Do you want an Invisible Pass?

Blog reader How Tah Lun has been studying my book The Paper Engine. He’s been experiencing some difficulty using the Gravity Half Pass when he’s seated at a table – he sent me an email asking for help. I understand his concern. Many shifts are much easier to perform standing, working for an intimate audience of also standing spectators.

A simple way to execute the pass effectively while seated at a table

Here’s an idea: Don’t do the shift over the table at all! I often turn to a person sitting next to me on my left, and as I do, rest my right elbow on the table. Now the audience sees only the right side of the deck. Performed this way, neither the Gravity Half Pass nor the Classic Pass can be seen.

Despite the excellent quality of the reader’s question, it bespeaks a bigger problem that many of us grapple with.


The Real Path to  ‘Invisible Card Magic’’

Shift students tend to get hung up on the notion of ‘invisibility’ – that you should be able to do the pass undetectably while the audience burns your hands. The truth may hearten you. If you want a truly invisible pass, the ‘technical perfection’ you seek only makes up a small piece of the pie. You’ll acquire the reputation you desire much sooner if you spend time on other  concepts many of us ignore.

Do you focus on the following ideas? Whether or not your pass is invisible, mastering these areas will make your spectators think your moves are unseeable. And whether or not you believe me yet…that is the secret of the perfect pass.


Do your routines encourage the audience to focus on the pack at the moment you execute the shift? For example, many card guys use the classic pass as  a color change. If that’s the way you work, you stand very little chance of being credited with truly ‘invisible’ technique. If a spectator exclaims,  “Man, you did that so FAST!” you’ve missed the mark.


Even if you structure your magic to cover the pass, you still need to perform the sleight softly. Remember, passes are like children – better to be seen and not heard. If you tense up at the moment of truth, it doesn’t matter how well you’ve constructed the effect. The audience will be drawn back to the pack at the wrong moment. Even if they don’t see it, they’ll think they did. WARNING: most serious shift students lose the battle on this front.


Do you actively focus  attention where you want it at all times? If you’re obsessed with the pass, it doesn’t matter how well you execute it. You will likely draw focus to your hands at the moment of the shift. If you  focus on the shift at all, even subconsciously, the game is lost.

The Paper Engine was built…

because I don’t like getting busted by my audience. With the material in the Paper Engine, I know that whether I’m having a perfect set, or a show that’s a little off, I still won’t have any trouble. I know that when the move comes  the audience will be looking elsewhere.

Learn the routines in The Paper Engine carefully, and apply the truly essential concepts of tension, focus and design to your own work. Then you’ll experience the joy of having your audience focus on your magic – not your shift.

Then you’ll be able to say you have a pass that is TRULY invisible.



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