Sleight of hand tricks – Sleight of hand — Wikipedia

5 Mind Blowingly Simple Coin Tricks

Coin Tricks

Coin Tricks are what you saw when you were a child and they completely blew your mind.  But what if you knew how simple they really were?  Have you always wondered how they did it and wanted to be able to do some awesome coin tricks yourself?  Well you’re in the right place because I have found 5 of the best coin tricks out there and and you can do them too because they are so amazingly simple.

The Classic Coin Vanish…

In this video the magician gives a detailed and clear explanation on how to do this cool coin trick.  After watching this and practicing for a few minutes you too will be performing this trick perfectly and impressing your friends.  You know what they say, short, simple, and sweet.

Pass the Coin Through Your Hand…

In this video Matt Wayne demonstrates a really neat trick.  All you need for this one is a couple of coins and some friends to entertain.  And the best thing about it is you can master this trick in no time at all, it is a really easy trick that is great for beginners.

The Amazing 4 Coin Flourish…

Here’s another tutorial by Matt Wayne and this one is really cool.  I know this isn’t a magic trick but I had to include it.  This is one of my very favorite flourishes, and when you get it down is really impressive.

The Basic French Drop…

This is one of the most basic and effective sleight of hand tricks.  This is usually the first coin trick learned by most magicians and it is very easy to learn.  Just watch this video and in no time you will have mastered this great trick.  It’s very fun to do and simple, all you need is a coin!

Amazing Coin Transportation Trick…

This is another great video of a coin trick that involves sleight of hand.  This one is very simple and well explained by the magician in this video.  As you can see from the beginning it is also a very effective trick for how simple it is.  All you need for this one is a couple of coins and some sleight of hand skills.  This is a great one for just starting magic or practicing your sleight of hand with no extra tools needed.


Well there you have it, 5 of the best coin tricks out there.  They are easy, cheap and effective.  Coin tricks are great because anyone can do them at any time, anywhere.  All you need to start blowing people’s minds is a coin or two and some sleight of hand.  Now go out and learn these tricks and in no time you will be a master of coin trick magic.

The 7 Strongest Sleights for Card Magicians

I hope you’re enjoying our massive 3 part series on magic tricks! Welcome to the third and final installment in the Complete Card Magic Blueprint. If you are practicing your sleight of hand right now… don’t put down your deck… but make sure you check out all 3 parts!

Complete Card Magic Blueprint

This Blueprint is your fast-path to easy card tricks! It shows you every sleight you’ll need to do great magic, and more important, exactly why each one matters.

Just by reading our Blueprint, you’ll save yourself hours of frustration, confusion and wasted practice time on techniques that you don’t really need. In the long run, you’ll have even more fun with your magic, and your audiences will be even more astonished when you perform.

If haven’t read the first two installments of this Blueprint, use the links above to read them first. This post deals with ‘Advanced Techniques’, and this article will make them much easier to learn.

But as you’ll see, the secrets to making the ‘difficult’ look easy lay in how you approach the fundamental card magic concepts we cover in the first two parts of this Blueprint!

Okay… I’ll pause here so you can go read the first two parts of the Blueprint. Don’t worry, I’ll be very patient…:-)

Congratulations! Expert ‘Sleight of Hand’ Will Be Easy!

Sleight of hand easy? You may be thinking I am making a bold claim!

Now that you’ve learned the genuine secrets in the first two parts of this plan, you are in for a very big treat. The ‘simple’ Double Turnover is actually far more challenging to perform than the so-called Expert Level Sleight of Hand.

In fact, armed with the knowledge you now possess, you’re about to discover that the most powerful sleights in all of card magic are not as difficult to master as you may think.

You’ll see EXACTLY how they fit into the ‘big picture’ of your card magic, and as I’m about to reveal, that information absolutely eliminates the unnecessary frustration magicians experience when they tackle the techniques you’re about to discover.

Consider one fascinating thing these sleights have in common:

  • The Classic Pass
  • The Gravity Half Pass
  • The Top Palms
  • The Bottom Palm
  • The Side Steal
  • The Diagonal Palm Shift
  • The Top Change

These ‘sleight of hand moves’ fascinate the inner magician in each of us because of one main feature they all share:

Anytime you witness a performer who can demonstrate one of these moves in person, a mere demonstration of the sleight itself actually feels like real magic. And once you know the ‘basic idea’ behind the mechanics of the Classic Pass or Top Change, it’s even more amazing to witness.

