When I was six years old, my older brother and I convinced our mom to take us to the magic shop in the next town over. The shop was small, dingy, and cluttered with books on how to pick pockets, special effects makeup and masks, and the props for magical illusions we thought only existed in our imaginations. During our first visit, we were hooked. Soon my brother and I were performing at birthday parties and local summer camps, raking in tens of dollars with every show; money that, of course, was funneled right back into the magic shop for more tricks.
I’m a high school teacher now, and while my brother and I haven’t performed in over twenty years, we’re both still pretty handy with a deck of cards. And do you know who loves card tricks? High school students.
Every year on the last day of school, I show all of my students how to tie a bow tie. If there’s any time left at the end of the period, I get out a deck of cards and rattle off a few tricks. About five years ago I was in the middle of a card routine when the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen walked into my classroom. She worked at the school and needed to talk to me about a student. She hung around for a few minutes, watching my sophomores yell and (try not to) swear in amazement at my sleight of hand; we talked about the aforementioned student; and then she left.
Fast forward to today: we’re married. This is not to say that a few cards tricks is an easy way to land a wife. I mean…not exactly. But to hear my wife tell the story, what attracted her to me (aside from my dope card skills) was watching me interact with my students, seeing the joy that I got from their wonder and curiosity.
Magic is fun, it’s lighthearted, and it’s a great way for your girlfriend (or soon-to-be girlfriend) to see that you’re awesome with kids and don’t take yourself too seriously (unlike the stiffs she’s dated in the past). Magic is one of those odd happy-medium hobbies, though. Screw up a trick, and you look like the guy who always sat by himself at lunch time in middle school. Practice your tricks too much and you’ll in fact be the guy who always sits by himself at lunch in the office. An easy rule of thumb is that unless you’re a professional, save your magic tricks for your nieces and nephews, the kids in the church youth group, or the peewee hockey team you coach.
Here are a few tricks to get you started:
The French Drop: Your First Sleight-of-Hand Move
Sleight of hand means that you’re not using any gimmicks or setups. You’re doing all of the work with your hands and a little misdirection. The French Drop is the first magic trick I ever learned, and it taught me that magic is thirty percent trick, and seventy percent presentation. Practice this move to the point that it becomes second nature.
The Magic Matchbook: Because Simple Items Make for the Best Tricks
The Magic Matchbook is great because 1. The setup is quick, 2. The matchbook fits in your pocket, and 3. Once you’ve set it up, you can use the same matchbook several times before you need to retire it.
The 6-9 Toss: The Card Trick That Anyone Can Perform
I’ve literally never had anyone (kid or adult) figure out the secret to the 6-9 Toss. Kids love this trick because they get to participate, and the effect is simple and immediate. Practice the toss a few times before you perform it: you want a firm grip, but not so firm that the cards can’t come loose.
The Top Force: Now We’re Getting Tricky
Honestly, the Top Force takes some practice. The trick is to make your wrist rolls fluid and natural. If your movements are jerky or abrupt, it’ll raise eyebrows. The Top Force is a convenient segue into other tricks as your repertoire expands. So just like the French Drop, practice until it looks like you’re not even trying.
The Classic Color Change: Yes, You Will Change Lives
The Color Change sits perched at the top of my favorites list. It’s fast, smooth, and visually stunning. Performed correctly (and at the right angle) it’s nearly impossible to figure out. Keep in mind that for this trick, you’ll want a relatively new deck of cards (and make it a Bicycle deck; their design puts an invisible air pocket between each card, allowing the cards to glide like butter on a roll).