Archive for the 'cards' Category

Bill Goodwin Speaks – Three Classic Magic Books

Less than a week ago, many of you sent questions  for Billy Goodwin, the Magic Castle librarian and one of the finest card men in the world. I promised I would get him to answer one of the questions. Here it is………..

From Dave Atkins

To Mr. Goodwin I would ask: as the librarian of the Magic Castle, if some magician was going to make the library disappear, which three books would you try to save before he did it?

I love this question. We decided, for the sake of this discussion, to assume that the Magic Castle library is the ONLY library in the world. We’re not concerned with a given book’s value on Ebay. We only care about the value of the information inside.

Three books blessed by bill…

Here are Billy’s choices in no particular order. He wanted me to stress that this was a very unfair question. Bill is a librarian. He wants to save ALL the books.

Here they are:

  • Expert Card Technique – Hugard and Braue’s classic text was the second book on card magic  I ever purchased. I still haven’t learned everything in it – frankly, no one has. This book, available in Dover paperback, may provide you more value for the money than any other card book ever written.
  • The Complete Walton Volumes 1 & 2 – Already Billy is cheating here. He found a way to save an extra book. What can you do? Roy Walton is one of the kindest men I’ve ever met.  You’ll go back to this book  constantly over years and it will always offer you something new and give you wood for your practice oven.  It also may be the greatest repository of material regarding cover passes and half passes ever created. If you’re interested in material on these two topics, the Complete Walton should be your first stop.
  • The Complete Works of Alex Elmsley Volumes 1 & 2– Like the last entry, this two volume set compiles the complete works (or close-enough) of one of the great sleight-of-hand minds of all time. If you’re only familiar with Alex Elmsley as the creator of the most used and abused false count in the history of magic, you definitely need to acquire these books. They contain tricks of every size, shape and style – a veritable wealth of information.  Again, this is a book that all serious magic students must read.

The first in a series…

Any time Billy talks about magic he says something worth hearing. I’ll be going back to the original post to pick new questions for Billy to answer when I see him. If you want to add a question to the list, go for it. Here’s a link to the post – go leave a comment. 

If you want to see Billy Goodwin exposed at my place, click here.



Aaron Fisher on Tension in Card Magic: an excerpt from The Paper Engine

This is the new edition of The Paper Engine. Scroll down for an excerpt from the book….enjoy!



The paper is still perfect.

The photos are still crisp.

The price is now better than ever.

The Paper engine.

Now available for the first time in Paperback.

Join the Revolution

click here.


 Please Note: This excerpt appears in the book just after the description of the Gravity Half Pass. This is NOT the full description of the Gravity Half Pass – to  fully understand the technique you’ll need the full description. As you read this article think about how the ideas in it relate to your sleight of hand on the whole – not just the perfect half pass.

If The Paper Engine has had any effect on the amount of tension in your card work, post a comment below and tell us about it.


Thoughts and Commentary: The Gravity Half Pass

Tension can be the Achilles heel of any advanced card-worker. Any time a muscle contracts, there is at least a small degree of tension and this can be detected by audiences, if only subconsciously. Most advanced card techniques are highly susceptible to tension. A friend once quipped that he could tell whether a certain card expert was dealing tops, seconds, or bottoms by the number of veins throbbing in his forehead. While this was a mild exaggeration, it was not unfounded. It does not matter that the worker in question has visually deceptive techniques; audiences can feel the tension and instinctively sense trickery. One way to alleviate tension in the performance of sleight-of-hand is through design.


The best way to remove muscle tension is to eliminate the muscle’s participation in the action — find another way to get the job done. For example, assume you are standing on the roof of a building, holding a set of keys. If your goal is to loan the keys to your friend on the sidewalk below, you can either carry them down or drop them to him. It is more efficient to drop an object than to carry it. Several items in this book (including the half pass) allow gravity to manipulate the cards, keeping the manipulation on the performer’s part to a minimum.


As the sleight commences and the cards begin to revolve, the only pressure exerted is that necessary to modulate the action. One doesn’t want to lose control, or go too fast, or not stop at the right time. Pressure is only exerted to focus the moving energy — energy initiated by gravity. This is similar to the steering technique my driving instructor called controlled slippage. Turning the wheel while going into a turn can require difficult, hand-over-hand action. Muscles pull, readjust, and then pull again. Coming out of a turn, however, is far easier. One no longer has to pull, but only allow the wheel to adjust.