The first time I saw a magician who could really do these moves, over 20 years ago, I couldn’t believe my eyes. My face looked as though I’d just seen a fire-breathing dragon flying above my house!

Surrender the Idea of Invisible Sleight of Hand. It’s an Illusion.

When these sleights are performed properly, they seem invisible. However, when we practice them, we find invisibility to be an all but impossible goal. This approach leads to unnecessary ‘sleight of hand frustration’.

In fact, this illusion is encouraged by on-screen ‘move demos’. In live performance, these sleights DO NOT rely on invisibility for success.

That’s great news for your success. Don’t strive for ‘invisibility’, or wait to acheive it in practice before you start using these sleights in your performance.

Instead, focus on far more important goals that are not only realistic, but actually easy in comparison. For a move like the Classic Pass to be effective, it must be silent, effortless and economical – each secret action must take less than a single moment to complete…without rushing.

Finish the sleight before your ‘moment of misdirection’ expires and thanks to your quiet, relaxed execution, you won’t have any noises or tension to draw your audience’s eyes to the pack as you perform it.

If you learn the sleights in this part of the Blueprint in this way, people will soon be saying you perform these sleights ‘invisibly’.

But in truth, you’ll have mastered the illusion of invisibility. And that’s what makes the sleights that follow seem so impossible.

Advanced Sleights Make Direct Miracles

Unlike the Open Action Sleight Clusters we covered in Part 2, the  techniques that follow do not take place as you seem to turn over the deck (Invisible Turnover Pass) or display the top card of the pack (Double Turnover).

I DO NOT recommend the advanced techniques that follow because they’re challenging, or because they’re ‘cool’. In fact, as you go through  this final part of our Blueprint, you’ll see that I’ve only included a small number of sleights for your consideration.

Each of the sleight of hand moves that follow are direct and economical. After learning about deceptive Double Turnovers in Part 2 of this plan, you’ll be very glad to discover that most of these techniques require a secret break and only one other Secret Action.

To the audience, It will seem as if you’ve barely handled the cards. And as you’ll discover, this one feature can have an extremely powerful impact on your audience’s experience when you perform.

The Classic Pass

The Classic Pass, or as it is titled in The Expert at the Card Table , The Two Handed Shift, allows you secretly to cut the pack as you seem to do nothing at all. This one sleight can be used to force, switch, control or force any number of cards.

In fact, the Classic Pass is the most dynamic, adaptable secret move in magic. It always has been. For that reason, the Classic Pass was considered ‘the backbone’ of card magic for centuries. And once you start using it, you’ll find it to be one of the most useful sleights in your entire repertoire.

Here’s a tutorial sharing a powerful, little known secret to performing an imperceptible Classic Pass:

 In my Pathways Training System , we use unique training methods and specific strategies to help passionate magicians master the shift quickly.

 However, you can find the basic technique I teach under the name, The Two Handed Shift in The Expert at the Card Table, by S.W. Erdnase.

Our Pathways Training goes into great detail about every aspect of mastering this sleight. There’s over an hour of training on this one move, that in performance, takes less than a moment to perform.




But here’s the most important tip I can offer you for working from the easy-to-find method that appears in Erdnase.

Solving Sleight of Hand Frustration

At some point during your practice, you’ll become frustrated and unsure. That’s when most magicians become susceptible to ad-copy or youtube demonstrations that promise an easier method.

If you’ve already had this experience, you’re not alone. I’ve done it. And so has every great magician I know.

You’ll be tempted by variations that seem a lot easier to master. For example, for longer than I’ve been in magic, magicians have used a riffle of the front end of the deck with the right fingers to make the pass more ‘invisible’.

However, I’ve seen less than 5 who can perform a riffle type pass softly enough to avoid drawing focus to the deck.

Remember what you’ve already learned from this Blueprint. The Riffle Action is an Open Action. On top of that, it makes a sound on purpose!

The sound and the Open Action actually FORCE your audience to look at the deck…and at exactly the wrong moment.

You can find my complete video training on The Classic Pass and the other items in this Blueprint, in my new improved Pathways Training System.

In 12 Volumes and over 13 hours of instruction, you’ll discover a unique approach to learning that makes The Classic Pass, and every other sleight, easier than ever before to master.

Click Here to find out more about the Pathways Training System.


