Sleight of Hand.

Challenge #1 Ambitious Card Routine

Posted in Challenges by unseenforces on December 2, 2008

Every magician knows it.  Every magician has a version of it.  It’s the staple of any card worker.  Besides the routine being a playground to practice your amazing controls to the top, the routine has lost its magic.  Here are some problems I see with the routine in general.

  • Too many phases. I have seen magicians do up to 20 phases in a Ambitious Card routine.  First of all, It ruins suspense and surprise that we all love about magic.  Of course the card will come to the top… it has the last 19 times.  A friend of mine, Gary Au once told me in a drunken haze that in order for magic to become a miracle we can’t dilute it.  If Jesus H. Christ back in the days cured some person of their blindness (I know a method) it would be a miracle.  If he then turned and said “…and for my next act…” and performed the water to wine miracle (I know a method) then he would be lessening the impact of the first act.  I see it like this.  If the audience can only go from 1 to 10 on the WOW Scale®.  The first trick would usually be up to a 9 or 10 if they never seen good magic.  If you keep performing, then the audience will only have your other tricks to compare to on the WOW Scale®.  This is why I try not to perform to laymen when I have other magician friends around.  Instead of the audience saying “Wow that was great!” They say, “Tony Chang was clearly the best out of all you magicians.  Stop what you are doing please.”
  • The raping of the D.L.. Now don’t get me wrong this move is great.  It is basically in every crouch magic card trick known to man.  But the use of it in almost every phase of Ambitious Card?  I personally think using this sleight and showing the card coming back to the top is the BEST method there is.  Then why do it 5 times in a row?  You dilute the impact it has to give.

So here is my challenge.

Create a Ambitious Card Routine that only has three phases and the last phase is the standard D.L.. This means there is no D.Ls until the last phase.  I think it will be a good exercise to strengthening your magic without adding more phases.  Make those three moments last.  Make them different.  Make them connect together as a single piece of magic.

I will be posting my version in a week.  I have never given much thought to it, so it will be fun.  Also give some good patter with it.  If you talk about a puppy that lost his way home and the only way to bring him back to the “top” is to pet the deck like a dog… then I will kill you.  Magically of course.


22 Responses

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  1. eric said, on December 2, 2008 at 9:32 pm

    I used to do a simple ACR that used zero DLs, I dont do it anymore because there is no reason to not use a DL at least once (as you mentioned). A DL, when done well, presented well, and at the write time, is an effect all in itself, so not using it takes away from what the routine could be.

    I simply did the DL less routine merely as a challenge. So I will link you a vimeo of my modified version sometime over the weekend! Bring it!!!!

  2. Daniel said, on December 2, 2008 at 10:11 pm

    Just started playing around with this, and I think I’ve got some good ideas…I put a routine up when I have the chance.

  3. Lucas said, on December 2, 2008 at 10:43 pm

    Another issue I have personally with the ACR is that it has no logical conclusion. Why did you stop making it come to the top? Because it got boring.

    For the last year or so, Ive been performing the same basic ACR. It’s something that differs from all the ACRs Ive seen. Personally, I only do 3 rises…using whatever method i feel like at the time, always ending with a tilt and a double…Cleanest way to finish it. From there I’ll deliver a line along the lines of “But you know…at this point people start thinking one of two things. Either a) the cards are all the same (spread the deck face up)…which they obviously arent…or b) I’m doing some crazy sleight of hand. I dont want you to think any of that is hapenning, so here, you push in the card”

    That leads into a full card to mouth routine consisting of 3 phases as well. First its a surprise card to mouth, followed by a visual one (a la Rick Merrill as taught in his lecture). The presentation here is generally something along the lines of that being “sleight of mouth” and I can actually pull their card out of the middle of the deck with my teeth. The final phase of the CTM section is a MCF (found in Expert Card Technique by Hugard and Braue, although I perform a variation of it found in the 2nd video of the Secret Sessions tapes) which is loaded into my mouth under the guise of doing the last phase again, and explaining how bad it looks if i miss.

    Now I realize I’m fairly shady about whats going on here and that you need to know what I’m talking about to understand any of what I’m saying, but yeah.

    So why does this routine work? Well it departs from the standard ACR. It starts off as such but turns around and takes it in a completely different direction. The ACR portion of it is short, but it follows logically into the next sequence. It also has a conclusion. I mean, the card ended folded up inside my mouth. It now has spit on it. What more can i do with that card– it’s ruined!

    So that’s what I’ve been doing for the last little while. Just some food for thought. Nothing I expect you to love, but it works for me.

  4. MethAddict said, on December 2, 2008 at 11:54 pm

    Gary Au hits the bottle?

  5. eric said, on December 3, 2008 at 2:49 am

    good post Lucas (I’m sad that I have never actually met any of you. Since I knew Tony back in Seattle, but now live in Tokyo >_<)

    One way that I try to deal with the conclusion and having it not be related to the whole “come to the top” idea of an ACR is, I set a different premise from the start.

