Beginner’s Study 7/97-9/97


Beginner’s Study 7/97-9/97

Lesson #1
Thought of the month

What is magic?

By Bobby J. Gallo
Lets start our first lesson by talking about what magic is. Magic is the art of mystification. It tries to mystify, right? But why do people want to be mystified? Is is because they want a sense of wonder in their life?….Maybe….or is it because they would like to be entertained?….absolutely! Magic is a form of entertainment as well as an artform. Just as dance is, and just as music is.

So when we perform magic, it is paramount that we do it so that it entertains, not just mystifies. How do we achieve that? There are a number of ways, but the first would be what we call, “The Presentation” Throughout the course, we will talk as much about presentation as we will about secrets because the two go hand-in-hand when it comes to making a polished performance.

Presentation is the art of presenting our magic in an entertaining manner so that people will want to watch pieces How do we do this? There are many ways and each must find his/her own special niche. Some use interesting stories (this is a very easy way), some use comedy situations, others use dance and music. There really is no right or wrong method, however certain parameters should always be observed in order to maintain the integrity of our art. What can these be? For instance, material that is in bad taste is frowned upon by most working pros. Even in a comedy club venue, I myself have proven through countless performances that big laughs are possible by working clean. Also, never sacrifice the mystery element for the sake of entertainment. In other words, do not expose the secret of a trick just to get a laugh. Trust me, it will get the laugh, but you will be destroying a valuable piece of magic in the process and will degrade magic as a whole before that entire audience.

The bottom line is simple, the key factor that should always steer you is the golden rule of presentation, “Be Yourself” Do not try to copy others and you can’t lose. But in all your presentations, use good judgment.

The Ten Pile Trick
Materials needed:

  1. One deck of regular playing cards
  2. One piece of paper
  3. One pen, pencil, or thin marker

Effect: The magician places three piles of cards onto the table. No matter what pile is freely selected by the spectator, the magician proves that he predicted the outcome in advance!

This trick is all presentation, but will fool almost everyone. It is what we call a prediction effect. That is to say, it convinces the spectators that it is indeed possible for a magician to predict the future. To start, write on the paper these words exactly as you read them. “You will select the the TEN pile”(see example). Next remove all the tens from the deck and place them in a pile on the table face down. Next remove any ten cards and place them face down alongside of the four tens on the table. Lastly, remove from the deck any amount of cards that amount to ten when added. For instance, a five, a two, and a three. You are all set to perform your first miracle!

The simple secret is that no matter which pile is chosen, the magician will always be correct.

Presentation outline: Take out the paper stating that before the show you wrote down a prediction of what pile the spectator will select. (or you may do this on the spot). Display the three piles stating that even though it is impossible to know in advance what pile the spectator will pick, you have nonetheless proven it can be done. Place the paper where everyone can see it and proceed to have the spectator select any pile.

If they select the pile with the four tens state, “Look you have selected the pile with all the tens in it. If we look at the other two piles, we can see that there are no tens present at all. Please open my prediction and read it.” They will find that it reads “You will select the TEN pile” you have done it! You predicted in advance which pile the spectator selected!

If they select the pile that contains ten cards, DO NOT show the faces of any of the cards! Merely count the other two piles first stating, “This pile contains only four cards (actually the four tens), This pile contains only three cards,(the cards that add up to ten), But this pile has ten cards total.”(slowly and dramatically count all of the cards down onto the table. Then proceed to allow the spectator to read the prediction).

Lastly, if they happen to pick the pile that adds up to ten, here is what you do. Show the faces of the pile that has ten cards in it stating that if you totaled the cards up you get a large number, (proceed to do this). “But you happened to select this pile and they add up to ten. Please read my prediction.” In this last case scenario, do not show the faces of the pile that contains all four tens. That could possibly be an obvious tip off as to how the trick works.

Final notes: As you have seen, this trick does not require any sleight-of-hand or practice as far as the workings are concerned. This leaves you free to develop an entertaining presentation. Ideas may include acting the part of a psychic when writing the prediction or telling a dramatic story about odds and probabilities, etc. The ideas are endless, so go for it, and make the ten card trick something your audience will remember for a long time! Also, do not repeat this trick, the audience will surely discover the secret if you do…

Many magician’s dismiss mathematical principles in magic due to what they term as their obvious modus operandi. That does not have to be the case. With proper presentation, these oddities can be reputation makers. Blackstone Sr. used to perform a trick similar to the one below, and he was a legend.

