Review: Instant Card Magician by Thom Parkin

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Review: Instant Card Magician by Thom Parkin

Postby EndersGame » Oct 1st, '21, 17:01

Instant Card Magician (Thom Parkin)

An astounding CAAN routine where your spectator is the magician, using his own phone


Anyone with experience in card magic knows that a good presentation is essential to making magic memorable and compelling. With Thom Parkin's Instant Card Magician, we get all that and more.

The ad copy describes it as follows: "At any time during a performance, a spectator from the crowd (or online conference application of choice) is invited to take on the role of "acting magician". The performer then becomes the "spectator"; a reversal of roles. Using their VERY OWN mobile phone the "Acting Magician" conducts a feat of mentalism with the help of the magician, acting as a spectator."

This card trick promises a lot, but it really delivers on all the following points:
● It incorporates a great presentation, where your spectator becomes the magician.
● It uses technology, as the spectator uses their own phone to do the magic; yet nothing needs to be installed and it is 100% touch free.
● It is a powerful effect incorporating a holy grail of magic, with a selected card appearing at any number between 1 and 52.
● It is effectively self-working and easy to perform.
● It includes an ending where your spectator is directed to your own website, social media, or promotional page of your choice.

That may sound like too much to be true. But Instant Card Magician really does achieve all this, in a very straight-forward way. And yet you can be performing this right after learning it, because the method is so simple. Let me tell you more about it.



You can lead into this trick by talking about how nowadays there's an app for everything. In fact, there's even an app that makes you a magician. You give your spectator a website link (which can be provided by a text message or a QR code, or which you can even enter manually), which they open up on their own phone. From now on, they'll be the magician, and you'll be the spectator.

Using their own phone, they read out a script where they become the magician, giving you instructions to select and memorize a card, and shuffle it (genuinely) into the deck. Now they name any number between 1 and 52, and you deal down to that number, reveal it to be the card that was randomly selected. Everything can be dealt cleanly and carefully, the shuffling is genuine, and there's no sleight of hand required.

And as a final touch, the spectator ends up at the website of your choice, easily modified for each performance, so you can use this as a lead in to whatever you want.


What you get

When you purchase this, you don't get a physical product, but all the digital goodies that you need to perform this trick. The key things you get are a custom URL, and a custom printable QR code, both of which are individually tailored to you specifically. You do have to provide your own deck of playing cards to use with the routine, and you are taught two methods, one with a standard deck, the other with a common gaff deck that makes your job much easier.

At purchase you need to enter your name and email, plus the redirect URL where your spectator's device will end up following the performance (an optional added bonus you can use for promotional purposes if you wish). You then get all the information you need via email, including the custom link and a printable QR code that you'll use to give to your spectator at the start of the routine.

You're also provided with text instructions and an online video tutorial for the trick. The video runs for just under 20 minutes, and features magician Brent Braun explaining how to perform the routine. It includes many helpful tips and suggestions about how to make the most of this trick, including some good ideas about how to take best advantage of the ending.


Impressions: What's hot

Here are some of the things I really like about this trick:

It offers a great presentation. The best magic is much more than something that requires technical skill. Magic is an art form that needs to entertain, so a good presentation is critical. Ideally you want your spectator amazed, but also to have fun and be entertained. That's exactly what Instant Card Magician does, because it immediately feels different from your regular card trick, with your spectator using their own phone, and playing the role of the magician.

It uses technology. Technology is a big part of people's lives in our world today. So card magic that has a spectator use their own phone provides a very modern touch, and instantly helps make things engaging and relevant for them. This trick is optimized for phones (rather than tablets or desktops), but it can genuinely work on any device, as long as it has an internet connection. And you don't have to install any apps or software, because it just accesses a website, so strictly speaking it's just a web-app.

It makes your spectator the hero. Experienced magicians will know that one of the worst things you can do in magic is set up a challenge, where your spectators are eagle eyed and trying to catch you out. You want them being entertained rather than feeling fooled or stupid, and one of the best ways to do that is by making them the hero. That's exactly what happens here, because they are the ones who play the role of the magician.

It is very interactive. Because there's a script that your spectator is following, engaging with you throughout, there's a lot of potential for fun back-and-forth interaction. Brent Braun really emphasizes this in the video tutorial, and gives some good ideas for how to maximize this. The steps your spectator does along the way not only increases their involvement, but also makes it all the more impossible for them to reverse engineer.

It is an impossible effect. The best magic is an effect that seems truly impossible. Having a random card selected, genuinely shuffled into the deck, and then selecting a random number from 1 to 52 and having the selected card appear at that actual number? That's truly impossible. There's a good reason why the Any Card At Any Number routine is one of the holy grails of magic, and while this isn't quite an ACAAN routine, it's the next best thing, and it truly is strong.


