Friday, April 19, 2013

Out with the New, In with the Old.

It's been far too long since I wrote anything on this blog, and the reasons are numerous and varied. Suffice to say, this may be my only post for quite some time. Then again, it may also be the first in a series of more regular postings by me. Only time (and some really clever mentalist) knows for sure.


I know it’s become a cliché in magic, but there’s definitely a lot of truth in revisiting the old stuff as opposed to always following the newest trends. In particular, my hiatus/sabbatical from magic in the last year has shown me just how potent some of that ‘old stuff’ can be.

When magic consumed my existence, cards were at the forefront. I went everywhere with a pack of cards, and although my travels through the land of prestidigitation exposed me to a variety of types of magic, I never really gave that much thought or attention to anything but the pasteboards. After all, I always had a pack (and possibly a back-up) on me. Then something happened. I lost the enamour I once had for magic. In short, I fell out of love.

I got a regular job, and stopped carrying a pack of cards on me. However, my entire resume was magic-related, being my only jobs until this point. So, the word quickly spread that I was a magician and my co-workers, managers, HR people, etc... all started asking if I could show them something. Now there were a few times I brought a pack of cards with me (or times someone else was clever enough to bring one) but many times I was without them. In the moments where I felt like doing something, I had to improvise. Luckily, I have a pretty good memory, and was able to dig deep and find things to perform that didn’t require cards.

I started to recall routines that could be done with objects around me. For example, I could use a piece of rope to do a basic cut and restored rope, as well as a variety of impossible knot feats. With rubber-bands I could perform the ‘Crazy Man’s Handcuffs’ as well as a number of old stunts (such as the ring moving up the rubber-band, etc). With nuts and bolts, I could perform Doc Eason’s ‘two in the hand, one in the pocket’ routine with the great ending of the nuts and bolt threaded onto each other. I could use washers to perform a ‘karate coin’ routine that was more a display of skill than magic, but impressive nonetheless.

The point I’m trying to make is that while I was submerged in magic, there was so much around me that I had ignored. So many of these routines I had learned, perhaps even taught others, but never thought much about using myself. It took a hiatus/sabbatical, a complete overhaul of my life, to see the forest through the trees. I had a wonderful, varied, and impactful arsenal that was simply rotting away.

Don’t make the mistake I made, and please don’t let falling out of love be necessary for you to see the light. Take it from someone who’s already done it. It’s okay to keep pushing forward and trying out the latest gimmicks and ideas. However, don’t let the things you’ve already learned suffer for it. There’s a ton of gold you’re carrying around in your memory banks right now, and I’m telling you, it’s worth cashing in.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Arriving back home...

Whew. It's been a busy couple of weeks.

Ottawa was fun... thanks to John Pert for having me at the club, and thanks to Doug Rafters for supplying the room. Special thanks to Eric Leclerc for bringing out some of the younger guys, and for showing me a great time while in the city. Montreal was equally a blast! It was my second time in the city (and first really, because the last time I was there I was 12 and with my school teachers) and I enjoyed every minute of it. Thanks to Grant McSorley and Derrick Chung for putting it all together, and thanks to everyone that came out for the lecture and especially to those who stayed to hang out afterward.

Now, this was my first time lecturing in the US, and who shows up to my New York Lecture? Ricky Smith, Josh Jay, Tony Chang, Dan White, Doug Edwards, and the man himself, Harry Lorayne! Then there were other unbelievable guys like Alex Pandrea, Kevin Reyleck, Emron Riaz, and Spencer Peterson (I feel like I'm leaving some people out, my apologies to those I'm forgetting). It was unbelievable to have so many names and such talent coming to see me. I think everyone enjoyed themselves (no one asked for a refund, so that's a good thing) and Harry Lorayne told me he enjoyed the lecture very much (sorry, I gotta brag a little). The jamming afterward was fantastic! Tony Chang took us to the Ace Hotel, and we talked magic for quite a while, and when the night was winding down, a few of us went to Josh Jay's place and jammed some more! I also had the pleasure of meeting Doug McKenzie, who works closely with David Blaine and is an avid memdeck user. Thanks for the jams Doug, I can't wait til' next time I'm in town! Special thanks goes to Tony Chang for letting Ben and I stay with him while visiting the big apple... such an awesome, friendly, wicked-at-magic guy.