Mathematical Card Revelation
Ask someone to think of any card. Mentally double its face value. (Jack 11, Queen 12, and King 13) Add 3 and multiply by 5. Finally, ask that the value of the suit of the card be added. (Clubs 1, Diamonds 2, Hearts 3, Spades 4) and the result told to you. You may now name the card by merely subtracting 15 from this total. The right hand digit shows the suit. The next one (or two) the value of the card.

What type of cards to use? Even though the above routine can be done with virtually any household deck of cards. It is generally advisable to purchase a new deck of better grade playing cards. All playing cards come in two sizes. Bridge size and poker size. In England, cards are of a different size altogether so if you are taking the course from the UK, use what is available. Though some may prefer bridge size due to the fact that they are slightly smaller and thus better suited to smaller hands, most professional magicians use poker size. Therefore, it may be best to get used to the larger size from the start, but that is a personal decision.

Lesson #1
Lessons in Sleight-of-Hand
The purest form of magic is sleight-of-hand. Even with the myriad of apparatus available and all of the “so called” self-working effects on the market, the foundation of all magic is solid sleight-of hand.

But why learn sleight-of-hand when there exists all of the other methods?

There are a number of reasons. When you perform, it will be interesting to note the audience reaction when a performer exhibits pure sleight-of-hand skill as opposed to something mechanical. They are not only bewildered by the magic produced by these manipulations, but are equally impressed by the obvious skill involved.

Another reason that sleights are so appealing is due to the fact that they usually deal with simple ungimmicked objects. Things like cards, coins, thimbles, balls, silk scarves, rings, and cigarettes. (even though this last object isn’t very popular these days).

A good sleight-of-hand magician never has to worry about being caught using a gimmick, because generally there aren’t any! Even if there is one, it is usually very minor when compared to something like a production box or a similar piece of apparatus.

When learning sleights, the moves may seem difficult at first. Do not be discouraged. With perseverance, they will become “second nature” in time. Not to mention the fact that the freedom and fun are worth the effort.

The Vanishment of a Coin
The basic sleight of hand mystery that can be done anywhere, anytime! There are dozens of ways to do this, but we will start out with the most basic.

The sleight necessary for this effect is called “the thumb palm”. There are almost as many ways of palming* a coin as there are of making the coin vanish. The thumb palm requires that you place the coin in the palm of your hand near the crotch of your thumb. Then by the simple act of clipping the coin with the thumb of the same hand, you conceal the coin there.

Now, obtain a coin the size of a half or silver dollar depending on what feels more comfortable to you. A quarter will also work. Start by calling attention to the coin and hand it out for examination if you prefer. Then take the coin and place it in the position near the crotch of your thumb as described above. You are now going to pretend to place the coin into your left hand. But what actually happens, is that as you turn the hand containing the coin over, you clip the coin into thumb palm. Done smoothly, it will look at though you merely transferred the coin from one hand to the other.

Remember to always keep the hand containing the coin in a natural position. The hand should look the same with the coin palmed as it would should you be concealing nothing at all. This takes time, so do not be discouraged as first. Your patience will be well rewarded. You are now set to reproduce the coin from the spectators ear, the air, from behind the leg, or merely go to your pocket for a prop and leave the coin there for a complete vanish.

*Definition: Palming:

  1. The act the concealing a small object in the hand unaware to the audience. (See “Palming” in The ICOM Online Glossary. Also, See pages 126-127. Amateur Magician’s Handbook)

Presentation Problem #1: You have just finished performing the Ten Card Trick or The Vanishment of a Coin to a thunderous standing ovation and your audience begs you to do it again, what do you do?

Answer: next month!

Them Bones!
This is a fantastic impromptu style magic trick that can be performed under virtually any conditions.

Materials needed:

  1. Three ordinary dice
  2. A piece of paper and writing utensil for spectator to add figures on. (optional)

Effect: Show the three dice to the audience stating that that these are dice you would not want to play a game with. why?… they’re psychic! Watch…

Turn your back to the spectator and instruct them to roll all the dice , then add up the numbers showing on the tops of all three dice.

Then tell them to pick one die up and to add the number on the bottom of the die to the previous total.

Then tell them to roll the single die that they are holding onto the table again. This time, to add the number showing on top of the die to the total.

Turn around, take all the dice from the table, holding them up to your head and then, very dramatically and with a lot of flair, reveal the number they are thinking of!

Method: Before you pick up the dice, add the numbers showing on the tops of all three dice. Then proceed to add seven to your total for the final answer. That’s all there is to it!


