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  • Writer's pictureMadison Hagler

Game Changer by Jason Ladanye

Jason Ladanye is finishing up his month long Masterclass over on Vanishing Inc for the month of October, so I found it fitting to dive back into his work from 2018: Game Changer

The book begins with a forward by Michael Vincent, an Introduction by Jason Ladanye, and a detailed explanation of the pinky count. This may seem like a strange way to start a book, but virtually every single routine that follows contains the pinky count at some point or another, so beginning the book with an explanation of the move makes complete logical sense. The explanation is one of the best I’ve read on the pinky count; the writing covers the subtler points which you can only glean from years of experience with the move.

The book is divided into two main sections: Magic Effects and Gambling Effects.

Magic Effects:

Standing Out - A card is selected, but it isn’t looked at. Three cards are cut to; they are three fives. This clearly means the spectator’s card is the last five. When the selected card is turned over, it is seen to be a queen. No problem, with a shake, the three fives immediately turn into the three queens to match the selection.

This effect is perhaps the easiest in the book, but even so, you can expect to use a pinky count multiple times. The routine is a quick, economical take on a classic plot in magic with the strength being there are no extraneous moves or fluff—it is about as to the point as you could get.

Game Changer - A simple betting game is played between the magician and the spectator using two signed selected cards. When it seems the magician has lost, he proves he has won the game in the most bizarre and unexpected way possible.

Mix an anniversary waltz routine with a betting game, and you will create Game Changer. The climax of the effect will certainly come as a shock, as it hits them out of the blue, totally unexpected. The build of the routine feels like a bar bet, and the climax creates the same dynamic as when you “reveal” how to win the bar bet. I think spectators will first respond with laughter as they see how you’ve won the bet on a technicality, but that laughter will morph into amazement once they begin to examine the card and discover it is truly an impossible object. The handling itself is a fabulous rendition of Anniversary Waltz with multiple displays that will convince the audience the cards are separate and complete. This is a ton of fun. I dig it.

Catch Me if You Can - The performer plays three games with a spectator. Each game revolves around reacting quickly. The spectator seems to have every advantage, but the magician always wins. In the end, the spectator thinks they may have won only to discover the magicians reaction was impossibly fast.

This is presentation building if I’ve ever seen it! It is a card to wallet routine with window dressing for days, and I love it. It is highly interactive, very easy to perform, and the games are genuinely fun to play. This is quality engagement. This wins the first WTP Award*

Nick of Time - The performer claims to be able to find four selections and four aces in less than a minute. The attempt is made, but just as the clock reaches 60 seconds, the last selection is found; leaving no time to find the aces. Not to worry, the selections change into the four aces to save the day.

The description above actually doesn’t do the routine much justice because there is a lot to like in the presentation. The race against the clock is fun and engaging, and the four cards seem to turn into the four aces not by “magic” but by your muscle memory kicking in. This is the first routine int he book that uses a faro shuffle, and it won’t be the last!

Lucky Charms - A box is introduced with three lucky charms. A coin, a die, and a folded card is a dragon back. The performer tries to use each charm to find a signed selected card. The first two fail, but the third one succeeds as the blue dragon-backed card is now the signed selection.

This is a great take on a Kennedy box type effect. The “gimmick” is one of the most simple versions you could make, but the handling makes it seem as if nothing ever goes out of sight, and that is where the true power lies in the routine. The presentation is fun and charming (excuse the pun) and Ladanye swears the presentation prevents spectator’s from “getting ahead” and assuming the odd backed card is there. I’m not sure if I’m convinced they won’t see that coming, but I think the point is, they will be absolutely convinced that their card is a normal-backed card and it is in the middle of the deck. Note: the handling of the selected card can be used for any Kennedy box type routine if you want to add an odd-backed ending. Ladanye’s handling really does convince the audience that everything is as it seems.

The Wire - A value of card is named and the four cards of that value are removed. The spectator signs the four cards and keeps them under their hand. A random card on the deck is “felt by the fingertips” of the performer and ascertained. In a flash, the random card is now the four signed values and there is only one card under the spectator’s hand—the random card.

