluable part of this DVD lies on the discussion that went beyond how each magic trick was performed. Jim Cellini covered quite a lot of important information on how Slydini taught him on his body, hands and legs movement on stage, how to sit in such a way so that the lapping technique can be done efficiently and effectively. These lessons are hard to illustrate in books and are seldom taught in any media. 

Jim Cellini explained many magic tricks performed by Slydini in which Jim Cellini did not perform in this DVD such as the cigarette magic tricks. He also told how these magic tricks came into existence.

Some unexpected bonuses are stories about Tony Slydini and Dai Vernon’s relationship, Slydini’s way of looking at magic and how he designed his magic tricks. Jim Cellini told how Slydini designed a card magic as Slydini performed it to Harry Lorayne by using his unique way of performing magic. It was quite hilarious.

The only pity is that you do not get to watch any footage of Slydini in this DVD. However, the materials in this DVD are first class. If you want to watch more of Slydini’s footage, you will get a lot of them in this two-disc DVD set, “As I Recall (2 DVD Set) – Tony Slydini”. You will also get to see Slydini’s students perform and explain some of Slydini’s tricks which include those other magic tricks by Slydini that are not performed in the “Slydini Lecture by Jim Cellini – DVD”. 

As I Recall (2 DVD Set) - Tony Slydini




Here are some video clips from this 2-disc DVD set.

Perhaps you may ask, “Why can’t I find all of Slydini’s magic tricks performed and explained all in one DVD?” First of all, I did not produce them. And that is how the way the market operates. Have you ever found a CD of your favourite artiste’s with all his or her songs recorded in it? Never!  

If you really want to know all about Slydini’s magic trick, you may want to get this 312-page book. “The Annotated Magic of Slydini” written by Lewis Gansons. There you may find the explanations of most of Slydini’s magic tricks or perhaps all of them. I do believe that you can find the secret to Slydini’s “Helicopter Card” in here.

Slydini Book, Annotated Magic of

How to do magic tricks #11 – Slydini’s Paper Balls Over The Head

In the video posted in this article, Tony Slydini demonstrated live to the audience how “Misdirection” could fool an audience. He did this by throwing the paper balls over the volunteer’s head again and again without him noticing it. All the rest of the audience could see clearly what happened except the volunteer himself.

You may want to watch it several times and ask yourself why did the volunteer failed to detect what Slydini was doing. Could you have succeeded in doing what Slydini did? Very often when I was taught a magic trick, I would have a lot of objections as to what if the audiences notice what I am doing? ‘What if the audiences do this or that? As I was watching this video, I asked myself, “Why the volunteer did not lift his head as Slydini flipped his hand upwards to throw the paper ball over his head?” These are the answers I came up with for myself after watching the video repeatedly.

1. Slydini had mastered the distance between the volunteer and himself where the angle of the volunteer’s vision had been greatly restricted.

2. Slydini had confidently got the volunteer fixated on his left palm where he had him believed the paper ball was to be.

3. Slydini successfully fooled him again and again causing the volunteer to doubt himself.

4. Finally, Slydini has mastered the art of misdirection; he knew what he was doing and what he was capable of. Thus, every movement of his body coordinated very well with what he wanted to accomplish. In the case if anyone else would try to imitate Slydini, they may not succeed because their lack of practice or lack of confidence may betray them.

Observe that Slydini had purposely put a lot of paper napkins on the volunteer’s lap restricting his body movement. The volunteer was unable to stand up or move his legs. Otherwise, all the paper napkins would fall from his lap. Slydini then said to the volunteer, “Come closer. No, no, not your chair, yourself. Don’t stand up. Just come closer.” What Slydini had done was to make the volunteer leaned forward and had him looking down with his head bent. Slydini further conditioned him by holding his hands in front of the volunteer at his chest level. Observe that the volunteer was bending his head and body very low. For him to lift up his head to watch Slydini throwing the paper ball over his head would require a big body movement involving not just his head but his back as well. Lifting his head alone would not enable him to see the paper ball thrown over his head.

Next, Slydini had engaged him deeply with his hand movement and conversation drawing his attention to his left hand. Slydini’s head and body were all bent leaning towards his left hand suggesting to everyone in communion with him to focus on his left hand. As he threw the paper ball away, he did it in one swift motion. Only his finger did the job but not his arm.