  1. After turning around, spectator rolls all three dice and adds the numbers shown on their top faces.
  2. Spectator then picks up one die and adds the number showing on its bottom face.
  3. Have spectator roll this same die again and add the number showing on the top face for a grand total.
  4. Turn around, look at the dice on the table, add seven to the total showing on the top three faces and announce that number for the climax…

Final Notes: This trick has one inherent problem. You have to trust the spectator. We live in an age where many people like to see the magician in a predicament. So it is important to try to pick a person to help you with this that will be honest and will concentrate on your instructions. The best way to do this is to simply state beforehand that, if they do not cooperate entirely with you throughout the effect it is not your fault and as a result they will miss a fascinating piece of psychic magic.

September 1997

Thought of the month

What is “Real” Magic?

By Bobby J. Gallo
In my last lesson I talked about what magic is in terms of a performing art. This month I would like to talk about magic in the eyes of the spectator. When we perform, what is our ultimate goal? Is it show the audience how much money we have spent on large props and paraphernalia? Hardly… Is it to show how much raw skill we possess? Perhaps… Or is it something deeper, say, to suspend their disbelief for a moment so that they begin to doubt their senses and in that instant, actually believe in magic? Wouldn’t that be something!…

In my new monthly series entitled “Commando Magic” found the the “ICOM Spotlight”, I talk at length about the folly of performing with large props unless you are an illusionist with adequate financial backing and a proper venue in which to perform these “mechanical marvels”. However, since that publication is being released in installments over many months, I felt it necessary to give a brief overview of points I feel are important enough to relate to our students in this, the second lesson in the beginners study.

If one studies the history of magic over the millennia, the student cannot help but be struck with the notion that magic as a performing art was never meant to be performed with much of the boxes and stage toys that adorn many a modern magician’s act. The classic image of a magician with his mythical “bag of tricks” is not as much of a fantasy as one might imagine. In truth, magicians from the shaman of old, to the street performers of europe, to the fakirs of India, to the roving carpet bag magicians of the 1700’s, all used to perform acts “if you will” out of containers not much different than that of the stereotypical “bag of tricks”.

Large grand illusions seem to have sprung up late in the 1800’s and onwards until the vaudeville era with the large shows of Hermann, Kellar, Thurston and many of the other old time greats. These spectacular shows seemed to die out with the decline of vaudeville only to be replaced by supper clubs where the cabaret act evolved. These acts, although born of conditions where the entertainer often found himself surrounded by tables as well as the band, bore striking resemblances to the styles of the past itinerant magicians of history.

It is interesting how many of the old time magicians viewed magic. If the aspiring magician dreams of one day being a world class illusionist, he/she may well take heed of an example set forth by one of the all time greats in magic, The Great Nicola. When faced with replacing his entire illusion show after losing it in a ship sinking accident in 1939, decided instead, to continue his performing career as a children’s entertainer performing a standard kids show! He would have loved the ICOM Online Kid Show Konservatory!

The great irony as I see it, is that in my opinion as well as the opinions of many “working” performers is that it isn’t even necessary to use such large devices. In the eye’s of the audience, the fewer the props, the greater the impact of the magic. After all, if you were a “real” magician, would you need all those props? In your I.C.O.M textbook, the Amateur Magician’s Handbook, Henry Hay talks about this subject with great expertise. I recommend you read and absorb it.

So what is “Real Magic”? Simply put, it is magic that is reduced to its lowest common denominator. No complicated steps, no large props, and a straight forward plot. The image is that of a magic man waving his wand and making magic happen plain and simple, that is the image to strive for. That is what your audience wants to see and believe.

The following trick is one that I term a “Commando Magic” trick. Why?, because, despite its simplicity, it contains all of the elements of good fool-proof magic. This is a trick that I do probably, twenty or thirty times in the course of a trade-show or roving engagement when I am working professionally. Though I feel it is a professional routine, I am offering it here in the beginners forum to acquaint the student with yet another sleight and at the same time, demonstrating how a single sleight can be made into a superb entertaining routine. Best of all., to a layman, it appears to be real magic. Try it and you’ll see.

Bobby J. Gallo’s Worlds Quickest Card Trick!

