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EndersGame

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Reply with quote  #1 
Let me start with a confession: I love packet tricks.  I know that I'm not the only one, and there's a long tradition in card magic that gives attention to effects that play big with just a small set of cards.  Nick Trost was a master at it, and in recent times John Bannon has also devoted considerable attention to the genre that he likes to describe as "fractal magic".  Others who have made good contributions in this area include Paul Hallas, author of Small But Deadly (2005) and Still Small, Still Deadly (2010).

There's something appealing about the minimalism and directness of a good packet trick, and how it can pack quite a punch despite its small size.  Some of the world's best card tricks are packet tricks, including well-known ones like Color Monte (Jim Temple), B'Wave (Max Maven), Twisted Sisters (John Bannon), Ultimate 3 Card Monte (Michael Skinner), Wild Card (Frank Garcia), and Twisting the Aces (Dai Vernon).

While some packet tricks use standard playing cards, I also have a fondness for packet tricks that use novelty cards.  Once again, Nick Trost has made some wonderful contributions here, with tricks like Bigfoot and The Unknown Card.  Here are four fun packet tricks I recently picked up and have been having fun with.

Buzz Kill (John Bannon)

Overview: With Buzz Kill, John Bannon offers us a light-hearted brand of card magic.  This is immediately obvious once we see the custom cards, which feature amusing novelty artwork with a pesky fly that needs squashing.   This trick comes with the nine custom cards you'll need to pull off this small miracle, and like the other packet tricks covered here, they're the usual Bicycle quality cards.   You can also see the official video trailer here, and a performance of the Buzz Kill routine by John Bannon himself here.

Effect: This effect starts with you showing your spectator four cards, each with just the fly pictured on them.  Then you show four blank cards (the "fly-paper"), putting these on each of the fly cards.  Then comes the first surprise: you show that the flies have vanished from their cards.  And then comes an amazing final twist: the four fly-paper cards now each have a squashed fly on them!

Impressions:

Buzz Kill is very fun to perform, with an instantly engaging and familiar novelty theme.  It has the advantage that you can get people involved by having them slap the cards - especially children will enjoy this.  Fortunately it's not that difficult to do, and if Mr Elmsley is your friend, you'll have no issues in learning how to do this, with the help of the video instructions (18 minutes) you access via the online link provided with your purchase.

As part of the video tutorial, an alternative `fractal' routine  that ends examinable is also taught, along with a more difficult `oil-and-water' style routine.  But even the basic routine is very visual, and has a great surprise with the ending.  It's a fine example of the mileage you can get from a small number of cards, courtesy of the clever thinking of John Bannon.

Performance videolink

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Nothing But The Truth (Cameron Francis)

Overview: A case can be made that Nothing But The Truth is Cameron Francis' very best packet trick.  It's a great self-working effect that comes with five fully custom cards and a great lie-detecting theme that gives a lot of scope for interaction with your spectator.

Effect: After your spectator selects a card, you demonstrate your Lie Detector machine, which consists of some very specially printed cards.  You proceed to ask your spectator a series of questions about the colour and identity of their chosen card, and each time your remarkable Lie Detector reveals the word TRUTH or LIE correctly, depending on their answer.  As a completely unexpected twist, you turn over all the cards from your Lie Detector itself, and they turn out to be duplicates of their selected card!

Impressions:

The fact that this trick is basically self-working (courtesy of the Olram Subtlety) gives it immediate appeal, because it puts it within the reach of practically anyone, including amateurs performing for friends and family.  The main premise is a good one, and the concept of a lie detector time-tested favourite in card magic.  But it's the final kicker that especially has the potential to surprise and amaze.

As for the instructions: my copy came with a physical DVD, consisting of a little over 15 minutes of footage all up (plus some extras like an interview). These also include some advanced handlings (think: Elmsley) for those looking for more.  But the heart of strong magic is that it needs to be entertaining, and being able to interact with your spectators with a lie detector test is a time-tested plot that is a proven success, and that's really what this about, along with the unexpected final revelation.

Performance videolink

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Mixed Perception (Cameron Francis)

Overview: Also from Cameron Francis is Mixed Perception. Unlike the above routines, this doesn't rely on cards with novelty artwork, but uses cards that are apparently pulled from a regular deck.  It comes with half a dozen custom gaff cards.  You can see the official video trailer here.

Effect: Six cards are removed from a deck and made into a packet, from which your spectator selects one. Three of the cards in the packet are turned face-up and three face-down, and the first surprise comes when you then fan the packet to show that now the only face-up card is the spectator's selected card.  Even more surprisingly, when this card is turned over, it's shown to come from a different deck (you can switch in a card from an alternative if you prefer).  As a final twist, the other five cards are all turned up, and are all revealed to be completely blank on the other side!

Impressions:

Besides some written instructions, you also get access to a digital download with a video tutorial that's a little over 15 minutes long.  The moves involved with this trick require a little more card handling skill than the previous two packet tricks (no Elmsley Count though!), but the payoff can be worth it.  Even so, the difficulty level is at most intermediate, so it's still well within the reach of most people who already have some experience with card magic.