It fools. I've never had anyone come close to figuring this trick out yet. Even if you're doing this with the recommended gaff deck, there's absolutely no heat on the cards, and your deck will typically pass a cursory inspection from a layman anyway. Would the effect fool magicians? It has the potential to, at least the first time around, although most magicians might figure out the method if they saw it a second time. But due to your spectator's engagement with the app and the trick, and the steps involved, they'll typically not be able to reconstruct what happened except the essential details that makes it impossible: A card was selected, legitimately shuffled into the deck, and appeared at a random number that they chose between 1 and 52.

It's easy to learn and perform. It's no exaggeration to say that this is basically self-working. Learning it is a cinch, and you can be performing this right away after you've learned it. There's no sleight of hand required if you opt to choose the recommended method of using a readily available gimmicked deck (which you probably already own), which will do all the work for you. For the record, you can genuinely show all the cards to be different before and after the trick, including their full faces.

It ends with potential promotion. When you register, you enter a redirect URL that the routine will send your spectator to at the end of the trick. Instructions are even provided for customizing this to a unique URL for each individual performance, if desired. Brent Braun has some great suggestions in his video tutorial about how to capitalize on this. It's a great feature for people who would like to find a seamless way to get spectators to their business website, a promotional page, something from Inject, or anywhere you prefer.

It is well supported. Thom Parkin's first love is technology, and he has real-world expertise in this area. He's an amateur magician himself, but as a professional software developer, he's an expert when it comes to technology. So if you need to customize elements of the routine, or need any help in getting things set-up or figuring things out, he's right there with prompt and helpful communication. The web-app also supports multiple languages (German and Vietnamese are already implemented), and additional languages can be requested.

It is being constantly improved. I suggested a couple of small tweaks, and Thom was open to feedback and quick to implement changes that would benefit users. Thom also has some new features and alternate handlings he's working on. For example, he's currently working on an alternative script that is puts the deck more in the hands of your spectator, because the original script was tailored especially to virtual performances in our COVID-era. Thom's other products are also worth checking out, especially his Parkin Email Premonition.

It is endorsed by Brent Braun. Brent Braun is a respected magician, and his "Position Impossible" trick which he performed on Penn and Teller's Fool Us is proof of his talent. He's worked with Thom on this project, and gives it his endorsement and recommendation. If it's good enough for a pro like Brent Braun, it's good enough for me!


Impressions: What's warm

So with all this praise are there any downsides? While this trick is excellent, it won't suit everyone, and there are some things you should keep in mind in deciding if it's right for you:

It requires some basic familiarity with technology. If your eyes start to glaze at the mention of the word "URL", then this might not be for you - although it sounds harder than what it actually is, and you don't need to be a techie in the least. But the trick did have a somewhat of a cool reaction with one older person I performed this to, even though all your spectator really has to do is read a script and press buttons to go to the next screen. But this person constantly needs to ask his kids how to use features on his phone, and for some older folk like this, even basic technology is intimidating and becomes a barrier to their enjoyment. On the flip side, I think this is exactly the reason why the trick is perfect for the younger crowd that is always using their phones and gadgets.

It won't always amaze. In theory this should be a stunning trick: a card is selected, genuinely shuffled into the deck, and appears a genuinely random number from 1 to 52. But despite being theoretically mindblowing, it didn't always produce the reaction I expected. I suspect this is because the spectator is so busy using the app, and this distracts them from the trick itself, taking their attention away from how impossible the effect really is. Because they aren't watching you closely a lot of the time, they can even suspect you did some funny business while you weren't looking. I feel that this effect will play stronger in a group, when others can confirm that the handling was completely clean.

It requires good presentation. Because your spectator can be distracted by the app, you do need to think carefully about how you present this. It is important to emphasize things as they happen, and to prove to your spectator that everything has been cleanly done. I typically perform with my sleeves rolled up, and make sure that my spectator is watching when I'm shuffling and dealing, for example, to eliminate any possibility from their mind that any sleight of hand could have happened. Good spectator management will help strengthen the routine.

It benefits from some customization. There were a few minor things about the script that I'd have liked to adjust, although Thom can even customize elements of that upon request. For example, because the deck is in your hands the entire time, some spectators might suspect sleight of hand. To make things seem even more impossible, you could have another person shuffle part way through. You should also find a way to emphasize more strongly the random choice of a number between 1 and 52. But there's plenty of flexibility here, and you can easily incorporate elements like this without them needing to be in the official script, and make the routine your own in how you interact with your spectator. The basic routine is fine, but by giving attention to some aspects of the details in how you present things, you can enhance the spectator's sense of impossibility and amazement.