    I don’t play too much on the “look, the card is back on top,” but I speak more to, and I emphasize more on the, “things arent what they seem.” Sometimes I express it as a mental thing and “your mind is playing tricks on you,” sometimes I make it completely just “magical” for the type of people who want to believe so, and sometimes I tell them straight on that I am doing slight of hand, and that anything is possible (this is more of a demonstration and showmanship thing, than a magic demonstration).

    What this does though for me is, it allows me to justify a card to wallet, card to mouth, card to shoe, triumph with card face up in middle, or even a signed card with back color change.

    Of course it all depends on who I am performing for at the time, but I feel one of my strong suits (partly due to the fact I am a teacher and am constantly in front of groups of people with a lot of experience on interacting with different people) is my ability to read people and adapt my presentation style to the crowd.

    That being said, when I perforam and ACR, I quite commonly avoid phrases like, “see, if I put it back into the middle, it comes back to the top,” but rather say, “it seems that the card is placed into the middle, and your mind tells you so, because you see it happen, but the mind can be tricky, and things are not always what they seem, because the card is still on top ‘turn over the card'” etc…

    Not only does this set a different ACR premise which allows more slights and variation on the phases, but it also builds up to each revelation, not taking anything away from the previous phases.

    Anyway, I just got a new video camera and will hopefully be putting up some performance videos or demo videos. The chances are they might be in Japanese, but I will sub them first and put em up on Vimeo afterwards.

  6. Chad Rees said, on December 4, 2008 at 1:39 am

    God damn Tony, I am so glad you started writing. Reading this makes me feel like i am cuddling with you all over again.

  7. Gary Au said, on December 4, 2008 at 6:14 am

    A few things…

    First… You’ve seen me drunk? Haha… Unless they started spiking the tea at that teahouse!

    Second… You totally got spammed.

    Third… Damn you Pratt.

    Fourth… Gosh, there goes my Pet-The-Dog-Home Version. 😥

    Uhh Fifth… I’m curious, why DL at the end? I get what you’re saying about reducing it’s usage, but a DL affords being one-ahead at the end. Why waste it? Unless you meant the last reveal is due to a DL that occurred at phase 2? Of course… you can always use it for the next effect…

    Sixth… Single phase baby! With a repeat if so desired!

    Seventh (Goddamn, do I ever shut up?)… I think Lucas hit on something that you didn’t mention. The 19 time phase is ass and I think less is better. (Man, remember when everyone was doing Daryl’s routine?) but you don’t really talk about ending big. Any thoughts on effective and totally not non-sequiter endings?

  8. unseenforces said, on December 4, 2008 at 2:56 pm

    I think its something about being pure with the card plot. A card that returns to the top. Sure I can end big by having the card appear in a cat’s asshole, but does it turn into something else? What is the link between having the card rise to the top and then going into your shoe? wa wa wa wahhh?

    I think the major problem is how to wrap the plot into something that makes sense and also allows you do the phases multiple times.

    I just wanted you guys to think about it and come up with something. Hopefully when I show mine it will make a little more sense into what I am getting at. I’m not saying I am the master of any of this, just my thoughts. Take it or leave it. simple. 😉

  9. MethAddict said, on December 4, 2008 at 8:08 pm

    Gary Au can do math?

  10. cleardeception said, on December 4, 2008 at 9:31 pm

    Yeah, hes asian. Jk

  11. Gary Au said, on December 5, 2008 at 12:22 am

    The pop-up card is when it’s over bro.

    Wait, I’m NOT asian? Whoa… Glad I read this thing. What the hell am I gonna do with all of my kimonos and chopsticks? Heh heh…

  12. unseenforces said, on December 5, 2008 at 12:29 am

    Nothing.. you aren’t Japanese… 😉

  13. Michael Feldman said, on December 5, 2008 at 1:52 am

    I agree with you Gary.

    The pop-up card is it. Even if you wanted to go on, spectators are usually too busy freaking out to allow another phase.

  14. Lucas said, on December 5, 2008 at 2:49 am

    Sure, but freaking out doesn’t mean “ending”. That’s why there are kicker endings.

    Tony, you ask what the link between the card ending somewhere else, and so I gave you my version. What I generally use after the first “surprise” CTM is something along the lines of “I jsut wanted to make sure you were paying attention” from there it becomes the rest of my CTM routine. I’m basically performing 2 routines, but linking them together.

    One of the better ideas I’ve seen for concluding a routine and what not would be Tyler Wilson’s Compost It from Dominatricks. The routine is based on the idea that a post it not with the word “Top” and their signature on it makes their card rise to the top (that’s a very simplified explanation, it’s much better then I make it sound.) But the way he concludes it is by adding an S before “Top” on the post it; effectively making it say “Stop.” At which point the deck vanishes with only their card and the post it left.

    It’s a nice little routine, fairly logical in it’s…illogicality?

