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The Magic Memories (43)

Hi everyone!

Here are The Magic Memories #43, gone online SUN, 24th October, at 0:07h.


I think I’ve never mentioned this, but will do here since a few have asked: The cards in the title logo are of course in Tamariz Mnemonica Order, what else?

Trip Notes

I promised to tell you a bit about my long car ride from Muttenz, Switzerland to the Magialdia Convention in Spain, the latter reported in The Magic Memories #42. On the way there I made a stop to visit with my friend Olivier Cave, who lives near St. Etienne in France, and whom I had met a few times at the Escorial Card Conference years before. I finally had a change to spend the afternoon and evening with this remarkable man. The photo below shows us perusing a few of his books. In the background are just a few of his hundreds of books on the subject of gambling and cheating. Olivier has one of the most exquisite collections I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing, and he’s to be congratulated for all the time and expertise he’s putting into it.

Olivier is not just a passionate collector, but also a blessed scholar in the matter, and as if that wasn’t good enough, he also excels in the knowledge and execution of almost everything that is written up in those books, including some of the most difficult sleights. Maybe an organizer of magic conventions will one day have the foresight to book him for one of his rare lectures and demonstrations on the subject. In the photo below you can see Olivier smiling after having successfully dealt himself a winning hand, and myself with a puzzled look 🙂

A wonderful dinner in the company of his beautiful family rounded up a unique day with a truly extraordinary person. We promised to see each other soon again to continue our discussions on the infinite topic of gambling and cheating, as well as magic, naturellement.

Notes on Gambling & Cheating in Magic

The above triggered a few more thoughts on the matter. Without considering myself an “expert” in the field of gambling and cheating, I still have taken an early interest in the subject and accumulated and studied hundreds of books, videos and documents. For years my major source was the “Gambler’s Book Club” in Las Vegas: They used to send out their catalogue at least twice a year, and whenever I received one, I sent for a big order.

Among other things I found biographies of gamblers, more often than not from so-called “reformed” scoundrels, to be of great interest. If you are curious about this, I will recommend just two books (so as not to scare you off): One, Carlton Stowers The Unsinkable Titanic Thompson, two,  George H. Devol’s Forty Years a Gambler on the Mississippi, both truly engaging and marvelous stories about two “characters”. Not only will you spend some entertaining and instructional reading hours, you will also be spoiled for ideas to use as presentations for your gambling-themed tricks: Several of the anecdotes told there make for ideal Prologues, or you can just tell them in-between tricks, especially in longer pieces.

For the note-takers among you: Open a note titled “Gambling-themed Tricks in Card College” (and other books…). Looking through the five volumes you’ll find quite a few, as well as items that with a change in presentation can be adapted to the theme. And if you’re looking for a ready-made routine go to Card College Volume 5 and work through “Fantasist at the Card Table”. Although the routine requires a set-up deck, two comments are in order:

  1. Since you start by showing how to control Aces during a shuffle and deal them to your own hand in a game of Draw Poker, this would allow for a production of the Aces that doesn’t change the order and position of the other 48 cards (make a list of tricks that do that – start with “Sign of Four” from Card College Volume 5, p. 1199, another one is “Thompson’s Aces” from the same book, or do a completely different trick, such as “The Master Grip” from Card College Volume 3, p. 544, which dislodges just one card – oh, my, and that’s just in the Card College books… there are so many others… you need to make that list 🙂
  2. I’m told that someone out there has written an entire book on deck switches, The Art of Switching Decks if I remember well… so that’s not a problem, is it?

I created this routine after reading a much simpler version in Ted Annemann’s JINX many years ago. My first solution was my second publication in my “writer’s career” and published under the title of A Gambler’s Dream by Martin Breese in London (1986). At that time I was spending a semester in London and Cambridge for my language studies, and became quite friendly with Martin, who at the time was an important dealer in the magic market, besides being a very charming and encouraging gentleman. Anecdotally, I should mention that I submitted a book project of mine to him a year or so later, and he refused to publish it. He had given it to David Britland, who was his unofficial technical advisor and who found the manuscript not up to par – and he was right 🙂 as I will readily admit today, but then I was certainly a bit disappointed. The consequence of it was, of course, that when I had published the original version of Card College in German (Grosse Kartenschule), and was looking for a publisher, I did not ask Martin but Stephen Minch of Hermetic Press fame. Had Martin accepted my first (inadequate!) book, I would obviously have asked him first, and he would then (maybe) have been the publisher of what seems to have become one of the most successful book series in magic history. Talk about the Butterfly Effect… Oh, and the JINX I mentioned above: If you are looking for something to take to your two-week vacation, get the three bound volumes of this amazing magazine and you might just spend your magically most memorable vacations…

Since I mentioned my “second” publication above, some may wonder which one was my first. Well, it also happened during my stay in London: Every Monday I (obviously!) went down to the Magic Circle. Although not a member, having attended Ron MacMillan’s One Day Conventions before, as a visitor and then as one of their youngest ever booked “acts”, I had become friendly with various of the MC members, such as Ian Keable, Chris Power and Johnny Johnston aka “JJ”, and was thus granted access to the premises of the famous Magic Circle. BTW: This was and still is certainly the most well-known club in the UK, and maybe in the world among lay people. I vividly remember that when I first did a trick for the landlady I was staying with during my study stay, she immediately asked, “Are you a member of the Magic Circle?” I never got that type of question in any other country I’ve been to, and I’ve been to many…

Anyway, on those Mondays the “real magic” did not happen at headquarters, then at 84 Chenies Mews and now in Stephenson Way, but at the pub round the corner, the Marlborough Arms, more specifically at the bar at the back, the Blenheim Bar (where the 12-year-old Glenfiddich cost £1!). That’s were the really interesting people gathered. I remember my regular sessions with Eric Mason, Fred Robinson, Ali Bongo and of course the chaps my age, Ian, Chris, JJ, Richard (MacDougal) and a host of others I forget. One of them was Walt Lees, an incredibly skilled card and close-up magician, who professionally made a living from children’s magic (yes, that did surprise me, too). Walt was at that time the editor of the legendary British publication Pabular (you are well advised to get a paper or electronic copy of this truly great magic magazine).

He was very kind and encouraging to me, something I’ll always remember thankfully, and he asked me for a few contributions to the magazine. So I did (some of it several years later made it into my Card College books). He liked four items particularly well and suggested to make them into a separate booklet, which then became The Cardmanship of Roberto Giobbi, in 1984 my very first “real” publication (I had previously contributed items to some Swiss, German and Austrian magazines). The publisher of it was “Magico Magazine” owned by one Samuel Gringras of New York City, to this day referred to by all I spoke to as “The Rabbi”. As far as I can remember, we never met, but he managed to put a printer’s error on the title page: “The Cardmandship of Roberto Giobbi” – the “d” is wrong, of course. The “funny” thing was that the first edition apparently sold out quickly (he must have printed just a few…), so he did a second edition, but even though Walt and I had told him about the misprint on the title page, he kept it and republished the booklet tel quel. I’m told famous stamps and coins get higher values if they have some kind of blemish, so I fool myself into believing that some 100 years after my death this will be a rare and sought-after item.

Ah, so many memories, so little time to tell, and only a few care 🙂 I wanted to tell you a bit about my participation at the Swiss Youth Convention, and maybe about the Swiss national Magic Convention I’m going to with my friend Claudio Viotto tomorrow. Let’s see if it works out…

Have a great week!

Roberto Giobbi

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