What is Mentalism Magic- Detailed Guide With Tricks

I have been performing mentalism magic for over 20 years. Most people believe mentalism and magic are not the same. Though the two areas are perceived differently, mentalism is just a type of magic.

Mentalism magic is the performance of magic tricks that focus on the mind. Mentalism magic tricks include telekinesis, mind-reading, predictions, feats of memory, rapid mathematics, metal bending, psychic vision, and ESP. Mentalism magic tricks have to be psychologically convincing to be effective.

Mentalism leads spectators to believe that the performer has heightened mental and intuitive abilities. I will cover all the details here. Plus, you will learn some incredible mentalism you can perform yourself.

MENTALISM EXPLAINED

Mentalism is a branch of magic performed by mentalists or, ‘psychic entertainers,’ where the artist focuses on the mind, and seems to possess highly developed mental or psychic abilities. Practitioners appear to demonstrate telepathy, telekinesis, mind-reading, psychokinesis, communications with the dead, clairvoyance, displays of extraordinary powers, precognition, and ESP.

Is mentalism real? No! Not even a little bit. Mentalists are nothing more than magicians performing magic tricks. Please know I say that with the utmost respect, I do magic and mentalism tricks for a living and love it. Some mentalists are good, and some are magicians with little or no talent. So why are mentalists thought of with such high regard?

I do not claim to have any psychic powers; there are enough people who do that for me. 

Perception is everything. In our world of skepticism, people want to believe. Everyone loves a good magic trick. Unfortunately, magic is usually considered entertainment for kids. Though this mindset is changing, many magicians still perform magic in a silly way for 3-year-olds. Since the tricks for young children don’t have to be foolers, and there is no distinction between kiddie and adult magicians, magic has gotten a bad reputation.

Kiddie magicians must perform visual magic for the kids to understand, they cannot perform any tricks that seem to “focus on the mind.” So all tricks of the “mind” are untainted by kid’s magicians. This has led to the creation of a separate branch of magic called mentalism. Mentalists consider what they do to be the “adult version” of magic.

MENTALISM TECHNIQUES

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Most people believe that mentalists are experts at influence, misdirection, and reading body language. It is thought that mentalists possess advanced memory capabilities, use intuition, hypnosis, mind control, suggestion, and manipulate spectators through psychological subtleties. THIS IS COMPLETE NONSENSE! At least for MOST mentalists.

The majority of mentalism doesn’t require much technique at all. Mentalists that are skilled sleight of hand artists are hard to come by. Many magicians get into “mentalism” because they are too lazy to practice. Fortunately for them, mentalism type tricks make it seem like they have mental or intuitive abilities, and skills beyond imagination.

MENTALISM VS MAGIC

MENTALISM is a branch of MAGIC; the only distinction between the two is the type of tricks performed. Magic is for the eyes; mentalism is for the mind. While it is believed that magic tricks are explained by some sort of sleight of hand, in mentalism, it seems like the performer might be able to do it for real.

When people think of magic tricks, they think of pulling a rabbit out of a hat, making a silk change color, or your uncle’s mathematical card trick that he teaches you. When you hear “magician,” you automatically picture a guy in a colorful outfit performing at a 4-year-old birthday party or a kid trying out his magic set on his parents.

When people think of mentalism, they think of a mysterious performer reading someone’s mind and predicting the future. When you hear “mentalist,” you automatically picture a guy in all black with amazing powers performing unexplainable feats.

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The truth is, mentalism astonishes spectators, and so does mind-blowing magic. The type of magic tricks I am discussing here are the ones performed for adults, not for little kids. To perform amazing magic tricks, you must practice and perfect your sleight of hand. It takes good choreography and well thought out methods for your magic to be effective. Most magicians do not put in the time and energy that is required.

Most mentalism is magic tricks that don’t require any skill. Mentalists not possessing powers might come as a surprise, yet it is true. Usually, there is no sleight of hand necessary. That means that you don’t have to spend hours and hours just to perfect one move. The lack of practice needed is the reason many magicians become mentalists. Mentalists just step into character and act as if they have powers, and people believe.

Many mentalists do not mix “magic” into their performances. They insist they are not magicians at all and argue that magic is a different art form. Their argument is that mentalism invokes belief and is seen as real while magic is accepted as trickery.

