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  • Writer's pictureMadison Hagler

Second Thoughts - Ramón Riobóo

First posted last year.

Ramón Riobóo is a true underground legend—especially in America. I had never heard his name, and I completely missed his first book “Thinking the Impossible” which was first published in Spanish in 2002 and then translated to English a whole decade later! Out of the blue, I see the book “Second Thoughts” come up on It turns out, “Second Thoughts” was published in Spanish in 2010 (two years before his first book was even translated into English,) and again, almost a decade later, “Second Thoughts” gets translated into English and published in 2019. With little knowledge of Ramón, I was hesitant about picking the book up, and there didn’t seem to be much conversation about it, but the more I read about the book and Ramón’s style, the more tempted I became. I finally got my hands on it, and once I started reading, I couldn’t put it down! I read all three hundred fifty-six pages in two days. Ramón’s writing style is clear, thorough, and easy to follow which makes for a very enjoyable read.

Ramón mainly performs what many people would consider “mathematical magic.” However, he has an uncanny ability to add just enough smoke and mirrors to render the math undetectable. This turns the tricks from quick stunts into full performance pieces that will fool all laymen and most magicians who see it. The book is chocked full of A+ material that can go directly into anyone’s repertoire.

I would love to take the time to review each effect individually, but instead, I will review some of my favorite effects from each section of the book.

Section 1: For Starters...

Spelling System: This is perhaps one of the most used ploys in the book. It is Ramón’s system for spelling any card in the deck with a certain number of letters. This concept is not particularly new, but Ramón breaks it down and clearly shows you how every single card can be spelled to a certain number without ever having to resort to adding the word “the” in front of it—I was never happy with having to spell “the” in some other systems. You see this method being used frequently in the routines that follow in the book, so it’s best to get a good understanding of this system before going further.

Section Two: Visual and Mental Ruses...

The Dribble Packet Replacement: This is an incredibly small and easy subtlety, but it adds so much to the deceptiveness of many of these semi-automatic/mathematical tricks. It allows the spectator to freely insert a small packet of cards where they want in the deck without disturbing any of the math which may be happening behind the scenes.

My Packet-Turnover Shuffle: This is a simple shuffle sequence which turns cards face up and facedown in a haphazard mix, yet you have much more control than it seems. This shuffle comes in handy several times thought out the book, and when it is used, it REALLY elevates a trick to the next level; not to mention, it is one of those things where you will fool yourself as you do it.

Section Three: Impromptu & Self-Working Tricks...

Shy or Showoff: Your spectator takes 4 cards under the table. They look at one and remember it, and then shuffle the small pile face up and face down in a manner that is clearly chaotic. At the end, they look through their pile to find only one card facing the opposite direction of the other three. It is their selected card. You never touch the pile from beginning to end.

This is Ramón’s take on “Baby Hummer” by Nick Trost. Ramón has added a great presentation and a multitude of subtleties to make this trick more deceptive than it has ever been. What is really great about this effect is that it can be performed with as many volunteers as you want! Ramón says he has performed it for over fifty people with tremendous results. I’m a big fan of this one; despite its simplicity, the chaotic nature of the mixing which happens in their own hands makes the revelation feel truly impossible.

The Whispering Card: Three spectator’s get involved with thinking of a secret card. Nothing is spoken of this card or written down. Another card is randomly selected. This new card is spelled out, and the thought-of card is found on the last letter of the randomly selected card. This is a beautiful example of Ramón taking a mathematical effect and hiding it in such a way that not only does it not feel mathematical, it feels completely impossible given the circumstances it is performed under. I have intentionally left out the majority of the process in the trick, but the process is used to make the selection seem fair and above board. The best part is the deck is shuffled throughout and you don’t have to touch the deck at all until the very end.

Free Cut, Spell and Reinhard: From a shuffled deck, three freely chosen cards are lost into the deck at places the spectator’s dictate. Each card is found in a different and amazing way: by divination, by spelling and with a magical flourish.

This is a wonderful use of the free-cut principle, and for once, it isn’t used for an ace trick. The selections are chosen and lost in the deck in an incredibly fair manner, yet, you have controlled the location of each of the cards. The cards feel so hopelessly lost, the trick really shouldn’t be possible, yet Ramón has found a way.

Section Four: Tricks with Stacks and Setups...

Controlling Chaos: Cards are shuffled and then shuffled face up and face down, and then again face up and facedown as indicated by the spectators. Despite this, you are able to name how many cards are face down. You can then take it one step further and name every single card that is face down with perfect accuracy.

