Three Shell Game Review…

One of my favorite tricks and the opener to my virtual show is my Russian Shell Game routine. This is a three shell game routine with an ending that has 15 shells on the table. Someone just sent me a link to this review of the trick:

One little correction to something that he mentions in the review. The shells are not 3D printed, they are cast in resin. The original set that the mold was made from was 3D printed, but the set I use and sell is resin.

I love this routine, and still really enjoy performing it!

On The Big Screen…

For a long time I didn’t really use any video projection in my show. Mostly because I didn’t understand how it worked and how to work it. In late January of 2020 I decided I was going to start to figure out how to use it in my live, in person stage shows. Shortly after I started working on using projection, the COVID pandemic hit and any work on in person shows went onto the back burner as I had to figure out virtual shows. Luckily those virtual shows have translated into me starting to understand how to incorporate video elements into my in person show.

Recently I did a theater show and got to start to use video projection. One thing I didn’t like about video was that I didn’t want the audience essentially watching TV. The ideal trick for this is the Three Shell Game. It’s interactive, and fills the screen nicely, but plus it still have whole audience interaction. I chose to use my Russian Shell Game as it has a payoff with the production of a dozen shells.

Here’s my first show using video projection:

It played well, and one of the silver linings to come out of the COVID pandemic is me not being afraid of using video projection/production in my show!

Vertical Three Shell Game

Last night I was playing with a set of mini cups and balls that I have. This particular set was made by Leo Smesters. These are a great little set, however honestly I don’t have much of a use for them. When I originally bought them I had an idea, but haven’t done much with them.

I had the idea of doing a vertical three shell game. The ball would switch places vertically while the cups were stacked. Here’s a quick video of the basic idea:

There’s a little bit more to the full idea I have. Right now the cups are ungimmicked and they will stay that way. However the balls have magnets in them and they stick to each other through the cup. So the cups can sort of function like a chop cup or regular cup depending on the positions of the two balls.

My idea is to have one ball with a very strong magnet in it and then two others with smaller magnets in them. The audience is only aware of one ball. You will steal the ball with the strong magnet and use that magnet like you would a use thumbtip with a magnet inside of it. That will give much more options with what you can do with the cups.

Now I just need to make the balls…

More Eyes…

Having a second set of eyes helps a lot when working on things. Every now and then when I do virtual shows I’ll sneak a friend into the zoom and have them write notes on the show. Recently my friend noticed a rookie mistake I made.

In my three shell game routine (my Russian Shell Game routine) I have a graphic overlay pop up with the numbers 1, 2 and 3.

I wear a white shirt and the numbers are white. My friend pointed out that they blended into my shirt. It was a simple fix to add black borders to them for the future

Now they’ll work with pretty much any background.

Having a fresh set of eyes watch your show for little things make a big difference!

Taking a Pea…

three shell game peas

One of the silver linings about having the entertainment industry shut down during the COVID pandemic is that I’m getting play around with making a lot more props. One thing that I’ve wanted to make for a while are peas for the three shell game.

I had some time some the other day and made some molds for the peas. Then I picked up some urethane and made them. The urethane I used was a 40A on the Shore Hardness Scale.

three shell game pea hardness

They have a little bit of give, but are pretty firm. I like them so far!

Three Card Monte Sequence

One thing that I like about the Three Card Monte is that it automatically engages the entire audience. It’s a game they all can play with being the person playing it. That’s why I think things like the 3 Card Monte or the Three Shell Game are perfect for virtual shows. The level of engagement is great!

Here’s a video from a practice session:

I’m working out the sequence, right now it’s:

  1. Mix and the money card is in a different position
  2. Set aside a non-money card, do the mix and the money card is now the one set aside
  3. cards change so the two non-money cards are now the money card and the money card is now the non-money card
  4. all cards change into jokers

There’s a lot of magic that happens in that sequence. It’s a pretty amazing sequence, and basically using the three card monte premise as a presentation hook for card color changes.

3D Chop Cup Routine

One of the Facebook groups that I belong to is a Magician’s 3D Printing group. It’s an interesting group, a few people in it are making some cool stuff. Recently someone asked if anyone had made a chop cup before. I mentioned that I had and made stack of nested cups as a final load for it.