While they might claim that magic dilutes the realness of what they are doing, I believe it is due to laziness. I perform a ton of mentalism along with magic. The magic tricks I perform are just as strong as the mind-reading tricks. Perhaps the magic tricks mentalists perform are weak, and not worth it. Poorly received magic tricks are due to a lack of practice.

Mentalism is usually presented in a show format in front of an audience. A show requires the full attention of everyone at the same time. Nowadays, it is much more practical to perform strolling magic and mind-reading at events. That is what I am hired to do 90% of the time. I believe that mentalists who don’t perform magic tricks have severely limited themselves.

When I perform a show on stage, I mix magic and mentalism. There are so many incredible magic tricks that audiences love. Why limit yourself to only mind-reading effects? Most mentalism is very similar, and many presentations take a lot of focus from an audience. I find that spectators have short attention spans and enjoy visual magic mixed into my performances.

I know many great magicians today who also have a mind-reading show for the right occasion. David Berglas, one of the most famous magicians and mentalists in the world, called himself the International Man of Mystery. He read minds; he performed card tricks; he did it all. Anything amazing and entertaining! You can learn more about Berglas here.

IS MENTALISM REAL

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Mentalism is NOT real. It is magic tricks that focus on the mind. Yet people want to believe. Mentalism tricks can be so convincing that audiences start to question what is real. It is widely accepted that mentalists possess true psychic abilities. This means that spectators are already astounded before the mentalist begins the show.

There is a lot of controversy amongst mentalists as to whether or not they should make disclaimers about their performances. Some say it is morally wrong to say you have “psychic abilities.” Derren Brown, the famous English mentalist, maintains that he neither has nor believes in any kind of psychic power. He gives a disclaimer at the beginning of all of his shows. You can read more about Brown here.

Magicians admit that they are tricksters and entertainers, and audiences understand it’s all an illusion. Mentalists, on the other hand, tell their spectators that they are reading their body language, picking up on subtle tells, and influencing them to do things. It is a complete lie. And spectators believe all of this to be true.

Many times I see mentalists giving these false explanations to their audiences, and knowing the real method, I cannot believe what I am hearing. Everyone likes to be fooled and entertained. My philosophy is to perform your tricks and let people think what they want. When watching a movie, we might know it isn’t real, yet we are left to enjoy it and be entertained without a detailed false explanation.

BASICS OF MENTALISM

The basic types of mentalism seen today are metal bending, mind-reading, telekinesis, predictions, and book tests. Bending forks, telling someone the name of the first person they kissed, moving an object with your mind, predicting what your spectator will choose, and divining thought of words are the most common mentalism effects performed.

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All of these mentalism tricks are easy to do. None require much practice or any sleight of hand. The tricks rely on secrets, gimmicks, and subtlety. Below you will learn some impressive mentalism that will leave your spectators convinced that you possess psychic abilities.

HOW TO LEARN MENTALISM

The best way to learn mentalism is to find a specific trick you like, learn the secret behind it, practice it till you can do it smoothly, and get out there and perform it. There are many great mentalism tricks. Check out the ones below for some fantastic mentalism you will blow minds with.

In researching all the details of mentalism for this article, I found websites where they talk about focusing on meditation and mindfulness to learn mentalism. While people want to believe, the spiritual aspects these websites talk about are complete nonsense. Mentalism is nothing more than magic tricks. Learn some great tricks that focus on the mind, and you will be a mentalist.

MENTALISM BOOKS

If I had to recommend 3 books on mentalism, they would be- The Encyclopedia of Mentalism & Mentalists by Corinda, Practical Mental Magic by Theodore Annemann, and Derren Brown’s Tricks Of Mind. Yet I really wouldn’t recommend any of these books. Allow me to explain.

About 20 years ago, a very well known mentalist recommended I read 13 Steps to Mentalism by Corinda. I read the entire book, cover to cover. The material was old and outdated when I read it. Consider the content today. Same with Annemann’s book. These books were written over 50 years ago. Entertainment has completely changed. Derren’s book is a good read, he is entertaining, yet I don’t think it will make you a mentalist.

Click here to learn how to read minds. Click here to learn how to perform telekinesis. Check out the incredible mentalism tricks below. These free resources are perfect for getting you started as a mentalist.

