top of page
  • Bill Wisch

"Those Bad Ole' Card Tricks" and "The Approach" by Bill Wisch

Original Publication Date: August 1999

Have you ever been told that, "most people don't like card tricks?" Or, have you ever felt some trepidation in approaching a person to perform close-up magic? If so, this entry of "The Slydini Legacy" is for you! These represent my humble opinons only. - Bill Wisch

Bill Wisch performs at Morley's Magic Shop in NJ

Those Bad Ole’ Card Tricks

By: Bill Wisch

You hear or will hear it said that card tricks aren’t for everyone and most people can’t stand them. I defy anyone to show me a good card trick that I don’t enjoy!

The emphasis is on GOOD!…a GOOD card trick.

The old line is “there are no bad tricks…just bad magicians.” In a sense I agree with that blunt generalization but only after several things are mentioned. First, there ARE no bad tricks…just boring…dull…lifeless…drawn-out…out-of-context…poorly presented tricks that only are bad because they are being performed with no purpose and/or involvement story, for the wrong person, at the wrong time, at the wrong place, with the wrong prop(s)…that’s all!

Second, a magical performer is only as good as his confidence will allow. When someone begins magic they get a true gift that doesn’t happen in any other art except magic…the ability to get results and mystify someone without knowing why or how. Why do you think they make gimmicks and box tricks? The prop will work the mystery itself and the performer will get most if not all of the credit. Lucky us, and I must say, I truly enjoyed that benefit when I first started out. However, once someone stays around for a while and discovers that there are many facets to this art that “ain’t” going to be easy and will be very time consuming, well then, that person must decide if it’s all worth it. I find that if someone knows they can handle any situation in their respective field then they are confident and do exceptional work. The same holds true in magic. Without confidence you’re going nowhere, Jack, and who wants to be a nervous wreck every time they stand in front of a spectator with a trick and a secret?

Well, before I get too far off track, let me mention still another thing…fit!

An effect must FIT a performer. When you try on a piece of clothing you notice how it looks and feels and then you make a judgment whether you like it or not, right? The same holds true in magic, but how many times do we just grab the first thing we see on the proverbial rack…put it on and then go off to the most important occasion of the year looking like the emperor in his birthday suit? And then we expect everyone to tell us how great our clothes look even though we make Emmet Kelly, Jr. look like he’s right out of a page in GQ.

I’ll say it again….I defy anyone to show me a good card trick that I don’t enjoy. In fact, I defy anyone to show a good card trick to ANYBODY that won’t be enjoyed! Everybody loves playing cards. They might have different reasons why but millions of decks of playing cards aren’t manufactured and sold every year without everyone wanting to use them, play with them or just marvel at what they can do for and with them. Everybody loves them!

One more thing…when you can do five GOOD card tricks that fit you and are simple to watch and perform with justification and emotional involvement included, just do one or two for any specific audience. When you can do five thousand, six hundred and forty eight GOOD card tricks that fit you and are simple to watch and perform with justification and emotional involvement included, just do one or two for any specific audience. Then do something else magical. After all, even though the emperor had a wardrobe fit for a king, he could only wear one birthday suit at a time.


The Approach

By: Bill Wisch

Approaching a person to do close-up magic is an art in itself. When you are a hired performer (as many who read these blogs currently are and aspire to be) it is your job to approach the spectator.

You’re loaded for bear…every pocket is ready and they’re playing your song. You actually have people in a room or place that you can perform some magic tricks for. Granted you don’t know if they’re going to like you, in fact they may be ready to chew your thumb tip off when you , heaven forbid, attempt to show them a trick. Everything’s up in the air. The question is, how can you keep present circumstances or situations from raining on your parade of mystery and pleasures of wonder? Very simple…perform something magical.

Slydini's approach was very simple. It was one word. "Watch". "Look." Two words he used often. These words "assume the close" that the person wants to see a magical effect. Much of my own theory was influenced, perhaps even psychosomatically, by Tony's simply acting as if the magic was merely...... happening. Magic just "happened" when Tony was around. And Tony loved performing.