There have been a lot of tricks that have claimed to be the “world’s fastest”. If this isn’t “the” fastest, it is certainty one of the top ten! This is the first card trick that I do in my close-up and roving shows and sometimes the only one. Finger-flingers and techno-purists will be disappointed with this trick because it does not call for the triple-backhanded Albanian multiple side shift steal or similar “meant for magician only sleights”. But the routine is entertaining, it’s all presentation. Frankly, to my experience, this blows spectators away more than many of the more advanced card magic that I do. One additional point to be made is that is quick. Hence the name! In this television age, it helps to have magic that is fast, furious, and to the point. The vast majority of layman’s attention spans aren’t what they used to be.

This trick is a routine based on only one sleight called the “Slip-force”. (See “forcing a card” in the ICOM Online Glossary. Also, See pages 40-43. Amateur Magician’s Handbook)

Effect: the magician announces that he is going to perform the “world’s quickest card trick” and than faster than the spectator can look at the card, that magician names it!

Start with having a borrowed deck shuffled then cut. Remarking, I’m going to start out by doing the world’s quickest card trick! Not the world’s second., or the world’s third, but what everyone? That’s right, the world’s quickest card trick! Please take this deck and shuffle it. Make sure that they’re all mixed. did you do that? let me see, Wow, you really messed these up good! oh well, I’m going to riffle up the edges of the cards up with my thumb. like this. (illustrate) All you have to do is say stop at any point and that will be your selected card, fair enough? great, ready…..go. (magician riffles and spectator say’s stop) great! Take the card where you told me to stop, look at the “Nine of Clubs” and put it back. (Or whatever the card happens to be.) Wait!…..was that the card?… It was?… I told you it was the world’s quickest trick!, it’s already over!

Workings: After the spectator has shuffled the cards, you look through them. Merely, note the top card. Then hold the deck in the left hand in the “Mechanics Grip riffle down the side of the deck with the left thumb and when the spectator say’s stop, grasp the riffled up bulk of the deck with the right hand. Maintain pressure on the top card with the left second, third, and fourth fingers. Then as you lift away the top portion of the deck, the top card slides onto the remainder of the deck held in the left hand. The audience is led to believe that they are selecting the card that lies at the point where they told you to stop. A perfect illusion! The rest of the trick is all presentation!

Make sure you rehearse this move well to avoid exposure. It must be done quickly and smoothly.

Look for the Slip-Force to be depicted in the “I.C.O.M Sleight Of Hand Gallery” soon!


A self-working card masterpiece that fools magicians
(Not to be confused with the “Ten Pile Trick” explained in last month’s lesson.)
This routine is what I consider, “buried treasure”. About fifteen years ago I obtained a brown paper bag at a magic auction. In it were a few bits and pieces of tricks as well as a worn out type written piece of paper with a single card trick on it. There was no author, no date, as a matter of fact, no information whatsoever on who developed or published this effect. Just the trick itself. Normally I thought that it was just a piece of garbage like the rest of the trash contained in the old lunch bag. But after I read it, I realized that this was pretty good! I then performed the routine to some fellow magician friends and they were knocked out! So much so, that one of them actually threatened me with physical violence if I did not explain the method to him! (I wonder if he was joking?)

The trick from that manuscript was outdated and in need of serious work in terms of subtleties and routining. I have added what I feel are the critical elements that elevate this basic mathematical trick into a truly magical routine.

If anyone out in “magicland” knows the originator of the basic principle, please let us know so that we may give proper credit where credit is due. I have included this trick here in the “Beginners Study” because though it is a dynamite effect, it is so easy to do, it is inappropriate for the Advanced Lab”. So I.C.O.Mer’s here for the first time is the gem with which I have fooled countless layman and magicians alike. I call it TEN.

Effect: A deck of ordinary playing cards are handed to a spectator. After a few minor instructions by the magician, the spectator is asked to think of a card. Under seemingly impossible circumstances the magician names the card!

Workings: Hand the a deck of 52 cards to a spectator. (You must not use the jokers for this effect. Also, the deck must contain all 52 cards!) Have the deck examined and shuffled as many times as desired by the spectator. Multiple shuffling only serves to increase the impossibility of the effect.

Now make this statement. “To prove to all of us present that the cards are indeed ordinary and well shuffled, would you please count onto the table, face-up, and in a nice neat pile, 26 cards, exactly half of the deck”.

As the spectator is doing this, secretly count along to your self the number of cards being dealt onto the table. As they are doing this note and memorize the 7th card. This is the card you will reveal later during the climax of the routine. After a few more cards are dealt, casually state that you’ll even look away while they are doing this. This is a very strong piece of psychological misdirection. I have found that nine times out of ten, the spectators will swear you never saw any cards and that you looked away before they even began counting! In the old manuscript the instructions were for the magician to write a prediction at this point, I have found that it is stronger to verbally reveal the card at the end. Remember, your sharper audience members will realize that if you write a prediction at this point, then just before the prediction was written, you must have somehow gained the knowledge of the card. This situation never arises if they are left in the dark as to what you ultimately intend to do during the course of the entire routine.

