Magic Musings

In Print Since 1902…The Card Man’s Bible?

Image of the Book Expert at The Card Table The Best in Magic Entertainment The Expert at the Card Table pub1902 | Card Mans Bible

Boston Magician Joe Ferranti remembers, The Expert at the Card Table

My interest in magic, especially card magic, goes back over 50 years. As a child, the only learning sources available to me were in the public library. The books were few, and the secrets I desired were not to be found, at least not in my library. 

It was a world without the internet.TV had 3 channels and the phones… well, our first was a “party line.” You can look that up, but the party had nothing to do with having a good time.

As my interest in magic grew, I knew I had to find more sources than my local library. Using the Yellow Pages, I found some Magic Shops in Boston. Who knew?… for a price, the magician’s closely guarded secrets were available to anyone. Individual tricks were available and books on Card Magic, which was my primary interest.

First Magic Mentor via Books – Dai Vernon

My first serious “teacher” through books was Dai Vernon. He was truly the most influential close-up magician of the 20th century. He lived and breathed magic. Young magicians flocked to the Magic Castle to learn from the master.

Vernon often referenced The Expert at the Card Table as essential reading. Every magician I know has a copy. If you are interested, you can find it as a free source as it is in the public domain. I found it difficult and sometimes impossible to learn through written words and illustrations. We can learn only by clear descriptive text and enough illustrations to make everything crystal clear. I tried following along with the text and illustrations, step by step… repeatedly, often hitting a dead end. I heard no magicians share my frustrations. Was this a case of the “Emperor’s New Clothes”? Was it just me?

I am not saying that The Expert at the Card Table is of no value. Vernon was a living credit to the book.

The Expert at The Card Table has the highest accolades from the top men in the magic world. Although I was unsuccessful in translating the descriptions and illustrations into my personal arsenal of sleights and “tricks” that was not to say that it can’t be done. 

Allan Ackerman took on a project of presenting the entire book on a DVD series. Allan performs it all, expertly. Even the infamous “One Hand Shift.”

Allan is certainly one of the foremost experts in sleight-of-hand card magic. His contributions to the magic community are many. He has authored several books, many lecture notes, as well as video instructions on sleight of hand card sleights. 

Early influencers, Paul Harris-Harry Lorayne-Walter Gibson-Tarbell course in Magic

I freely admit I am not the most intelligent among men. My personal limitations certainly played a part in my inability to learn from this book. Also, consider what attracts our interest in magic books. For most, we are interested in the “tricks, ” and there are tricks in this book. They present the book in two sections. The first focuses on gambling. Use it as you choose, as a protection from being cheated at the poker table or as a source of information to steal other people’s money at the poker table.

The second section focuses on magic tricks with cards, which I hope is of more interest to most of us.

As most magicians know, many superb effects exist in print, waiting for discovery by an observant and creative individual. I think of Dai Vernon’s famous effect, “Out of Sight, Out of Mind.” The inspiration for Vernon’s classic came from The Expert at the Card Table, under the title, “A Mind Reading Trick”. 

One of the often-mentioned critiques of the book is the dated writing/text… but one young magician turned that around and used its outdated language to his advantage in an entertaining presentation. See Ricky Jay’s performance of The Exclusive Coterie.

I urge you to explore this work yourself. It costs you nothing… the best minds in magic will tell you to study carefully and read between the lines.

Your mileage may vary.

Massachusetts Card Magician,

Joe Ferranti

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