Humans should not trifle with the forces of nature. As Spalding Gray quoted Athol Fugard in Swimming to Cambodia, The sea’s a lovely lady when you play in her, but, if you play with her, she’s a bitch.” keep this in mind if you choose to invoke natural forces, such as gravity in your technique, great care should be taken in the initiation of the reversal (the left-hand action). In a standard handling, with the left fingers reversing the cards, pressure can be added or released as needed. In this method there is only one chance to release your control over the packet and then only one chance to re-establish it.


The gravity half pass should never be rushed. If the sleight is hurried, the pack tends to overshot the right palm entirely. This sort of thing is to be avoided, so take care. Gravity is your friend, but it can also kill.


Those interested in further study of the half pass should know that perhaps the greatest exponent of half-pass applications is Scotland’s famed card expert, Roy Walton. His routines with both the standard half pass and his spread half pass are vital explorations into the subject. Careful study of his work is mandatory for any serious student of card magic.


Theory11, my new trick Panic and why you should care.

Panic Box

As many of you may already know, my new trick ‘PANIC!’ was unveiled last Friday night at I’m exceedingly proud of the trick, so before you read further, go and watch the video so you have a frame of reference. Then come back for a discussion about the trick, and my thoughts as to why Theory11 may represent an important shift in the quality of magic education.


Panic easily stands as my most significant release since The Paper Engine was published in 2002. The DVD is beautifully produced, both in terms of the packaging and the contents. More importantly, Panic may be the most commercial effect I’ve ever put out. In this case, commercial doesn’t mean merely ‘effective as a magic product’, though that’s certainly true as well. Rather, the piece demonstrates clearly how real world performing experience can lead to simpler, more efficient magic. It’s the most powerful effect I’ve ever shared with the community – I wanted the teaching on the DVD to be as effective as the trick itself.

For that reason, I’ve been forced to ask the same question as everyone else. What exactly is Theory And the truth is – I’m not entirely sure. We can all see the site involves a bunch of talented guys with real passion and serious ideas about magic. But for me personally, T11 represents a mysterious, exciting experiment.

How things will evolve I can’t truly say, because what’s being attempted here hasn’t been really tried before. Sure, several companies in the last few years have had great success selling magic tricks. Some of these companies have even sold quality material. But now, serious magicians are trying to discover whether this internet technology, so effective for business, can also be used to actually improve magic and the quality of its practitioners. For that reason, I find this whole process thrilling. Several of the players are my heroes – members of the real A team. And finally, they’re not just sitting around complaining about the state of things. They’ve stepped inside in the ring, reputations on the line, attempting to affect real change in the field we all care so deeply about.


One Piece at a Time – Details make the Magic

Panic Freak Out


As any experienced magic student will tell you, it takes an awful lot of work to find good material, to separate the wheat from the chaff. Companies sell tricks, ideas, methods and variations by the pound. If the student assumes he’s receiving a giant tomb of brand new, quality material, he will likely find himself disappointed. Many magic creators have great ideas, but find themselves under pressure, often self imposed, to release a greater percentage of their output than perhaps they ought to. I don’t exclude myself from this criticism. As many great comedians have noted, to write three good jokes, a good writer might reasonably pump out 97 others that never see the light of day. Perhaps we in magic should more often work toward this exacting standard.



Like other recent, successful companies in our industry, the gang at T11 has discovered that the current crop of young magicians responds well to ‘single item’ releases. Many magic students today would rather learn one astounding effect in a focused way – rather then spend valuable time sifting through some guy’s dairy from the month before. We all get exposed to so many ideas every day, perhaps we’re trying to make careful choices about what we invest our time in. The alternative might be to crumble under the weight of the knowledge work incumbent in the information age.


Some will complain that it’s a mistake to hold back the countless variations we love so much. These passionate students might argue that the sheer volume of ideas presented by one such as Ed Marlo (even excluding disputed ones) allows sleight of hand students to better appreciate the depth of the possibilities presented to us when we work with cards.

