How NOT to do the Classic Pass #1: Don’t pull with your left fingers!

Many card workers seem to think the secret of the classic pass is to use the left fingers to pull the upper half around the lower as quickly as possible. Nothing could be further from the truth. Even if you manage to help the appearance of the shift from the perspective of a spectator watching from directly above, pulling with the left fingers guarantees a flash on your right side. That’s right folks! If you want to eliminate visible finger movement from the shift, you have to stop moving your fingers! Crazy, huh?

Remember to use your left fingers as little as possible. These digits will always want to move, but your shift will succeed only to the extent you can keep this impulse under control!

1 - pulling with the fingers


Your Turn

Do you pull with your left fingers when you do the pass? Tell us where you learned this habit, and what you’ve noticed it’s effects are on the shift and the way you use it – and don’t worry, with a little practice, you can unlearn any habit you choose!



25 Responses to “How NOT to do the Classic Pass #1: Don’t pull with your left fingers!”

  1. 1 Mike Vincent October 30, 2008 at 1:37 am

    I execute the Pass using my right hand only.

    My right fingers pull upwards on the lower half.

    This technique was shown to me by Derek Dingle in 1983.

    Check out his book for a technique called The Stroboscopic Pass.

    It is lighting fast….with practise.

    Mike Vincent

  2. 2 Sean Rafael October 30, 2008 at 1:52 am

    Thanks for the tip! Here’s my £0.02…

    I’ve never really thought about it… Which scares me a little.

    The way I learned it made me focus on bringing the lower packet to the top, like Mr Vincent.

    However, in doing it now, I’ve noticed that I have a rather near-death like grip on the upper half; most likely for fear of dropping it or losing my break.

    I’ve noticed that this really doesn’t help with the gapingly gaping gap at the back of the pack in that split-second before the shift is executed.

    I must admit however, that unless a pass is absolutely necessary I will more often than not use some other control. Either a double undercut or overhand shuffling to a break – it’s just more comfortable for me as opposed to being tense and worring about whether anyone saw or heard something.

    If I absolutely HAVE to use a pass due to the nature of the effect, I’ll try and use some other pass I’m comfortable with – more often than not that of which being the hofzinser pass.

    – Sean

  3. 3 markjens October 30, 2008 at 1:56 am

    Holy crap, I didn’t even know I WAS pulling with my left fingers! I think I started doing that while playing with a pass that I saw on TSD. I’ll not go into it, but it seems to have carried through to where I didn’t want it. Thanks for a first (and very valuable) tip. I have been working at going back and simplifying after enjoying a lecture with Mr. Vincent, and your tips on the pass are most timely and are well received here. Thanks, Aaron!

  4. 4 Vicher Li October 30, 2008 at 2:02 am

    Like 3months ago, I watched a video about pass…at that time,,I insanely like pass…..

    Mine technique is called “V-shape” pass,, Haven’t heard that before?oh well,,,Because I make it up and it is come up by me!!

    Any ways, mine is different with mike’s verson( Mike, do you remeber me? I am Vicher from Calgary, last time I attended to your lecture!)
    I use left hand only,,and it is ok-cover and ok-speed,,,,I practised like 2month…

    Personly, some people can do it very fast, but very obviously. Do you know what I meant? The pass with big movement of fingers..and I think the most important thing of invisible pass is: natural, no movement….So, first step, natural, second step, speed

    Thank you so much for reading my nonsence….Cheers Aaron!!

    Vicher Li

  5. 5 Tony Tuccillo October 30, 2008 at 2:26 am

    Aaron – thanks again for a great post and lesson.

    Sadly my left fingers move a lot and I haven’t been doing myself any favors in how I use the Pass in performance.

    The only presentation where I use the move is Walton’s Pass at Red on the advice of a few friends who recommended it as a good way to begin because of the built in misdirection.

    However during the presentation when it was time for the spectator to turn over the tabled cards, I would move my hands to table level so even if someone was burning me, the table provided a screen.