Baltimore... what can I say? Denny and Lee's is such a superb shop. It's my second favourite magic shop in the world (after, of course, the Browser's Den). Denny truly loves magic, and wants nothing more than to see it grow and prosper. We need more Denny Haney's in magic. The group in Baltimore was also a lot of fun, and I'm glad to report that I had one of the New York Carg Legends, Mr. Howie Schwarzman himself, front row! Howie thanked me after the lecture and told me he also enjoyed himself. THe group took Ben Train and I out for a bite to eat afterward, and we jammed magic over the meal. Thanks to Mike (and his lovely girlfriend Veronica), Ed, Noah, Don, Joe, and anyone else who came out with us (I think I named everyone).

Finally, a special thanks to two people. First, Lee Asher for helping me with some of the logistics and for advice in general on how to have a successful tour. Second, to Ben Train, for not only setting up the tour and making all of this possible, but also for coming on the road with me and helping make everything work out. Without either of these two guys, this tour wouldn't have worked.

Now that I'm back in town and things have started to normalize again, be on the look-out for another blog post by the weeks end.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Basic? Fundamental? Or both?

The Double Lift

The double turnover (an extension of the double-lift concept) has without a doubt become one of the most used, abused, and exposed sleights in all of card magic. The double-lift concept is surprisingly old, having first appeared in the literature in 1716, in Richard Neve’s ‘The Merry Companion’. The idea never seemed to catch on, as it didn’t see print again (at least in English) for almost 200 years, when it was re-published in August Roterberg’s 1897 classic ‘New Era Card Tricks’. And then, again, it wasn’t really until Vernon started using more natural looking double-turnover techniques in New York (in the 1920s, I believe) that the move began to gain real popularity.

Unfortunately, like other things that Vernon created and/or popularized (such as the double-undercut) the move became abused by many.

It is a common opinion today that the double-lift/turnover is a beginner’s move, especially amongst the younger generation in magic. Some in the older generation seem to agree, as it can be found in many books on magic geared toward beginners (usually with descriptions that leave much to be desired). I believe this opinion exists because of the fact that the double-lift/turnover became a FUNDAMENTAL technique in 20th century card magic. It has dominated sleight of hand since it gained popularity, being so versatile as to switch, change, and control cards, for starters.

‘Fundamental’ unfortunately does not necessarily equate with ‘easy’. The double-lift/turnover, is, in my opinion, an intermediate-level move, and can be mastered only with an advanced understanding of both sleight-of-hand and the psychology behind deception (including misdirection).

There are, of course, a plethora of techniques, finesses, subtleties, and other nuances that have been developed for the double-lift/turnover. There are also debates as to which techniques are the ‘most natural’ and therefore the most deceptive. My personal belief is that as long as the double-lift/ turnover accurately emulates the execution of a single-lift, and does so without displaying any excess tension, the actual mechanics are not of great importance. There is no consensus amongst people (laymen) on how to turn a card over, so stud-style, book-style, or other, it’s your choice.

Now, making your singles and doubles look identical is paramount to your doubles being deceptive. Not only must the physical turning of the double appear identical to a single, but the tension must also be the same. This means that any get-ready (if you use one) must be done prior to the lift/turnover sequence, so as to not enable the audience to distinguish a single from a double (a single does not have a get-ready, so a double should not be perceived to have one either). The amount of pressure and precaution used in the turnover must also be equal from singles to doubles. And, since singles use little pressure and precaution (since neither are necessary) your doubles should look and feel the same.

At this point, you may be wondering if there’s an advantage to using a ‘no get-ready’ double. I think the answer is yes, with a caveat. While ‘no get-ready’ lifts are great (and I use one frequently) I also believe it’s necessary to have get-ready double techniques in your arsenal as well. This is because you may at some time be requested to perform something, and the deck being used at the time (perhaps borrowed) may not be in a condition conducive to ‘no get-ready’ techniques. Having a back-up plan (and a large arsenal of tools) prepares you for almost any situation and environment you may have to perform in.