If I had taken over Slydini’s position, I might have lifted my right arm slowly because I would be afraid that by flinging the paper ball away with one quick fling, the volunteer would have suspected what I was doing. What I would have done next would be to throw the ball away when I was sure that the volunteer did not look up towards my right hand. This would precisely have given me away because the volunteer would have looked up when he did not see my right hand come down to put the paper ball into my left hand fast enough the way Slydini did it. Slydini was able to fling the ball away swiftly because he had the momentum as he lifted up his right arm quickly. In my case if I were to lift up my right arm slowly (hesitantly) and stop, I would lose the momentum. And if I were to throw the ball away, my arm would most probably move also causing the volunteer to grow suspicious.

Notice again that Slydini repeated his routine again and again with slight variation each time. I have pointed this out in the earlier videos. Also notice that the first time he made the paper ball disappeared, he made the volunteer checked his breast pocket. So subsequently when Slydini put the third paper ball into his breast pocket, the volunteer did not suspect anything.

I hope that this series of Slydini videos illustrate how misdirection works. Continue to ask yourself everyday how am I to carry out misdirection to the people around me as to what I want to do. When you plan your performance for a magic trick, ask yourself what misdirection have I incorporated to improve the effect of my performance. Gradually you will find yourself becoming a master of misdirection yourself.

How to do magic tricks #10 – Slydini’s Cigarette Tricks & Coins Through The Table

In the video posted in this article, Slydini performed a total of 3 magic tricks. The precious thing in this video is Dick Cavett’s introduction to Tony Slydini and his ingenuity in performing magic.

The first magic trick that lasted until 4:30, is some sort of a representation of the “Paper Balls in the Hat” trick using cigarettes. Notice the hand movement and body gesture are somewhat similar to those when he performed the “Paper Balls in the Hat” trick. The difference here is that the paper balls are replaced by cigarettes and there is no hat or box. What you see here are cigarettes appearing and disappearing from one hand to another. Apply all the principles that I have discussed in my earlier articles “How to do magic trick #8: Tony Slydini – The Master of Misdirection” and “How to do magic trick #9: Slydini’s Helicopter Card”. Try to figure out for yourself and do it as an exercise. Just like back in school, the actual learning takes place only when we do our homework.


The second magic trick from 4:50 to 6:30 presented to a lady was the same magic trick Tony Slydini performed to Dick Cavett in the earlier posting “How to do magic trick #8: Tony Slydini – The Master of Misdirection”.

The third magic trick from 6:53 to the end of the video at 8:34 was the “Coin Through The Table” magic trick using 7 coins. Sadly, the video ended abruptly just before the end of this maigc trick. At the end of the video, you saw Tony Slydini put his right hand holding the 4 coins below the table while he put his left hand holding the 3 coins on top of the table. Tony Slydini slammed his left hand on the table and the 3 coins ‘penetrated’ the table and dropped into his right hand that was under the table. Slydini opened his left hand and there was no coin in his right hand or on the table because the 3 coins had supposedly penetrated through the table. As he brought forth his right hand from under the table, there were 7 coins in his right hand.


The “Coin Through The Table” magic trick using 7 coins could have been done with any number of coins, say only 6 coins. However, by having 4 coins in one hand and 3 coins in another hand creates a stronger misdirection that no coin have been passed from one hand to the other while he showed the 3 coins in the left hand the first time (7:54) and 4 coins in the right hand the second time (8:08).

I will make the explanation of this magic trick here short. The first time he revealed his left hand completely opened with 3 coins still in the left hand (7:54) was genuine. That was meant to convince the audience so as to make them let down their guard. The second time when he ‘dropped’ the 4 coins from the right hand (8:08) involved a sleight of hands. Notice that he did not turn his right hand faced up like he did previously with his left hand. 3 coins were clipped with his thumb in his right hand while the one and only unique coin (the English penny among the 7 coins) was dropped onto the table from his right hand. The other 3 coins that appeared on the table were dropped (slid through the bottom) from the left hand. The one coin from the right hand and 3 coins from the left hand totaled up to 4 coins on the table. Upon seeing 4 coins on the table, our minds deceive us that ALL the 4 coins are from the right hand. Right from beginning of the magic trick, Slydini had emphasized to the audience to watch the English penny (that was meant to fool them). He was setting up a mental trap for his audience. So when Slydini picked up the 4 coins from the table with his right hand (palm faced down hiding the 3 coins clipped in the right hand), he then have all the 7 coins in his right hand.


