Hic lapis est subtus te, quantum ad obedientiam: supra te, quo ad dominium: ergo a te, quantum ad scientiam: circa te, quantum ad aequales.
Troy Hooser’s Charming Chinese Challenge can be considered a neo-classic coin routine that took the magic world by storm since its publication in Destroyers back in 2001. Since then, there have been numerous variations, approaches, and finesses, but all of them retain the core structure of Troy’s original.
Tomoya Horiki's Another CCC could easily be considered a disruptive approach to the original effect. The effect remains the same, yet the reduction in the items used is a major step forward. This, however, comes at a cost and there are some drawbacks that lessen the versatility of Tomoya's approach. These drawbacks are summarised in the following points:
• The effect must be presented while seated at the table.
• It does not require any spectator (the original was done in the hands of a volunteer, thus enhancing the magical effect).
• Angles are slightly tighter than Troy's original.
Whenever the conditions are right, I love performing Tomoya’s approach and the above points are counteracted by the following ones:
• Less items are used, thus reducing the needed handling within the routine.
• Though not related to the magical effect, the modus operandi is extremely clever (specially the second coin).
• Troy’s final phase is a back-and-forth sequence, which I feel lessens the clarity of the effect. Tomoya’s final phase, however, adds a logical ending to the routine which is both shocking and visual to the spectators.
Both Troy’s and Tomoya’s approaches have their pros and cons. If only I could adapt Tomoya’s version to be done in a stand-up situation...
This is one of Mike Gallo's take on the 'wild coin' plot: three copper coins first change to silver and then back to copper.
This wild coin approach is best suited to be presented while seated at the table.
Typically, in wild coin routines one coin is taken at a time, changed, and the put aside inside some kind of container (usually a cup or a purse). While this procedure is inherent to the method used, it lessens the visuals of the overall effect, and thus the effect becomes more intellectual: the audience has to remember that the coins inside the purse are different than the ones remaining on the table, and this detracts from the final transformation.
Mike Gallo's approach tries to solve the above problem: the first two coins change to silver and they are placed and seen clearly on the table, thus reinforcing the visuals of the changing process that is going on. It is only just before the third transformation that the silver coins are placed into the purse. This procedure strengthens the visual contrast of the transformations, especially in the final phase because the time elapsed since the two silver coins are last seen on the table is minimized.
The downside of this approach is that the impromptu aspect of the effect is reduced, since some required extra material might not be always available to the magi.
The original routine is structured in three phases. The very last phase is dropped out from the video. The reason is that I feel it might be pretty obvious for laypeople. On the other hand, the last phase gets great reactions when the routine is performed for fellow magicians.
The above video shows a possible way to get into Yannick's transposition, thus making the routine longer. Yannick's original is beautiful yet lighting fast, so there's a chance the spectators might miss the magic moment. This short routine presents a couple of effects which set the mood and the atmosphere so that the spectators are on track for the final transposition.
The second effect is Miguel Puga's (Mago Migue). He was already doing it in the 90s and was later featured in his 4-DVD set Allegro, where a nice finesse by Antonio Romero is included in the handling. Unfortunately, almost the same effect appeared in page 254 of 'Blomberg laboratories' without crediting Mago Migue.
Finally, the third effect is Yannick's Reflipped, published in page 84 of the August 2004 issue of MAGIC magazine. Both the Hamman switch and the 180º rotation of the packet come from Joshua Jay's handling.
These versions are radically different from the classic Vernon triumph and, therefore, they are more effective to amaze fellow magicians rather than laypeople. However, I wouldn't hesitate to perform them in informal settings, since they create a strong impact upon laypeople.
Reinhard Müller's Miumph is probably the most direct and to the point version of triumph: it's totally impromptu, without fancy shuffles nor displays; just a riffle shuffle and the selected card is the only one facing up.
Jerry Sadowitz's Vendetta adds an extra climax by producing the selection's mates. This allows for a conving display of the mixed face-up and face-down condition of the deck. It's more technically demanding than most versions of triumph, that's the price to be paid for the main two pluses of this approach. It was first published in Cards hit in 1984, but it can also be found in Card zones.
Finally, So Satos's Bushfire triumph version 1.5 is the most unconventional approach of all three. The chaotic look of the shuffle and the contrast between the initial and the final situation (Arturo de Ascanio dixit) reminds me of Dani DaOrtiz's open triumph. If the conditions are right, this is the version I favor nowadays. The explanation can be found in Richard Kaufman's book 'The Secrets of So Sato'.