    This week I was rehearsing the effect as if I was to perform it standing for seated spectators and guess what? I didn’t have a table to help screen my actions. I would literally have to stoop down to get my hands to table so no more crutch if I do the effect standing. Rehearsing in front of the mirror showed me how transparent the move is in my hands.

    I originally learned the move in the 1970’s from some friends and reading about it but never gave it much thought or work. In the past few years I ‘relearned’ the move from a DVD that was originally a video made in the 1980’s.

    Looking forward to the others pass related posts and travel safely…….

    Mike – hadn’t really considered using the right hand fingers before so thanks for the tip. BTW I started working on Roberto Giobbi’s version of ‘Matching the Cards’ and came across your version on YouTube. Great job with it and it was a pleasure to actually see someone perform it. Thanks for posting it!

  6. 6 Aaron Fisher October 30, 2008 at 4:42 am

    Hey guys –

    I love the discussion – i won’t get into debates with guys i respect, like Michael here, but i will add a few points to help you on the way.

    1) It was the descriptions in the dingle book that got me into trouble in the first place. I recommend the Erdnase description, and ONLY the erdnase description – pulling up with the right fingers may be VERY fast, but in my opinion, not better by a long shot.

    2) The shift is great for many, many things other than a control. I wouldn’t even consider that it’s primary purpose. It cuts the pack. So any time that’s the goal, consider the pass.

    3) you can, with practice, break the habit of pulling with your fingers (left or right) – that shouldn’t put you off. Worst case scenario, it will take several months – after that, you’ll see and more importantly, feel the difference.

    Happy hunting!


  7. 7 Daniel Chard October 30, 2008 at 7:12 am

    Great post Aaron, im ashamed to say that i’ve also been moving my left fingers alot to execute the shift, but for some reason it never felt right, afer reading your post several flaws became apparent.

    1) As I execute the shift just before the two packets tranpose, the left fingers pull the packet down and you see a flicker of the packet on the top left corner, only way I could cover this motion was to hold the deck with my right fingers covering the front edge, which looked unnatrual as you couldnt see the deck.

    2) Their was always a flaring out of the top packet as it was going under, but with the pulling of the right finers that will eliminate the top packet needing to be levered so high.

    It also can be done from the left handside invisibly with thr right fingers lifting.

    Thanks for the tip Aaron and thanks for the reference Micheal, I’ll have to relearn that one.

    Many thanks

    Daniel Chard

  8. 8 Feras Alkharboush October 30, 2008 at 7:16 am

    Hey Fisher, thanks for the post. This will be an amazing study.

    First, I think the action of the left fingers need to be divided into sections, first, the action of the pull to the left on a flat plane ( NOT REVLOVLING, I know you already know this, but this mistake is just too common ). The right hand will do its thing, and the packets tranpose.

    Then comes the next phase, the left hand packet falls down. Many magicians will try and square it with the top half ( which is why you usually see a riffle in a riffle pass, THEN you see the bottom packet get squared ) Personally, I square the left hand packet into the left hand, which squares it with the right in a swift, almost mechanical action.

    For this to make sense, this is best demonstrated in the last phase of the Frank Thompson Tilt Pass. From seeing the picture you posted, I bet you’re using his ideas in your shifts.

  9. 9 Erik October 30, 2008 at 8:43 am

    I always used to keep my left fingers more or less still, but while researching the Classic Pass a while back, I found “The Card Classics of Ken Krenzel” by Harry Lorayne. In there, the focus is on moving the left fingers only. The key is to move the top packet with the left fingers to the bottom fast.

    Since reading this, I’ve been practicing both ways. The major disadvantage of pulling with the left fingers is, as you say, the flash on the right side.

    Good post, though.


  10. 10 jdwg October 30, 2008 at 4:07 pm

    I self taught myself the pass a number of years ago. I’ve never been able to do it fast, so I always make sure the misdirection is thick.
    I’m going to play with this some more. Thanks for the tip!


  11. 11 Mike Rozek October 30, 2008 at 6:16 pm

    I’ve found that my pass is a lot like a golf swing. It takes some time for me to “warm” up to doing a decent one. Also, the harder I “try” to “hit the ball”, the worse the results. Until reading this post, I hadn’t noticed that when my pass works well, the left fingers aren’t engaged as much. I had noticed, however, that, for me, the key is to just relax. It seems counter intuitive that the less I “try”, the better the results, but (again for me) that seems to be the case.