  15. Gary Au said, on December 5, 2008 at 10:45 pm

    @Lucas: I thought the point of a kicker is to freak them out :P. That Tyler Wilson routine sounds really kind of cool. It’d be fun to end with a solid deception deck too haha. But again, illogical… but sorta not.

    I guess I just hate the belief that every kicker has to be some dramatic twist. It’s like how M. Night Shamallama made the twist ending so damn popular again, EVERYONE has to do it to the point where people expect a twist, which is kinda counter-intuitive isn’t it?

    Of course the other end of the spectrum is “well, when do you stop?”

    I think you stop when you’re at the peak. To me, the pop-up card is quite a peak. Twist endings are fun but I don’t think they’re a necessity for every trick, y’know?

    You could also take it too far. Like Daryl’s routine. “Sleight-of-hand proofing the deck by tying a rope around it?” Are you fucking kidding me? Like, sorry… I would file that under visual noise.

    The way you frame your CTM routine makes a lot to sense to me though. Reminds me of the routine Williamson does!

    I guess it all comes down to how you present it!

  16. Gary Au said, on December 5, 2008 at 10:45 pm

    @Tony: My facial hair, apparently, begs to differ. Heh heh.

  17. unseenforces said, on December 6, 2008 at 2:28 am

    Lucas: I didn’t mean to offend you if that what it felt like. You asked me what my purpose and that was my reason. Listen, if someone asks me to do a card trick and when I do ambitious card, I do Ammar’s version. The standard. Meat and Potatoes. What I am talking about here is just an exercise to explore the plot in general. In its purest form, it is a card rising to the top. Now how do we strengthen the impact of that while staying in that card plot.

    The card to mouth is fun. I like how you make it into something else. I just put this challenge up to make people think a little.

    Your inputs here are always welcome and it always gives me something to think about.

  18. Ben Train said, on December 7, 2008 at 6:42 pm

    As mentioned, one of the biggest advantages to a double is it sets you up for the next phase.

    That it mind-
    1. card shown in center- shift it second from the top. Double to show on top.
    2. Double turned over, placed in center. Show it’s returned.
    3. Place face-up into middle using tilt. Use “The Ripple” plus a one hand top palm to show on top.


    You get the fast rise for first phase (presented like dingle’s opening- how far down is it? 24? Lets try this a little slower…), second slow and open, third kick-in-the-face visual.

    If that won’t get you laid then you’re doing some wrong- which doesn’t surprise me.

    Oh, here’s three phases with the double setting up the end:
    1. Card signed, use Ricky’s Cherry Control (shout out!), show on top.
    2. Second deal, place in center. Turn over double to show its on top… and it’s changed to an indifferent card (ha ha!- so damn clever!). Color change. Back on top.
    3. Vernon’s pop up move. Or, if you wanna be a little different… Check out the rising sequence in New Era. Good enough it could be a theory 11 download.

    Don’t want the color change? Just do tilt instead of the second, or a bluff insertion to second from the top, then continue except minus the change.

  19. Lucas said, on December 7, 2008 at 7:17 pm

    Gary: The kicker is to freak them out AFTER they freak out the first time haha

    Tony: Don’t worry, I wasnt offended at all, I was just explaining that you can indeed (and that I do) meld together a ACR with something else. Personally (although I may be repeating myself here) I cant stand the standard ACR. To me there’s something un-inspiring about ending the routine just because it got the most visual or impossible as possible. For me, there has to be a reason to end the trick there, otherwise I feel that the end of the first trick should be routined into the next one which will eventually lead to a conclusion.

    When I perform, I basically have a bunch of mini-routines; a bunch of tricks that all flow into each other making a small routine of a few tricks. The reason this is done this way is from table hopping. I had to be able to end my session whenever it was called for, and still leave my audience with the closure of an ending. If you just do an ACR and walk away, while impressive, to me, there’s something missing there, you know?

    Granted, you’re talking about a straight ACR and how to make that better. For me, the only logical way to end it IS to change it into something else. End it with a deck vanish, or SOMETHING. Otherwise there’s no closure, and in my opinion, there’s no way to get that closure without routining it into the next trick. Personal opinion here of course.

    Glad you like reading my ramblings haha

  20. Ben Train said, on December 7, 2008 at 11:45 pm

    I’m not sure the rising-card premise fully exploits the AC’s potential. I think there is a MUCH more interesting way to approach it.

    But, I haven’t seen other people’s justification for WHY it’s important that the card rises to the top (why should they care?) rather then the bottom, or seventh from the face (which was Vernon’s original idea before the version he published in SoM… I can’t prove that though).

  21. Colin Mandel said, on December 17, 2008 at 1:54 am

    I do Paul Harris’ ACR found in Art Of Astonishment 1 in which it ends with the entire deck being stuck together, except for their card which sits loosely ontop of the deck. This is how I close my act. What more can you do with a deck of cards that is now just block. This routine only has three phases (atleast mine does) not including the killer finale which comes when they ask to inspect the deck. The best part is, there are no deck switches. If you don’t know this effects, you should learn it now.

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