Handcrafted Card Magic — Volume 3 by Denis Behr

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REVIEW BY MICHAEL CLOSE

Denis Behr is a talented German magician who has presented several fabulous gifts to the magic world. The first gifts are his enormously useful websites, conjuringarchive.com and conjuringcredits.com. I made extensive use of both sites while doing research for my new ebook, Thriving on a Riff. They saved me many trips up and down three flights of stairs to check a source in my library.

Denis has also gifted some wonderful routines to card magicians with his Handcrafted Card Magic series. The first two books are exceptional; consequently, I was delighted to learn that a third volume had been released.

Physically, Handcrafted Card Magic Volume 3 matches the earlier volumes: 6 x 8.5 inches with ninety-two pages. The material also maintains the standard of excellence set by the first two books, with gambling demonstrations, routines utilizing interesting stacks, and a couple of effects incorporating gaffed cards. The skill level is high-intermediate; it is assumed you have sleights like the bottom deal, the faro shuffle, and various false shuffle in your toolbox. (But if you don’t, do not despair. Denis offers some interesting thoughts on the notion of “difficult” things. I’ll have more to say about that at the end of this review.)

Routined Arith-Mate-ic is a coincidence routine based on an Alex Elmsley idea. A clever stack does all the work for you. With the exception of a false shuffle and a false cut, there is no sleight of hand required. Denis explains an easy way to get into the stack from Tamariz stack order. Those of you who create your own routines should note how Denis uses the idea of “artificial progression through conservation” (a term coined by Darwin Ortiz) to apparently ramp up the impossibility factor through the three phases of the routine.

The Extended Gambling Demonstration is just that – a multi-phased sequence of increasingly amazing card control. The performer culls out a four of a kind during some riffle shuffles, followed by riffle-stacking the four cards for a four-handed game. Then, a suit is named and the performer stacks a royal flush to fall into a named hand. The routine concludes with the production of all four suits in order. This routine requires card handling ability, but as Denis states, “the prearrangement of the deck does the heavy lifting.”

Mating Season is based on one of my favorite routines, Ed Marlo’s A Matching Routine. (My take on this routine can be found in The Paradigm Shift Volume Two.) Denis takes this effect in a different direction; two of the three phases of his routine were new to me. A previously unpublished Pit Hartling idea makes the final phase a stunner. Denis also explains how to get into the required setup from Tamariz stack order.

If you need to absolutely, positively force a card in a manner that seems completely fair and above board, check out The Dark Force. The spectator handles the deck throughout, reversing a single card in the deck while the cards are held under the table. The reversed card is forced. A gaffed deck does all the work. Smart readers will file this away for the time they need to completely blow away some big shot.

On the Bottom Deal is a technique based on Ed Marlo’s Block Control Bottom Deal. If dry hands are a problem (as they are for me), this technique is worth experimenting with.

Mr. Luckiest is the other gambling routine in Volume Three. A spectator shuffles the deck. The number of hands of poker to be dealt and the designated winner are chosen by the spectators. The magician deals the requested number of hands. The designated winner gets four Aces. This is repeated, but a spectator both shuffles and deals the cards. The performer wins with a royal flush. Many useful strategies are explained in this routine.

Photographic Memory is the most intriguing routine in the book. The magician is apparently able to memorize the order of a shuffled deck of cards, first by discovering a card that has been moved (ala Moe), then by discovering the card that has been taken out and hidden by a spectator. In case anyone doubts the veracity of the first two phases, the magician proves he can actually memorize the cards; this claim is backed up by photographic (on a phone) verification. A gaffed deck accomplishes most of the work, but even knowing this, the principle that allows for the third phase baffles me. I don’t have the necessary deck at hand to try this out, but I’m going to go to the trouble to prepare one. This is a truly stunning effect.

Next, Dennis offers a handling for the selection and control of cards in a multiple-selection routine. After nine or ten cards are selected, the cards are returned to the deck and one of the spectators shuffles the cards. The magician immediately finds all the selections.

The final routine is Haunted Herbert, in which Herbert the Trained Rubber Band finds a selected card and its three mates by causing them to emerge from the tabled deck (ala the Haunted Deck effect). A gaff handles all the work. You can probably find online videos of Denis performing this. It’s a fooler.

The book concludes with an interesting story from world-class pianist Martha Argerich about how to psychologically approach learning “difficult” material (music, sleights, etc.). I had read similar advice, but I don’t recall who suggested it. The idea is not to look at something as difficult; instead, think of it as being “unfamiliar.” Mastery, therefore, becomes the process of the fingers becoming accustomed (familiar) with the notes. This may, of course, take time; but during the practice time your brain won’t be sabotaging you by reminding you what you’re doing is really hard.

Handcrafted Card Magic Volume 3 is a great little book. If you love card magic, it should be in your library (along with the previous two volumes). Also, if you’d like to see Denis perform this material flawlessly, pick the four-DVD set, Magic on Tap, available from Denis's website or from www.vanishingincmagic.com.

— Michael Close

Handcrafted Card Magic — Volume 3
Conceived, written and illustrated by Denis Behr
English language, hardbound with dustjacket,
5.8 x 8.3 inches, about 90 pages
Available from: www.denisbehr.de/shop
Price: 30 Euros

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