One quick aside. I remember Tony was invited to a dinner where he was to be honored. Tony sat at the table and was told that it was his "night off" and that he shouldn't do any magic. Here he was, this man who was an absolute legend being honored, and when I looked over at him he looked.......... sad. Like something had been taken away from him. And, without knowing it, the host of the occassion had taken something away from him. He had taken Tony's ability to spontaneously make magic seemingly "just happen."

Bill Wisch lecturing for the Society of Memphis Magicians, IBM Ring 116, 10/22/2019.

Take the example of a retail salesperson trying to interract with a new customer. Tony's approach was quite different. We all know the cliche. You enter a store and a salesperson might ask you in a pleasant way, “Can I help you?” Or perhaps you've had a salesperson approach you in a store in a way that just scared the hell out of you. Some are just that way! You’re not sure what they’re going to do or say. You can just feel that they’re going to make your life miserable until you get your carcass out of the store and breathe a sigh of relief. Your only recourse is to give them the magic words…”I’m just looking, thanks.” If, after the magic words, they don’t leave you alone then you will get annoyed and rightfully so. Magicians seem to affect certain people the same way. Slydini knew this just as well as anyone.

One scenario…you’re out for that long-awaited dinner…the kids have a great baby sitter. You have the whole evening. You just got a raise and can afford this high priced meal with all the trimmings. Your wife thinks you’re Prince Charming (again) because you finally got the chance to get dressed up, take her out and wine and dine her. The only thing you know you want at this point is a great dinner with the chance to chat and be together. Now this guy in a bulging tuxedo and/or with an armload of stuff or a briefcase comes along and asks you if you’d like to see a magic trick. You probably don’t even realize you want to be entertained by this guy and try to buzz him off. Or you may be like some folks and be nice enough to say OK and hope it doesn’t spoil the mood. Then, depending on whether you like the magician or not and what you ascertain his or her skill level to be, you may actually enjoy it and want to see more (except card tricks…everybody hates them!).

When you ask the prospective spectators if they want to watch you while they’re having a deep conversation about the world situation and they try to buzz you off with those other magic words, “no thanks”, your only recourse is to politely be on your way without them ever having the golden opportunity of watching you and your magic. What a shame…especially since you really aren’t a bad person and actually like kids, go out of your way to help people and aren’t trying to sell them anything.

I have the answer and it has worked for me for almost thirty years. Its inspiration was taken directly from Tony's style and way of carrying himself when he performed his magic. I guess Tony's style just rubbed off on me.

Just like Tony did, I try to just make the magic.... happen. I don’t ask them anything. I don’t carry arms full of stuff or have bulging pockets. I just walk up and say, “Would you do me a favor?”, then I do my very best production of something (usually a silver dollar – people love money!)…and say, “Would you take a look at this?”…and I hand it to them. They take the coin and look at it…and I’m on my way. They know I’m a magician…they’re involved before they even realize it…without them feeling pushed into it.

Granted, there have been times when I could sense that they really weren’t interested at that moment, or that they were in the middle of World War Three, or for whatever reason, they said those magic words, “no thanks.” In that case, I just thank them and move along knowing that I gave it my best shot. But, truthfully I can say it hasn’t happened more than ten times in all these years…honestly! And best of all, I then get the chance to do at least one or two more effects for them and they actually get the chance to enjoy my work, which, thankfully, helps to make their time and occasion more enjoyable and memorable. Everybody wins!

The old saying in sales is, “if you don’t ask, you don’t get and you can’t lose what you haven’t got.” Well, that doesn’t hold true in magic. I believe it should be…” if you don’t DO, they don’t WATCH and you can’t fool’em if you don’t rule’em.”

The real secret on making an approach, I believe, is not to give them the chance to say no without actually seeing you do at least one thing. It’s not the end of the world if you carry a prop or two, or even a briefcase or portable table. I know some performers who prefer and thrive that way. It works for them. But all you have to do is go up and say something like, “You may find this interesting”, or “You want to see something really neat?”, and while you’re saying it just do a one-step effect (a production usually works best).

This approach will not only make it easier for your audience to appreciate and get involved in what you’re doing, but it will virtually eliminate those “awkward” moments when we are in effect saying, “Can I help you?”


Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page