My Favorite Card Tricks: Matt Baker

By Alex Robertson - Thursday, February 13, 2020

We asked some of magic's greatest minds to share with us their favorite card tricks. This week is the turn of Matt Baker. You may know him from his amazing book "The Buena Vista Shuffle Club". Over to Matt:


I’m honored that Vanishing Inc asked me to write about my three favorite card tricks. I’m afraid, though, that my personal favorites are fairly conventional: Ambitious Card (I blend it with Homing Card à la Jay Sankey), Out of This World (specifically, Wyman Jones and Paul Harris’s “Galaxy”), and Any Card At Any Number (Asi Wind's version, which I often combine with Juan Tamariz's "Mnemonicosis"). My advice for all three is the same: don't rush it. Build up tension as if you're making a Hitchcock film, and don't forget to insert dramatic pauses.

However, since readers of this blog are probably looking for ideas which are a bit more novel, I’ve asked the members of the Buena Vista Shuffle Club to help me out. Take it away, guys!

Dev: Thanks, Matt. I’ve always had a special affinity for the Gilbreath Principle, and although there are hundreds of published effects which utilize it, the version I perform most often is “Magnetic Colors”, which was Gilbreath’s original published effect using the principle. I don’t use Gilbreath’s presentation, though, because (no offense, Norman) it’s kind of lame. (“Meanwhile, patter about the 'magnetic colors' of cards…”) Instead I turn it into a gambling game with lots of humorous byplay. Audiences are truly dumbstruck when I manage to rack up a 26-0 win despite the fact the the spectator herself shuffled the cards…

Bernie: I suspect they might just be dumbstruck by your sophomoric jokes.

Ray: What about you, Bernie? What’s your favorite trick?

Bernie: My choice is Simon Aronson’s “Decipher” (from “Try the Impossible”). I actually don’t know anyone else who performs this trick, but it’s great. From a shuffled deck, a card is selected and shown to half of the audience, who are asked to remember only the value. Another card is selected and the other half of the audience is asked to remember the suit. This determines a card which is (apparently) not yet known to any one person; the magician is nevertheless able to find the card. The trick is fooling, easy to do, has a catchy presentation, and as a bonus you can use the routine to secretly perform a deck switch.

Dev: Simon Aronson invented Shuffle-Bored, Prior Commitment, Sideswiped, and Everybody’s Lazy, and out of his entire oeuvre you picked Decipher? I agree it's a great trick, but that’s a rather eccentric choice… even for you, Bernie. I hope you didn’t accidentally mix some hallucinogens with your prune juice this morning.

Ray: Settle down, guys — this is a public blog hosted by the world’s greatest magic company, not a book written by some goofy college professor where you can just go on for a whole page insulting each other.

Dev: I’m not sure Matt will appreciate being outed as ‘goofy’. But I bet the guys from Vanishing Inc. will give him lots of free stuff for calling them the world’s greatest magic company. Anyway, what’s your pick, Ray?

Ray: These days my favorite card trick to perform is Denis Behr's "Herbert The Trained Rubber Band". It's amazing how introducing just one small prop -- in this case an ordinary rubber band -- and giving it a personality can make an otherwise standard "pick a card and I'll find it" trick come magically alive. Other superb routines in the same vein include Juan Tamariz's "Cochecito" and Jon Armstrong's "Tiny Plunger", but I'm giving the nod to "Herbert" because he fits in my wallet and doubles as a handy office supply. (By the way, Joe Rindfleisch's #16 rainbow bands work perfectly for "Herbert".)

Bernie: Well done, gentlemen. Vanishing Inc asked Matt to pick three card tricks and write “a few sentences” about each one, and we’ve now managed to make Tolstoy look like a master of the haiku.

Dev: Speaking of which: Haikus can be used To squeeze in an extra trick. Call to the Colors.

Reader comments:


Friday, 14 February 2020 00:22 AM - Reply to this comment

Great blog post, Matt. It made me smile a lot.
Simon Aronson's "Side Swiped" is one of my favorite card tricks. I've performed it dozens and dozens of times in my close-up show on cruise ships.
Full disclosure: Matt Baker is a personal friend in Atlanta and we've actually teamed up to perform together on more than one occasion.
- Dan Garrett

BGG Reviewer

Monday, 24 February 2020 23:56 PM - Reply to this comment

Love the mention of Denis Behr's "Herbert The Trained Rubber Band" - you're absolutely right that giving a small prop some personality really makes it come alive!

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