I think the highest praise I can give Shin Lim is that his routines shouldn’t work. They’re hilariously dramatic, verging on overwrought, and his musical choices channel near lethal levels of cheese. The way he performs oh so slowly while staring languidly into the middle distance like he’s in an aftershave commercial stops just shy of self-parody. I mean just look at the guy.

That’s a face that has transcended smug and entered some post-human era of vainglorious self appreciation. He should be insufferable. And yet, I adore him. He’s easily one of my favorite performers, and not just because his sleights are technically immaculate. According to his website, Lim thinks of himself as a “sleight of hand artist” instead of a magician, and while that might sound like marketing fluff, I think it’s very true. At his best, Lim doesn’t hide his sleights, in fact, he accentuates them with a little pause, a leisurely glance at the camera, a telling half smile tugging at his cheek. “Yeah, I just did that,” he says silently though splayed fingers, “wasn’t it marvellous?”

So yeah, I really like Shin Lim. Also, bad luck to every other magician on this episode of America’s Got Talent. 

Everyone seems to have bitcoin fever these days, to the point where wholly unrelated companies like Kodak and iced tea distributors are finding ways to cash in. Even magicians are looking to turn the volatile digital currency into cold hard cash by doing what they do best. Watch as Magic Degree takes a digital bitcoin from their iPhone and magically transforms it into cold, hard cash. Honestly, I’ll take the magic way over the volatile cryptocurrency market any day of the week.

Like any tool or skill, the power of sleight of hand can be used for good or evil. And while fooling people is perfectly fine when magicians use illusion to entertain, it’s a whole other issue when people use this power to line their pockets with ill-gotten gains.

The latter happened in mid-December at a Walmart in Sarasota, Florida. In a report by Florida NBC affiliate WFLA, a woman used misdirection and sleight of hand on a hapless cashier to confuse them then pocket hundreds of dollars in cash. You can see exactly what happened in the security video posted to WFLA’s Facebook page, embedded below:

In order to find out exactly what the con artist did to get away with this crime, WFLA found local Sarasota magician Toby Ballantine and showed him the video.

“She has a move and she’s doing the move over and over,” he tells WFLA while watching the surveillance footage. “I think she got away with it.”

While Ballantine notices the woman’s talent for misdirection, he is sure to set the record straight on what he thinks of this act: “It’s terrible, disreputable, and it has nothing to do with entertainment.”

You can check out the full video report and interview at WFLA’s website. Our advice to the perpetrator? Drop the life of crime and try being a magician instead; you’ve probably got a future in prestidigitation ahead of you. 

There’s more to magic—and how to describe it—than just calling everything a ‘trick’. That’s why we’re highlighting and exploring important terms, concepts, and ideas every week with The Definition of Magic on GeniiOnline.

A magician holds up a single coin between two fingers. She waves her hand over it, says a few nonsense words, and suddenly, the coin is gone—vanished from this world entirely. Or, she’s probably stuffed into a coat pocket when you weren’t looking. Until magicians figure out how to bend the physical realities of space and time, they’ll simply have to make do with practicing their sleight of hand.

The word ‘sleight’ is derived from the Middle English word ‘sleghth’, which in turn was derived from the Old Norse word ‘slœgth’, which means ‘cunning’ or ‘skill’, and the phrase has been used to describe trickery with the hands for nearly as long. Other words for sleight of hand include ‘legerdemain’, a word derived from the French phrase léger de main (literally translated as ‘light of hand’), or ‘prestidigitation’, a word derived from French (preste = ‘nimble’) and Latin (digitus = ‘finger’).

Sleight of hand can mean a lot of things. It can mean hiding an object, moving objects around, or even giving the illusion that you’ve done these things. It can be done with cards, balls, cups, coins, dice, even vegetables—anything that can be easily manipulated and moved without much notice. Magicians can palm cards from the deck, or perform a ‘pass’, which makes the audience think the object has moved from one hand to another even though it’s stayed in exactly the same place. As the magician performs sleight of hand, they’re often gesticulating and engaging the audience in playful banter—known as ‘patter’—both of which are designed to keep the viewer’s mind as distracted as possible so as not to see the secret movements behind the trick. There are many ways to perform sleight of hand, and all of them require lots and lots of practice.

The important thing to remember is not all magic is sleight of hand and not all sleight of hand is magic. A lot of stage magic for example, with its large, elaborate contraptions, isn’t built for sleight of hand, especially since the performer is dealing with a larger audience than a close-up or street magician. And less scrupulous card sharps wouldn’t necessarily consider themselves magicians, exactly, but they use many of the same skills a magician would—palming, counting cards, etc.—to pull one over a card dealer. (Because of this, many known magicians are actually banned from casinos. Poor Derren Brown.)

For examples of some impressive sleight of hand, check out these videos:

The incomparable Cardini shows off his skills with a variety of props in this vintage video.

Yann Frisch’s cup and ball routine has to be seen to be believed.

Here’s Steven Bridges messing with two people’s heads with a bunch of different kinds of sleight of hand card tricks.

This video is a two-fer of ring tutorials brought to you by Chris Ramsay. The first one is courtesy of Nevin Sanchez, and it’s the perfect example of a simple trick that’s elevated through loads and loads and loads of practice. After that, Chris demos an elegant way to use a ring to help force a card, as long as you have a good enough light source to cast a shadow. It’s the kind of element you can add to loads of other tricks to class them up a bit, or at least make a time force feel a “little less fishy.”  

You’ve probably seen this trick before: a magician puts a card down on the table, picks it up in their hand, flips it back over, and reveals a completely different card. Mucking is a common technique gamblers use to cheat at cards, and 52Kards is here to teach you a modified version for magic. The effect is a little bit more showy than it would be for gambling purposes, but that’s the point—you actually want people to know you’re trying to pull one over on them. 

Asad from 52Kards brings us this tutorial for a technique that will allow you to peek at someone’s chosen card. It’s a good starting point for any number of effects and doesn’t rely on a force to work. The core technique is surprisingly simple, though you’ll still have to be smooth enough to make it look natural in the moment. 

Like all great art forms, magic’s foundation is based on an array of basic skills that are a great starting point for anyone looking to learn the craft. In this video, Matt Wayne (whose site no longer seems active) demonstrates two different ways to palm a coin, a building block of countless tricks. Of course, you can do this with more than just coins; anything the correct size will work, but coins are a natural starting point.

Don’t you just hate it when you take the cap off a pen and another pen falls out? Steven Bridges knows that problem all too well, as demonstrated in this hilarious and mind-blowing bit of sleight of hand.

All he wants to do is show how quickly he can put a cap back on a pen, and then he’s up to his beard in plastic and ink. Poor guy.

Sponge balls are incredibly versatile, but they can often rip and tear after extended use. Ellusionist has crafted a special set of four that will maintain their shape even if you accidentally park your car on one overnight. And hey, they don’t look like a handful of clown noses, which is always a plus.

Buy Workers Black Sponge Balls on Elluisionist

  • Category: Sleight of hand
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