On the Pass

May 30, 2008 at 12:22 am (Moves and Sleights) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I had the pleasure of studying this move for quite sometime. Unfortunately as I was browsing online forums, I saw alot of users putting false information on the move. This might be due learning from improper sources (say, youtube videos ), or talking from no real experience behind them, or for any other reason. Anyway, I hope this blog entry clarifies some issues. Do keep in mind that I didn’t make up any of the misconceptions here, every misconception here was taken from online magic boards.

Now, I’m obviously in no way an authority on the move or something like that, but I do think I studied the move enough to give an educated, well written info on it. I look forward to discuss the following with anyone intrested.

Misconception 1: The Pass can be replaced with other sleights like the side steal.

Correction: No it cannot, as the pass is an invisible cut which is a totally different action that a single card steal ( side steals for example )

Misconception 2: The Pass is the best control.

Correction: Not true.

Its an established rule that there is no control better than other, it all depending on the trick you are performing, the construction of that particular trick. What the performer has to do is picking the control that fit the trick and make it “flow”.

To illustrate, 4 aces on top of the deck, and a break above the selection. How can you bring the selection on top of the aces? Side steal is better than the pass for this.

4 aces in middle of the deck, you have a break above them. How can you bring them to the top? The pass is the best option for this.

In many effects it doesn’t matter what the control you are using. In many cases I do the pass and follow it by a jog shuffle, this is just to practice doing the pass before a live audiance, like when you classic force every time you have a card selected.

Misconception 3: There is no need to perfect the pass, it can be done with misdirection.
Correction: Read below.
A good pass is a beautiful thing to see and a joy to watch. In Many effects that uses it, you just have to do it without misdirection. Example? New Cavorting Aces ( Kaufman’s DVD ), you color change with the darn thing.

Also, many magicians prefer to master the sleights they love and get them down cold, this includes doing the pass with no misdirection needed.

What some people don’t get is that simply saying “with misdirection”, they need to come up with natural misdirection that is so good that ALL spectators would take their eyes of the deck, you cannot accept that a single spectator is looking down on the deck because then she/he will see the pass. This remind us of the top change.

A top change is much simpler to do than the pass with misdirection, because you are holding the card in one hand, and deck in another, they both come on the deck in a split second, plus its easy to put in a natural action. In the pass, BOTH hands come to the deck and HOLD it, making it more tricky than mere top change. Simply executing the pass invisibly will make your life way easier, and make everything flow better.

If you find a top change that can be done without the need for misdirection, would you use it? ( there is such thing, Harry Lorayne’s Ultra move, or Max Milton’s One Handed top Change, whatever you want to call it! ).

Keep in mind that you still need to get the trick to flow. You don’t want to FOCUS all the attention on the deck, something like “as you can see the card is somewhere in the deck” and do the pass. The idea is “so your card is lost” as you look to their eyes, and do the pass. If someone is looking down, everything still looks good.

This is a point I want to address further. Burnable moves are great, but that doesn’t mean a spectator should burn them. This all comes down to your presentation and how you want the effect to look like.

 Generally, an effort is made to direct the spectator’s attention elsewhere as the sleight is excuted. ( there are excpetions, like when the external reality of the sleight is essential for the effect, e.g. double turnover-ing the card face up,  false shuffling in Triumph .. etc). In the pass, assuming the context of controlling a selection, the idea for me is to look at the spectator when I do the pass even though I know my pass is burnable. I look away because A) I don’t take chances, shit happens. B) This is how its supposed to look if I’m doing it ( closing the spread and continuing the presentation ), The only reason that comes to my mind, if I want to direct the attention to the deck at this point, is to emphsize the fairness of the prosedure, which is doesn’t add anything to most effects using the pass, if it did, I know I won’t be doing the pass here, if I HAVE to, due to the requirments of the routine, I’ll change the moment,  arranging for location method ( edge marking, locator cards .. etc ) then do the pass elsewhere.

Something I like doing, managing a  Fred Robinson pass: you can have 2 selections, on controlled to the top, and other is currently in middle with a crimp. Double turnover showing wrong card, table it, do the pass, the riffle acts as a magical gesture to make the tabled card change into the 1st selection. 2nd selection is now on top,  ready for your favorite color change. Harry Levine’s Revolution change ( TrapDoor mag ) flows well, or a top change ( Levine’s contributions in the mag is well worth studying too ), since the selection is on spectator’s hand ( if your doing this strolling ), take it,  do one of the moves mentioned above, and show the change/place it on other spectators hand, vioalla.

Misconception 4: For me, the Pass is just a showoff move at magic conventions.
Correction: Depending on the one using it. Why do you care if others use it for show off? Is just because the pass can be “showed off”, you dismiss it? I honestly don’t know how people arrive at such conclusions.