MENTALISM FOR BEGINNERS

Here you will learn some astonishing mentalism. These tricks are guaranteed to convince your spectators you have supernatural abilities. Though these tricks are for beginners, they are also for professionals. Mentalism is not based on hardcore techniques that take years to master. These tricks require minimal practice, yet you must add showmanship and presentation to make your mentalism convincing.

  1. FORK METAL BENDING
  2. DICE MIND READING
  3. IPHONE PREDICTION
  4. TELEKINETIC PEN
  5. THOUGHT OF NUMBER
  6. GUESSING SOMEONE’S AGE
  7. MIND READING CARD TRICK
  8. OPEN PREDICTION
  9. BOOK TEST (1 BOOK)
  10. BOOK TEST (2 BOOKS)

MENTALISM TRICKS

FORK METAL BENDING

EFFECT: You shake a fork and focus your mind on it. The tine mysteriously bends.

NEED: A fork

PRACTICE TIME: 2 minutes

HOW TO DO IT

fork bending

You need a cheap metal fork, one that is easy to bend the tine. Either bring your own or use one you find at a restaurant while you are out. Show the fork with your right hand (switch hands if you are a lefty). Relax your right hand casually to your side as you point at your head with your left finger. “I focus my mind.” As you say this all attention will be on you. Bend the tine with your right thumb.

Bring up the fork with the bent tine and immediately start shaking it. The motion will conceal the bent tine. You don’t need to go crazy, just a slight back and forth shaking. Gradually slow down your shaking to reveal the bent tine.

PRO TIPS: I know it sounds simple, and perhaps you think it won’t work. Try it out. The move is covered well, and I promise you your audience will be amazed. Add a little bit of acting as if you are concentrating on the fork to cause it to bend.

DICE MIND READING

EFFECT: Your spectator chooses a number on a die and places it in a small container. It is then placed in another container. Your spectator holds the containers between their hands and you read their mind. You guess the number they are thinking of.

NEED: Crazy Cube (Link to Buy on Amazon- $5.53)

PRACTICE TIME: 2 minutes

Crazy Cube Magic Trick

  • Two containers
  • A mini die

HOW TO DO IT

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  • Show the containers and die to your spectator. Hand them the small container, cap, and die.
  • Tell them to choose a number, drop the die into the container with their number on top, and cap it.
  • Turn around while they do this.
  • Turn back around and take their container with the lid toward you, tilted downward, so the die is against the inside of the lid.
  • Display the inside of the larger container at eye level showing it is solid.
  • Place the smaller container inside and get a peek at the number.
  • Cap it and hand the large container to your spectator to hold.
  • Concentrate and act like you are reading their mind.
  • Tell them their number.

PRO TIPS: I know what you are thinking (I’m a mentalist). You think this is a kid’s trick. Watch the video below to see me perform this in real-time. This trick always gets an incredible reaction. Play it up a little before you tell your spectator their number, a tiny bit of acting goes a long way. You can repeat this trick one more time if you want. Usually, I do it only once. Make sure you have enough light when you perform this so you can see the die.

Watch Me Perform Dice Mind Reading

IPHONE PREDICTION

EFFECT: You predict a random number.

NEED: Your iPhone

PRACTICE TIME: 4 minutes

HOW TO DO IT

You will be forcing a number and revealing it in a very clever and super cool way. You can force any number. I usually choose something I can remember easily, my birthday- 11061975.

CALCULATOR: You will set your calculator so no matter what your spectators punch in once they hit the equals sign it will bring up your force number. Here is the setup, it takes 10 seconds.

  • Punch in 11061975
  • Press +
  • Press 0
  • Press x
  • Press ( *You have to rotate your phone so this button appears
  • Press 0

After you set up your calculator you can go back to your home screen. Your set up will be ready when you open your calculator.

ROUTINE

Write down your force number on a piece of paper or business card and place it face down on the table. Take out your phone and go to your calculator. It is best to get more than one spectator involved here, yet you can have one spectator do all 4 steps:

  1. Please punch in a random 4 digit number and press x (times)
  2. Please punch in a random 3 digit number and press + (plus)
  3. Please punch in a random 5 digit number and press – (minus)
  4. Please punch in a random 2 digit number and press = (equals)

The total will say 11061975. You must build this up a little. Here is what you will say- “You punched in a bunch of random numbers. There is no way I could have known the numbers you would have punched in nor could I have known what the total would be.” For the big finish flip over your prediction on the table.

