Applying Jon Allen’s Misdirection Principle to David Stone's Coin Magic

Updated: Jul 14, 2019

I’ve just attended Jon Allen’s lecture and he stated one principle of misdirection: if you want your audience to pay extra attention to something, tell them that you’re going to distract them.

In coin magic, we often want to do two things simultaneously. First, we want to draw attention to the simulating hand; and second, we want to draw attention away from the dissimulating hand. Any 5-year-old child who has seen a French Drop, often done with major flaws, will recognize the pattern that if a coin isn’t concealed in one hand, then it must have ended up in the other, though they may not know how it ended up there. As magicians, we have a variety of physical tools (sleights) and mental tools (subtleties) to prove otherwise. Here, I will discuss a powerful verbal tool (patter) to direct attention of our audiences.

The example I use here is called Never 2 without 4, one of the best routines taught by David Stone. However maticulous the construction of the routine is, it has a few logical loopholes for the critical audience members. I found that out by doing the routine without the patter I’m going to introduce. The absence of the casual presentation points made all the difference. During the trial performance, my nerdy friend who was also a mathematician mentally recorded my every move. He then pointed out that there were “unnecessary moves” and deduced that these moves were the keys to the routine, though he had no idea how they would contribute to it. He was referring to the move that I threw a coin to click another coin to produce a sound as well as the passing of the fourth coin back to the dominant hand, returning it onto the table instead of vanishing it.

In order to strengthen these soft spots, I started my next performance by stating that I was going to “demostrate misdirection” - a concept often taken as “distraction” by laypeople. My spectators didn't want to be fooled, so they paid extra attention to my stimulating hand while I pointed to the coins on the table, asking them to look away. The more they focused attention, the easier it was for me to actually make them look away during the offbeat.

For I had gotten them the first time, they were unlikely to fall for the second time, so they focused harder on the stimulating hand. I, therefore, was able to do the clicking of the remaining two coins logically, because I wanted them to look away again.

When I passed the fourth coin back to the dominant hand and returned it onto the table, my audience naturally followed the displacement of the coin. I pointed out that I had gotten them once again in making them look away from my hand; and I produced a coin with that hand right after.

I had never expected to do this routine for kids at a close range but guess what? It totally worked! For the more intelligent audiences, the more intelligent they are, the more likely they are to be astonished.

since 2018 by Calvin Sze