Theory 11, One-on-One and the Perfect Pass

I just got back from Chico, California, where I spent three exciting days with Dana Hocking and Wayne Houchin. We shot some exciting material for the new instant download section of the T11 site.

The One-on-One concept allows you to download sleight-of-hand lessons from some of close-up magic’s most exciting creators. For example, Chris Kenner recently released for the first time on video both the 4 for 4 switch and Threefry.

I decided to contribute an invisible pass called the out-jogged Hermann pass, first described in my book The Paper Engine back in 2002. Teaching such advanced material on video gave me the welcome chance to consider how we might best apply the classic techniques of magic.

Today I’ll give you a few tips to help you unlock one of the most intriguing riddles in sleight of hand – the pass.

Is The Pass the best card control?

Often, students attempt to execute the pass under extremely challenging conditions. It’s never been enough to execute the shift silently and efficiently. If you don’t know when to use a shift, you’re missing most of the value. Your pass will only shine if you use it in the proper context.

Most experts tend to avoid using the pass under the following conditions:

  • As a control – Even though this is the most common application, it’s often not a good idea. The moment the spectator places his card back into the deck, he’s watching very closely. Until he’s satisfied that everything is fair, your pass will be vulnerable. Many times the deck will need to be shuffled anyway – that makes the shift redundant.
  • As a color change – For years I thought this was an awesome application of the pass. These days, I think not. When you perform the pass, you don’t want any focus on the deck. A color change, in order to be appreciated, demands you draw attention to the pack. It’s simply not a good time to use the pass. Consider a side steal instead.

When should you use the Pass?

When you start performing the pass under less pressure, you’ll likely experience a new degree of success. You’ll relax, and your pass will start to achieve a softness you never thought possible. Once you’ve developed that light touch, you’ll keep it when you start applying the shift under more challenging circumstances.

Look to apply your pass under these inviting conditions:

  • Use the Classic Pass – after you’ve glimpsed the bottom card as a key and you need to move it to the center of the deck. This is one of Lee Asher’s favorite applications.
  • Use the Turnover Pass – after spreading through the face-up pack.
  • Use the classic pass – for set up and clean up. There is no heat – it’s safe to make the shift.

No matter when you choose to use the pass, always remember this: When you can hold the spectators gaze for a moment and the heat is off, only then is it time to make the shift! Happy Practicing!

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,











16 Responses to “Theory 11, One-on-One and the Perfect Pass”

  1. 1 Aaron DeLong September 25, 2007 at 5:47 pm


    I couldn’t agree with this article more. I never use a classic pass after the card has been inserted. The spectator is never relaxed until your hands are relaxed via separation of one or both hands from the deck.

    On the other hand, I do use a spread pass once they insert their card as I feel this move is completely justified and generally undetectable when done correctly. The pass being performed as the spread cards close is perfect timing for me.

    As you said though, no heat is the best time to do the shift. And there are so many great ways to control a card that openly shifting the pack at the wrong time seems silly. Like using Lee Asher’s Losing Control instead of a pass. No shift, no mess, no fuss.

    Other ideas are to use the pass as a force – I believe this to be a John Bannon idea where you riffle down the side of the pack asking for a spec to say stop. Once they say stop, you are going to lift the packets at that point – however, you don’t lift there, you actually do the pass and lift the bottom of the pack up as the two are packets are exchanged, essentially showing them the bottom card as the middle card where they said “STOP”. Make sense?

    Again, great tips! Keep’em coming!


    Aaron DeLong

  2. 2 Sean Rafael September 25, 2007 at 5:50 pm

    I agree to a very high extent, Aaron. I know when I first got my hands on the secret of the pass (pardon the pun) I thought it was the best thing since a double lift. Now, I usually use other methods of controlling a card because I think they often add to an effect, and gives some ease of mind in the spectator before blowing them away with awesome magic.

    However, if I come across a sceptical someone, then I use the invisible pass or ‘one-handed pass’ to put some doubt in their mind. (Note: not in itself, usually in a gambling demonstration) Other times I use the pass are when an effect calls for it (which, granted isn’t that often).

    I’ll openly admit, I’ve abused the pass in the past, but I’ve kind of got a new mind on magic, where I’m not just doing tricks, I’m performing magic.

  3. 3 josh barrett September 25, 2007 at 6:17 pm

    nice article, other then the spread pass, i do not control a chosen card with it either. i do however use it for controling estimates and glimpsed card to the top with mem deck work

  4. 4 Dennis van den Hove September 25, 2007 at 7:13 pm

    Once again, an excellent article.

    I’ve always considered the pass as an inefficient way to control a selection. Just think: you’re moving 52 cards to control 1.

    I always try to strive for the best control in a certain situation. That is also why I think questions like “What’s your favorite control?” make no sense at all.
    Tilt, double lift, side steal, TPC, double lift, Discreet Displacement or a good ol’ double undercut: they all have their use.

    And yes, when the heat is on, as a certain wizard once said: “You… shall not… pass!!!” 😛

  5. 5 aaronfishermagic September 25, 2007 at 7:37 pm

    Regarding the spread pass, I choose not to use it for myself. I do it pretty well, but I still think it suffers from the same problems all passes have when they’re used as controls – the shift takes place at a moment of high audience focus on the deck.