As a concluding statement, I would like to refer you to the movie “Swordfish” . John Travolta played the role of a ruthless terrorist when in actual fact he was a special government agent. He had fooled the police and the FBI agents time and time again, and in his final act, he faked his own death. Somewhere in the middle of the movie where he driving in his car, he said something like this (pardon me because I can’t remember the exact words):

"I love Houdini. He could make an elephant disappear from the stage. The keyword is – MISDIRECTION. What the eyes see and the ears hear, the mind believes.”

Meditate on that!

How to do magic tricks #9: Slydini’s “Helicopter Card”

In this video, you will watch how Tony Slydini performed 2 of his tricks, namely, the “6 Coins Routine” and “The Helicopter Card”. For each trick, he performed it twice, each time with a slight variation.


It is a basic rule in performing magic that you do not repeat your performance of a magic trick to the same audience twice for the obvious reason that the audience will try to notice how you perform the magic trick particularly at your other actions which they did not notice previously. Tony Slydini broke this rule of magic and he is famous for challenging the audience. Nevertheless, he did repeat his performances with slight variations from his previous performances. These variations gave a fresh touch to the same magic tricks and at the same time, they gave the audience the feeling that he was doing something different from the previous performances. Tony Slydini was such a master at his sleight of hands and misdirection that he dared to break these rules. His sleight of hands were so neat that even if you knew how to do the magic tricks that he had performed, you still could not catch him doing it.

So what is the secret to the “6 Coins Routine”? If the legendary Dai Vernon (the man fooled by Tony Slydini) could not figure it out, how could I? However, I can tell you the secret to the “Helicopter Card”.

Notice again that Tony Slydini repeated a number of actions to the audience to wear down the audience’s alertness. The first few times Tony Slydini carried out these actions, he would either explicitly show the audience or subtly let the audience notice that he had not done anything tricky. Subsequently the last time Slydini repeated the same action was when he performed his sleight of hands. In the “Helicopter Card” magic trick, Slydini first drew the audience to a card he put sticking out of the rest of the cards he was holding in his hand. The card that was sticking out was not the audience’s chosen card. It was there to catch the audience’s attention so as to distract, frustrate and to confuse him. Slydini then went on to frustrate the audience by making him pick up card after card on the table to search for his chosen card. This action also served the purpose of giving a miraculous effect at the end when the chosen card appeared on the table as the audience believed that his chosen card was held together with the rest of the cards on Tony Slydini’s other hand. As Slydini did this, his hand would touch each card as he asked, “Is it this card?” The last time when Slydini pointed to a card on the table, he actually dropped the card held in his hand just slightly behind (from Tony Slydini’s perspective) the card he pointed to and this action is covered by his hand as he pointed to a card on the table. Slydini then finally directed the audience’s attention into the air and imagined a card had landed right where he had placed the audience’s chosen card earlier.

His sleight of hands was so extremely neat that you won’t be able to notice it. Just take note that the chosen card appeared just slightly behind (from Tony Slydini’s perspective) the last card Tony Slydini pointed to the audience.

I would like to make a statement about Tony Slydini’s use of human psychology when he performed certain actions repeatedly. We repeatedly see something to be either present (true) or absent (false) frequently in our past experiences. As we make the same observations repeatedly, we become very confident that we know all about certain truth without examining and giving a thought about it. We all come to our own conclusion which is eventually wrong, such as “the world is flat”. And Tony Slydini has used this presumptious mindset very well against us.

How to do magic tricks #8: Tony Slydini – The Master of Misdirection

Tony Slydini, an Italian, was born in the year 1901 and passed away on 1991. He was a master at the art of misdirection. He used solely sleight of hands and misdirection to perform his own brand of magic tricks without the use of any gimmick. For 55 years in performing magic, he has never read a book on magic.

In the first video below, you will see Slydini performed his “Paper Balls in the Hat” magic trick. Slydini crushed and rolled up 3 to 4 pieces of paper into a ball each time and make them appear and disappear in his hand. He then put the ball held in his left hand invisibly into the hat with his right hand. As Slydini opened his left hand, the paper ball had disappeared. This routine is repeated 3 to 4 times and never once do you see him putting the ball into the hat. At the end of the performance, the hat which was shown to be empty at the beginning of the performance is then filled with paper balls.