Lastly, increasing the deceptiveness of your double can be accomplished by a careful examination of the material you perform. Look carefully at pieces in your repertoire that require double-lift/turnovers, and ask yourself ‘are there too many doubles in this routine?’ or ‘are these doubles occurring at good moments, or is there a lot of heat when they occur?’ as you may be surprised. Many routines, in my opinion, suffer from the above two problems. Doubles are performed at the wrong time, or too often (or in some cases, both). Sometimes a little restructuring is all that’s needed. In some cases, alternative methods may be best.

This has been very brief, but I hope you find it useful food for thought. If you enjoyed these thoughts, and would like me to go into more depth on any of them, please let me know, either by leaving a comment or through e-mail.

Until next time,


Sunday, October 10, 2010

Rediscovering the Past (and the US dates)

First off, I just wanted to announce the US dates for the tour...

I'll be in New York City, at Fantasma Magic ( on Thursday October 28th, 2010. I'll also be in Baltimore, at Denny and Lee's Magic Studio ( on Saturday October 30th, 2010. If you live in either of these cities (or a short distance from either) and you're reading this, I hope to see you there. And if you do come out, please introduce yourself  to me. Now, to the subject for this blog installment...

There's a lot of information out there... magic has been exposed in printed literature for over half a millenium (500+ years). That's a lot of magic.

Over time, there are many effects, routines, methods, and ideas that fall by the wayside. Much of this occurs due to better effects, routines, methods, and ideas taking their place. However, sometimes I think things simply fall through the cracks. Enter the following principle. It's old (though relatively new when compared to some others) and it's reasons for falling out of fashion are somewhat unclear to me. I think it has a lot of potential. I'll provide a brief introduction and history, followed by a fun application to use on your fellow magicians, as it looks like the old 21 Card Trick but it quickly changes gears. I'll be talking more about this principle during my lecture, as well as providing some other cool applications. I encourage you to play with this principle and see what you come up with. Enjoy.

The Principle

                The ‘pointer principle’ as it has become known, is the one-way principle applied to the faces of the cards. Most magicians are aware of the one-way principle for the backs of the cards, but not as many are aware that some cards are one-way on their faces. And, those that do know about this fact, often never use it. There are 22 cards in total which are ‘one-way’ cards: the Ace, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 of hearts, clubs and spades, and the 7 of diamonds (24 if you include the two jokers). If you look carefully at these cards, you’ll notice that the arrangements of the pips allow for cards to be differentiated in their orientation (photo 1, 2).

                 PHOTO 1                                                                                                   PHOTO 2

The first mention of this principle in print that I’ve found thus far is in New Magical Sleights and Fakes which was first published in 1906. Personally, I find it difficult to believe that this is the earliest source for the principle. It just seems too intuitive an idea to not be older. And, given that until the mid 1800s, playing cards were all one-way faces (photo 3, 4) the concept must’ve been thought-of much earlier. Perhaps though it wasn’t until the one-way feature became disguised (in the mid 1800s) that the principle became more usable for performers, and that’s why it’s not in print earlier. Or, perhaps it really isn’t that old, and it’s one of those obvious things that just took a while to catch on.

                PHOTO 3                                                                                                     PHOTO 4

Either way, the principle first gained widespread notice when it was published in Greater Magic. Charles Jordan made use of the principle in some of his published effects, as did Annemann and Paul Curry. Hugard and Braue published uses for the principle in both Encyclopedia of Card Tricks and in Expert Card Technique. Most recently, Roberto Giobbi used the principle in one of the effects in his excellent Card College: Light. Joshua Jay also included the principle in his new Joshua Jay’s Amazing Book of Cards. The principle has seen print in magazines such as The Bat, The Linking Ring, The New Conjuror’s Magazine, and Genii. However, I feel that many applications of this principle have been underexplored, at least in print (I’ve been told that many of the past masters have played with this principle, but much of the information is in personal correspondence and not available publicly. I’ve never seen any of it myself).

In the pages that follow, I will detail some techniques and ideas incorporating and relying on the pointer principle. Pretty much all of this material will be self-working. One of the great things about this principle is that it allows very clean handling of selected cards and such a fair mixing process. These two things combine to make powerful effects which don’t require sleight of hand. In fact, in one case, you will be using your audience’s card handling abilities to make the effect work (this is usually used as a ‘magician-fooler’). I hope that these ideas may spark some of your own, and hopefully this forgotten principle will see some light again.

Monday, October 4, 2010

What(ever) Is Necessary

To create magic, it’s important to remember that you should use whatever method is necessary; whatever method works best (of course, this often is context-specific, the performing environment playing a significant role). Personally, I was enamoured with sleight of hand as a teenager. I found pleasure in spending time working on difficult moves, arcane techniques and impractical sleights that seemed so potent and desirable at the time.

Then I started to perform.

I quickly learned that yes, sleight of hand is an exceptional tool for creating magic. However, there are other tools, and they’re also valuable. Early on, I had passed on the notion of using gaffs in my magic. Performing for people made me realize that gaffs have a role, an important one at that. As well, subtleties, psychological ploys, and the various discrepancies we use are equally important. For example, a trick which I ignored when I first read it was The Piano Trick (I first encountered it in Hugard and Braue’s ‘Royal Road to Card Magic’). It seemed so obvious and simplistic that I never gave it much thought. Some time afterward, I saw a magician perform this trick, where cards were placed between fingers, and an odd card travelled invisibly! There was no method—I watched like a hawk, and nothing funny took place. Just pure magic.

This was another revelation. Self-working magic isn’t all bad. It can be good. In fact, it can be downright incredible. You can create some of the most potent impossibilities without using any difficult sleight of hand.

I know The Piano Trick is sometimes looked at with disdain, being one of those self-working tricks that’s been around for over 100 years. But remember, it’s a trick interesting enough that guys like Jim Steinmeyer and Michael Weber have created their own versions of it.

What I’d like to share with you is the way I perform the Piano Trick. It’s nothing big, but I find it very effective. I first get someone willing to participate. I tell them that they’re going to learn how to do something impossible. It won’t be something huge (like floating a person or vanishing a tiger) but it will be impossible. I now simply perform the standard version of the trick for them, having them pay close attention to what I’m saying and doing, as they’re going to become the performer in a moment. This additional level of misdirection helps mask the working of the trick even further, for the participant is paying complete attention to what you’re doing, buying into everything you say.

Here’s a brief description of the Piano Trick:

Take 15 cards from the deck. Have your participant place their hands onto the table, palms flat against the table, fingers slightly curled and separated (Photo 1).


Place two cards between their left little and ring fingers, saying “two cards, a pair, even.” Place two more cards between their left ring and middle fingers, again saying “two cards, a pair, even.” Place two more cards between their left middle and index fingers, again saying “two cards, a pair, even.” Place two more cards between their left index finger and thumb, saying “two cards, a pair, always even.” Place two cards between their right little and ring fingers, saying “two cards, a pair, even.” Place two more cards between their right ring and middle fingers, again saying “two cards, a pair, even.” Place two more cards between their right middle and index fingers, saying “two cards, a pair, always even.” At this point, you have only one card left. Place this single card between their right index finger and thumb, saying “and a single, solitary, odd card; A card with no pair.”

At this point, grab the pair of cards from between their left little and ring fingers, and separate them one in each hand. dropthem onto the table about eight inches apart (Photo 2).


As you separate and drop them, say “two cards, a pair.” Grab the pair of cards from between their left ring and middle fingers, separate them, and drop them onto the two cards already on the table, saying “another pair.” Grab, separate, and drop another pair, saying “always, two cards, always even.” Continue grabbing, separating, and dropping pairs until you’re left with the single card. Pick this card up, holding it, say “and the single, solitary, odd card. This odd card can go into this pile, or this pile. The choice is yours.” Slide the odd card into whichever pile they choose. Now, point out that the odd card is in the pile they chose. Pretend to pull a card out of the packet they chose (actually grabbing nothing, but miming holding a card) and slide the ‘imaginary card’ into the other pile. Tell them “the odd card has just been moved to the other pile. Watch.”