    Of course, this is a situation where intelligent people might honestly differ. I can use the spread pass deceptively as a control – but artistically I choose not to. For me, it just doesn’t feel right.

    Of course, one of the joys of achieving mastery of a concept is that you eventually learn when it’s ok to break the rules. Normally, however, that kind of understanding takes many years to acquire. That’s why I recommend caution to anyone attempting to apply such a technique as the spread pass. If you want to use it deceptively, you’re going to need a finely honed sense of misdirection!


  6. 6 thecuso September 25, 2007 at 8:04 pm

    when will you put it in the 1on1 section?

    nice post, ive trackbacked it 😉

  7. 7 Aaron DeLong September 25, 2007 at 8:46 pm

    True that Fisher! Probably not the best place to open that can of worms. But you are right about the Spread Pass.


  8. 8 Aaron DeLong September 25, 2007 at 8:46 pm

    I meant for me to open that can of worms.


  9. 9 aaronfishermagic September 25, 2007 at 10:20 pm

    I don’t have a specific date for the release of that particular one-on-one as of yet. It’s all in the hands now of Wayne and Dana. Of course, you guys will be the first to know!


  10. 10 Matt G. September 27, 2007 at 12:19 am

    I’ve personally never used a pass in performance. Firstly, I’m not to comfortable with it yet. Secondly, there are just so many other moves that give the same effect. I have been thinking about creating my own version of the pass or ‘shift’ as Erdnase calls it. Do you know any good sources where I could find out about different types of passes? I’m trying to combine methods to create the best pass for myself.

    P.S. Malini had small hands for a magician and after a card was selected and placed in the deck he would hold a break for a about 1-2 minutes and talk to the spectators before he made a pass. This way the spectators would be caught off guard because they will truly believe their card was lost and since they saw no movement of Malini’s hands for about 2 minutes they wouldn’t even expect the move. Malini said ‘I’ll vait, I vait a veek…’ so as Aaron said don’t try to rush a pass right after the card is replaced.

  11. 11 aaronfishermagic September 27, 2007 at 5:23 am

    Matt has made a great observation regarding Malini. I know for a fact that the great Max Malini was a fan of Erdnase himself, because I once got to page through his personal copy of Expert at the Table. It even had his hand written notes in the margin!

    Regarding the idea of building your own pass – I understand where you’re coming from. I worked on that project myself for over a decade. Ultimately I was very fortunate. I developed some interesting versions – the very ones that appear in the Paper Engine. But in truth, if you want to learn the classic pass, my best advice is to learn it from Erdnase. It’s very easy to read those instructions and make changes to make it easier – or to progress faster. Unfortunately, I never found any shortcuts. In fact, the approach probably helped me lose more time than I gained.

    Ultimately – I truly feel the best thing to do is take Erdase’s passes, all of them, and learn them exactly as described. Try always to follow the instructions without variation. Each one gives lessons pertaining to all the rest. Pound for pound, these are clearly the best versions of the shift ever to see print.

    Great Work Matt – Keep at it!


  12. 12 Al Grose September 28, 2007 at 2:23 pm

    Hey Aaron,
    I went to a Magic Meeting a couple of years ago at a club. A fellow wanted the group to tell him how his pass looked. I said, “Why don’t you show it in the context of an effect?” His response? “I don’t know any effects.”
    Asking someone, “How does my pass look?” is as misguided as a musician asking another musician, “How does my ‘g’ note sound?” The response to both questions is actually the same. “I guess it’s okay, but can you play a song with it?”
    I love your thought provoking insights on magic Aaron. I look forward to the next discussion.

    Always respectfully,

  13. 13 aaronfishermagic September 28, 2007 at 6:16 pm


    That’s the great point!



  14. 14 Paul Rooney September 29, 2007 at 12:58 am


    Excellent article on the pass. Allan Ackerman also mentions that one must be careful of others ‘on the perimeter’. If you are working in a restaurant surrounded by others – not the audience at the moment – WILL see the flash of the pass occur as the halves transpose. This is very bad.

    Allan mentions he’s even seen this happen at the Magic Castle. People across the room will whisper to each other “Did you see that, etc.”

    So in his KARDMA book Allan writes “The pass is hardly ever needed”.

    Allan can perform several different passes flawlessly. I asked him to show me ‘The Spread Pass’ – this was in 2001 or 02. I didn’t see anything. He said, “I just did it” – ‘sleightly’ annoyed!! Then he did it again. 100 percent invisible.

    Don England is a master of the pass as well. Don latest DVD – “The Pass (Lifts and Shifts)” was shot at the TSD convention in New Orleans in March of this year. It’s still ‘in the works’. Don is a master of misdirection AND timing with several different passes.

    Your best advice (from someone who does not really do a pass) is this – Do it like I did it as a kid; and as you meniton: When they look up! – and don’t do it if there are others “on the outskirts” waiting for you to come and entertain them.

    Great Blog! Great advice, great guy (Aaron Fisher!)


  15. 15 aaronfishermagic October 3, 2007 at 6:46 pm

    Of course, Paul, that IS the best advice.
    The point of my article is to build your magic in such a way that you never have to wait for very long!

    With Thanks,

  16. 16 aaronfishermagic October 3, 2007 at 6:49 pm

    Thanks to Josh up above for listing a couple more pass applications that don’t scream “Watch..quick…I’m doing the pass!”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: