Expert Card Magic: Lecture Notes Vol 1 & Vol 2 (Sal Piacente)
Some of the best card magic you will ever see
This set of two DVDs contains a variety of magical card effects that are taught by Sal Piacente. Sal began working as a blackjack dealer in Atlantic City before moving through a variety of jobs at casinos. He is currently the president of UniverSal Game Protection Development, Inc, where he works as a game protection specialist, meaning that he helps teach how to find and prevent cheaters at casinos. He's been on several TV shows, and is active in giving lectures to the casino industry on how to expose card cheats. You can view a short introductory video about Sal here, and there's a great article about his work here.
Sometimes called Sal "The Hitman" Piacente, he definitely looks like a guy that you don't want to mess with, and would be the ideal person to have at your side when encountering someone from the mafia or a professional cheat. His work has given him a lot of experience with cards, and he has a great knowledge of card magic. In this collection of two videos (Expert Card Magic: Lecture Notes Vol 1 & Vol 2), Mr Piacente draws on his wealth of experience and his creativity to share some of his very best card effects. Altogether there's a dozen different routines, with some top notch material.
Praise & Endorsements
But first, let me persuade you that it's even worth checking out Sal Piacente's videos, or reading this review. A number of magicians would include this in their top 10 DVDs/videos of all time. Here's what some people have to say about it - these are mostly quotes from scattered places online:
"I saw a TV special where Piacente took SIX randomly shuffled decks, by spectators, then immediately cut to all the aces. He is definitely an expert." - kissthecaptain
"WOW!.... what you will learn in this DVD set is incredible!" - MagicCarisio
"As much as I like my Malone and Ammar DVD's, I would have to say these beat them." - Jeff J.
"Sal is THE MAN when it comes to the pasteboards. Astonishment is all I can describe it as. Get the videos; you will be rewarded." - Jason Wethington
"I have Sals DVDs and they are monster great. His style is very unique and entertaining. This is a must for all card "geeks"." - Kjellstrom
"The Sal DVD's are impeccably great. The material on them is top notch." - KC
"Sal's performance style and his teaching methods are fantastic." - Alym Amlani
"These are some of the best card DVDs you'll ever own. VERY highly recommended." - ImpromptuBoy
"This DVD includes some of the best card routines ever! He's also a great teacher." - Costa Rica
"Excellent, and far more value than the price charged for them. Sal has a street smart style, is very talented, and sincerely wants to teach what he does. Dollar for Dollar, and quality of material, these DVD's are hard to beat." - Martini
"13 top-level, spectacular card effects ... that have ever been performed! Wow! If you love card magic, check out this awesome DVD set. It's so good, I'm speechless!!" - MagicCarisio
"Sal Piacente's DVDs are great. I like his presentation as well as his teaching---everything comes across and is explained in a crystal-clear style. " - kerpa
"Great to watch, wealth of information, good teacher, and the way Sal presents the material is very entertaining, there's also a nice variety of tricks." - Peakey
"With this DVD, I could've died happy after just having witnessed the routines... the impact that the routines had on me is beyond my words. I would've easily have paid the price of the DVD to witness the miracles, but hey, for the same great deal you get to learn them all" - magicman_jk
"Great set indeed. One of my hidden gems." - rannie
These videos were first produced in 2004, and while there was considerable noise about them at the time they were first released, over time stellar works like this tend to be overlooked or forgotten. In fact, many young magicians are so busy trying to keep up with the latest releases, that they probably haven't even heard of this video set! Today there's a new generation of young magicians, many of whom have never seen a review of Sal Piacente's Expert Card Magic, and who perhaps haven't even heard of it. Fortunately it's still widely available, and is still as excellent as it was when it first appeared. I'm passionate about card magic and about writing reviews, so when I come across a great product like this that has been very helpful to me, I love to write about it and to share with others. I'm hoping that I can provide a useful service to others here by contributing some detailed information that goes beyond a short review which only says that the reviewer liked something and thought it was good. Further, while this DVD set is sometimes referred to, you'll battle to find a good detailed review of it. So in what follows, I'll show you what you get, and give you a detailed overview of the contents, and tell you what's good about it.
What you get
This product is a set of two DVDs, each of which comes in its own DVD case. They are available separately from some suppliers, but in many places you'll find them together as a set, and that's probably the best way to get them.
Volume One has a running time of 1hr 25 minutes, and covers five routines:
Sal's Memory Opener, The Marlo Opener, Sal's Ace Cutting Routine, Sal's Ace Cutting Routine II, and The Vernon Poker Deal Revisited.
Volume Two has a running time of 1 hr, and covers eight routines:
The McDougal Stack Outdone, Paint Poker, Rollover Aces, Stop!!, The Riffle Stack, The Faro Stack, 4,5,6-Packet Trick, plus a bonus effect, The Encore Card Trick.
