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  • Writer's pictureMadison Hagler

Stratis by Michal Kociolek and Roman Slomka

Just released from VI, this brand new gimmick allows you to seal a borrowed and signed bill between the layers of a playing card. It looks like it’s really in there because it really is! It’s a great visual. 


First off, the packaging for this is beautiful. The outer slipcover is black with a ripped out center that allows you to read the “Stratis” name. It’s very high class and unique. My only complaint was that there is a sticker component to this, and the edges of my stickers were stuck to the interior foam of the packaging making them difficult to remove, but the aesthetic is great. 

The tutorial is just under 30 minutes long, and covers how to get your gimmick setup, a basic demonstration of how it works, and a full routine. 

The gimmick is a card box which makes it very easy to load a bill (or any small, thin object) between the layers of a card. The load area is large and doesn’t require any slides, and the closing of the card happens in the removal of the deck. So as you take the deck out of the box, the gimmick seals the bill in the card. The box is slightly thicker than a normal card box at one end to allow for the load, but with some cover from your hand, no one will ever see that. 

The box is made of cardboard with some interior metal and plastic which makes it all work. It will definitely stand up to more performances than a normal card box. The box actually comes blank with stickers allowing you to make it look like a red bicycle deck or a blue bicycle deck. I have never seen that before in a gimmicked card box. Typically you have to choose a red or blue gimmick before you purchase, but this allows you to make your choice after you have the gimmick in hand. They also mention you can disguise it as any deck design you want with a little cutting and gluing. You should note that while the front and sides of the box are bicycle brand, the back design is a mandolin back. Of course, this doesn’t really matter at all in performance, but it’s good to know before you buy.  I imagine some people will be frustrated that it doesn’t come “ready to use” but it takes less than five minutes to get the stickers in place. The thing I found slightly more annoying was that you also have to cut and stick two pieces of foam inside the card box before you can use it. It’s a small point, but I wish they would have provided pre-cut foam. 

To use the gimmick, you will have to split cards; it actually takes two split cards to make the final loaded card. I know many people loathe card splitting, and honestly, it has gotten harder with the new decks of bicycle cards, but there is a bonus tutorial that goes over card splitting in more detail. The best advice is to sit and make batches of the cards. Splitting the cards is definitely the most time consuming part. They say the reset only takes a minute, and while this is true, it’s only true if you already have batches of cards made up. 

Loading the split card into the gimmick is very quick and easy. Two methods are taught. Once the gimmick is loaded, you have to load the deck which happens in two steps. Personally, I’ve found it nearly impossible to remove the deck if it’s a full deck in the box. It’s quite tight and tricky to load and remove. I HIGHLY suggest removing 4 or 5 cards from the deck. This makes the removal of the deck much easier. 

Once the box is set, you are ready to begin. I think the biggest question many of you will ask is, “How fast is the load?” To answer this question, I have made a video showing the load from 4 different pockets and one that happens out of the pockets altogether. The video also discusses some tips and tricks I have found from playing with it.

Finally, the routine that is taught is a proposition type of routine. A bill is borrowed and signed. The performer says he will demonstrate three games and if they win, they get their money back. For the first game, the performer takes the bill and hides it in one of his hands. The spectator tries to guess which hand the bill is in. They either fail or get it right. They take their bill back. Next, three cards are removed from the deck: the two Jokers and the Queen of Hearts. They are told the Queen is the money card, and to keep their eyes on it. The three cards are turned facedown and the spectator makes a decision on where they think the Queen is. They get it wrong. They hold on to the Queen, and the performer takes their dollar back from them. For the last game, the performer squeezes their bill in his fist and asks the spectator who has the bill. They guess the performer, but when he opens his hand, the money is gone. He informs the spectator that THEY are actually holding the bill. He asks for the “money card” back and rips it open to find the signed bill inside.

I think this routine is a great jumping off point. The best thing about it is that it switches the bill easily in the beginning which means they get to hold “their bill” even after their actual bill is loaded in the card. I think this is the most deceptive way to perform this. If you just do a false transfer vanish and then immediately stick the other hand in the pocket to remove the deck, I think they will know exactly when their bill got in the card. But if they are holding their bill the whole time even after the deck is out of the box, then they don’t stand a chance of knowing how or when the bill got loaded in the card. 

This routine is really just the tip of the iceberg. Since you can load any small, thin object, you can be super creative with this, and I’m sure many people will be coming up with fantastic routines for it. If you want to load something between the layers of a playing card in real time, this is the best solution. 

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