The Elusive Illusive by Ben Daggers
Hot off the presses is Vanishing Inc’s newest book by Ben Daggers. This book offers routines perfectly fit for more formal closeup shows. I was unfamiliar with Ben Daggers, but the material in this book makes it clear that he is a pro who knows how to entertain his audiences. Each routine in the book has an engaging presentation that makes the magic more memorable and I found myself excited by many of the routines in the book.
The book starts with a Foreword by Pit Hartling and an Introduction from Ben Daggers before getting into the routines.
A unique gambling-themed routine in which you demonstrate your otherworldly ability to shuffle a deck and deal the four Aces with one hand while blindfolded. As you deal two poker hands, the first three cards to your spectator are Aces. But, you fail to find the fourth one. You then reveal in a shocking surprise that it’s because you’ve managed to deal it to yourself as part of an even stronger hand—a royal flush. All those hours practicing the one-handed shuffle finally go to good use as “Tribute” transforms the move from a mere fancy flourish into a pivotal component of an exciting routine.
This routine has an excellent structure that allows you to get the maximum use out of a one-handed shuffle. If you are proficient at the one-handed shuffle and want to feature it prominently in a routine, this is perfect for you. Personally, I have never gotten the knack of a one-handed shuffle down, so I won’t be using this, but I do like the way the routine is structured, as it contains multiple unexpected twists along the way.
From a spectator-shuffled deck, a freely-selected card is lost in the pack before being dealt from the center. You then extract its mate in the same fashion before finally dealing every card of the same color from the center in a dazzling display of skill.
This is a great center dealing demonstration with four phases. The deck is shuffled by two spectators, any card is named, removed, and cut into the center of the deck. The performer immediately deals the named card from the center of the deck, then deals the mate of the named card, then center deals half of the named color from the center followed by quickly removing the other half of the named color in an instant and flashy manner. I thoroughly enjoy this routine. It has a great structure that builds from plausible to impossible. It’s a center dealing demonstration that is punchy and to the point rather than long and drawn out, and I think that is one of its shining assets.
Thinking Like a Layman
This essay uncovers the problem of magicians trying to think like laymen and offers a solution for getting real feedback from genuine laymen rather than pretending to be one yourself.
Triumph for Two
A deck that has been shuffled face up into face down by the audience is divided in half between you and a helper. You both then race to see who can sort the cards the fastest. Unfortunately, they never stood a chance because yours is instantly fixed while theirs remains a mess. That is until a surprise ending where they somehow replicate your feat and magically make all their cards face the same way.
If you’ve read many of my reviews, you probably know I’m a big fan of the triumph plot. This is a fantastic version that relies heavily on the cull but it occurs during two well motivated moments. So if you don’t consider yourself the best at a full deck cull, this is a nice stepping stone since it’s broken down into two halves. One of the big pluses for this routine is that there is no selected card meaning you can add this into your set to vary the feeling of your card routines so they aren’t all “pick a card” tricks. The competition presentation works nicely with triumph, and the way this routine layers together makes it very deceptive. I’m a big fan.
Three coins pass from one hand to the other in the cleanest way possible, all with the apparent help of an invisible jacket.
This is a clean coins across routine. It starts with empty hands and ends with empty hands which is always a plus with these types of routines. It uses some classic methods and a few clever subtleties to make it appear extra clean. The presentation of an invisible jacket provides some light hearted comedy. It’s also relatively easy to do with no knuckle-busting sleights making it accessible even if you only have a little experience with coin magic. But don’t worry, that doesn’t detract from the deceptiveness. My favorite thing about this routine is that it is a rare instance of a coin routine that doesn’t feel flashy and doesn’t feel like there are too many extraneous movements.
Hands Off ACAAN
Multiple audience members help you mix a deck before it is isolated in a wine glass and a card and number are named. You then let the spectators remove this amount of cards themselves, eventually revealing that the chosen card is at the chosen number.
This is a fantastic ACAAN for closeup and/or parlor. It allows multiple people to shuffle and allows for genuinely any card and genuinely any number. The deck being isolated in the wine glass brings it off the table and allows it to play much bigger. Another benefit with this version is that the spectators also remove the correct number of cards from the wine glass. The routine is also very easy to do and deceptive. It shares some similarity to other ACAAN methods, but it comes together nicely here.
Ben Daggers’ Drop Shuffle
A perfectly choreographed and casual full-deck shuffle that genuinely looks and feels as if the deck is being legitimately shuffled. It’s one of the most convincing complete deck false shuffles you’ll ever see and is surprisingly easy to do.
I really like this. It feels completely casual and haphazard, and I would be willing to bet that everyone who sees it will be completely convinced that the deck is not in a known order. It’s easy to do, and it has some psychological ploys that make it truly seem that you don’t care about the cards at all. I’ll use this for sure.
One Track Mind
A member of your audience is revealed to be a shuffle-tracking master that successfully finds a named four-of-a-kind from a shuffled deck.