It isn't real magic. Some magicians are going to be disappointed by the method when they discover the secret. Although it uses technology, it's not really a tech trick as such, and the technology is mostly used just for the presentation. But it's important to remember that strong magic is all about the effect, and the fact that the secret is so simple should be seen as a strength rather than a drawback. Yes it does use an app, but even apps can't do real magic or mindreading. Of course you knew that already, but it's important to keep that in mind if you find yourself saying "Is that all?" when you are taught the method.


It is best with the gimmicked version. Brent Braun does teach a method that enables you to do this with any deck (including any borrowed shuffled deck), but that does require some sleight of hand, and it's not quite as clean and easy to perform. Of the two methods taught, most people will prefer the one using the gimmicked deck rather than a regular deck. The gaff deck isn't supplied, and I do wish that the tutorial video had given a bit more information about it. But the written information provided covers this, and it's a common gimmicked deck that you can easily get for around $10, and is something most magicians already own.

It does have some competition. Some aspects of the script reminded me of Mark Elsdon's Transference, which also has a spectator reading a script, but on your phone. Transference simply uses a PDF, and I much prefer the way that Instant Card Magician uses a web app on your spectator's own phone, and which even engages them with some choices along the way. This makes things seem less suspicious, and more mysterious, interactive and impossible. Plus rather than just have your spectator take a random card, the fact that you give them a 1 in 52 choice means you can also do the trick remotely e.g. via Zoom. As far as I know, the two tricks were created completely independently.

It is not cheap. Probably the biggest thing this trick has going against it is the price, because it's not cheap. It's important to realize that even though you're not getting a physical product when you buy the trick, you are getting access to Thom's expertise, the web app he's created, and the privilege of having him help you set things up and even customize things if needed. Maintaining the hardware and software for running it costs him real money on an ongoing basis (e.g. hosting, domain registration), regardless of how many people use it. And compared with other magic apps, a price north of $50 isn't unusual. And this has the advantage that you don't even need to install anything, that you can run it on your spectator's own phone, and updates and improvements are automatic. The app has also been built to support customized scripts (available at a fee), and different languages, all of which involve more time and expense for the creator.

It directs to the website of your choice. I also listed this as a real positive, and the fact that the web app brings your spectator to a custom URL at the end of the routine is advertised as a real strength. Especially if you use something like Inject, that's going to be a huge part of the appeal of this trick. But what about if going to another website at the end of the trick isn't something you can use? The trick works perfectly fine without it, but then the price tag might start feeling a little high.



It would be a mistake to dismiss this trick too quickly due to its simplicity. The fact that the method is so straight-forward is instead a real strength. And because it combines this with a fun presentation, and ends with the potential for personal promotion, this is a really great trick worthy of taking a close look at.

I've had a lot of fun with the Instant Card Magician, and so have many others. It's definitely worth considering, and as long as the price isn't a barrier for you, you're not likely to be disappointed. It does exactly what it says it will do, and is a very strong and clean routine that involves your spectator in a novel and fun way, producing something both impossible and memorable. Recommended.

Want to learn more? Instant Card Magician from Thom Parkin can be purchased directly from Thom's Websembly or from J & B Magic. Also available from the same creator is Parkin Email Premonition.


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Re: Review: Instant Card Magician by Thom Parkin

Postby InstituteofMagic » Oct 12th, '21, 01:11

Can the trick be repeated for the same audience? I know you're not supposed to repeat tricks. What I'm wondering is if I do this over Zoom, and someone sees it performed, can I later perform it with someone else as the magician? If a spectator sees the trick twice will it still fool them?

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Re: Review: Instant Card Magician by Thom Parkin

Postby EndersGame » Oct 13th, '21, 01:47

InstituteofMagic wrote:Can the trick be repeated for the same audience? I know you're not supposed to repeat tricks. What I'm wondering is if I do this over Zoom, and someone sees it performed, can I later perform it with someone else as the magician? If a spectator sees the trick twice will it still fool them?

You could repeat it as you describe. This isn't one of those tricks that uses the same card every time.

I don't know that I would repeat it though. Part of the strength of the trick is how it's constructed, so that the way things happen in a spectator's mind won't always correspond to reality (or at least: they will forget certain details), making it harder for them to reverse engineer it.

I think a spectator seeing the trick twice will still be fooled by it, yes. Perhaps they'll be even more fooled the second time. But it's a risk: they might also want to get more involved and start handling the cards or interfering, and screw things up for you. So personally I wouldn't do it - at least not in person. But on something like Zoom you'd be much safer doing it a second time.

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