IMPORTANT POINTS: Since your prediction is already on the table, you don’t have to look away or turn around while they punch in numbers. You can watch what they do. This is important just in case they mess up. Let’s say they punch in a five-digit number instead of a four-digit number; your spectator will want to hit clear and start over. This will ruin the trick. Tell them it is okay, and to keep going, truth is it doesn’t matter.

You don’t have to use the exact steps I wrote above when your spectator punches in numbers. Anything works here. I recommend you do at least four steps so they can’t go back and recreate it. Otherwise, they might see the total is different. Don’t do too many steps, or it will get confusing.

PRO TIPS: You can do this trick with their phone, yet I highly recommend against it. I have tried this out. I used to borrow their phone; I’d go to their calculator, and act as if I was trying to clear it out as I set up the force number. It is unnecessary, and truthfully nobody wants you messing with their phone. You can set it up on your phone in front of them. This is what I usually do. Just act as if you are looking for the calculator.

You can use any prediction numbers here. You can set it so the total ends up being someone’s phone number, someone’s birthday, etc.

To learn another incredible ending to this trick check out Magic Tricks for Adults.

TELEKINETIC PEN

EFFECT: You move a pen through telekinesis.

NEED: A pen and a bottle

PRACTICE TIME: 4 minutes

HOW TO DO IT

You can use any bottle. I prefer the type with a cap that isn’t completely flat, like the one seen in the picture below. Since the pen isn’t fully balanced it will move more, as seen in the YouTube video.

Watch me Perform The Telekinetic Pen

A basic round pen is best, Bic works well. You will need to static charge the pen. Wrap your shirt around the pen, apply pressure, and rub it a few times. The best time to do this is before the trick starts when nobody is looking. Turn away and charge it quickly. It takes 2 seconds.

Pen charging
Pen Charging

Balance the pen on top of the cap. Hold your fingers above and your thumb near the end of the pen. Your thumb will attract and move the pen. Wiggle your 1st finger at the same time, so it looks like you are moving the pen from above. Slowly bring your thumb near the charged end. When the pen moves, gently move your thumb up and away. The pen will spin. When it slows down, bring your hand close to the pen to give it more momentum.

Hand pose

Once you take the pen off the bottle and put it down, it will lose its charge and your spectator may try. If the pen falls while balancing, it might lose its charge. You can try picking it up and proceeding. If it did lose its charge, move on to another trick. Recharge the pen at the right moment.

PRO TIP: Practice balancing the pen a few times before you do the trick so you know the right spot. You don’t want to drop the charged pen in the middle of performance.

If you like this trick and want to learn more incredible telekinesis tricks, check out How To Telekinesis – A Complete Guide (With Tricks).

MENTALISM OVER THE PHONE

Mentalism can be performed over the phone for your spectators. This is so cool. Here are two easy to do mentalism effects that are guaranteed to amaze. You can also perform these tricks in person.

THOUGHT OF NUMBER

EFFECT: Your spectator thinks of any number, you read their mind, and guess it.

NEED: Nothing

PRACTICE TIME: 2 minutes

HOW TO DO IT

Here are the instructions you give your spectator:

  • Think of any number between 1 and 100. 
  • Double it.
  • Add 10.
  • Half that number.
  • Subtract your original #.
  • Concentrate…
  • You are thinking of…5

PRO TIPS: This is an easy self-working trick, try it yourself, it is awesome. Follow these steps; it will work every time. Since your spectator is not there, you can open this trick on your phone and read off the steps. You might want to tell your spectator to take out their phone and go to the calculator. They can punch in the numbers as you go through the steps just in case they choose a big number. You don’t want them to mess up the math.

Check out Math Magic Tricks – The Absolute Best Ones for more tricks like this.

GUESSING SOMEONE’S AGE

EFFECT: You guess your spectator’s age.

NEED: Nothing

PRACTICE TIME: 2 minutes

HOW TO DO IT

Tell your spectator to take out their cell phone and open up the calculator. Have them punch in the numbers as you go through the steps. Here are the instructions you give them.