Panic Logo

Frankly, I sympathize with this romantic point of view. But then I think about the resonance we find in the work of Vernon. Much of his magic was described somewhat poorly by Lewis Ganson, yet his work remains iconic. It seems his decision to present only one or two solutions to a given problem actually worked. People got the message – do all the research, and then release the very best solution you can. At least partly for this reason, his small books on card magic stand out as some of the century’s finest volumes, regardless of their diminutive size.


Almost all of us can agree that magicians have access to plenty of material already. We further likely agree that the key to improving our work lies in developing fully the material we already have access to – not in the acquisition of more tricks.

Girls watching


In this regard, the ‘single item’ release model can conceivably help us all. To communicate magic lessons effectively requires patience, a slow hand and a long time. Too often, magic creators present their ideas quickly and use a ‘bare bones’ approach. That only makes sense – they’re presenting so many ideas that anyone would have trouble packing them all in. The student often comes away having witnessed twenty ideas, but finds himself later confused when he can’t make even the simplest version play as well as he hoped.


Ideally, when you release one piece at a time, you force yourself to choose your best item. Now you’ve got a piece worth teaching, your task comes into focus – to communicate every nuance of the effect, presentation and handling. Now, the student can gain enough confidence from your instruction to take the effect out of the basement and into the world. Of course, from this first step, the student gains only more questions. Hopefully, if you’ve done the job correctly, his dawning concerns have been anticipated. He can go back to the source, and find all the information he needs.

As of this writing, I am happy to report that Theory 11 supports these values. They not only wanted to release my trick, but they were more than supportive in allowing me to teach my magic the best way I know how. If they didn’t, I wouldn’t have chosen to work with them.


All over the world, passionate, thoughtful people care about improving the quality of magic performance. For anyone who shares these values, the emergence of T11 holds wonderful promise. Finally, we might be a getting closer to a viable model for teaching magic in the 21st century – modern technology, combined with detailed lessons, taught by people who actually know.


I’m sure many of you will have ideas related to these issues. First, make sure to go and watch the demo of Panic and check out Theory11. Even though the site just launched, you’ll find plenty of ideas to explore. Then drop a comment here, or on T11’s new forum or both. It’s useful to write down your ideas. Not only will it help you clarify your own thoughts and beliefs – it will help people like me deliver content you can use. If we can really understand each others ideas, then everyone creates better magic.


Aaron Fisher


Magic Camp – A new kind of education

Teach in with Aaron

 Photo by Carey Lauder

This summer has been a whirlwind – and it’s not over yet. I got back to LA from the east coast just after midnight Tuesday morning, slept five hours and drove to las Vegas. I was in Vegas for a total of about 9 hours to work on an interesting little project with Dan Buck. Dan and Dave are super talented guys. It’s been fascinating to watch them grow up, develop and take the magic world by storm. You’ll hear more about what we were up to in the near future. We worked for a few hours, grabbed some dinner, and got a pleasant surprise. As many of you may know, the Magic Live convention is in full swing at the Orleans in Las Vegas. My schedule is too tight right now, and I couldn’t even drop in. While Dan and I were having a great dinner at Caesar’s at Rao’s, we received a surprising and unexpected phone call.

It was Tim Felix, owner of one of the coolest magic stores in the free world, Midwest Magic. Tim runs perhaps the best stocked magic store in operation today. More importantly, he’s a great friend I hardly ever get to see. He and Jon Stetson (more on him another time) were calling just to say how much they wished I was at the convention. They were eating great steaks, drinking incredible wine, and thinking about the many joyous nights we’ve spent in similar circumstances. They didn’t know it – but Dan and I were about two city blocks away, directly through the casino, of course.

Our Showroom!

Photo by Carey Lauder

We paid, hightailed it over there, and had a great couple hours of cocktails and conversation with two of the smartest guys in magic. A real highlight was the vision I had of Jon Stetson, one of the world’s premier mind readers, having champagne with Dan Buck. It’s a strange and wonderful aspect of the magic world that so many people with different interests can meet, exchange ideas and learn so much from each other. I never would have pictured those two at the same table. It sure was fun to watch. Dan had to get to the late night close up show (it was a serious line up). I dropped him off at the MGM and drove back to LA. I got here just after three am. Continue reading ‘Magic Camp – A new kind of education’