Each DVD has a contents menu that allows you to navigate to a demonstration of the effect, or go straight to its explanation. The format involves Sal first presenting and then explaining the tricks one-on-one to Rob Stiff, who discusses the routine with him.
See the official video trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qa8X6Q2ZL9A..
Review of Volume One
Sal's Memory Opener: This is a devastating effect that seems impossible. The magician is able to seemingly memorize the deck in a quick glimpse and identify which cards are moved. The spectator even can shuffle the cards. This effect is very impactful and is extremely easy to perform. It works on a simple principle which allows it to be performed without having to learn any complex sleight of hand, and yet is still an amazing trick.
The Marlo Opener: This is a whole great routine that has one amazing moment after another. The spectator is able to cut a packet of cards from the deck, and the magician is able to correctly tell them exactly how many cards are in the packet. From there, the magician is able to deal a perfect hand to one person the spectator chooses. This is a great routine that will leave your audience believing you are very skilled at guessing and feeling cards, as well as memorizing the deck. The whole presentation taught allows you to look like you have the skills of a professional, and yet it is a very easy trick to learn and perform. The only real "move" needed is the faro shuffle, which is not something you even need to hide, because it is just a way of weaving the cards together. The explanation of the whole principle behind this routine is well taught, and a bunch of sequences in the routine are able to be used to amaze your audience with ease.
Sal's Ace Cutting Routine: This is a great routine in which the magician is able to cut straight to all the aces. The deck is shuffled before the audience’s eyes, and the magician is still able to cut to all the aces. The deck is even shuffled by the spectator and the last ace is still cut to with ease. This is a great routine to watch and perform. The explanation of the routine is very well done and easy to follow along with, and while it will require practice to ensure you can perform it well, there is no complex sleight of hand that you need to worry about.
Sal's Ace Cutting Routine II: This second ace cutting routine is an absolute killer. The spectator takes the four aces and places them into the deck, and is even able to shuffle the whole deck. The magician is then able to cut straight to all four aces without even looking, creating a piece of magic that is so impossible for your audience, as they themselves shuffled the deck. This routine doesn’t require any complex sleight of hand, even though it might seem necessary to pull off such a miracle. Some practice will be required to be able to perform this smoothly, but do not worry, you won’t need to even learn any special moves really, it is all just a simple method that you need to perform well!
The Vernon Poker Deal Revisited: This is a great effect in which the magician is able to deal out some great poker hands to some players, but manages to get an even better hand himself. In fact, the spectator is even able to freely choose and draw the winning card for the magician’s hand. This is a wonderful effect that plays big with poker players, although they may not ever want to play poker with you after this… The effect will need some practice, but trust me, it’s well worth it, as it is such a magical effect.
Review of Volume Two
The McDougal Stack Outdone: This is a routine in which the magician stacks the four aces to the top of the deck and is able to deal himself the four aces. It’s a nice routine, in which the magician seems to explain what he is doing to make it appear as if he has a lot more skill than what he is actually doing. However, this is a longer effect so you will need to practice to make sure you can perform it well, and it does require spending quite a bit of time with it to get it down well.
Paint Poker: Sal teaches another killer trick, using only 20 high cards for a game of poker. The spectator is able to shuffle and cut the deck, and Sal is still able to deal himself the winning hand, over some other great hands. This is a great effect for poker players, and is highly self-working, even though the spectator themselves shuffles the cards. No fancy sleights are needed, just good presentation to create this marvellous effect.
Rollover Aces: In this routine, the magician cuts to all four aces after some shuffling and cutting, and for a kicker ending, four royal flushes are revealed. This is a neat little routine that uses some breaks and false shuffles, and this routine will require a bit of practice to perform so it looks good and can be done smoothly, but results in an interesting effect.
Stop!!: This is a really great effect in which a card is selected and then shuffled into the deck. The magician deals the cards down onto the table one at a time and the spectator calls stop, stopping the magician directly on their chosen card. Sal teaches this effect very well so that you should be able to perform it quickly, and even if it does not quite work out, Sal teaches a whole bunch of ‘outs’ that will enable you to still create a magical effect, even if it wasn’t the one you might original plan.
The Riffle Stack: This is more of a demonstration that can be shown to the audience to show them some skill that you have, and it will amaze them. In this, the performer demonstrates how a gambler is able to set up the deck to make sure that a person of someone’s choice is able to receive a great hand using a riffle shuffle. This will require some practice, but it can be really amazing for laymen to watch.
The Faro Stack: This is another gambling demonstration that shows how a gambler might be able to deal himself the four aces. Of course, just doing that is too simple, so a kicker ending by dealing the four kings makes it more amazing. To perform this you will need to be able to do the faro shuffle, which makes this possible. It is another great demonstration to perform to laymen, and follows on well after the Riffle Stack.