This one is quite unique. It is performed FASDIU. And it has a highly entertaining presentation that gives the spectator all of the credit. It is essentially a technique that allows you to perform 4 classic forces on your spectator back to back from different parts of the deck without any breaks. That may sound like a bad thing, but it’s better than it sounds. The presentation adds the perfect pressure to insist they choose the right card each time, and the system in play ensures there’s very little for you to think about in the moment. It does require a couple of faro shuffles, but those fit into the theme of shuffle tracking. If I perform this routine, I would certainly use the presentation given, however, you could use this technique to force four cards if you have a need for that.
On The Classic Force
In this essay, Ben takes a look at the classic force (fitting, since the last routine required four of them.) He brings up The Jerx who has been arguing against using a classic force for a while now. Ben believes that the classic force still has a place—especially if you want the force done quickly. He then provides some pointers and a few presentation ideas using the classic force.
An engaging routine that elevates the “Do As I Do” plot into a memorable piece of magical theater that can play for audiences of any size.
As the description says, it’s the classic “Do As I Do” with little added in terms of methodology, but the effect plays much larger due to the presence of a glassless mirror. This provides ample opportunity for fun, engaging, and memorable moments within an otherwise rather forgettable card trick.
This is a variation on the previous trick. This version ends with the performer and spectator revealing that each of their cards match. It requires a deck switch, but it happens at a moment where all focus should be off of the deck entirely.
OPOD (Outjogged Pushoff Double)
A natural, tension-free double turnover that eliminates the need for a get-ready or to hold a break. The relaxed movement creates an extremely convincing illusion of a single card. This is destined to become the double lift of choice for many readers of this book.
This one is a bit knacky and requires you to develop the feel for it, but I do really like it. The biggest thing it has going for it is that it feels much more loose than traditional push offs. The best moment is when the outjogged card is flipped back face down; in that moment, the card appears so singular that it may even fool seasoned pros.
An exciting routine in which you showcase how a magician could use their unique skills to cheat at a card table. You hide cards invisibly in the palm of your hand and demonstrate how you can quickly glimpse any card. The routine culminates with a stunning kicker where, as a tongue-in-cheek exposé of card marking, you make the backs of every card change color.
This is one of the more sleight heavy routines in the book, but it is one of the better color changing deck routines I’ve read primarily because there is no over proving of the color of the deck. This routine has no overt signals that would show the deck is going to change colors later (like a Hindu shuffle that keeps showing the back of the cards.) For this reason, I think the color change would have taken me by surprise. While the routine is more sleight heavy, none of the sleights are too complicated putting it in the reach of most cardmen.
In this essay, Ben proposes that recycling your presentations may be the thing you need to breathe new life into a routine.
A zany, slightly over-the-top routine in which you demonstrate how you can use all five of your senses to perform incredible feats of skill and magic. Thanks to some unorthodox props, your spectator is then able to replicate them.
I have a soft spot for routines that use the five senses as a presentational hook. I think it is instantly engaging, and it creates a framework people can grab onto. The ability to allow the spectator to also use THEIR five senses is a big bonus here. The props that are used also practically guarantee this routine will be cemented in your audience's minds. It does require a memorized deck, but this is a real showpiece that could be the centerpiece in a closeup set. This is one of my favorites in the book.
Illusion of Control
A selected card is controlled in just one shuffle to a spectator’s desired location in the deck. You then control the cards of the same value in a similar fashion to any named position in the deck. Finally, the whole deck, which was undeniably mixed up just a moment prior, is shown to have returned to perfect order.
It’s hard to beat the strength of a shuffled deck being returned to new deck order. I have run into spectators years after performing this type of routine for them, and they can vividly remember the trick where a shuffled deck became sorted. This is a really great version of it. It requires several perfect faros, second deals, and bluffing, but those put together create a routine that is hard to ignore. It does require a full deck setup, so this is best performed after a deck switch of some kind. The deck being in new deck order will come at a total shock because it comes completely out of left field. It seems like a rather simple demonstration of shuffle tracking before it gets wild. The spectators are also able to look at the very mixed deck before it becomes in perfect order. The middle phase is the weakest since it requires pure bluff of the skill being demonstrated, but the bluff is deceptive thanks to the apparent mixed nature of the deck. I like the routine, and I may use it.
A beautiful piece of coin magic wrapped up in an amusing and fascinating tale. Special elixirs from various countries allow you to unlock your ability to visually transform coins into a different currency.
This is the routine Ben has used to open many of his close up shows. It is a quirky take on a Wild Coin routine that provides plenty of entertainment value and gets the audience acquainted with Ben’s style. It uses many of the classic Wild Coin methods, but it is a well structured routine with an added prop that helps make the routine make sense. The prop also allows the routine to play for a larger audience and brings the “magic” away from just the coins. It is a great take on Wild Coins.
The book ends with an Outroduction.
Overall, I highly recommend this book. The routines are clean, easy to do, and presentations are my cup of tea: engaging, fun, and memorable. I hope we see more from Ben Daggers in the future.