The strength of this trick is that it has three separate climaxes, each stronger than the last.  Together, these three phases produce a series of increasing surprises, giving the trick a pleasant sense of narrative.  From the perspective of the spectator, everything seems completely legit.  Obviously it doesn't end clean, but as long as you can manage your audience to prevent them trying to examine the cards, you're set to produce a small miracle.

Performance videolink

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Nitrate - Backwards B'Wave (Cameron Francis)

Overview: Can you tell that I like Cameron Francis' work?  Nitrate - Backwards B'Wave is the third packet trick I'm featuring here that Cameron created.  This self-contained trick uses just four cards, and is described as "Backwards B'Wave".  B'Wave is of course a reference to the classic packet trick from Max Maven, and it's  one of my all-time personal favourites given how clever and easy it is.  For me personally it's easily the packet trick that I've performed the most over the years, so the "backwards B'Wave" tag-line immediately had my attention and interest.

Effect: You show a packet of four cards, and have your spectator mentally select one of the Kings.  The first revelation happens when you show that all the cards are blank except for the one King they have selected.  With the selected King face-down on your spectator's hand, you make a magical gesture and it turns blank.  As a final and even more surprising twist, the other three blank cards are now revealed and shown to have turned into the other three Kings!

Impressions:

The start of this trick will look immediately familiar if you know how to perform B'Wave.  But from here the trick heads in a different direction.  Unlike B'Wave you can show the complete face of the selected King.  The next two magical moments then increase the magical impact.  First the King turns blank, and then finally there's the most surprising moment of all when the three blank cards turn into the other three kings.  As such this trick follows a good narrative with three phases of increasing strength.

B'Wave is typically presented as a mentalism effect, whereas Cameron approaches this as a magic effect, so it does have a different feel despite some similarities in plot.  Like B'Wave, it is a self-contained trick that you can carry around, and although it is not examinable, it has an easy reset.  Besides the brief written instructions that come with the trick, you also get access to a 16 minute video download.  This covers more than one count, but knowing just one of them is really all you need.  Much like B'Wave, it packs a lot into something that requires very little.  While this won't replace B'Wave for me, it's nice to have another option, and it has its own appeal due to the ways in which it is different.

Performance videolink

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Recommendation

I especially like the fact that all these packet tricks are well-constructed.  In each case there's a mini-plot, usually with a series of phases, each building on the last, and producing an even stronger and more impossible magical moment. 

I'd have a tough time picking my favourite, although I'm especially partial to Nothing But the Truth, given the high level of interaction it offers with your spectators.  For a novelty effect, Buzz Kill would be my top pick.  Of the last two effects, which fall more into the realm of traditional magic from the perspective of the spectator, I especially like Nitrate, given the punch that it packs with two powerful moments of cards magically changing in an impossible way.  And isn't that what packet tricks are all about: small in size, but big in impact!

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Dave Campbell

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Reply with quote  #2 
Those all hit me right where I live! -- John Bannon and Cameron Francis -- 2 creative guys I follow. I do not have Buzz Kill... dunno, just didn't seem right for me. I sorta stay away from effects that have 'special' cards -- like ones with pictures of flies, or dogs, or whatever... Paul Gordon seems to be doing a lot of that lately.

I also don't have "Nothing but the Truth", however, after reading your write-up I might be more interested.

The other two: "Mixed Perception" and "Nitrate" -- definitely have and like those -- Nitrate is a killer.

Thanks!

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diemaker

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Reply with quote  #3 
Good reviews.

Must confess I too love packet effects.

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Michaelblue

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Reply with quote  #4 
I recently purchased Stunner by Paul Gordoon, and it's really fun and magical. 
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Daniel Young

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Reply with quote  #5 
I love Nothing but the Truth and Nitrate, both really awesome.

Buzz Kill was quite fun to perform. But I would argue thats it just the flies changing from alive to squashed is what gets the reaction, not the rest of the "effect". I tried this by demonstrating a super quick version of it. Show 4 Alive flies (flustration count) and then SMACK, turn them over and they are all squashed... got equally good reaction, if not better 😉

Mixed perception I could never get on with... never felt right when I did it. So I abandoned it.

Stunner, by Paul Gordon, looks pretty enough, but those cards are begging to be examined! 😉

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Magic Harry

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Reply with quote  #6 
I mentioned this a while back possibly in another thread.
If the cards are not misprinted or novelty picture cards except double face or backs which the spectators are not aware of I introduce the cards by saying, “A lot of times people are fooled by card tricks because there are so many cards in a deck to follow. So I will make it easy for you by only using these 4 (or 6 or 8 or whatever cards).” This line justifies you pulling out a small wallet with just a few cards in it.
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Daniel Young

