Posts tagged cards
In Defense of the 21 Card Trick

     As a disclaimer, I should note that not only did I never learn the 21 Card Trick, I can’t actually even remember ever seeing it performed.

     A couple of weeks ago I was jamming with a few magician friends (almost all card and coin guys), and one of them had brought a friend who had just started practising magic. As I chatted with him I asked him what he was working on and he told me about some moves. I asked what kind of magic he wanted to perform and he said he wasn’t sure. I asked him if he had any effects he was working on that he wanted to show me, and he said he didn’t actually know any tricks, just the moves he had mentioned earlier. Now, let me be clear, for someone who had been practicing for only a few months, he had made incredible progress. He was working on advanced sleights, and he was performing them well. The friend who had brought him and another very talented magician had been mentoring him (and these are some of the most technically gifted guys I’ve ever met, both with published material). Yet somehow in his search to learn he had skipped all the magic, and moved right on to the technical behind the scenes stuff.

     Now this happened for a couple of different reasons: his mentors were also serious cardists, both performed predominantly for instagram, that group was pretty filled with move-monkeys, etc. I know that each of those could use a whole post on their relation to magic and performance (and maybe one of these days I’ll write them…), but the thing that jumped out at me most was that, since he had stepped straight into learning moves (even useful ones like controls, changes, additions, etc) he had missed something that I think we undervalue, and that is the performative experience one gets from doing self-working effects.

     I think just about every magician I know learned some self-working card trick very early on. The 21 Card Trick is the classic punching bag, but there are many. I think mine was naming the top cards from three cut piles using the one-ahead principle. While these effects are rarely the greatest (though I have been getting back into self-workers and man are there some good ones), since they are essentially move-less they allow you to focus entirely on presentation, which is as important a lesson as 100 pointers about where your second finger goes for a certain palm. While we look back on those performances as cringe-worthy, painful, and embarrassing (and I’m sure they were), we forget that they forced us to immediately begin learning how to make people care about the effect (since it would not have flashy visuals to pull them in), and how to invest each part with some meaning (since there was often a lot of procedure), and how to dress up a simple effect with perhaps the least practised but most useful magic sleight there is: acting.

-- Z.Y.

Reflection: Art of Play Warehouse Party
Art of Play

     Dear Reader -- 

     Last weekend we hit up the Art of Play warehouse party / Buck twins birthday, and it almost felt like a small scale magic convention with all the familiar faces that were there. It was lovely to see old friends and meet new ones, if you met us there and are reading this now, cheers. Some thoughts that keep sticking in my mind after I’ve had some time to reflect on the experience: Cards. Puzzles. Quality. These three words describe Art of Play to me.

     Puzzles: The puzzle element I was very surprised by, in regards to how compelling these puzzles were. I suppose it’s the magician side of us that sees something hidden or obscured and wants to find out the secret. If you have any sort of puzzle itch yourself, I highly suggest you check out their inventory, they stock a number of really fascinating and unique puzzles from creators all over the world.

    Quality: The quality of their products is insane. From everything to their goods, to the mechanics of the space (hello hidden-bookshelf door, private poker/whisky room, etc.), to their ideology, everything was done so thoughtfully. I had a brief conversation with Dan, and it was very clear that this result was not by happenstance, he has a very focused vision of what this company is and what they do.

    Cards: H.A., who was scouring the card racks in the warehouse, had an insightful comment on how she primarily felt drawn to the decks that we had some personal connection to, such as knowing the creators or designers. Personally designed playing cards represent a manifestation of your own aesthetics, and I think it’s absolutely remarkable that we’re able to go from idea to completion with a deck of cards, easier than we were ever able to in history. Now, more than ever, a deck of cards has become a statement of personality and identity. From Jeremy Griffith’s Vitreous playing cards, Omar Renfro’s Red Stripe, the cards, themselves, tell their story. And when placed into your hands, tell yours. 

     What's your magic story?