    I’ll certainly be more aware of it now.


  12. 12 Uncle Kenny October 30, 2008 at 7:48 pm

    I learned the pass from The Amateur Magicians Handbook by Henry Hay and I quote concerning bad habits that develop p.32 “Second, I say again. Don’t lift up with your right hand: Pull down with your left.”
    I have to agree with the modern way of doing the pass. Pull up Scotty pull up. Whierd abowt to hit the foolkin pass expository planet.

  13. 13 Greg October 30, 2008 at 10:10 pm

    What am I missing. If you don’t pull with your left fingers what provides the motion for the shift? If I use my right hand only there is a distinct sound made from the friction of the cards. As time goes on will that sound go away as I try to execute without noise? I am not a professional magician and this may explain why I am missing something.

  14. 14 aaronfishermagic October 30, 2008 at 10:17 pm

    Hey guys –

    I can see this going to be a provoking topic for everyone – and those that are asking questions are clearly deep into the topic and digging. And of course, that’s what it takes.

    I’ll say this one more time on my way to the airport – get the ‘two handed shift’ from erdnase, and learn it – it’s the best description i’ve found.

    A lot of folks reading have their own opinions, and they’re certainly entitled to them. I’m only sharing what works for me – and what worked for my teachers.

    I will offer own more piece of advice dear readers, take care – listening to random advice on this topic, and then practicing based on it, is like drinking out of a beer can you’ve found lying open on the street! research carefully…..BEFORE you practice!

    Good luck!

    I really am going to the airport now!

  15. 15 Tim October 31, 2008 at 6:37 pm

    Wow! Lots of info, like trying to learn to golf with MANY people telling you to do this and try that… I like what Aaron said in his last post. Get an experts opinion and stick to it! The best golfers in the world take lessons all the time. They have video and feedback from their respective coaches.
    I remember a young magican telling me that all you are really doing in the pass, is moving air! Wow, that struck me as a cool idea.
    My pass sucks because I do not trust it and very rarely practice it.
    Like someone said, I use the double underhand cuts and false overhand shuffle to do the work. But, I think it important to have “soft” hands and be relaxed. In all we do with magic. not just cards, but coins and cups and balls and linking rings. As in golf, tension kills! Ever watch professional baseball hitters at bat? Their fingers are constantly moving to keep tension from creeping in. Until they swing. Tension kills!
    Move some air, the air between the cards and relax!

  16. 16 Mark Andre Primus November 1, 2008 at 1:31 pm

    In my opinion the difference between the Erdnase Classic Pass and other descriptions is the movement philosophy. The classic pass as he describes it follows the common thread in Erdnase passes, that of automatically shifting the packets based on pressure points, rather then accomplishing the shift by finger movement. The pivot point of the right hand packet, along with the pulling motion of the thumb, allow the packets to be shifted in a relaxed manner with almost no finger movement merely by raising the deck higher in the hands.

    My version of this is a conceptual handling of the pass, and is not perfect, but I’m working on it. 😉


  17. 17 Ben Train November 2, 2008 at 5:55 am

    Hey Aaron,

    Great topic. As an Erdnase buff (and fan of card work in general) I played around with a shift but gave up on it after deciding there were better, or more important, things to focus my attention on.

    Well, I’ve changed my mind now.

    So, here are some things that bother me about MY pass. I won’t publish how I’ve fixed them (because many I haven’t) but these are things wrong with MY pass.

    1. Finger movement. I agree with you so much, this is a big issue, but the BIGGER problem with mine (and most peoples) seems to be the RIGHT finger movement. Erdnase suggests several solutions, including fulcrum points, and finger positioning. He also EXPLICITLY states that while “most teachers advise assisting the action by having the fingers of the right hand pull up on the lower packet…we believe the blind is much more perfect if there is not the least change in the attitude of the right hand fingers during or immediately after the shift”.

    I DO have an issue with the left hand though. When I execute the shift my left index finger shoots out- need to fix that.