The hardest part of this is memorizing the cards you will call out at the end. Once you’ve done that, this trick practically works itself. It makes use of the Packet-Turnover Shuffle in one of the clearest ways in the book. This whole routine really leans on the deceptiveness of the turnover shuffle. It is wonderful.

Divination through Another’s Touch: A spectator shuffled a deck under the table. They then select any card at random and remember it. Next they lose the card back into the deck and shuffle it until they are satisfied. They begin to deal the cards from under the table to the top of the table one at a time. You stop them at some point. The very next card they take from the deck under the table is their selected card.

Even a well-versed magician would be fooled reading this description, but that is exactly how it plays out. I have a feeling this is one that will be over-looked for many reasons. I hope it is overlooked because it is a golden nugget and this one trick is perhaps the strongest in the book if presented properly. I wonder if Ramón purposefully underplayed the effect so that it doesn’t become a staple in every card man’s work. This is gold. Don’t pass it up.

Divine and Locate: A spectator cuts the deck into thirds. They remember the top card of one pile, shuffle it into the pile, and put the pile in their pocket. The remaining piles are shuffled by two other spectators. One removes any card and sandwiches it between the two piles. You can now immediately name the first spectator’s card and locate the second spectator’s card.

The layering of methods in this is pure genius. It is simple to do leaving you with the ability to concentrate solely on the performance. You gain so much information so quickly. This is the true deceptiveness of the routine.

Section Five: New Sleights and Systems...

I Always Miss, So I Never Miss: This is the trick Penn used to fool Teller. It is difficult to write up the effect, so I advise you to find the performance which was on “Fool Us.” You can find it on YouTube.

What makes this trick different from anything else that has been created is that typically for a trick of this type, you would have to cut the deck where the spectator removes their card. In this trick, the spectator removes any card from a spread, squares the deck up, and without moving a single card, you are able to discover their card. This uses a principle which Ramón has discovered. He has named it “The Black-Hole Principle,” and once you grasp the concept of this new principle, you can see that this is just scratching the surface of what this principle will allow.

Swindle Deal for Three: The deck is split into two packets. The spectator selects one packet and divides the cards amongst himself and two of his friends. They silently count their cards. You deal through the remaining cards, showing them the face of each card. They each remember the card at their number. You immediately reveal all three cards.

The method here is a new concept as far as I am aware, and it is a clever one at that. It is a subtle, mathematical method which secretly limits your spectators without anyone being the wiser. It is simple to perform and execute, and it is very intriguing from a methodological standpoint.

Section Six: Tricks with Preparation, Extra Cards or Sleight-of-Hand...

A Quick Trip: A red deck and blue deck are both shuffled. The participant freely selects one deck, cuts it, and holds it between their hands. The other deck is shuffled and a card is selected from it. You wait a moment, and then they spread the deck in their hand to find one card of a different color. Before the card is turned face up, the other deck is checked to discover the selected card is no longer there. The odd-backed card is turned over to reveal the selected card.

This is very simple and straight forward which allows for great strength for laymen. It probably won’t fool the boys at the magic club, but it will certainly leave an impact on laymen.

Section Seven: Tricks with Special Cards...

Double Magic Trip: A card is freely selected from a blue-backed deck and can be changed is they like. It is put into the middle of the deck, and the deck is wrapped I'm a rubber band. A red deck is also wrapped in a rubber band. Both decks are put into a paper bag and shaken. When the red deck is removed, the blue-backed selection is found face up in the middle of the red deck. To prove there are no duplicates, the spectator signs their card. The blue-backed signed card goes into the red-backed deck and it is again wrapped in a rubber band. The deck is put back in the bag with the blue one. A slight shake, and now the blue deck is removed from the bag and band. The selection is found face up, and it is indeed the signed selection.

This is a really well thought out routine which is practically self-working. The appearance of the card in the other deck is very surprising; and then when it happens again, it cannot be explained. Also you should note that you do not have to use the bag for the trick. You could quickly put the decks behind your back and back to the front, or you could move a handkerchief over the two decks to make the card move. The bag is the easiest solution, but with a little thought, you can make the effect even stronger by removing its one weak element—the bag.

I am so happy I was found this book before it passed me by like the first one. I am impressed by Ramón’s thinking and creativity. For any magic theory fans out there, you are also treated to six different essays which discuss Ramón’s various theories regarding performing magic in a way that feels real and leaves no traces to be backtracked. Throughout the book, Ramón stresses that he wants you to understand the principles at play. You often read a self-working effect which says something like, “Just do it, and trust me, it works.” Ramón doesn’t leave you hanging like that. Instead, he encourages you to dive in and fully examine what makes the trick work, because only then will you be able to fully appreciate the method.

Don’t let this book pass you by, or someone will be fooling you with this material.

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