-- J.R. 

An Interview with "RxGamble"

     Today we post an excerpt from an interview we had a few months back in Las Vegas, with the one, the only, "RxGamble". She has earned herself a rare spot amongst the professional gambling elite, with an earnings figure in the million+ range. We're honored to have spent time with her talking about some of the techniques she has employed, and to hear more about her story. Thank you for sharing your words with us and to our readers!

J.R.: What are you up to these days? 

RxGamble: Well I have a baby, so I’m raising him. I’ve played two tournaments over the summer, and besides that... I’m playing blackjack every two months, and I’m writing my book. The book is taking up a lot of time.

J: So, with the blackjack - why every few months? 

R: It’s hard to get away cause I can’t play anywhere in Vegas... that’s worth playing at least. So I have to travel, and it’s so hard to go away with the baby. I travel and I have to wear disguises sometimes and it’s just a lot of work and I kind of don’t - I’m not over it, but it’s not as fun as it used to be. It used to be a good time.

“...look at this dealer.” and I was like okay... so I was like 20 ft away, I could see pips on the card and I was like “Oh my god, I can’t believe this!”

J: Okay so you mostly do that when you’re traveling then. What happens when you walk into a property now? 

R: If I was to walk into a **** property and they were to recognize me, they would arrest me right away. And, honestly, **** properties have never kicked me out but I have an inside guy and he’s like, “Yeah, they want to kick you out.” So I have my lawyer working on getting them to overturn that opinion, he’s in talks with them right now. If I get kicked out of a **** property, they communicate with other casinos, and then the other casinos are like “We don’t want you here, even if you didn’t do anything here.” That’s what **** properties are doing, “Oh, we know about you so...” 

J: Huh...

R: And then even across the country I don’t want to go into **** properties because it’s kind of a grey area, like am I allowed in there or not? I think I am technically. But I just don’t want to deal with getting arrested and having a baby and being like, “Your mom’s in jail.” it’s just, I’m kind of over that. Do you play blackjack? Do you guys, do you count or hole-card? 

J: Mostly ****. But the hole-carding thing is very very interesting. We’ve never been able to find a spot where that consistently works. 

R: They’re a lot better these days, I mean there’s still a lot of games out there... but it used to be like Disneyland. 

J: How do you even go about finding that?

R: Someone else showed me.. I was counting cards and I had heard about hole-carding -- this was like in 2000 or something -- and I didn’t know how to find one. I was walking around, like where do you even start? So this guy I know took me down to the **** and he was like, “Just stand here in the center of the table and look at this dealer.” and I was like okay... so I was like 20 ft away I could see pips on the card and I was like “Oh my god, I can’t believe this!” So once you see it you know what to look for and once you get better at it you don’t need to see that much of the card or it doesn’t have to be that sloppy: You get better at it.

J: Yeah, right. 

R: So you walk. You walk a lot and you look at every dealer. Don’t miss a dealer, that’s basically it. 

J: That’s crazy, and those were just, high limit, low limit?

R: Didn’t matter. I’ve played high limit rooms and 5 dollar tables, they’re [the dealers] all over. I wouldn’t even say there’s not as many. It’s just they’re on the East Coast mostly. Puerto Rico used to be really good for them.. I haven’t been to PR in a long time. 

You think you have all these opportunities... you’re doing really well ... then suddenly you’re banned from all the **** properties.

J: Wow, so I guess, moving backwards though, what was your first introduction into this world of A.P. and just how did you get involved? What was the first time you remembered getting turned over into it?