Unlike many collectors versions, So Sato's approach only uses two selections, which results in a much more clear effect for laymen. Besides that, the resulting structure of the effect is more flexible, thus allowing for many variations on the handling. Such flexibility is a key point when adapting the effect to different environments (sitting, standing, surrounded, et cetera).
Special thanks to Tam Lu for allowing his beautiful music to be used in the video.
Denis Behr's take on Hiro Sakai's "Band on the run" (originally published in Steve Beam's The Trapdoor in 1991). This is only the first phase of Denis's version, whose full routine can be found in his book "Handcrafted card magic volume 2" along with other brilliant effects and ideas.
One of the strongest points in this version is the magical erasing of the rubber band, which creates a strong impression on laymen. In addition, placing the wrapped deck onto the mat (something which was not possible in some previous and older versions) constitutes a clever idea in order to induce a hands-off false memory. This is also enhanced by letting the card outjogged until the very last moment.
Finally, I favour Ernest Earick's take on the convincing control (published in his book "By forces unseen"). While it may be more difficult and angle sensitive than other approaches, it is probably the cleanest.
One riffle shuffle to stack them all!
Jack Carpenter’s take on the stacking subject, more precisely on the fast stack, where a single riffle shuffle is used to stack the aces for a five-handed poker game. This was published in Jack's "The experts portfolio no. 1" back in 1997.
While apparently just one shuffle is all that is needed to setup the poker hand, Carpenter's brilliant "running load" is used surreptitiously to accomplish the positioning of the four aces. The combination of several techniques, as opposed to just riffle shuffling the cards, makes it possible to deal the four-of-a-kind to the desired hand. This results in a "pretty and to the point" gambling demonstration with the potential to shock anyone who might be waiting for several riffle shuffles to stack the deck.
A "perfect" five-hand poker-game stacking demonstration for connoisseurs. Although the basic idea is probably very old, this approach incorporates Gabriel Moreno's legendary zen-like contribution to magic (nowadays exemplified by Miguel Gómez) as well as minor handling details by Steve Forte, Richard Turner and Jason England.
This routine is an evolution of one of the most direct stacking procedures: give the deck a couple of faro-out shuffles and the cards are stacked for a four-handed poker game. However, this crude sequence poses two problems: first, faro shuffling might look odd in certain situations and second, setting a four-handed game might give a clue on the procedure used. Improving these two points was the main objective of the present approach.
As far as I know, the late Gabriel Moreno was the first magician to perfect riffle shuffling to the ultimate level. His skill in this field is still legendary and probably unsurpassed —those fortunate to have witness his ability speak nothing but miracles about him. Nowadays, Miguel Gómez is perhaps the greatest exponent of Gabriel's legacy, as it can be experienced watching his show "Antología de la cartomagia española".
Arturo de Ascanio’s minor art effect “El juego de Dolores” (named as an homage to his parents’s homemaid) followed by Gabi Parera’s clever corollary (published in his book "Secuencias") where the effect is done backwards.
The effect was originally conceived as a self-working trick (as explained in Pablo Minguet’s “Engaños a ojos vista”), which is still popular among laymen, and later evolved to an asymmetric transposition.
The management of the breaks was the first key point while studying the effect (a process which has been going on for several years). Later on, Gabi's displacement was modified in an attempt to improve its naturalness.
A personal approach to Dai Vernon's and Bruce Cervon's "devil's elevator", which was published in Karl Fulves' "Epilogue" (issue16), incorporating some subtleties as well as techniques developed by Arturo de Ascanio.
This approach is the end result of a brainstorm session with highly creative people which is part of a yearly invitation-only magic convention. The goal was to devise a version of this effect avoiding any contact between the two initial packets. While several versions where worked out, this was the one we all felt looked the most natural.
A Gene Maze effect from "The art of b***** d******."
A fun-to-perform (especially for fellow magicians) effect from the fertile mind of Gene Maze. It also incorporates Ernest Earick's take on the convincing control, which is accomplished using only one hand (a theme applied to other sleights by Ernest) and published in his book "By forces unseen".
The main technique in Maze's effect can be effectively used in many other effects with different purposes. Michael Vincent is an excellent exponent and advocate of this technique.