  • Punch in your age. 
  • Double it.
  • Add 5.
  • Multiply by 5.
  • Have them tell you their new random number.
  • Subtract 2 from the 2nd number. The first two numbers is their age.
  • Concentrate…
  • Tell them their age.

EXAMPLE: I’m 44.

  • Punch in your age- 44
  • Double it- 88
  • Add 5- 93
  • Multiply by 5- 465
  • Have them tell you their new random number- 465
  • Subtract 2 from the 2nd number- 6-4=4. New number is 445. Use the first two numbers to know their age, 4 and 4.
  • Concentrate…
  • Tell them their age- 44

PRO TIPS: This is another easy self-working mentalism trick. Try it yourself; it is so cool. Since your spectator is not there, you can open this trick on your phone and read off the steps; it couldn’t be easier. It is good to build up the effect before you reveal their age. “I have you punch in some random numbers to focus your mind; there is no way I could know your age, concentrate, I’m getting something, are you 44?”

MENTALISM CARD TRICKS

Many card tricks can be presented as mentalism tricks where you read your spectator’s mind or make a prediction. The key is to keep it simple. Here are two easy to do mentalism card tricks that will blow your spectator’s minds.

MIND READING CARD TRICK

EFFECT: Spectator shuffles the cards and picks one at random. You read their mind and tell them what card they are thinking of.

NEED: A deck of cards

PRACTICE TIME: 4 minutes

HOW TO DO IT

Have your spectator shuffle the cards. Take the cards back and turn the deck face up. Spread through the cards showing they are all different. Remember the card that is 2nd from the top, that will be your “force” card.

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Square up the cards and turn the deck face down. Tell your spectator that you want this trick to be impossible so you will bury the top card and the bottom card. Take the top card and place it into the center of the deck. Then take the bottom card and place it into the center of the deck. Your force card is now on top.

Tell your spectator to lift off a small group of cards, about 10 or so, flip them face up, and place them back onto the deck. Tell them to do this again yet this time lift off a larger group of cards. There will be a group of face up cards on top of the deck.

cutdeeper

Spread the face-up cards until you get to the first face down card. Have your spectator look at this card and remember it. It is your force card. Turn all the face-up cards face down on top of their card so that their card will be lost in the deck.

Build up this trick a little bit. Here are some things you can say:

  • I didn’t know how many cards you would lift off.
  • You lifted off packets of cards twice which was pretty random.
  • There is no way I could know what card you are thinking of.

THE REVEAL: You could just tell your spectator their card. Yet in my opinion, it needs a little mystique to make this a great trick. Tell your spectator to think of their card and concentrate. You can even act as if you aren’t sure. Take a few seconds. Tell your spectator to silently, in their mind, say their card over and over. Finally, tell them the name of their card.

PRO TIPS: In the beginning, after your spectator shuffles, be casual when spreading through the face-up cards. Don’t make a big deal of it. Your reason for doing this is to show that they are all different. Memorizing the 2nd card as opposed to the top card will fool a lot of people. It is a real nice touch that you can use in many card tricks.

This is a terrific mind-reading card trick. It is quick, to the point, and gets your spectator involved. Plus it does not require a table. Strong tricks like this are rare and great to have in your arsenal.

Check out How to Do Amazing Card Tricks That Are Easy to learn another easy version of this mind-reading card trick.

To learn an Amazing 4 Ace Trick that I use at my professional events click here.

OPEN PREDICTION

EFFECT: You write a prediction on a piece of paper and place it on the table. The cards are shuffled and shown to be all different. Spectator says any number between 1 and 52. You count down to that number and flip over the card. You show all the other cards are different. Your prediction matches their card.

NEED: A Svengali deck (Link to buy on Amazon- $10.41)

PRACTICE TIME: 4 minutes

HOW TO DO IT

A Svengali deck consists of the same card, (the force card), alternating with regular cards. Write down your force card on a piece of paper and place it on the table. Shuffle and show the cards are all different. To learn the beginner and advanced handlings of a Svengali Deck, plus some other incredible tricks, check out How To Use A Svengali Deck.

open

Ask for a number between 1 and 52. Count the cards face down into a pile. There are two possible outcomes. If they chose an odd number, a force card will land on their number. If they chose an even number, take the next card. Either way, pick up the force card. Place the cards you are holding on the table. Turn over the top card of both packets to show different cards. Turn over their card. Show your prediction.

