I've always loved table work, though it's a little ironic that almost everything I perform is standing up. In fact, the irony grows more when you hear that I actually practice most of my standing routines while sitting. Yeah, I'm messed up.
But for real though, table work has always been a passion of mine and when I think of the type of card magic I really love and work on the most - that's where it's at.
So, what exactly is "table work"? In my opinion, it's any routine that takes place while seated at, well, a table. For me, that typically involves a close-up pad and a deck of cards. Yeah, I know that you don't need a close-up pad, but hey, I'm not a pro so I take advantage of the little luxuries in life :P. When I talk to folks about it though, the conversation normally turns to gambling routines. While these are great, I think that they're just a small part of card work at the table.
I'm going to write plenty on table work in time; I've dreamt up larger field-covering articles down to smaller, single variant handlings of specific moves, all the way to theory of performance. But for what you're reading now, this is my current hit-list of how I practice and where I get my material from. I hope that it can help lead you down some fun roads too.
How I Practice
To practice table work, once you have a list of things that you want to focus on, my go-to method is to first break down the "things" into categories.
These categories are:
- Shifts (or "Passes")
- Tricks / Routines
Why would I create categories like "Dealing" and "Shifts", or even "Changes" when talking about table work? Because, more of then than not these things are handled different when seated versus standing. When everyone's seated at a table at about the same level and all eyes are on the deck, the Classic Pass probably isn't going to cut it. Also, at the time of this writing, I'm still diving into the world of table work so for me, these are the categories I bucket everything into to help my focus and practice.
There are undoubtedly more ways to break things down and probably twice as many categories than I have above - but as a beginner myself, I'd say these are good to start with.
But yeah - categories. I will pick one "thing" from each category and practice it each day. So, perhaps today I'll spend 5 minutes practicing my Zarrow Shuffle with Up the River cuts. Then I'll do Push Off Seconds and every 5th card I'll do a Diagonal Palm Shift. Once I've dealt half the deck, I'll re-shuffle and do it another 5 times. Then I'll work on Lateral Palm Changing the top card while cutting the deck. Repeatedly, at least 20 times. And then afterwards I'll take a routine such as cutting the deck into four piles - the top of each having an Ace, the bottom of each having a King - and I'll repeat it 5 times. And there's about an hour of table work practice for the day (honestly, probably more like a half hour but to be fair, I'd be doing this throughout the day … most likely during work).
Holy moly, there are honestly countless numbers of books, videos, and other resources that could be included here I don't want to enumerate everything ever, but I do want to call out some of my favorites. Please note that the lists below are in no particular order other than what's come to mind first.
- Gambling Sleight of Hand - Vol. 1
- Card College - Vol. 1
- Card College - Vol. 2
- Card College - Vol. 3
- Stars of Magic
- Expert at the Card Table
- The Annotated Erdnase
Unfortunately, I can only recommend books that I know of - more so ones that I've read. I'm sure there are more out there - probably even better ones too. As I come across them, I'll update my list(s) to reflect. If the lists update too frequently, I'll make a dedicated resource for them too.
Truth be told, Expert at the Card Table is only really included here because of it's classic nature. It's full of information, but it's not an easy read. Not because the content is super difficult but because of how it's written and formatted. If anything, I'd actually recommend The Annotated Erdnase over it since it has extra notes and would you believe it - a table of contents! The Card College series is amazing across the board and while it does cover a lot of non-table work, the table work included is great.
At the time of writing, I haven't finished GSOH yet but it's already at the top of my list. If you can afford a copy, I don't know why you wouldn't already own it!
I also have Cardshark and GSOH 2 on my shelf and I'm excited to dive into both. I'm expecting them to be table work books too, but we'll see.
- Classic Green Collection
- A Study on Lennart Green
- Darwin Ortiz Collection
- Confident Deceptions
- EATCT2 - Jeremy Griffith
- Troy Hooser Table Passes
- Alex Elmsley - The Tahoe Sessions
- Bill Malone - Here I Go Again
- Malone Meets Marlo
These videos contain so much info that even choosing to dedicate a year to just one of them would set you up for life. I've watched each a few times (though, some that have multiple discs I've focused more on specific discs) and jeez - I've still forgotten more than remembered.
I would love to say that I'm getting to the point where I could just pick a single video or a single book and focus on the work contained in it until I've mastered it - but I don't know if I'll ever get there. For now, I'm loving the over-exposure and learning everything possible!