The secret to the The Paper Balls in the Hat magic trick:

This is done by a combination of lapping, sleight of hands and misdirection.

Lapping is a skill where you use your lap (that is covered by the table) to serve as a platform where you use to drop items onto from your hands or from the table if you want to make the items vanish. You can also pick these items up again into your hands when you make them reappear. Slydini used this technique very often and Dai Vernon (a.k.a. Professor) commented that the powerful technique of lapping had not been utilized enough nor developed further beyond what Slydini had done with lapping.

Note that Slydini repeats his action over and over again. There are times when you taught that he was up to some trick but nothing actually happened. When he first opened his left hand, you expect to see the paper ball disappear but instead the paper ball is still there. The next time he repeated his action, the paper ball actually disappeared. Slydini used repeated actions to confuse the audience. When the audience see the same actions repeated many times without anything actually happening, they will lose their alertness when they see the same actions again and that is when he actually do something sneaky. I must really salute Slydini for his dexterity because even though I have already know his secret moves, I still can’t catch him doing his move at that exact moment when I’m watching out for it a hundred and one percent. Not only is his action so fast, but more admirably the action is so natural.

Watch the video again.

At 0:22, Slydini put his left hand down below the table for the first time. The first time he put his left hand down, there was absolutely no trick.

At 0:29, Slydini showed the ball was still in his left hand.

At 0:31, Slydini transferred the ball from the left hand to the right hand while the right hand was covering the left hand. He then dropped the ball from the right hand onto his lap.

From 0:47 to 0:51, Slydini put his left hand down below the table for the second time. This time he picked up the first ball dropped on his lap and transferred it to his right hand. This ball was held in the right hand and subsequently dropped into the hat while he repeated his previous actions. Even though the second ball remained in the left hand, the first ball which was in the right hand had been dropped into the hat. You may think that nothing was dropped into the hat because the ball was still in the left hand. Moreover, this series of action happened in the beginning and your memory reinforced you to think that the right hand is empty and nothing is put into the hat. You thought that it was nothing but some theatrical gesturing.

At 1:38, you will find that there is no more paper on the table to be rolled into paper ball nor are there any more balls in his hands. Nevertheless he repeated his routine again because he still has one more ball on his lap. This magic trick can never be completed with the same number of balls rolled up appearing in the hat unless he carries out his routine for one last time.

The second video shows 2 magic tricks by Slydini. This is of a much later date than the previous video. Slydini addressed the gentleman as Professor which is possibly Dai Vernon in his younger days. The first 4 minutes is again the “Hat and Paper Balls” magic trick. Note that at 2:04, when Slydini was transferring the previous paper ball in his left hand to his right hand, the ball was not crushed properly and some edges of the paper were visible during the transfer. At 3:17, when Slydini was putting the transferred paper ball in his right hand into the red box, you can notice some trace of yellow paper at the top of the red box while he dropped it into the box. From where Dai Vernon was sitting, he could actually see what was happening. Nevertheless, he pretended to be ignorant and amazed by the trick which helped to reinforce the audience’s amazement. The second magic trick entitled, “The Impossible Dream”, Slydini restored a handful of tobacco and paper into a cigarette. There is actually a third magic trick but it is rather short.


Notice how Slydini involves his audience in his performance. In this way, the audience’s attention is directed to what he has to do away from what he is doing in a split moment. It is also an important way to hold the audience’s attention and interest, another important aspect of performing magic. Obviously, Slydini could have done all those things himself instead of asking the audience to do so but still he chose to get the audience involved. At 5:09, Slydini picked up a cigarette on his lap and held it in his right hand as he rested his right hand at the edge of the table. At 5:14, Slydini dropped all the tobacco and paper on his left hand onto his lap as he turned his left hand to face downward while he pushed the cigarette held in his right hand to emerge from his left hand, giving the illusion that the torn cigarette had been restored. At 5:18, you can see Slydini dusting off the tobacco on his lap.

For the third magic trick where Slydini stretches two halves of a cigarette into two complete cigarettes, just watch when did Slydini put his hands below the table. Once you understand the principle of lapping, you will understand how he did this magic trick. And notice how he directed the audience’s attention away with his hand and eyes while the other hand made his sneaky move. This is the essence of misdirection. Nevertheless Slydini did it so well that even you are aware of the technique, you cannot help but follow his lead and his crucial sleight of hands are simply too fast and natural.