This is performed with a pickpocket theme that transforms the chosen value into something more meaningful, and gives a purpose to the effect as a whole. The moves are relatively easy and should be within the reach of most intermediate performers.

Ladanye’s Ultimate Triumph - Four cards are selected. The deck is mixed face up and face down, and the selections are lost. The performer instantly finds all four selections and causes the rest of the cards to face the same way.

This is a triumph routine that is not for the faint of heart. It requires multiple perfect faro shuffles which must be executed flawlessly and casually. The story told for the routine is a fun retelling of a hard-to-please brother. This story justifies some of the perhaps “illogical” actions and makes it a necessary point of the story. I’m not a big fan of this style of magic being done as a story from the past is told, especially when such precision of method is required. This is an instance where my performance style is in direct opposition to Ladanye’s. I prefer a casual approach to method while Ladanye prefers very precise method that he is somehow able to execute flawlessly while still leaving room to focus on presentation. In this type of scenario, too much focus on executing flawless method pulls my focus from being fully present with the spectators.

Liar Liar - The perform explains how he is Abe to quickly locate a selected card. He claims he is putting the deck in sequential order with one riffle. With several takes and much teasing of the audience, the performer shows that he truly is putting the deck in perfect sequential order with one riffle.

This is a very fun routine. It requires four perfect faros, but they are a necessary part of the presentation, and in fact, the faros become the very thing that convinces the audience that the deck is shuffled, and pretty much become a running gag. Because of this, I think the faros are well hidden, as it seems the shuffles are part of a joke rather than part of the method. It is a very interactive routine with a fun premise and just the right amount of teasing to keep audiences engaged from beginning to end. It’s not necessarily easy, but if you have faros mastered then there is hardly any other move to learn.

Gambling Effects:

Royal Exchange - One random hand of poker is exchanged for a royal flush under everyone’s noses.

The description doesn’t do it much justice. The premise is that the performer often gets challenged to play poker with the terrible hands most people are used to getting in poker instead of always dealing himself a royal flush. This premise is a great hook. Rather than having a spectator memorize the five cards in their hand, the performer has them initial each card. I thought this was a nice touch because at the end, the exchange is immediately evident as all five cards have markings on them. It takes only a split second to realize every single card has changed places. The routine requires two faros, some second deals, and some double lifts. Beyond that, it is self-working (enjoy that joke.)

Dead Center - This is a center dealing demonstration done first with an ace, then a signed selection, ending with a center deal of the mates of the selected card.

This is a really wonderful center dealing routine that seems totally believable; the structuring of it makes the audience aware of just how challenging this truly is. It has a great natural build, and the final kicker of finding the mates will hit the spectator’s right between the eyes because of the wonderful way the routine has been structured. You are so far ahead of the game, no one will suspect a thing.

A Numbers Game (Ladanye’s ACAAN) - The performer demonstrates shuffle tracking, and his skill of moving any card to any position in the deck.

This is a lovely take on an ACAAN because it seems to be a demonstration of skills of a gambler rather than some magical coincidence. The shuffle tracking demonstration which begins the routine seems legitimate, but more importantly, it convinces the audience that you are using a shuffled deck. My one complaint about the trick is that the counting procedure isn’t what I look for out of an ACAAN. I prefer to be able to count the cards clearly and fairly before the card is revealed. To be fair, Ladanye tries to make it feel like this is the case with a clever subtlety, but the tight handling before this takes away from the clarity in my opinion.

Hold ‘em Hustle - The performer stacks two selected cards with two shuffles, and also manages to stack aces in his own hand in the process.

This is a gambling routine based around Texas Hold ‘Em with a few particularly clever moments which truly convince the audience that you are doing as you claim and not doing anything tricky. The aces come as a nice surprise, and the losing of the selections is very convincing with no breaks held and the spectator deciding where to insert them into a deck that is spread on the table. This is a very nice touch. Of course, a couple of faros are involved, but beyond the faros, the other sleights are minimal.

Cheaters - Red backed aces become blue backed aces when the performer wears a special pair of glasses.

