THE ODDS AGAINST YOU -- With the new Steve Forte book now available, hundreds of pages of methods for cheating casinos are there for the reading. But the casinos are not merely reading the book and keeping their eyes open; they are proactive. I own stock in a company called Shuffle Master. Among its many products for the gaming industry, it offers an Intelligent Table System that includes a shoe that keeps track of each card dealt, a discard rack that identifies all cards discarded, and optical bet recognition devices. These coupled with its software application Bloodhound makes it possible to track the play and the skill levels of the casino's blackjack customers and their play strategies. And the casinos don't want you using computers or counting cards.
SPOOKY -- Lynetta Welch's "Ghostly Pocket Hank" not only raises the elegance bar in the "Glorpy" or "Haunted Hank" market, but she has dramatically improved the gimmick. That ghostly gadget now not only pivots out of the way but also hinges in the middle, so that the hank can be handled much more freely, then completely folded and put away. In two sizes and in several beautiful colors, for $52. Check for this and other fine fabric creations at www.fabricmanipulation.com.
When I was a nerd in high school, my friends and I would tell a math joke we thought was screamingly funny: The square root of four is one ... for high values of one. I am reminded of this as I post the March issue on April 2. Welcome to the March issue, for high values of March. A trip to Orlando abbreviated my magical interests for March, but you may find some value nevertheless in a look at Steve Skomp's new book, spooky fabric from Lynetta Welch, an old school slate from France, and why you probably don't want to learn to count cards at blackjack. Oh, yes, there is also a bit of March madness going on as the basketball season winds down, with number one Illinois set up as I type for the final game. Illinois was both my alma mater and my Hogwart's. Someone in the library acquisition committee was a magician, so it was in the Illini library that I first read such books as Stars of Magic and Greater Magic.
SPEKTAKULAR -- Steve Skomp took an 18-year haitus from magic (can some of you conceive of any hiatus from magic? I asked some knowledgeable friends that once and drew only blank stares.), and he's back with a wonderful new book of great ideas titled Devious Deceptions. It's nice that he has been away, because some of these items, in the modern magic market, could have easily been hawked in plastic envelopes for $20 a pop, or perhaps $30 a pop with a teaching dvd thrown in. Instead, he offers 26 items in a 64-page comb-bound book, most attractively priced at $25. Five of the items employ something Steve calls the "Steffi Gaff," similar to Bill Tarr's BT1 gadget (or was it BT2?). While I share David Regal's concern about being able to write on playing cards with normal ink (see his review in the April Genii), I must note that these are very clever uses of the gadget. A matrix effect with a torn, signed playing card is "a most interesting use of this principle." Among other favorites, I loved "Terror in Tiny Town" in which Playtime duplicates of three freely selected cards begin appearing in unusual places; "Monster in a Box," in which a bug-eyed monster peeks out of a cigar box; and several visually startling effects in which a full deck of cards shrinks to a Playtime-sized deck (or, for that matter, the case shrinks) or in which a full-sized deck changes to something else entirely, such as a candy wrapper or a dollar bill. Watch Steve's video demo at www.steveskomp.com in which two tens are dealt from a full deck and then the rest of the deck shrinks to a single miniature ace to complete a perfect blackjack hand. This is so cool it isn't even in the book, but you can do it if you learn the rest of this stuff. The book is attractively produced and full of good humor, a joy to read as well as a source of fun magic.
C'EST MAGNIFIQUE -- At the Magic Dream booth at WMS, the hot item was "Mastermind," a mental effect that allows you to hand out any three books, have someone concentrate on a few words from any page, and then you read his mind and write the word(s) on a slate. You can immediately repeat this with the other two books. This has always struck me as the best method for performing a book test, as all is so fair. The method will bring a huge smile to your face when you see it. The necessary gadget is beautifully made and a dream to utilize. Ah, but where to get it? I paid $159 at WMS, but these guys are from France. Hook up with someone who reads French and check out the details at www.magicdream.fr, en francais.
Little Egypt Magic is the erratically updated web site of Steve Bryant, spawned (the site, not Steve) by a former internet magazine known as The Little Egypt Gazette/for magicians only.
Steve Bryant is an obscure magician and writer who generates this site from a computer in Bloomington, Indiana. He frequently journeys to and performs magic in Little Egypt, the local name for extreme southern Illinois, where the towns bear such names as Cairo, Thebes, and Karnak.
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