How to do magic trick #7: Principles and techniques used in performing magic tricks

Creative Commons License photo credit: sambeckwith

Why Magicians Don't Work With Iggy Pop
Hello world! It has been quite a while since I last updated my blog. Life is busy especially when you are working full-time. Let me get on with my article immediately.

So far in my articles, you may have noticed that I have presented the process of learning magic and the principles and techniques used in magic tricks progressively in a systematic manner. If you follow my articles carefully, you will have a clear and good understanding of the essentials of the secrets behind any magic trick. Subsequently, it will be easy for you to begin learning magic systematically, selecting the field of magic you like to specialize in instead of groping in the dark, learning random tricks which may be either too difficult or too easy but meaningless. That will save you lots of time and money.

Moreover, different magic tricks have different effects on the audience. So it is important for you to know what you are trying to achieve with your magic tricks. Are you trying to build rapport with someone? Or is it you want to break the ice with a stranger? Perhaps you are trying to focus the attention of a group of familiar or unfamiliar people on yourself or you are simply trying to entertain your family and friends. Using the wrong magic tricks and performing the right magic tricks with the wrong presentation will not bring you the desired effects. Thus picking up magic tricks randomly here and there, especially free magic tricks on the internet will not help you achieve your objectives.

Nevertheless, I will only touch on the general principles but not into the details as I do not wish to expose the secrets behind magic openly. These articles are meant to help those who are truly interested in investing into learning the art of magic and making the journey easier for them. This is to prevent exposing the secrets behind the art of magic to nosey curiosity seekers who do not respect the art of magic.

Magic is essentially an art of deception. The line is extremely thin between a con artist and a magician. A magician uses the art to entertain whereas a con artist uses the art to rip off his targets in order to benefit himself unethically. Unfortunately, there are many half baked magicians who are also part-time conmen. In the process of learning magic, I was unfortunate enough to come across a few of these. If you want to learn magic, you must be clear about your objectives and make a clear stand on how you are going to use what you learn from the art of magic.

The essential principles of performing magic tricks are

  1. the force,
  2. misdirection,
  3. cunning phrasing of words and
  4. sleights 

Understanding how these four principles work will enable you to know how more than 70 percent of all magic tricks work.

The principle of force as the name implies, forces the audience to make a choice that is predetermined by the magician. For example a magician let the audience pick a card at random. The card that the audience eventually pick is the card that the magician ‘forces’ the audience to pick. Of course the audience will not realize that if the magician is skilful in the execution of the force. The force can be executed by using props, sleights, mathematical principles or a sequence of instructions dictated by the magician to the audience. A magic trick that uses the principle of force is usually one where the magician predicts an outcome such as predicting the card chosen by the audience. The field of magic known as Mentalism (mind reading) uses the principle of force very often.

Misdirection simply means distracting the audience. Stage magic is composed heavily of stage props and misdirection. A very simple thing to do is to direct your audience to look at somewhere else away from what you are sneakily trying to do elsewhere. Directing the audience to look elsewhere is a visual misdirection. Besides that you can misdirect the audience by keeping them busy with something to do or engaging them in a conversation. I would like to call that mental misdirection. Another form of mental misdirection is to make the audience think that you have done something, say with your hands, when you have actually done something else. The master of misdirection is late Tony Slydini. To understand and appreciate how does misdirection works in magic tricks, it will benefit you greatly to watch Tony Slydini perform his magic tricks.

The third principle listed here involves a manipulation of words. I would like to call this double-talking. Whenever a magician engages the audience in a conversation, his instructions and predictions may seem to mean something but it could also mean another thing. Besides double-talking, he would possibly instruct the audience to do something subconsciously by a play of words.

Sleights are skilful manipulation of hands. Mastering sleights is the most time consuming task magicians have to spend their time on. Although it may not necessarily be true that the magician who is the most skilful at his sleights is the best magician but a magician must be skilful at his sleights in order to be a good magician. Thus I have always advocated beginner magicians or aspiring magicians to learn magic tricks that do not involve the use of sleights in the beginning but to perform simpler form of magic tricks while giving themselves time to practice their sleights.