This is one of Shigeo Takagi's takes on the triumph effect, which makes use of Ken Krenzel's version of Fred Robinson's "The little wiggle" (also known as "ambitious riser"). The final effect is a combination of the rising card with triumph, and was published by Richard Kaufman and Alan Greenberg in "The amazing miracles of Shigeo Takagi" back in 1990.
The main goals while studying this effect were:
• Avoiding any get-ready is pivotal, not only in this effect but also in any one in which f**** d****** is used. This includes avoiding any adjustment and repositioning of the cards with the right hand, therefore resulting in a much cleaner handling.
• Avoiding awkward procedures in the packet selection (unfortunately, this cannot be captured in a single-shot video).
This is my approach at Kuniyasu Fujiwara's ace triumph. This effect was first published in English in the 2000 May issue of Genii Magazine. Some years later, it was reprinted in Jim Steinmeyer's Ensuing Impuzzibilities as well as in Richard Kaufman's and Steve Cohen's Japan Ingenious.
There are two key points addressed in this approach:
• The original procedure for mixing the cards might be too obvious to some laypeople especially since it is followed by an anti-faro (see Juan Tamariz's Sonata for more information about anti-faros). In order to avoid this, a p****** r***** s****** was used instead. As far as I know, the late Gabriel Moreno was the first person to master and use the p****** r***** s******; the skill he developed is legendary and has not been equaled thus far (a short glimpse can be seen in the documentary El ojo de la cámara: magos como tú, which aired in May 31st 2005). As far as I know, nowadays Miguel Gómez is the only magician that uses the p****** r***** s****** (he calls it m****a c********a) in his live performances.
• I feel that the original turning of the packets looks too linear. Turning both outside packets into the inner ones feels more casual and adds more flexibility in getting the final orientation of the cards.
Some brief thoughts about this effect:
• The main goal was to develop a personal handling of the H***** C**** where there is no tell-tale finger switching.
• Another point was to avoid the discrepancy on the number of cards used and counted.
• Finally, the counting the two four-card packets was taken from Pablo Doménech's book "La magia de Pablo Doménech".
Special thanks to Dan Ebbert for his Adobe After Effects scripting help.
This is my attempt at Ponta's backfire matrix.
Some brief thoughts about this effect:
• Both the Al Schneider's steal and Paul Harris' steal are used. When the hand is moving towards the body, then the former steal flows better but when the hand is moving away from the body, the latter is much more adequate. Nevertheless, Paul Harris' steal looks much more convincing and natural because it can be done with almost no finger movement al all.
• Since it is a very angle sensitive trick, copper coins work best for this effect (as well as for the other Ponta's matrix tricks).
According to Jay Sankey, holistic medicine is ... a more involved, multi-phased routine than I usually perform, but it is so pretty and unfolds so cohesively and naturally that I consider it to be a worthy exception. But remember, give each phase, each moment, it’s due. Strive for an attitude of “goal-less respect” rather than one of “rushing to the finish. The routine can be found on page 51 of Jon Racherbaumer's Sankey unleashed. Sankey's effect easily flows into Juan Luis Rubiales' the Chinese hole (aka abitious coin); consequently I usually perform them together.
I must, however, agree with Amílkar about the many flaws in the internal structure of the effect:
• The first phase is a hole transposition from one coin to another. The fact two holes are shown (one in each coin) just after the transposition it gives away the secret of the transposition.
• Immediately afterwards there is an explanation phase about the totem and its use, which breaks the rhythm of the routine. According to Arturo de Ascanio, such explanation should be made at the very beginning of the effect.
• There are several incongruities related to the purse. At the beginning the coins are taken out of the purse but at the end they are put away into the pockets. Maybe consistency would be enhanced if the coins were taken from the pockets initially... and use the purse just for the totem coin...
Unfortunately, I didn't succeed in coming up with a better construction without sacrificing the clarity of the effect. So, until I find something better I'll stick to the handling in the video. Please let me know whatever idea, suggestion or improvement you might have.
On the technical side, I'm not really fond of the classic Bobo Switch (New modern coin magic, chapter II, page 10). Thus, I talked at length with both Oriol Rusca and Erik about it and finally set to devise a more natural handling for it. That's what I came up with. Though I feel more comfortable with this approach I believe there is still room for improvement.