Pick up the pile the odd card was placed into, and place the cards, one pair at a time, between the participant’s left fingers. There will be no odd card.

Pick up the pile the odd card was not placed into. Place the cards, one pair at a time, between the participant’s right fingers. After three pairs, you’ll come to a single, solitary, odd card. Place the single card into their right fingers, in the open space, and say “odd, isn’t it?” (Last line courtesy of Tom Baxter)

Wow. That wasn’t so brief. Oh well. Immediately after finishing, I take back the 15 cards from them, give them a quick shuffle, and hand them back over to the participant. I simply say “Your turn” and place my hands onto the table in the same position they did at the beginning. I now have them perform the Piano Trick on me, guiding them as much as they need me to. The only change is I still give them the choice of which pile gets the odd card. Other than that, they play the role of magician for the whole routine. When they finish, they will be astonished to find that the odd card has travelled. Congratulate them on picking it up so quickly, and remind them not to tell anyone how it’s done. This line will get a laugh as the participant has no idea how the trick worked, but since he was just the magician it makes sense to say that a magician never reveals his secrets.

I hope you do give this a try, I think you’ll be surprised with the reaction you get.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

A Short Piece from my new notes...

Hey guys, here's a short piece I wrote for my new set of notes on memorized deck magic. It's about four-of-a-kind productions. I'll be going into more depth on this subject in my lecture, as it's a piece I use quite often. I hope you find it an interesting read, and if you do, please let me know. Also, if you have any questions, about this, the memorized deck in general, or about my magic at all, just ask.

Here it is...

Production Values

Let’s talk about four-of-a-kind productions. Many are done with a specific four-of-a-kind (often aces or court cards), and with little or no audience participation. One notable exception is Larry Jennings’ ‘Any Ace Called For’ wherein he allows the audience to determine the order in which the aces are produced. This, I think, is a better approach. Not only does it heighten the effect, but it creates an opportunity for dialogue and interaction between you and your audience. For me, one thing that makes close-up magic special is this opportunity for a truly interactive performance. It’s so easy to get people involved that it almost seems nonsensical not to do so.

Enter the memorized deck.

With it, you can perform a four-of-a-kind production where the audience gets to choose which four-of-a-kind to produce. Even more, the audience can also determine the order in which they get produced (a la Jennings). This heightens the effect even further. It also allows you to sharpen your jazzing and estimation abilities. And, I believe, it brings you more into the moment. Jazzing, by its very nature, forces you not to be complacent or on auto-pilot when performing; it instead keeps you focused on what you’re doing. It can be a daunting task at first, for you now have to juggle both the method and the effect simultaneously. But, with practice, it can be most rewarding, and lead to effects difficult to duplicate. Further, the beautiful thing about jazzing and using estimation with a memorized deck is that you’re utilizing two powerful tools with a safety net beneath you. If you’re estimation is off, you’ll immediately know how far off you are and begin to generate strategies to get you back on track. Having this kind of insurance against failure can actually allow your estimation to improve, for now there isn’t that same level of ‘necessity for perfection’.

Here’s a quick example (remember, I use the Tamariz stack). Let’s say I’m performing this routine, and I have someone request the four Eights. I immediately ask, ‘Club, Heart, Spade, or Diamond?’ while thinking of their positions as I say them (33,14,22,29). Let’s say they respond ‘Heart.’ Now, I know that ‘Eight of Hearts’ spells with 13 letters, so if I spell it, the next card is the Eight of Hearts. That’s one option. If I don’t go that route, I might get a break above the Eight, centralize it with a cut, and dribble force it on the person who named it. Immediately I’ve generated interaction, with an audience member finding the first card. After forcing the eight, I would estimate getting the cards back to 1-52 order.

