>cups & balls

As a kid I loved magic. I still do, but back then I would buy inexpensive magic paraphernalia and try my hand at doing a few tricks. I was terrible. I can still do a couple of bad card tricks but that’s about all. One of my favorite tricks is the classic (more like ancient) cups & balls. Some say it dates back to ancient Egypt. I wouldn’t be surprised.

Cups & balls is primarily based on sleight of hand and misdirection – the two mainstays of table magic. It is such a fundamental trick that most magicians know it well, and there are a virtually uncountable number of online videos ranging from professional magicians to rank amateurs showing off their versions of the trick. Here are three worth viewing.

The great Dai Vernon does a classic version of the trick, along with a little humor:

Ricky Jay performs maybe the best version anywhere online:

And finally, the iconoclasts Penn & Teller explain the trick while in an ancient Egyptian tomb:

There are more fanciful, complicated, and stunning magic tricks out there. Cups & balls is certainly not making the Statue of Liberty disappear, but it is a fun trick that can still astound, especially in the hands of a master.

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