What To Do When You Get Busted Doing Magic Tricks

Here’s the skinny. You’re going to get busted. Might not be today, might not be tomorrow, but at some point you’ll mess up some magic tricks and someone will spot what you did and call you out. What should you do when that happens?


It is inevitable that whilst you are mastering card magic basics as you learn-card-tricks someone will call you out because you flashed, or just totally messed up a trick. You are going to mess up a trick. You’ll drop your playing cards, you’ll lose the card you’re meant to be controlling, you’ll forget what you’re meant to do next. It. Will. Happen. It’s really important to realise this is inevitable. It is going to happen, and there’s nothing you can do about it. But you can prepare for when it happens.

it will go wrong

Minimizing Mess Ups

The best way to minimize your chances of being busted is to practise. A lot. The more you practise, the less likely you are to mess up and the less likely you are to be busted. You can learn all about how to practise.


No-one Knows What Is Meant To Happen Next

Remember, no one knows what is meant to happen next. This means if you do mess up a shuffle and lose their card, and in your big ta-dah moment you reveal the wrong card, there will be some way you can get out of it. You could ask what their card was. Then maybe you just search through the deck, find the card, palm it out and produce it. You could position the correct card (let’s say it’s the seven of clubs) seven down from the top, whilst pretending to be looking for the card. Ask them again, absentmindedly what the card was. Then count down seven and boom, it’s their card. You see the point, when you have some confidence with cards, you can change the ending of the trick if it messes up and no one will know.

Pretend It Didn't Go Wrong

With that in mind, an “out” is something you can do when you mess up and the audience really will be none the wiser. One of the most popular is a gaffed deck of cards called the “Invisible Deck”. This is a special deck of cards that allows you to show any named card to be reversed in the deck. When you mess up a trick you say “Oh this is so weird. I had a dream last night I would mess this trick up and I turned one card round in this deck. It was the card you picked in the dream. Look, it’s the seven of clubs!”

pretend it didn't go wrong

Realize It Is Not The End Of The World

It’s just a trick. It’s not important. No one will remember. No one (really) cares that much. It might feel horrific to you in the moment, but the truth is, it just doesn’t matter. It’s a card trick. In a few moments, people will have moved on to something else.


If you can relax, it will give you more opportunities to get out of the mess up with some sleight-of-hand. You’ll be able to think more clearly, and not worry about what just happened. That relaxed state of mind will allow you to improvise a decent ending for the trick because you remember as we discussed above, no-one in your audience knows what is meant to happen next!

Do Another Trick

The best thing to do when you mess up is just do another trick. Your audience do know that what you are doing is not real magic. They do know what they are seeing is a trick. So, it’s OK to mess up. Just do another, better trick and they’ll forget that the first magic trick went wrong! If you know a different style of magic, then segueing into that would be good. So if you mess up a card trick, try a coin trick. If you mess up some mind-reading, try a mathematical card trick instead. YOu get the idea. I’d not recommend trying childrens magic if you mess up a virtual magic trick, but generally, switching up what you are doing can really help.


Laugh About It

Saying things like: “Well, that messed up didn’t it?”, “I’m clearly hopeless, let’s try something else!”, “Oh well, I thought it sounded too good to be true” will diffuse any tension and laughter is the best way to get your audience to move on and forget about what just happened.