Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Todd Robbins: "The Modern Con Man"

New York City magician and Tannen's Magic customer Todd Robbins has written a new book "The Modern Con Man" : How to Get Something For Nothing.

For years, con men have gotten fat scamming unsuspecting marks for food, shelter, money and from time to time, even clothes, while the rest of us suffer our honest lives in the quiet desperation. Isn't it about time we got in on all the fun?

In The Modern Con Man, entertainer extraordinaire Todd Robbins, with a little help from his Modern Conman Collective, explains the valuable tricks of his venerable trade-from simple bar bets (the Hoboken Bottle Cap bet) to can't-lose card tricks (the Poseidon). Whether it's winning fifty bucks, scoring seats closer to the fifty-yard line, or finagling a free meal, this one-of-a-kind collection of cons, bar bets, card games, and general chicanery ensures aspiring scam artists everywhere will always come out on top.

Filled with humorous facts and tables, a glossary of con terms, illustrations, the history of the con, and easy-to-follow swindles, The Modern Con Man is a hilarious and endlessly entertaining collection of safe, fun, and mostly legal cons for the natural-born prankster in all of us.

Pages 227 - Hardcover with dust jacket.

You can order the book by clicking here:
"The Modern Con Man" : How to Get Something For Nothing.

Todd Robbins is the world's foremost purveyor of reality at it's most amazing -- He is the classiest act to ever grace the stage of the American Sideshow. If Todd looks familiar to you, it's probably because you have seen him on one of the over 100 TV appearances he has done! These include multiple appearances on the late night talkfests of David Letterman, Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien; and the NBC special Extreme Variety.

Chances are that if you have been amazed and amused by a guy on TV eating glass, hammering a nail into his nose, spitting out a huge ball of fire, walking over broken bottles in his bare feet, swallowing swords, sticking his hand into an animal trap, doing the unthinkable with a small balloon, using only the power of his lungs to blow up a hot water bottle until it explodes... it was Todd Robbins doing it!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Up Your Sleeve

In 1888, P. J. Kepplinger, a San Francisco gambler, revolutionized the mechanical holdout. Laboring in secret, Kepplinger, an inventive genius, combined the best features of several mechanical holdouts and added some innovations of his own. The result represented a high-water mark in card-cheating technology.

The core of Kepplinger’s device was a metal slide attached to a rod, which retracted into a pair of steel jaws. Kepplinger concealed this assembly in a double shirtsleeve. When the player activated the device, the steel jaws opened and the slide extended, gripped the cards, and withdrew them between the layers of the double sleeve. The jaws snapped shut, concealing the apparatus from view. The process could be reversed to return the cards into the hand.

Kepplinger’s method of triggering the device was his greatest innovation. A cable ran through a series of tubes and pulleys to terminate at the shoulder. A length of flexible tubing beneath the player’s clothing guided the cable from there to a seam at his knees. Thus, by separating his knees, the player extended the holdout, and by pressing his knees together, he retracted it.

Brilliant in design, the device worked flawlessly. The sharp examined his hand, subtly crimping the corners of the cards he wished to hold out. Spreading his knees, he caused the slide to emerge, grip the cards, and extract them into the double shirtsleeve. Later he reversed the process, returning the holdouts to his palm. Unlike earlier machines, Kepplinger’s creation operated imperceptibly and invisibly. His opponents could peer up his sleeve and discover nothing.

Had he been judicious in the use of his invention, Kepplinger could have bilked suckers forever. But something got the better of him. Perhaps he was greedy. Perhaps he put too much stock in the brilliance of his own invention. Or maybe he was just a gambler. In any event, he pushed his luck.

He used his holdout in San Francisco’s “hard” games, poker games frequented by professional gamblers schooled in the ways of cheating. And he didn’t just use it for the occasional big score; he won almost every game. His opponents knew this couldn’t be attributed to fortune.

They developed a plan. At a prearranged signal they seized Kepplinger, held him down, and conducted a methodical search—and discovered his device. They gave him a simple choice: Build a holdout for each of them or face the consequences of having cheated them. His life at risk, he agreed.

Within a decade Kepplinger’s secret got out. The Kepplinger holdout became the common property of sharps everywhere. By the 1890s gambling supply companies were selling Kepplinger or “San Francisco” holdouts for $100 apiece—a very steep sum, but a small price to pay for genius.

For a modern version of the magician’s holdout, take a look at the “Black Widow”.

The Kepplinger Holdout pictured above was made by Will & Finck of San Francisco, California, circa 1890. From the Doug Edwards Collection.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

David Blaine Appears in Nashville

David Blaine, performer of street and close-up magic and the American world record holding magician and endurance artist magically appeared at the 2008 Nashville Predator Goal Girls auditions the other day.

He amazed the girls with a card effect where he transformed a signed card into a book of matches. The girls were mesmerized and stunned by Blaine's impromptu street magic and are hoping he can also help the team for next season.

Last year, the NHL ice hockey team, Nashville Predators were not expected to have a successful year. However, they did make the Stanley Cup Playoffs and met the Detroit Red Wings (the eventually the Stanley Cup winners) in the first round and were defeated four games to two. It was their fourth straight first round knockout.