Special thanks to my dearest friend Antonio Reina for the beautiful piano music; he was kind enough to hand me over the reproduction rights.
Years ago I saw Miguel Puga "Mago Migue" performing this effect on television, in which he used blue backed aces to find and sandwich a red backed selected card (he had the three cards signed by the spectator). At that time I felt the idea of using cards with a contrasting back design was cool. Looking back over the time I now see it as trick for magicians rather than a practical effect for laypeople.
As far as I know, the original idea was published in Armando Gómez's (Darman) lecture notes from the late eighties or early nineties. According to Mago Migue, whilst the idea is Armando's the handling is Migue's. Therefore, the handling in the video above is totally based in Migue's plus some subtleties devised to further disguise the most critical moments of the effect.
Mago Migue performed more effects in the same television program. Many of them where classic ones, such as follow the leader, oil and water, matrix and so on. There were some great ideas in those performances.
This is Arturo (1929-1997) at his best. When Fred Kaps performed Cy Endfield's Aces for Connoisseurs (Cy Endfield's Entertaining card magic - part II, page 46) to Arturo, he immediatly fell in love with it. His earlier took on this effect was called Ases para conocedores but he later developed a more refined version (albeit much more technically demanding) which he dubbed Los ases de mi examen, referring to the patter he used. This is a truly sleight of hand masterpiece which calls for an artistic and refined performance.
I first saw Oriol Rusca performing Ases para conocedores and was totally amazed. Anything Oriol does is really amazing. I must also thank Amílkar who helped me with some technical details. He also taught me some nice unpublished culebreo variations.
This version is a tribute to Ascanio and follows his version as closely as possible. Some points are, however, slightly modified in order to humbly smoothen the handling explained in "La magia de Ascanio: sus clásicos", page 156.
The aces layup sequence is a thing of beauty, typical Ascanio thinking and handling. I really like it.
I wanted to avoid as much as possible the use of breaks, since they are pretty difficult to disguise when handling just a few cards as opposed to holding a break with the whole deck. Besides that, my fingers are too short in order to do Dai Vernon's "The wave" (Vernon's push-off in "Dai Vernon book of magic" page 119) which was the handling Arturo favored when adding the indifferent cards to the aces.
Regarding "el culebreo" credit must be given to the two main groups (in Madrid and in Barcelona) of magicians who keep on working on, deepening and expanding Ascanio's ideas and techniques. I'm really fond of the culebreo - expansión con fleje - enseñada sincera - enseñada vertical - extensión de D'Amico/Ascanio en abanico sequence, which allows for some artistic and ethereal handlings.
Though not explained in the book, in the first ace vanish ("el pincel") Ascanio used Pepe Carroll's la hélice after doing the culebreo Las Vegas. Even though I'm working on it and Amílkar has helped me a lot, I still can't do la hélice. That is why I went for the classic handling.
The second ace vanish is probably the most difficult. I first use Miguel Gómez's take on Bernard Bilis's handling for the one hand turnover. Unfortunately, the vanish explanation in the book is poor and scarce. I've tried different handlings and variations, but the one you see in the video is the one I feel more comfortable with. I can't do it with 100% effectiveness using a completely brand new deck of cards, but just after breaking in it I can hit it.
After the second vanish, Ascanio takes the two discarded piles and does a sequence in order to rearrange the cards for the final production. In my opinion this sequence should be forgotten by the spectators right after the trick. Therefore, I humbly believe that Arturo's original handling doesn't accomplish that goal. That is why I have designed a somewhat more streamlined sequence; it is something that it is done almost as if it was an in transit action without paying attention to it so that it will be later forgotten.
In the third ace vanish, credit should be given to Gabi: I first saw him doing a D'Amico/Ascanio spread with 4 cards. I also read some interesting variations in John Mendoza's book (The book of John). After that I modified the handling in order to do the spread with any number of cards: that's what I call "extensión de D'Amico/Ascanio en abanico".
After the fourth ace vanish ("la frotadita") I was lucky enough to find a very simple culebreo variation which makes for a more natural display.
The shuffling sequence is taken directly from Steve Forte. Steve is in a league of his own and in his hands the shuffle is amazingly deceptive. He also does some very fine briefs. Though I don't know the brief technique he uses, I've tried to come up with something similar although it's somewhat bold.