That’s one. Let’s say the Club is named next. I know it’s the 33rd in the deck. I might cut it to second from the face, preparing for a Houdini/Erdnase change. As you ask the person who named the Club if they have a good imagination, begin the change, stopping when you’ve completed the transformation but not yet revealed it. Ask them to imagine the card slowly changing. Flex your hand covering the face of the deck just a bit, slowly revealing the card to have changed. Performing the change in a slow manner such as this can be just as effective as a more visual change. Give it a try.

That’s two. Let’s say the Spade is named next. I know it’s 22nd in the stack. I would determine where in the deck the Heart is given the deck’s current state (in this case, since the 35th card is on top, the Eight of Spades is 39th from the top, since the Eight of Hearts has been removed). I usually try to dead-cut this third card, using pure estimation (39th is a good number to cut to, since it means cut ¾ deep). Remember, you’ve got three chances. There’s the face card of the upper packet, the top card of the lower packet, or the second-from-the-top card of the lower packet (and a double lift). Also remember, if you’re off, you know immediately how far away your target card is, and can immediately begin contemplating strategies for recovery. I would say I hit the card about 80-85%.

That’s three. The fourth card, in this case, is the Eight of Diamonds (card 29 in the Tamariz stack). From the last production, I would complete the cut, which would bring the 23rd card to the top. This puts the last Eight 7th from the top. At this point, I might either go for the psychological stop effect, or I would cut the Eight to the top and perform Annemann’s effect ‘A Card In Hand’. If you’re not familiar with this effect, it can be found in Card College, vol 1, p. 133. COLES NOTES VERSION: Double lift to show indifferent card, turn card over, giving them the eight. Have them stick it anywhere in the deck, still holding onto it. When they do, tell them you hope the card above or below where they stabbed is the Eight. Check each, and when neither is it, re-assemble the deck, snap your fingers, and have them look at the card they’re holding. Mission complete.

I like think of it almost as a ‘multiple selection’ routine.  I strongly encourage you to seek out other’s work on the ‘multiple selection’ plot. For a start, Paul Cummins and Doc Eason’s ‘Fusillade’ or Paul Cummins ‘FASDIU 1’ contain great information. Also, Darwin Ortiz’s ‘9 Card Location’ is in ‘Darwin Ortiz at the Card Table’.

Assemble and learn as many changes, productions, little twists and turns with the cards, and revelations as possible. The more tools you have at your disposal, the more successful your jazzing will become.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Hi there,
I’m Jeff Hinchliffe, welcome to my Blog. Here you’ll find information about my upcoming lectures.
But wait, who am I?
Yeah, you’ve probably never heard of me. You have no idea who I am or what I do. Let’s change that. I’m a full-time magician, born and raised in Toronto. Cards are my passion. I fell in love with sleight of hand when I was in high school. The bulk of my material was born in the trenches of restaurant and walk-around work.
Over the years, my interests expanded from pure sleight of hand. I learned about various subtleties, discrepancies, and psychological ploys. I gained an appreciation for gaffs, and learned of the potential of stacks. My magic continued to grow.
Now my magic incorporates all of these elements, and I’ve reached the point where I want to share it with you.
I’m going to be in Ottawa on October 19th and Montreal on October 20th (with US dates being announced shortly) presenting my brand new lecture. We’ll be talking about close-up magic, specifically with playing cards. There will be variations and touches on classic themes (Triumph, Oil and Water) as well as routines which don’t fit into conventional frameworks (such as creating a déjà vu experience or demonstrating the ‘unique bond’ of twins). There will be self-working material, and material that is far from.
The memorized deck will also be discussed, it being one of the most powerful tools in any card-man’s arsenal. If you don’t believe me, come out and see why (or stay tuned to the blog, as my next one will be about this very subject).
Also, for you Canadian guys, I’m going to be demonstrating some great magic with Toonies and Loonies... powerful coin magic with coins people actually carry and use!
It’s gonna be fun!
P.S. I just returned from the ‘Magic By the Falls’ convention (where I gave a mini-lecture in the hospitality suite Friday night). Man, what a fun time, and what a line-up! John Carney, Nate Kranzo, Tyler Wilson, Josh Jay... some top notch lectures. Thanks to all the guys who put this together, it was a blast to be a part of it. Here are a few photos taken at my ‘mini-lecture’.