    2. The blur. Something Peter Francis and Howie pointed out to me (references just for you Aaron!)- when the packets transpose there is a flash in the left corner.

    3. The little finger break. I get the break, but I need get my finger further into the pack to execute the shift. This means movement.

    4. Position of the pack before and during the pack. Dip? Turn? Bring up to the finger tips? Etc.

    Anywho, some concerns of mine. Always love reading your blog man!

    All the best,

  18. 18 Hank November 2, 2008 at 9:14 am

    I first learned the pass form Erdnase, and then Giobbi’s Card College, but rarely relied on it, until recently.

    When standing, as I often perform, I favor the Ortiz shift to the classic pass, (explained in Darwin’s Scams and Fantasies) – instead of the top packet tilting over to the right side and going underneath, the bottom packet is tilted underneath and then brought round to the top from the right side. The face of the deck is tilted forward quited a bit to give the spectators the best(?) view, completely shielding the bottom packet tilt and “get ready” until the last possible moment.

    The pass is indispensible for two Ortiz effects I do, “The Last Laugh” and “Pocket Money,” two of my strongest tricks. Without the shift or pass, neither effect would be nearly as strong.

    An indetectable pass creates the illusion of impossible magic.

    – Hank Milligan

  19. 19 Connor Martin November 7, 2008 at 10:28 am

    I was pulling with my right hand a little bit. The majority of the force used to accomplish my pass was a yanking up of the bottom packet. But I think this has helped me make my pass more consistent in it’s fluidity. Because before, when I would pull down with my left fingers, every now and then the two packets would collide causing the shift to stop right where you don’t want it to. Great tip.

    Oh, by the way, I’m gonna buy your book tommorow from lee’s site. I got a little 15 percent discount for being on his list and I figure now is as good a time as any. I really think the information in your book is going to help me a lot. I look forward to it greatly.

    Thanks again


  20. 20 Geoff Williams November 7, 2008 at 2:53 pm

    Here’s something some of you might find interesting.

    I’ve been working with a concept I call “spotlight camouflage” that goes something like this:

    Instead of guiltily trying to hide the lightning-fast move, and create tension and suspicion, why not slow things way down, stop in the middle of the move and, as crazy as it sounds, openly draw attention to the deck?

    My classic pass is done as above. I call it the “Estimation Pass” because at the halfway point where I stop and comment that the card “is about halfway down in the deck, more or less.” My feeling is that, if you do not try to get away with hiding the pass, people won’t recognize the pass as a move.

    I use this same technique for a get-ready for a triple/quad/whatever turnover. Flies right by magicians, too.

    The above is also based on Roger Klause’s concept of half-moves. Try it out.

    I miss Roger.

  21. 21 Connor Martin November 8, 2008 at 11:49 am

    Geoff, that is an interesting Idea. I loved the way you applied half moves to your “ready to link” trick. I never performed it until I saw your half move get ready. I might have to see a video of what you are talking about to fully understand what you mean though.

    Anyway… The reason I am posting again is because over the past few days (after intially reading this blog post) I have completely eliminated my left finger movement and all I can say is WOW! My pass has improved ten fold. It just happens like BLAM! It has become such a quicker more concise action. THANK YOU SO MUCH. I finally got some money in my bank account and I am buying paper engine tomorrow. Can’t wait for more gold.

    Thanks again.


  22. 22 Aaron Fisher November 8, 2008 at 4:58 pm

    See! I told you! So glad to hear it brother. So glad…

  23. 23 Keith Brown November 20, 2008 at 5:14 am

    Hey Geoff,

    I would love to hear more about the half move concept. Could you go into more detail or direct me to a source?



  24. 24 Nikodemus March 10, 2009 at 11:11 am

    For information on the half-move concept, see the Roger Klause book “In Concert”, by Lance Pierce.

  25. 25 Ryan DeSalvio March 23, 2009 at 10:57 am

    I use the spread pass most of the time. When I’m sqaring up the pack I tilt it to the side as if to square up the sides and it joins with the other pack. I do use my left fingers alot for my classic passes though.

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