R: My mom was a dealer and she thought I would be good at card counting. She dealt at the ****  and uh, they would kick card counters out all the time and I was 18 and she said, “I think you’d be good at this.” and I was like... “Too hard, too hard...” I didn’t even think about it until I was dealing blackjack and this guy that I worked with was quitting his job. I asked him why he’s quitting and he said “I’m going to play poker and count cards in Laughlin.” And I was like, “Really, you can do that for a living?” So I went online and I found BJ21. I don’t know if you go to that forum. BJ21 is the largest black jack forum. I went on there and there was this community of card counters and hole-carders and I was just like wow this is awesome -- I went down to the gamblers book store and I got BlackJack for Blood. I learned my count and I was dealing in California and I was going to Vegas on the weekends to count cards and I’d go back to California to deal blackjack and when I was here one weekend that was when that guy was like, “Let me show you hole-carding...” 

J: And that that kind of broke it off for you.

R: Yeah my life seriously changed and I quit my job and I just, that was it.

J: I mean at that point. The edge is so ridiculous. 

R: Oh my god yes. And when I saw my first hole-card I didn’t even realize you could hole-card other games it was just like you can hole-card 3 card poker ultimate, like I didn’t even think about it and then here comes beyond counting and you’re like, wow you can hole-card anything! 

J: Do you have any advice for those looking to get into this? 

R: Your world as you get better and better -- it gets very small. The better you are the more know... Vegas is too small for me now so I have to travel a lot. You think you have all these opportunities, and you think you’re doing really well this year this year and this year and then suddenly you’re banned from all the **** properties. I’d say be careful with your money. It’s not always going to be the same and you should always be looking for the next move. Like I didn’t learn how to shuffle track and maybe I should have and now I think about it and I think I don’t want to deal with it. I went from counting to hole-carding to sorting so there’s always something new to do which is always good. And then there’s poker on top of that. Always look for the next move. Be very aware that it’s not always going to be great. You can have a great game but they could swap the dealer and now you don’t have a game. I wouldn’t suggest anyone do this for a living. I’ve been doing it for like 15 yrs now and I have no other skill that can get me a job. I can deal cards and I started gambling and now... I don’t have a “life” skill. So unless I open up a business I just have gambling that I can do. I don’t suggest anyone do it as a living, but it can be very worthwhile while you’re doing it. You can make a lot of money.

RxGamble can be found on Twitter and Instagram or, if you're sharp enough, at the card table.

Movement vs. Amazement
"If people have even a little understanding, it is better to move them than to amaze them." - Andres Segovia

Special moments aren’t made in the what, they’re made in the how. When it comes to magic, I frequently hear fellow practitioners claiming that people see a deck of cards come out, and a person will say “Oh, I’ve seen that one before.” A clamoring of agreement comes from the room. “Yeah, hate it when that happens.” etc. Card-workers also dislike that spectators don’t remember the specific effects that are occurring, and instead link the effects to the general category of “card tricks”.

Here’s my opinion: it’s because, while these various tricks may be wildly different for those of us who have an extraordinary amount of understanding, to those who only have a little understanding, all these card tricks are indeed the same. There’s an ounce of truth when the spectators announce “Oh, I’ve seen that before.” because they essentially have seen the same exact plot before. Whether their card is found in your wallet, between two others, or from a face-up/face-down shuffle, it’s all generally the same effect.

I was reading JAMM #08, by The Jerx, today, and was again reminded of this notion when he spoke about a modern dance metaphor of watching a magic effect. For those who understand modern dance or perhaps perform it themselves, they will be able to watch two seemingly similar performances and find a wide range of differences, all the different dance moves, etc. For an outsider to that circle of knowledge, it’s all modern dance.

To take another idea away from Magic Live 2017, Josh Jay shared the results of a study which examined various magic plots, and generally, card effects were the least memorable to the average audience. However, once the card effect distinctly morphed into a completely new plot (such as card through window, or Cyril’s fantastic Card Into Aquarium), then recall of that event shot through the roof. This is because the plot is now so far removed from whatever card effect your audience has previously seen.

To some degree, we’re on a constant race of innovation, to make magic more exciting and unique for our audiences. We’re in a wild time, especially with the leaps of technological methodology for magic expanding at an alarming rate. So, let’s show more than card tricks to our audience -- Let’s move them.

-- J.R.