Misconception 5: There are no effects that are “pass-Dependan
Correction: Wrong. Many effects can only be done with the pass. Look into Kaufman’s DVD, all the effects need the pass as a cut. Roy Wolten and Jim Swain have alot of work on the subject as well. In fact, here is a list of the effects and principles I know of, where the pass is either cannot be replaced, or it is the most efficient solution.

– Euroaces ( spectator cuts and turns the aces ), Simply Harkey by David Harkey.
– Roy Wolten Passing at Red ( 3 free selections are odd colored among a packet of cards ), its on Royal Road to Card Magic DVD set by L&L, and on a Genii magazine issue.
– Cavorting Aces in Stars of Magic.
– All effects in Richard Kaufman’s DVD On the pass ( especially the excellent version of Everywhere Nowhere )
– Richard Kaufman’s CardWorks book, 3 effects that the pass is the way to achive the effect with the most magical appeal, 2 other effects where the pass will improve the routine to make it “flow”.
– Any book by Jim Swain.
– Suppose you have a break above 3 cards, how can you control them to the top? The pass is the single most direct option.
– Open Index principle ( memorized deck work ), the pass is most direct way to control the named card, a side steal can be used, but the pass is easier to get into since you are already fiddling with the deck too much, let alone the fact that a pass doesn’t affect the order of the deck as a side steal.
– Other items by Peter Duffie ( a deck turns into something like a prediction ) and Roy Wolten ( a trick called Autograph Hunter uses 3 passes to achive a very direct magical effect with appearantly no moves ).
– A VERY visual color change ( Ken Krenzel’s pass video, watching the pass is like watching a camera trick ).
– A very good control. – ‘Regal Aces’ by Darwin Ortiz which uses about 4 cover passes
– Last but not least, the original application, to restore a cut.

Misconception 6: The pass is just a “magical masturbation”

Correction: I’m assuming that the one who said this meant that many enjoy practicing it, but never do it.
the pass is a nice thing to do in the hands making it something very fun practicing it. No one can see anything wrong with that.

The concepts of the pass are extremely interesting to some magicians, so they study it. Some are interested with false deals, so they study their concepts too. Many others are intrested in the S.W.E shift, so they study it. No one can argue that this is a wrong thing to do. The cardman is intrested in something, he works on it.

Should we work on something knowing that we will never perform it? Of course, but only after we developed a solid base of sleights and routines, a good understanding of basic theory and a decent performing ability, to be able to perform well obviously. At any rate, some things you study only for “acadimic reasons” will serve you wel later onl one way or another.

Misconception 7: The Pass take years to practice.

Correction: It can take years to do well ( for me its 3 years, I’m no way near an expert either ), but a mentor will decrease the learning curve quite a bit. Anyway, don’t even think of it. Just practice, and time will fly by way faster than you think. For me, its like I learned the pass yesterday!

Misconception 8: An Invisible Pass doens’t exist, unless done with misdirection.
Correction: This is the kind of un-intellegent thinking that the likes of Vernon and Erdnase avoided. Erdnase clearly states that an invisible shift in terms on a card game is “yet to be invented“, he didn’t say that it can’t be done, yet showing that Erdnase is indeed someone who knows what he’s talking about.

The same can be applied to magic.

Many people base this opinion on their own experience with magicians. You can’t say something as a fact based on that. I will even say that today, invisible passes are excuted. I saw a clip of Steve Forte doing what seems to me the Luis Zingone Pass ( spelling ) of Expert Card Technique, which looks like taking a tabled deck that has just been cut then dealing. Peter Duffie does an extremely good Riffle Pass, Steve youell does his Mongrel and Rotation passes in an invisible fashion. Bill Klush is said to have an extremely good pass, a claim supported by someone who saw him demonstrating it ( I didn’t say “saw him doing it”, because he didn’t see anything! ). Richard Kaufman’s Half a Jiggle is facinating. Akira Fuji does excellent classic and cover passes as well. Ken Krenzel’s pass looks like trick photography in his VHS.

These are the living masters, don’t forget Vernon, Charlie Miller, Marlo, Gary Ouellet, Larry Jennings, Ross Bertram, Bruce Cervon and many others.


With that all said, I enjoyed ( and still enjoy ) practicing the pass and performing it. Indeed, an action such as of transposing the packets is a very large one, and cardmen succeeded in working out many covers and methods for it. Thats one thing we can be credited for!

One intresting thing that the pass is no longer the “backbone of card conjuring”, as many of today’s performers don’t apply it to their magic ( e.g. Harry Lorayne, Daryl ). Indeed, a sign that our art is evolving.


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