4, 5, 6-Packet Trick: This is an absolute killer trick, and it alone makes it worthwhile to purchase these videos. A spectator thinks of a card in a packet, and mixes the packets all together, not telling anyone which card was chosen. The magician shuffles the deck, and still is able to find the chosen card that was only thought of, a truly baffling effect that will amaze your audience! This is a great effect that will leave your audience never forgetting your magic, and it is quite a simple trick to learn and perform, so this makes it even more great. The practice required will be in getting the patter down. Sal also does teach a few variations on the effect which also are great to perform.
Bonus: The Encore Card Trick: This might be bonus material, but some consider this routine one of the best on this DVD. It requires no sleight-of-hand, and you will be surprised how five randomly chosen cards will meet the "conditions" for this trick to work every time. It is a self-worker that I've seen compared with Bob Farmer's Tsumani.
The one-on-one format for the video has Sal perform and explain all the tricks to Rob Stiff, and this creates an intimate setting that really suits close-up card magic. For each routine, first there's a brief introduction of the effect from Sal, then a performance of the effect with Rob Stiff, who looks genuinely amazed by the effects - as will most viewers. Sal then teaches the tricks in an easy to follow manner, making it simple to learn the effects, and his patter is always great to learn from. The video production is also very solid, and different camera angles are used where necessary.
If I had a criticism, it would be that I would have liked to have seen some more discussion about the origin of some of the routines. But in the end the real star of the show is the magic itself, and Sal's showmanship. Most experienced magicians will agree that while not all the material is original or new, Sal definitely offers a fresh take on things, and his unique style, patter, and presentation feels genuinely fresh and novel. He has a deliberately under-stated and matter-of-fact style, and his persona is to present his magic as feats of pure skill, and as demonstrations of pure abilities with memorizing and controlling cards. This really helps to create a sense of complete astonishment, and makes it an absolute pleasure to watch. He's a good teacher too, which is of course essential for an instructional video like this.
The one-on-one interaction with Rob Stiff is also excellent. The question and answer style as they discuss each trick works really well, and will be something that magicians will appreciate and find very helpful. The relaxed conversational approach that they have to the performance and explanation is very natural and smooth, and together with Rob Stiff you really get the feel that you are an insider who is welcomed into the private sanctuary of a professional magician and skilled teacher.
All the tricks taught here are solid, but the consensus is pretty clear that the best ones are these: Memory Opener and the 4,5,6 Packet Trick. The 4, 5, 6-packet trick is arguably the best of the lot, and in fact Sal himself says this is his favourite trick. Here's some comments from other users about their favourites:
"I would have paid the full price for the set for the first effect [Memory Opener] alone." - Craig Patchett
"I did the 4,5,6 packet trick for the first time today and can say that it really is one of the best card tricks I have ever done." - atrudo
"The "4,5,6-Packet Trick" was worth the price of both of the DVDs...and then some." - Turk
"The 4,5,6-packet trick in volume number 2 is sheer genius. It is so simple even a beginner could do it, but it will really blow people's minds." - G Money
"High quality card magic. Sal does an excellent job explaining each routine in detail. Memory Opener is easily worth the price of both DVDs. This is high-impact material." - Clay Skaggs
"Besides the Cutting to Aces, Deal Royal Flushes routines, the two best tricks on the set have to be the Memory Opener and the 456-Packet effects. Both are absolutely baffling, give your audience a lot of freedom, and are extremely easy." - Mark D.
But even though these two routines are probably the top ones, the reality is that there's a terrific amount of top quality material here. This isn't just a collection of mediocre material with one or two hot tricks - it's all strong, but these ones alone will easily make it worth getting!
The effects taught here are mostly simple to learn, and you won't find them too difficult to learn whether you are an intermediate magician or more advanced in magic. Many of these routines give the impression of being demonstrations of great skill and feats with cards (e.g. feats of memory, or amazing demonstrations of gambling). In reality, however, they rely not so much on sleight-of-hand, but are just cleverly thought out tricks. That means that most of the tricks taught here are well within the reach of the average magician, although some will require some practice. When you see them, they look like very advanced card work, but that's just the beauty of the magic therein - they're actually quite simple!
In some cases an ability with card handling is necessary (e.g. a couple require an ability to do a faro-shuffle), but for the most part the intermediate magician will find them relatively easy to learn, and be surprised how few sleights are used. It's well worth the effort required to learn the patter and master the routine, because these these effects are great to perform and will amaze your spectators. Since they are relatively straight-forward, they are great for nearly all magicians to learn, and yet even experienced magicians will find some great effects to add to their performances.
With these videos, Sal Piacente offers a genuinely fresh approach to card magic, and some absolutely terrific material. It's relatively easy to learn and within the reach of the average magician, and the teaching is terrific.
All-round, this is easily a top-notch collection, that deserves to find its way into the hands of card magicians old and young today who haven't yet come across it. Highly recommended!
Want to learn more? See:
- Publisher's page: link
- Amazon: link