I no longer have the set of cups, but here’s an idea of what they looked like:

nested cups and balls final production

This set was 100% inspired by Gary Ouellet‘s column Fulminations in Genii Magazine where he had a series of nested cups as the ending for a cups and balls routine. This led to my Russian Shell Game trick, which is a Three Shell Game that ends with a ton of shells on the table.

The fun thing about the time we live in, is with a little bit of tinkering around, you can make virtually any prop you’ve ever wanted with 3d printer!

Shell Game Ending…

If you read this blog or follow me on social media, you know I’m not the Three Shell Game. I’ve come up with several original takes on the classic trick, which is great for a routine that’s basically been unchanged decades. I just built an ending for the shell game that I think is pretty cool.

Before I tell you what I did, let me tell you the two types of tricks that I think are usually the most lazy ways of being creative with magic. They are items that are hollow and turn solid and items that turn into glass (or clear plastic). Yes, there are execptions, like when Jerry Andrus and Danny Korem first did the Omni Deck. If you take a marker an turn it clear…great, but unless you have a really original take on the switch, it’s just a color change and no different from turning the marker from red to black.

So now, let’s get back to the shell game. Personally I’ve never done the ending where the shells turn solid. Why? I don’t think it makes sense. It’s a kicker ending that’s not really logical and doesn’t really move the ending forward. It’s too different from what has happened the whole time. It’s a “what?” moment because it thinking of the audience has to shift a lot from what was happening the whole routine. It’s almost like it’s the beginning of a new routine.

How did I fix the solid shells? I took it a step further. I used it as the starting point for another effect. Here’s how the routine plays. You do a few shell sequences, then cover a shell and pea with a shot glass. They are mixed around and guess where the pea is. When they lift the shot glass, then the shell, they see no pea, and then they discover the shell is solid. Now it’s a mystery they just discovered. They will turn over the other two shells to check them, and they are solid as well. Having them discover the solid shell is soo much better than you revealing it.

Now for the new ending:

When they look at the shotglass that’s sitting on the table, they see the pea under it. When they pick up the shotglass, they realize the shotglass is solid! The pea is embedded in the solid shotglass!

three shell game

This is a solid (pun intended) ending for the solid shell game. It takes the routine one step forward to an ending that’s more logical than just the solid shells.

Catch your whale

Right now we’ve all found ourselves with a lot of extra time. I’ve been using mine to try to catch my “Great White Whale” of tricks I’ve always wanted to create. This trick has been in my head for over a decade and a lot of things had to come together to for it to happen.


Here’s the trick, and be sure to watch the whole thing:


I’ve been fascinated by the idea of using a nested replicas of the main prop as a final load ever since I read Gary Oullett’s cups and balls routine in his Fulminations column in Genii magazine. Then about 10 or 15 years ago I thought about applying it to the shell game. The hurdle was getting shells to nest and enough of them.


Then the breakthrough came when I got a 3D printer. I could print the shells, however the problem was they didn’t look like shells. They looked like plastic things that kinda looked like walnut shells. A friend of mine sent me a link of how to make molds and I tried to learn off of youtube videos with limited success. I ended up taking a 4 hour class on making molds and resin casting that really helped speed up the learning curve.


I kept making baby steps to get towards the end result and finally got there. I’m not done yet, ideally in the future I’ll have some shells that look a little bit better, but for now I have a workable version of the trick!


Make It Yourself…

One of the things that I try to do in my show is not to use props that other people use. It could be the same prop, but mine looks different. Usually the reason mine looks different is because I made it myself (or had it made for me). I read a long time ago … Continue reading “Make It Yourself…”

One of the things that I try to do in my show is not to use props that other people use. It could be the same prop, but mine looks different. Usually the reason mine looks different is because I made it myself (or had it made for me). I read a long time ago in an SH Sharpe book on magic theory that when you make the prop the pride your have from making it will show in your performance and that’s something that’s stuck in my head.


Recently I searched for a set of large walnuts to make my own set for the three shell game. I finally found some in the Ukraine had them shipped to me. I altered one of them a little bit and made a mold of it, and then cast my own set of shell game shells in resin.

These shells are larger than most shells, but not too large. I’ve used them in a couple of gigs and they’re working out great. The next step is to learn to reduce the tiny air bubbles in them.