In my next article, I will talk more about Misdirection in magic.

How to do magic tricks #6: Where and how do I begin?

If you are doing card magic or coin magic, there are many sleights that you need to master before you could progress to the more professional magic tricks respectively. If you were to wait for yourself to perfect these sleights, you would have probably lost interest or given up magic by then. I would then suggest that you do the following while you spend time privately to master the necessary sleights over a period of time.

Start with some gimmicks. You can get a variety of magical gimmicks either from your local magic shops or purchase them from online magic shops. From gimmicks, you may want to progress on to self-working magic tricks using playing cards. Self-working tricks as the name implies are magic tricks where their effects happen naturally when you follow the procedures of the performance routines accordingly. Self-working magic tricks require little or no sleight of hands at all and are therefore relatively manageable.

Generally, professional magic tricks using playing cards or coins require many sleights that take a lifetime to master. Mentalism magic (mind reading) generally require relatively less sleights (or in fact none at all) as compared to card magic and coin magic. So you may want to begin with mentalism first instead of other types of magic such as card magic or coin magic.

For your personal education in magic, I would recommend that you watch the World’s Greatest Magic DVD series. Each World’s Greatest Magic DVD series features a particular magic trick performed by different magicians with their individual style of presentation. From watching these different presentations, they would enrich your experience with magic. That is the basis of how we learn and become an expert in any subject in any field – with continued exposure to the same thing, experiencing them again in a variety of ways.

How to do magic tricks #5: Items used in magic

In the course of performing magic, the items used vary from ordinary daily objects in your immediate surroundings or a borrowed objects from the audience to specialized magical items made to create magical effects. Although some items used in performing magic are ordinary objects but they are favorite items used by magicians such as playing cards, silk and ropes. Other items are made to look ordinary but in actual fact they are not. They look ordinary because we want the audience to believe that they are ordinary. For example, some playing cards are modified in a specific way that certain magical effects could be performed. These items vary from big props used in stage magic to smaller items used in close-up magic, generally referred to as gimmicks.

Stage Magic Routines & Props

In stage magic, there are standard routines performed by stage magicians which we are familiar with as children watching magic show on television. In the field of stage magic, only the more exceptional magicians are able to present more innovative routines which the general public is less exposed to; or they could present a standard routine in a more entertaining manner. This is due to the fact that the props of stage magicians are pretty standard just as what we have been regularly exposed to. These are pigeons, rabbits, playing cards, guillotine, hat, custom made boxes for assistants to be locked up in, magic wands, silks, rings, etc. As many props for stage magic are relatively big as they are needed to be presented from the stage to audience seated a distance away, they are pretty expensive to purchase. Thus amateur magicians may find it financially difficult to get more expensive props to incorporate into their repertoire and this is apart from the cost of learning the secrets to performing them.

David Copperfield

If you have watched David Copperfield’s performance, you would have noticed that he is able to perform very simple and standard routines interwoven into a dance with a storyline in it. David Copperfield is able to inject entertainment into his performance that makes his show more interesting than an amateur magician who merely performs the standard routines as performed by many other magicians.

Close-Up Magic & Props

My brief discussion on stage magic is to show that items used in stage magic is standard stage props which we would not be using. What I would like to focus on here are items used in close-up magic. Close-up magic is more relevant to the non-professional magicians (since we are only interested in amusing our friends and ourselves) whether you are just a hobbyist or someone who intend to pursue magic as a profession in the future. The most common objects used are:

  1. Playing Cards
  2. Coins
  3. Balls and CupsDSCN6255
  4. Sponge Balls
  5. Rubber Bands
  6. Ropes
  7. Silks
  8. ESP Cards
  9. Business Cards (Name Cards)
  10. Money (Bills)
  11. Handkerchief
  12. Cutleries from dining tables
  13. Invisible Thread
  14. Almost any objects around you.

                                                                                                                   Creative Commons License photo credit: keertmoed


Among these items, playing cards and coins are among the most common followed by sponge balls, rubber bands. Many close-up magicians are dedicated particularly in the field of card magic and coin magic and the magic tricks devised for playing cards and coins accumulated since early 20th century are numerous and so are the sleights involved in these two types of magic. ESP Cards are more commonly used by mentalists (mind reading magicians) and magic tricks involving the use of ESP cards can be modified and replaced by normal playing cards generally.