Finally, I favor Bill Goodwin's spectator cuts to the aces instead of the handling (based on John Bannon's) Ascanio used. I humbly feel that Goodwin's approach is much more simple and direct than Ascanio's.
A few weeks ago I decided to give Ponta's coin matrix handling a try and performed this sequence at the weekly magic club meeting. Its boldness surely makes for a funny trick to perform.
Some thoughts about this trick:
• Both the Al Schneider's steal and Paul Harris' steal could be used. However, I feel the former fits perfectly in the overall routine feel. It's a pity that Ponta doesn't show the exact technique he uses for the steal (in the DVD you can see different finger movement when he is doing the exposé than when he performs the trick).
• The action of covering/uncovering the outer left coin is pretty unnatural and some clever spectators can notice something strange is taking place. However, the peace, aesthetics and flow of the actions help to hide this fact.
• This is a very angle sensitive routine. Ponta's original handling is only valid for spectators right in front of the performer. I made some minor adjustments in order to improve the angles.
• I personally prefer other matrix (I like a reverse matrix) versions when performing for lay people.
Paul Harris' brilliant "Bizarre twist" was first published in "Intimate secrets" back in 1976. Later, Daniel Cros' variation appeared in "Las Vegas close-up" (1978). This video combines both methods into the same effect.
Some thoughts about this trick:
• Álvaro suggested that it is probably more magical if the turning of the card upside was done slowly, shaking the hand a few times than doing a single sharp shake. Up to this date, I'm not sure which approach is best...
• Daniel Cros' handling is poorly explained in the Harris' book. The video shows the handling I came up with. It would be nice to know other handlings.
Larry Jenning's homing card (following Braue's original idea) is rarely seen nowadays even though it's a brilliant effect that's both entertaining and powerful.
Oriol Rusca was the first magician I ever saw doing this effect. His handling was so smooth and magical that I decided to study it in order to add it to my repertoire.
Some thoughts about this trick:
• The idea of using mate cards was Oriol Rusca's. He didn't like Larry's wrist turn and he thought that using mate cards was the way to go.
• Oriol used Pablo Doménech doble retención when counting the cards. He could do that because he used to use Fournier 505 cards which are flat. In this particular effect the doble retención is very hard to do using cards from the US Playing Card Company since they are naturally bent.
• The actual counting handling was devised after Tony Cachadiña showed me his novel technique for both the Elmsley count and the Hamman count. The very same technique was developed independently by Steve Beam at the same time. I feel it nicely fits the effect.
I've recently been studying some hand mucking techniques for an exposé session at the local magic society. That's why there's still a long way to go.
Even though I'm not sure of their utility in a magic context (French magician Bebel successfully incorporates hand mucking in some of his effects), I had a lot of pleasure practicing such techniques.
Years ago I was amazed after watching Steve Forte performing on "The hidden secrets of magic" TV program which was hosted by the late Robert Urich and aired back in 1996. Whilst Steve's performance lasted slightly less than 4 minutes it was one of the most amazing technical demonstrations I've ever seen. He is clearly on a league of his own. This is my take on it.
To my knowledge, Steve's handling has never been published, although I'm positive he might have shared it to some inner circle friends such as Jason England, R. Paul Wilson and so on. Therefore all I can say is that I'm just trying to duplicate the effect (not the method) I saw.
Early when I uploaded the video on YouTube, some people started guessing and arguing about possible methods and solutions to the effect. Since I strongly feel that such things should not be publicly discussed and that YouTube is not the right place to do so, I decided to turn off commenting on the video.
I personally think this would be useless in a magic context but on the other hand I do like practicing it just because it helps sharpening the skills needed for other techniques which are a plus in the magic field. That's why I've taken it further and, just for training purposes, I do a completely sick and insanely difficult variation (not the one featured in the video).
I'm sorry for the bad video quality. That's the first time I shot a video with a high performance camera and didn't know how to handle the multiple settings for a good shot. That's something I've tried to improve in the videos I shot later.
The best versions of "El juego de Dolores" (Hotel mystery) are Arturo de Ascanio's (the one performed in this video with some minor adjustments to fit my handling) and Gabi's.
Whilst Gabi's version takes a completely different approach and has a very interesting second phase (in which the trick is done backwards!), I really prefer the beauty of Ascanio's maneuvers which were a joy to watch whenever Arturo de Ascanio performed his magical effects.
Please, watch an updated version of this effect here.