Developing Daley: Preface

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 “Out of difficulties grow miracles.” 

Jean de La Bruyère

DEVELOPING new card tricks is a profoundly frustrating and laborious experience for me because I suffer from perfectionism. An oft-repeated axiom states that most magicians stop thinking too soon1; I have the opposite problem: I can't stop thinking about a given trick, plot or principle once it has taken hold of my attention. For this reason, you'll find fifty-two variations of Dr Daley's Last Trick in the pages of this book! Believe it or not, I've devised far more than this, but I've decided to publish only the best of these ideas. Anyway, fifty-two seemed like an appropriate number and I had to stop at some point, otherwise, this book would remain forever unpublished!

I've tried to avoid the use of gaffed cards, although I have no problem with their use in general (I've done this to make the material as practical as possible). For this reason, most of the tricks can be performed using nothing more than a regular pack of playing cards. If you want to try out every trick in the book, however, you'll need a few extra things: a red and blue-backed pack, three identical Jokers and three blank-faced playing cards (with matching backs). Oh, and some red and black opaque envelopes, two wine glasses, and craft materials to make a Milkman’s Wallet (you could also buy one of these wallets if you prefer).

You may think that a book concentrating on a single card plot makes for a boring read, and you may well be right! Yet, this was the only sensible way to publish so many closely-related ideas. Moreover, this approach has the added benefit of encouraging you to focus your thoughts on a single plot, something that will, no doubt, make you a better student of magic.

My primary motivation for publishing this book is not financial gain; otherwise, this would be a work of erotic fiction2, not a book of card tricks! I want to banish these troublesome tricks from my brain so that I can move on to pastures new. Also, they're all excellent tricks and, for that reason alone, deserve to be enjoyed by as many people as possible. 

Some magicians believe that there are too many card tricks and that we don't need any more—I disagree. There are too many lousy card tricks, that's for sure. But there can never be enough good card tricks. In much the same way that there can never be enough good novels to read, good movies to watch or good desserts to eat.

For me, a good card trick has three essential characteristics:

  1. Efficiency (Economy of Motion) – The handling must be efficient, with no extraneous or cumbersome moves. Each phase of the trick must flow smoothly into the next. This idea was popularised by Dai Vernon, amongst others.
  2. Memorableness – The presentation should be memorable and enhance the magical effect. It shouldn't detract from it. It must not break the internal logic of the magician's fantasy world. Too often, a good trick is ruined by a clumsy or thoughtless presentation. Likewise, a presentation that betrays an audience's willful suspension of disbelief is a bad one. If a trick is not worthy of remembrance, it is not worthy of performance.
  3. Practicality – The more practical an effect is, the more you'll perform it. Practical effects are tricks that you can perform in many different situations—for example, seated at a table, standing at a cocktail party, or in a noisy environment. Practicality has nothing to do with how difficult a trick is to perform. We mustn't confuse practicality for convenience (Ortiz, 1995, p. 12).

The tricks in this book all share these three characteristics. The ones that didn't have been flung into the ether, never to see the light of day. They also all centre around the same plot. For this reason, performing more than one trick from this book in front of the same audience would, in most cases, be foolish. Instead, pick the most suitable trick for your intended audience (or environment) and perform that one alone. I've developed handlings for specific performance situations and scripted presentations tailored to particular audiences.

I need to point out that I'm not a professional magician. In other words, I don't make my primary living from performing magic. As a result, the tricks in this book have not been rigorously tested in front of multiple live audiences—I make no apology for this. I have, however, performed them a handful of times for real people (family members and friends). A lot of thought has also gone into the presentation accompanying each trick. Thus, I'm confident that almost any audience will find them entertaining. After all, the best tricks are the product of deep thought on the creator's part. Whether this person is an amateur or a professional doesn't matter, so long as the hard work has been done.

Finally, I'm more than happy for you to share the workings of one or two tricks from this book with your friends. However, writing a book takes a significant amount of time, effort and energy. Simply put, the more people who buy my books, the more I'll write. So, if you like my ideas and want to support me, please encourage your friends to purchase a legitimate copy rather than download a pirated one.


  1. This idea most likely originated with the great Al Baker, who said:

“We must never forget that the details of presentation are what make a trick. And study and thought brings us those details. If you have a trick you like but never do because of some weak or unnatural or illogical part, don't lay it aside — just begin thinking. What I mean is thinking about that part. You will be surprised how a brilliant idea will crop up and you will be surprised even more that you hadn't thought of it before. The usual trouble is that we don't bother to think long enough or hard enough.” (Baker, 1941, p. 28)

I've always subscribed to the Al Baker way of thinking. I hope that the tricks contained within the pages of this book are proof of that.

  1. Romance and Erotica is the most lucrative genre of literature. If you want to earn more money than me, write a smutty romance novel, not another book of card tricks!

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