You’ll need a few common gimmicks to pull this off, but the routine is stunning. It is a very fun and highly entertaining, and for laymen, the magic is spectacular with no possible explanation. It uses a couple of faros, but the method is very clever because those faros are setting up multiple things: one the audience is aware of and one the audience is totally unaware of. This allows for very clean displays that shouldn’t be possible. I have a feeling I would have been fooled by a few aspects of this routine had I seen it performed.

Fast Track - First the performer tracks a selected card through various shuffles, then the perform stacks the selected card through a couple of shuffles. As a kicker, he also stacks the three mates of the selected card.

This is such a wonderful routine. It requires multiple perfect faro shuffles—five to be exact, but the methodology at work is hidden in the very nature of the routine. In order for the routine to be most deceptive, it is necessary for these faros to be as natural as possible. As soon as the deck is studying carefully, the routine loses its impact. I do like the build of the routine though as the phases nicely grow more and more impossible with an ending no one will see coming. This is nice.

Aces Anonymous - Aces are sealed in an envelope signed by a spectator as the performer swears to play with whatever hand he is dealt. A hand of poker is dealt to four players, and the performer’s hand is awful. Instead, he steals the four aces out of the signed envelope without moving a muscle. The envelope is truly empty and it has never left their sight.

I like the premise of this. The method is very easy beyond the two faro shuffles, it’s almost self-working. This does require a wallet, but the handling that Ladanye provides for this wallet is one of the best I’ve seen, and it provides the benefit of the envelope “never leaving their sight.”

High-Card Hustle - A game of cutting to the high card is played. Despite the odds being heavily against the performer, he always wins!

I have never seen an effect built quite like this before. Once you read the method, it seems obvious, but as the routine progresses, Ladanye gets further and further from the obvious and more and more into the obscure methodologically. As with all of Ladanye’s routines, there is a wonderful build as the odds get increasingly worse for the performer to win, yet you always do. The best part is, other than some faros, there’s hardly any moves.

Power Play - The performer accurately reads a spectator’s poker tell and demonstrates false dealing concluding with dealing five hands each containing a four of a kind. All of this happens from a genuinely shuffled deck which the spectator continues to shuffle throughout.

This is a routining masterpiece. There’s a lot to love here. First of all: no faros! Second of all, the routining sets up for the finale long before the spectators ever even know the premise of the routine. This is just great. There are so many wonderful throw-offs and subtleties, I know every laymen watching would be totally and completely fooled (as would most magicians.) The presentation is very fun with the performer exposing various deals, so you get to show off real skill and end the routine with what seems like superhuman skill. It truly blurs the line between real skill and impossible skill, and because of that, spectators will leave believing you are no doubt a gambling pro. This wins the second WTP Award!

The Art of War - The performer and the spectator play War, and the performer always wins.

There is a full deck set up involved in this routine, but Ladanye teaches how to get into this set up on the fly. There are several faros needed (three for the set up and five in the routine.) This has a very improvisational style to it. There is a basic structure and there are four tactics you can use at any moment to vary it up. You will always have a strong ending. I think Ladanye probably loves performing this routine because of that improvisational style. It allows for a lot of freedom and playing with your audience. My only problem with the routine is I find it a bit boring overall. It’s a game many people will be familiar with, so there will be a lot of interest, but I find the routine a bit redundant in general even with the four rouses to add variety. With that said, if you like the idea of always winning at the game of War, this is a solid and sound way of doing that.

The quality of the book itself is typical of VanishingInc. Full color photographs provide perfect details and visual variety, and the writing style is very easy to follow even when dealing with complex methods.

This concludes the Game Changer review! Thank you to those of you who made it this far. I know this was a lengthy review, but I’m a stickler for doing a write up which includes my thoughts on every routine. I find these to be the reviews I search out the most, so I hope you find the value in it. If you have just watched Ladanye’s Masterclass and want to learn more magic in his style, then I highly recommend this. Just be aware that the material is certainly meant for intermediate to advanced card workers—not much in here will be of much value to those just starting out in card magic.

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