Skip to content


Destination Zero Book By John Bannon

John Bannon Destination Zero(Source: M-U-M Magazine July/Aug 2015)
Traditionally, self-working card tricks fall into the purview of two groups: beginning magicians and those who sell books and DVDs to beginning magicians. Magic neophytes want to show tricks to their families and friends. Prop magic (like the simple effects found in beginner magic kits) provide a way to perform without the need for technical ability. Books of self-working card tricks provide a lot of bang for the buck: a deck of cards is a relatively inexpensive prop; a book provides dozens of effects at a reasonable cost. And so begin endless demonstrations of cards being dealt into three piles and burglar-Jacks robbing apartment buildings.

Many famous magicians have released books of self-working card tricks. John Scarne had a good one, published sixty-five years ago. In his introduction he wrote: “Five years ago, I decided that the card-trick enthusiasts deserved a better grade of card tricks than they had been accustomed to performing. On the whole, the tricks performed by the non-sleight-of-hand card enthusiasts at that time were so simple that the secret was easily discovered by the person or persons they were intended to mystify.” To rectify that situation, Scarne brainstormed with some of the best minds of that era (Dai Vernon, Francis Carlyle, Martin Gardner, Bill Simon, Al Baker, Bob Hummer, Cliff Green, Clayton Rawson, Jacob Daly, Stewart James, et al.) and created a great collection of self-working card tricks, Scarne on Card Tricks. (As a side note, I’ll mention that I still have my copy, purchased when I was a kid. One trick in the collection, The Stapled Card by Joseph Prieto, has been my great white whale for fifty years. I keep trying to fix it, but none of my solutions satisfy me.)

Karl Fulves has released a series of neophyte books through Dover Publications, including Self-working Card Tricks, More Self-working Card Tricks, My Best Self-working Card Tricks, and Self-working Close-up Card Magic. These books contain tricks that are quite good, and I have often recommended them.

However, it is not only the unskilled beginner who has an interest in self-working card tricks; there are many, very skilled professionals whose repertoire contains a few sleightless effects. I have a half-dozen or so that I perform all the time in casual situations. They are among the strongest tricks I do. Why do a self-working effect when you have the chops to do serious sleight of hand? There are several reasons. If you’re at a party, working impromptu, you have no idea of the condition the deck you’re about to be handed. The performing conditions, especially the proximity and arrangement of the spectators may be unfavorable. And here’s a big reason: When you’re working for a casual party of friends, you want whatever effect you do to be absolutely bulletproof. This isn’t a formal performance; if someone busts you on something, he’s probably going to let everybody else know. Here’s an important corollary: if you have a reputation as a skilled magician, your spectators are going to be doubly fooled when you don’t do anything.

There’s one more group of people who are seriously interested in self-working card tricks: the magicians who create them. The tricks invented by this group of ingenious thinkers are designed so they are not “so simple that the secret is easily discovered by the person or persons they are intended to mystify.” All of which brings me to the subject of this review, John Bannon, and his new book Destination Zero, a book that contains twenty-five, top-notch, self-working effects.

Through his previous books, John has established himself as one of the premier creators of high quality sleight-of-hand magic. But he has also published sleight-free effects. (In fact, three of the best self-working routines in my repertoire come from John’s books.) In his introduction, John answers the question, “Why do we care that a trick is self-working?” His answer: “Good self-working card magic emphasizes elegant construction and layered application of principles. Good self-working card magic generally has a more open, ‘hands-off’ look and feel. Good self-working magic is easy to do without sacrificing quality of effect...Anyone can cobble together a couple of principles and call it a ‘trick.’ I look for synergies and try to leverage the method as much as possible. One plus one should equal three – or more. Otherwise, why bother?”

John also includes a famous quote from S. Leo Horowitz concerning an effect that has five moves. He states that if you can eliminate those moves, you have a miracle. John also includes Ed Marlo’s observation on that quote: “I have found that if you eliminate that last move, you end up with a mathematical atrocity.” Happily, there are no mathematical atrocities in Destination Zero. (Incidentally, if you haven’t just figured it out, the Horowitz quote explains the book’s title. The creative goal – Bannon’s destination – is zero moves.)

The technical requirements are clearly defined at the outset: the ability to neatly overhand shuffle a deck (including a single-card run shuffle), the ability to do an in-the-hands straight cut, and the ability to handle a deck neatly (the way someone who plays cards often would be able to do). None of the tricks require gaffed cards; most can be done in impromptu situations. There is one non-card item, an interesting version of Bank Night.

You’ll find clever variations of some well-established plots, such as Lynn Searles’s Moracle, Karl Fulves’s Gemini Twins, Cameron Francis’s Annihilation Deck, the Diary Trick, Bannon’s Dead Reckoning, Kenton Knepper’s Kolossal Killer, Bannon’s Origami Poker, The Trick that Fooled Einstein, Any Card at Any Number, and Mel Stover’s Irresistible Force. What’s great about Destination Zero is the way that John has wrung every ounce of deviousness from the underlying methods and principles of these tricks. For example, the Einstein trick variation, titled Box of Doom, is a full-blown showpiece, with three successively amazing kickers. In Petal to the Metal, John takes the little-known Matsuyama Petal Force, stirs in a fabulously brazen scam, and comes up with a trick that will fool just about anyone.

Because John has set such stringent restrictions on what sleights are allowed (basically none), there are some maneuvers (the Balducci Cut-deeper Force, Jay Ose’s three-way false cut, and the Cross-cut Force) that are used extensively. But John has managed to find some interesting wrinkles that breathe new life into these old war horses. However, if you have some card ability under your fingers, you can easily substitute more advanced techniques for the procedures John suggests. In fact, in many cases, John discusses ways in which the effects can be “spruced up.”

I enjoy reading John Bannon’s books. Like the other members of the Chicago Saturday Session (Simon Aronson and Dave Solomon), John is thorough in his discussions of the “how,” the “why,” and the “wherefore.” He explains where a trick came from and his reasons for altering it. While I’m reading, I feel as if I’m spending time with an intelligent, literate adult, and that’s not the feeling that most magic products give me. In the introduction, John writes, “This book is not aimed at the rank beginner, and I have not written it to that level...” But this is exactly the type of magician who would find this book most beneficial, and I fear that the book may intimidate those who should really study it. I hope not.

I liked Destination Zero very much; there are several effects that are going straight into my self-working arsenal. If you are a card enthusiast or you simply want some sleightless, powerful card magic to amaze your friends, family, or magic buddies, pick up a copy of Destination Zero. The journey to zero will be a pleasurable one.

Available from:

Previous article Extreme Dean By Dean Dill - Volumes 1 & 2
Next article Max Maven’s VideoMind - Three Volume Set

Leave a comment

Comments must be approved before appearing

* Required fields