PRO TIPS: Do not pass over this trick, it is so strong. You will blow minds!

Watch To See The Handling of a Svengali Deck

MENTALISM BOOK TRICK

The mentalism book trick is when a spectator thinks of any word, phrase, or image from a book, and through mind-reading, the mentalist tells the person what they are thinking. There are many versions of the mentalism book trick, some use one book, and others use multiple books. Some use an ordinary book, and others use a specially gimmicked book.

The key is to keep the word selection simple. If your spectator has to choose two cards, add the value, and go that page number, it becomes a weak trick. When I perform the mentalism book trick, I have the spectator think of any word, or at least it seems that way.

MENTALISM BOOK TEST

Here are two versions of the mentalism book test. Both will cause your spectators to believe you can read their minds. The first one is unpublished. It is something I came up with many years ago and have been performing for a long time. It is a fooler and easy to do. The second one is my handling of a very well known book test- The Hoy Book Test.

BOOK TEST (1 BOOK)

EFFECT: Your spectator thinks of a random word in a book, you read their mind and guess their word.

NEED: A paperback book with the page numbers in the top right corner.

PRACTICE TIME: 3 minutes

HOW TO DO IT

rifflepeek

Turn your head away so it is clear you are not looking. Hold the book up, and slowly riffle through the pages until your spectator says stop. Turn your head toward the book and get a quick peek at the page number facing you as you point at the page facing them with your right 1st finger- “Right here is ok?” Immediately turn your head away again. If your spectator says no, repeat the riffling process.

When they say ok, open the book and move the right side toward them. Your head is still looking away. “Remember the first couple of words; you got them?” When they confirm they have a couple of words, close the book. At this point, you do not know their words, yet you do know the opposite page number.

riffle

You will get your peek of the words subtly. Start to build up the trick. “You picked out some random words in this book, which has thousands and thousands of words. There is no way I could know what words you are thinking of.” As you say this, casually flip through the book. Hold it so your spectators cannot see the pages. Open to the page number you remembered and look at the first few words on the opposite page.

Close the book and hand it to them. Here you will add in some showmanship. “Concentrate, I’m getting a ‘D’, I’m getting an ‘I’, I’m getting an ‘R’. Are you thinking of the word directly?” “Think of your second word, concentrate, I’m getting something, are you thinking of the word “under?”

Pause and let the effect sink it. If your spectator says they have more words, and you haven’t peeked them, tell your spectator you are only seeing the two words in your mind.

PRO TIPS: Sometimes, certain pages in a book have the page number at the bottom. I recommend trying to avoid these books. If you go to peek the number and it is missing, drop where you are holding the book open and say “oops,” and start again. Don’t repeat this trick for the same spectators, though they probably will ask you to.

BOOK TEST (2 BOOKS)

EFFECT: Your spectator thinks of a random word in a book, you read their mind, and guess the word.

NEED: Two books, one has to be a paperback book.

PRACTICE TIME: 3 minutes

HOW TO DO IT

Before the trick starts, casually open any book to a random page. Remember the page number and the longest word on the first line. This will be your “force” word. You can do this beforehand, or you do this in front of your spectators as you pick up the books to show that there are a lot of words. Hand your spectator the book with the word you remembered.

book

Pick up the other book, which is a paperback. Hold the book so they really can not see the pages. Riffle through and have your spectator tell you when to stop. When they say stop, act as if you are reading the page number. “You stopped on page 156.” Call out the page number you memorized in the other book. Vaguely angle the book toward your spectator as if you are showing it to them. They won’t be able to see the number. Close the book.

Here are the directions you will give.

  • Please go to page 156 in the book you are holding.
  • Please find the longest word in the first line, and think of it.
  • Concentrate.
  • You are thinking of a C, an H, an A, are you thinking of the word charming?

PRO TIPS: Sometimes I see people try to force the specific book on their spectator. This is unnecessary. Just hand the spectator the book with your force word. Don’t make a big deal of the page selection. Keep it moving as if you didn’t even realize they cannot see the page number. Do not repeat this trick for the same spectators.

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Matt

Hi, I'm Matt Furman. I have been a full time professional magician for over 20 years, ever since I left medical school to pursue my passion of magic tricks. I have a ton of real world experience and I am constantly practicing and performing new mind blowing magic.