Now after the spectator is finished counting, ask them if they are satisfied that everything is fair and above board. When they say yes, tell them to place the pile face down and to the side. Do not draw undo attention to this pile.

Now ask the spectator to look through the deck and remove any three cards and place them on the table face-up for all to see. After this is done, tell them that in order for you to get the “psychic vibrations in balance“, that all the cards equal TEN. How do we do this? Simple… If the card is a ten or picture card, it is already equal to TEN therefore you do nothing with that card, just leave it on the table next to the other two. (This makes sense, for in certain card games, all picture cards equal ten, so this is rarely questioned) If the other cards are lower than ten, the spectator must deal a number of cards into a pile beneath the selected card in an amount needed to make the selection equal ten. For example. If the card dealt is an ace, nine cards are dealt beneath it. If the card is a five, five additional cards are dealt beneath it. An so on. When this is done, the remainder of the cards are placed onto the 26 cards already on the table so all the remaining of the cards are in a neat face-down pile. Be sure not to disturb the order of these cards!

Now reiterate that the spectator shuffled the cards and had a free choice as to what cards to place on the table. After they agree, ask them to total up the cards they selected. For example, and ace, a five, and a two. The total will be eight. Ask the spectator to count down eight cards and to look at the eighth card. This is the card you have memorized at the start of the routine!

Then reveal it in any manner you wish.

Note: Once while performing this trick, a spectator actually gave me a great line to use in the event anyone questions why you need to deal cards beneath the selections. He said “That’s the smoke screen!” He was implying that in his eye’s, this step was done for misdirection purposes. In actuality, that is what makes the trick work. Try this routine, you’ll like it. In my estimation, it is the best trick of its type ever created.

A brief note concerning the “Lessons in Sleight-of-Hand”
Last month we began a series on sleights and the proper way to execute them. However, with the advent the the “Amateur Magician’s Handbook being made an official I.C.O.M Online textbook, we feel that this is no longer necessary due to the fact that most basic sleights are already covered in the text. Also, with the development of the I.C.O.M Online Sleight-of-Hand Gallery located in the library, an additional reason to cease the series became apparent. We will instead be offering additional routines and material to fill the gap created by this decision. We feel it will benefit the student of I.C.O.M Online to a great degree.

Alpha & Omega Dominoes

Not too long ago Bill Wisch and I met at a coffee shop to discuss all things I.C.O.M related. After a about and hour, a cup of coffee and a muffin, I pulled out a box of dominoes and proceeded to show Bill a mental routine. At the conclusion, he had but one thing to say, THAT’S MAGIC! Coming from Bill Wisch that is high praise indeed. Here is the routine that inspires such a comment from a world-class magician such as he.

Effect: A set of regulation dominoes is shown and mixed thoroughly. A spectator is asked to arrange the dominoes in one continuous line, matching the numbers end to end with the next domino. for example, the three would connect with a three on another domino and so on. As this is being done the magician writes a prediction, folds it and puts it aside. After the spectator is finished you ask them to name the numbers on both ends of the chain. The Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end so to speak. When they do, you open your prediction and they match!

This trick may be repeated with a different outcome every time!

Workings: Before the spectator begins to arrange the dominoes, take one and remove it secretly. Be sure it has two different numbers, not one where the numbers are repeated. The two numbers on the to are your prediction. The rest is automatic. When repeating the trick, secretly replace the domino and remove another to make your new prediction. If extra dominoes are left after the spectator completes their task, just use the numbers on the existing chain and discard the extras, the prediction should still prove to be true.

Answer to Presentation Problem #1: Just follow rule #3 of the Magician’s Code and you can’t go wrong! Yes I know it sounds simplistic, but many times true wisdom often is…

Notice: This material “IS NOT PUBLIC DOMAIN” and is intended for the personal and performance use of International Conservatory Of Magic members only.
This entire page is under copyright 1998 by the International Conservatory of Magic and its respective contributors. No part of this page or its contents may be reproduced without the expressed written permission of I.C.O.M. All marketing and publication rights are reserved. Violation of this is considered intellectual property and information theft and carries penalties under federal law.

Author: Bobby J. Gallo


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