Misdirection & The Classic Pass

Misdirection is weird thing. We always hear from our spectators “oh it’s all about misdirection - the hand is quicker than the eye”. They say this with a stupid grin on their face and you have to awkwardly chuckle back at them. Ugh. Our job is to make our magic feel as if there was no misdirection needed, and to not have the spectator think something fishy is going on because you have to do a secret move. The way we accomplish this is to make our effect flow smoothly without long pauses, awkward gestures, or overly obvious patter suggesting misdirection or something secret is taking place.


Think about the effects that you perform. What percentage of completing that effect successfully is based on misdirecting the spectator? At what point during your effects do you need slight misdirection? Knowing this is vital to understand this concept as a whole. With this being said, let’s take a look at how to properly use misdirection in our magic without having it feel like it. For instance, if I want to perform a pass and I feel my pass is not burnable then I would want the spectator to look up while I perform the sleight. The problem here is that most of us do the exact opposite. Before doing the sleight we are relaxed, we can properly speak to the spectator, and are natural (for the most part). It is only when we get ready to execute the move do we stiffen up, pause, look down at our hands, and do the move. How about we stop doing that? Ok, thanks. It is very important to be able to flow through our routine with the same level of naturalness, while at the same time understanding when to switch from your relaxed state to drawing attention to what’s going on . THIS is the way to properly misdirect the spectator in such moves like the pass or other similar moments. By understanding this, we can make times we need to misdirect never feel awkward, and have our secret moves fly by the spectator as if nothing happened. I think part of the reason we don’t naturally perform sleights like the pass or a top change is because of the way we practice. We practice these moves while looking down at our hands. We practice with no patter or no sense when in time do these moves take place. This leads to doing the same thing in performance without even realizing it most of the time. I urge everyone to take a look at your favorite tricks you perform, and pin-point the moves (if any) you need “misdirection” for. Then I would suggest practicing these moves without looking down at your hands and while paying attention to something else - maybe while having a conversation with someone. Train your mind to be active in another task while your hands do the dirty work. Train your fingers to become comfortable doing the moves at the same level as if you were paying full attention to them. This will ultimately rewire your body to not have that obvious switch of speaking to the spectator to pausing and looking down at your hands at the wrong time.


Now that you understand this concept, we can move on to the correct way of switching attention for proper misdirection. Let’s take the example of the pass once more. Here are the steps needed to execute the pass. 1. Have the selected card replaced onto the left hands packet. 2. Place the right hands top half packet on top of the left hands packet. 3. Obtain a break, 4.Get your fingers in the position to do the move. 5. Do the move. At this point is when usually most magicians switch their attention. In my opinion, the best time to switch the attention is between step 2 and step 3. While you’re replacing the right hands packet onto the left is when attention should be switched from your hands to your face. Step 3, 4, and 5 should be done while drawing attention and keeping attention on your face. Ask them a question at this point. One of the most obvious and overused line at this point would be “And you remember your card, right?” This requirers a quick “yes” answer and I don’t believe is the best line to use. I prefer something like “Can you do me a favor?” With this question, they are waiting for you to tell them what the favor is. While you ask this, correct your posture and straighten your back. Lift your head up and look at the spectator. You want eye contact at this point. This movement from you will cause the spectator to look up and relax as well. At this point, you want to complete step 3, 4, and 5 as you now tell them what the favor is. Say “please don’t forget the card, because then what would we do?” with a slight smirk.


By this point you’ve completed the move, and can even have time to set the cards down on the table. You’ve now naturally moved through the steps needed to control the card without that awkward pause. The pause while looking up at the spectator is consistent with what you are saying and it blends smoothly with what you are doing. Consciously being aware of the different moments of your effect and knowing when to correctly execute your attitude switch will ultimately lead to a more fluid performance overall. Most importantly, doing all this correctly will create the illusion in the spectators mind that no misdirection took place, which in my opinion brings your effects closer to magic rather than just “you tricked me!”.