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Reply with quote  #7 
When I was younger I used to carry B'wave around with me, or twisted sisters or Entourage or smething. If someone asked if I could do something, I would do a packet trick, with the justification that it was something I was currently working on, and so I just had those cards on me, rather than carrying around the whole deck. (i mean, in reality, I probably had a couple of decks in my bag or something. but they didnt know that). So if I wasn't in the mood to do a lot of magic, but still wanted to show them something, I could do that, as it would be quick and easy. Plus they couldn't ask to see more, as supposedly I only had 4 cards on me 😉
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RayJ

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Reply with quote  #8 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Daniel Young
When I was younger I used to carry B'wave around with me, or twisted sisters or Entourage or smething. If someone asked if I could do something, I would do a packet trick, with the justification that it was something I was currently working on, and so I just had those cards on me, rather than carrying around the whole deck. (i mean, in reality, I probably had a couple of decks in my bag or something. but they didnt know that). So if I wasn't in the mood to do a lot of magic, but still wanted to show them something, I could do that, as it would be quick and easy. Plus they couldn't ask to see more, as supposedly I only had 4 cards on me 😉


Lee Asher once had as a goal, performing an entire act with only 4 cards.  He was going to perform it at FISM.  He never completed his plans, but I'm sure Thunderbird and his Asher Twist were going to be highlighted.

I just posted this because 4 cards might be a limitation to some and not to others!
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James Nelson

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Reply with quote  #9 
A packet trick that I feel deserves an honorable mention is Trick-Kards from The Card Magic of Nick Trost. It uses special cards but they can be self prepared. It is fast, flashy and you get a lot of magic with a few cards.
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Sibex

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Reply with quote  #10 
Great choices. I especially love Nothing But The Truth.
For me, I carry B'wave, Color Monte, and Marked For Life. From a layman point of view, I still believe that Color Monte is unbeatable. I just don't think anything comes close with what you get from 3 cards. There is story, audience engagement, and a totally unexpected ending.
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Michaelblue

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Reply with quote  #11 
Daniel Young---Nobody asks to see the Stunner cards. Paul Gordon talks about a way to make it seem like you "may have done something."  And the cards are really well made. 

I understand the apprehension, though. It is a packet trick
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EndersGame

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Reply with quote  #12 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Daniel Young
When I was younger I used to carry B'wave around with me, or twisted sisters or Entourage or smething. If someone asked if I could do something, I would do a packet trick, with the justification that it was something I was currently working on, and so I just had those cards on me, rather than carrying around the whole deck.

Great post - B'Wave has been my "go to" effect for similar reasons; I usually keep those cards close at hand.

Quote:
Originally Posted by James Nelson
A packet trick that I feel deserves an honorable mention is Trick-Kards from The Card Magic of Nick Trost. It uses special cards but they can be self prepared. It is fast, flashy and you get a lot of magic with a few cards.

I'm glad you mention Nick Trost.  He's a genius when it comes to packet tricks, and the book you mention is particularly fantastic.  Good luck to those looking for a hard copy of it though - I paid quite a pretty sum getting a used copy on the secondary market!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sibex
From a layman point of view, I still believe that Color Monte is unbeatable. I just don't think anything comes close with what you get from 3 cards. There is story, audience engagement, and a totally unexpected ending.

I agree.  Color Monte is not something I've learned myself, but my son has mastered it, and I never tire of watching him perform it to people who have never seen it before.  It is definitely something that packs a huge punch, and has to be a strong contender for the best packet trick of all time, for the reasons you say.

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Daniel Young

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Reply with quote  #13 
Michael Blue --- They might not say anything. People hardly ever asked to see the Svengali deck when I had to pitch that. Doesn't mean they don't wanna check it out though. Have you ever done a double lift and shown an indifferent card, turned it face down and "changed" it to their selection? Have you never had anyone pick up that card and rubbing it to see if it changes again? Their mind didn't first jump to sleight of hand, it jumped to the conclusion that maybe its a special magic card. And they pick it up and play with it.

You're doing that, but with five cards... you don't think they wanna check those out? 😉 Something REALLY magical happened,  and I personally feel if they DON'T want to examine them , its because either they don't care or in their mind they have already "figured it out", i.e. some special cards that they wont be allowed to see, and they are too polite to ask.

If I placed down a copper coin of some sort on the table, I snapped my finger and it became silver... Would you not wanna check that out? Pick it up, look at it from both sides? Anything?

Now I don't know what suggestions Paul has, but does he make it seem like he did a move, and that stops them from wanting to examine the cards? Because they "caught" you doing the sleight of hand move? In their mind you've just given them the explanation they needed to figure out the trick.

I think its a great trick for this age of Zoom. And it could perhaps be incorporated in a bigger routine.

Anyway, this is not a review thread for Stunner 😉

All the best,
Dan
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Efendi

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Reply with quote  #14 
Some of my favourite: 
  • Entourage by Gordon Bean
  • Spin Doctor by John Bannon
  • Duplicity by John Bannon
  • Bring Me The Head of a Packet Trick by Mark Elsdon
  • Definitely Not Marked by Brent Braun
  • Peter Pellikaan stuffs using Hole
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Rob2100

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Reply with quote  #15 
I have always really liked Tommy Wonder's Wild Card packet routine. Great presentation.
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