What are the best tricks?

Many magicians ask me what are the best tricks. I just show them sponge ball rabbits with the black rabbit baby ending. Because you know… that’s just not really PC.

But if we take that trick out of the equation, I would have to say that my friend Eric Hu yesterday told me something very enlightening. Here is his quote in all the “quote” glory.

The best tricks you are do are the ones you can’t practice.

Very bizarre thing to say about magic. Think about, tell me why this sentence makes sense. Tell me why it doesn’t. I’ll tell you the answer to why I feel this statement is very strong.

-Tony C.

Posted: September 20th, 2010
Comments: 11 Comments.
Comment from Harris Ansari - September 20, 2010

because u get so good at that trick u simply cannot practise it anymore….thats my thought


Comment from Keith - September 20, 2010

Hey Tony,

I agree with it to a degree. It makes me think of ‘the trick that can’t be explained’ because the things you can do because of the situations you get your self into, you can’t practice. However, you can practice and perform so much that those instances occur more frequently and train yourself how to respond to them and realize that they are there. I agree because those things that are one in a million chances only come around so often, which allows you to create a truly unique experience for your participant. That’s something you can’t practice that, but you can practice how to respond to those situations. If you know how to use a variety of tools well, this gives you access to more situations in which you can perform and respond to. Every move has a unique design and purpose, a specific moment in which they should be used. In practicing those, and having more in your tool box you have more opportunity.




Comment from Keith - September 20, 2010

Also, I disagree with Harris. There are many pieces that I may not practice anymore, but I still workshop those pieces in performance by tweaking small details. Just because you don’t practice it doesn’t mean it isn’t a finished product.


Comment from William Phung - September 21, 2010

What seperates a magician from a guy who does tricks?

Do not miss the point of Eric Chen’s statement and fall into the role of the move monkey who believes that the greatest tricks are the insignificant tid-bit illusions we learn from our beloved books. The best illusion, the best trick is the impression we leave on our audience as performers, through the greatest medium of all,the human personality. To paraphrase Chaplin:
“Personality transcends all.”

The little nuances and the little “tricks” that form our personality far outweigh all our pasteboards, coins and other juvenile gimmicks we have in hidden in our pockets and up our sleeves. With the above, practice is necessary of course to ensure a success as a trickster but if you want to improve as a magician, an artist, and by automatic extension a human being, don’t attempt to only practice passes, palms and false transfers, because well,you may just end up designing a trick that only fools one person: you.


Comment from Ryan - September 21, 2010

Hey Tony,

This is true to a degree but sometimes when your doing a trick mistakes happen and this can put you in a situation that you can never prepare or practice for. Your friend Eric is right though because when those mishaps happen you learn to get out of them and that could be the best trick ever to an audience member that is watching it. Even though you know you did something poorly, to them it is hopefully a miracle and the greatest trick they have ever seen.This quote that was said by your friend Eric can really go either way. If you can relate to a situation where this quote is relevant, it does not sound so unethical.

Thoughts and Feedback?



Comment from eric - September 22, 2010

We were sitting at New China Express with some of Johnny’s friends (a few girls from a hip hop dance team and some guys). You were practicing your muscle pass with your liberty coins and one of them accidentally lands in one of the girls’ jacket pockets. You grab her attention, do a coin production and simple vanish, snap your fingers, and tell her to check her pocket, and she goes crazy.

This is a situation where the best magic tricks just kind of sneak up on you and present themselves at the right time. Now of course it isn’t a perfect answer, as if you had not practiced your sleights, you not have been able to recover.

However, it is also in your character. Others might have just asked the girl to return the coin and said “sorry”.

Paul Newman, in the movie “The Color of Money,” says, “be a student of human moves.” I think this is a great saying, but in our case, not just “human moves,” but “be a student of how the world moves.” Be able to adapt, create something from nothing, or something from barely anything. Learn to lead, develop, mold, shape, form, etc… the situation around you to work for you etc… Not something you can practice, just something you have to be aware of.


Comment from Eric Hu - September 23, 2010

Interesting responses. By the way, my last name is Hu, Tony.


Comment from Charles - September 25, 2010

I agree with that statement.

Or, I agree with my interpretation of that statement… that the strongest magic is the magic you create that incorporates the random crap going on around you. You can’t practice what other people say, when other people drop a tray of glasses, etc. But if you’re sensitive to all that other stuff and incorporate it into your presentation, you create something strong.

And it’s strong because the audience can’t put a box around it, and divide the trick from the rest of the world.

An example of what I mean, albeit a small example:

I was recently doing an oil and water type trick for someone. I started by separating the red cards from the black cards and Zarrow shuffling them “back together.” Just after I finished the shuffle, the spectator’s friend walked in and sat down.

Instead of continuing with my usual patter (“… gee, I shuffled the reds and the blacks together, and presto, they’re separated again!”), I greeted the guy and said something like “A second ago I separated the reds and the blacks, but I just shuffled them together. But since you showed up so early in the trick, we can just start over…” and snapped my fingers over the deck. Presto, they were separated.

I got a MUCH stronger reaction than I usually get with the regular patter. And to further emphasize that this magical “restart” really was a random, unanticipated thing, I avoided going into oil and water. I didn’t want the spectators left with the idea that I was about to do go forth and separate reds and blacks over and over.

Rather, I transitioned into Out of This World, saying something like “The reds and blacks are separated, but I’ll shuffle them together a few times [doing bona fide riffle shuffles, not Zarrows], and it will be your job to sort them out again…”

OOTW also got a great reaction (as it always does), but I think the restart left a bigger impression, because I reacted to something beyond my control, rather than executed a script. An awesome script, to be sure, but a script nonetheless.


Comment from Andre - September 29, 2010

Charles summed it really well. I’m not just being lazy and piggybacking someone else’s post, he jut put it very well and I share a lot of the same idea’s, especially about being aware of your surroundings.


Comment from Christopher - January 5, 2011

I agree with what’s been said already. The best magic one can perform is magic that looks like it’s not a performance, but just actually happening. By taking advantage of the situation as it presents itself, one can create miracles simply because the spectators will have no way to explain what just happened, due to the unique nature of the situation.

“No, it wasn’t set up. We didn’t even know we were going to that bar and that dude had no clue who Tony was before hand.”

“It can’t be a trick, he didn’t do anything! We were sitting in Starbucks and BAM!”

etc, etc.


Comment from David Kuraya - June 7, 2012

I love that, Tony.
“The best tricks you DO are the ones you can’t practice.”

Magic is a performance art. We do it for people, not the mirror. Certainly, the best magic I “do” happens when I am working. It sometimes happens spontaneously. Sometimes it happens because I know what works. But it CAN’T happen without the audience. Frankly, the polished magician should already be well practiced the same way a violinist has to know how to hold a bow before playing a musically stirring sonata.

In the Kaufman book, Brother Hamman challenges reader to find out “why the effect is accomplished, not just how.” He also encourages the reader to “study the scams the fit your personality, don’t just memorize them.” Lastly he says that “magical entertainment happens when the spectator’s mind is struck by the plot, the visual sting, and the performer.” We can’t do any of this without performing for real people…being the “performer.” Only then will we be performing well, as you say, “the best tricks.” Thanks for this. -dk