The Half Pass

The Half Pass works a lot like the Classic Pass, and allows you to reverse any number of cards at the bottom of the deck, from one card, to all the cards beneath the top card of the deck.

Like the Classic Pass, The Half Pass can be totally imperceptible from any angle for an unlimited number of spectators.

In this case, I can proudly recommend my own technique, The Gravity Half Pass, which first appeared in my 2002 book The Paper Engine. I’m fortunate that experts all over the world still agree this is the best ever devised.

You can see a demonstration of the Gravity Half Pass in the original trailer for the Paper Engine here. Pay close attention – it’s used here to create some highly visual magic:

The Gravity Half Pass is actually invisible from every angle. Even more important, and not possible to show on video, it can be performed with no tension and thus, it’s also completely imperceptible. And as we’ve already discussed, that’s what really counts.

Like the Classic Pass, the Gravity Half Pass can be used to force, control, switch or visually reverse cards in the pack. It’s incredibly versatile, and once you get comfortable with it, you’ll use it every day.

The Gravity Half Pass is the exact method I teach in the new Pathways Training Program.

Practice Tip: The Gravity Half Pass was developed from closely following the concepts underlying the Classic Pass. In fact, you’ll be able to make even faster progress by studying the two sleights at the same time.




Use 3M Cross Training to Master…Only Faster!

In my popular 3M Coaching Program, I use the common exercise term ‘Cross-Training’ to describe this principle. In effect, a small breakthrough in any one of the Cross-Trained techniques causes an immediate leap forward in all the others. 

Since the Invisible Turnover Pass, the Classic Pass and the Gravity Half Pass are all based on similar mechanical principles, practicing them at the same time gets faster results than working on any one of them alone.

The Top Change

The Top Change is to the Double Turnover what the Classic Pass is to the Invisible Turnover Pass. No open action is required, and nothing seems to change from before to after the switch. There’s not a hint to alert anyone that something suspicious has happened.

In all appearances, you simply hold the deck in one hand and a card in the other. As you place the card on the table, or on a spectator’s hand (or really, you don’t have to do anything with the card at all), it transforms into another card.

This incredibly powerful technique is not hard to do, but it does test your nerves.

For that reason, I recommend you get very comfortable with the Double Turnover before you add this ultra-direct ‘power tool’ to your belt. When you’re ready, you’ll find the Top Change to be one of the most reliable ‘sleight of hand tools’ in magic.

To learn this sleight, I suggest two versions. First, the method that appears in Expert at The Card Table is very good, as is the David Williamson Method from his first book, Williamson’s Wonders.

The finger positions are different in each of these methods, but both can be performed wonderfully. But in each case, invisibility deserves little thanks.

Success here depends more than ever on misdirection, effective structure and effortless, relaxed execution.

The Complete System Of Palming

Now you’ll discover the most important new concept in this plan. It’s the only idea that can’t be simulated by methods introduced in the first two parts of this Blueprint.

Even if you only master the easiest of the techniques in this section, The Bottom Palm, you’ll be able to accomplish astounding miracles that can’t be accomplished any other way.

Like the passes mentioned above, there’s no change in the deck after any of these Palms are executed. Again, softness and context are far more important than ‘invisibility’ when it comes to this type of sleight of hand.

Remember, no person is an average, and you will undoubtedly experience faster results with some of these techniques than others. When it comes to palming cards, there’s no substitute for experimentation.

The Top Palm

Top Palms are more difficult than Bottom Palms, but despite this fact, most people choose to practice the Top Palm first. I suspect this is because the Top Palm seems, at first glance, to be more practical.

However, when you have a card hidden in your right hand, it’s extremely difficult to hold your hand just as you would if it were actually empty.

Many instructors suggest you hold the deck from above for a few moments after palming.  In practice , this is only practical if you have extremely large hands. Even then, it’s pretty easy for audience members to ‘see the goods’.

For these reasons, successful ‘Top Palmers’ nearly always steal the cards from the deck immediately after palming.

Stealing the palmed cards away from the deck is called retiring, and while you’ll find it takes a bit of courage with ANY palm, you can cover the action by using the other hand to pass out the cards for shuffling, or by placing them on the table.

Ultimately, the Top Palm is a helpful sleight of hand method in many situations. However, I mention it here first – primarily to get it out of the way. There will be plenty of time to master a Top Palm after you’ve experienced the success and confidence that come from starting with a much more practical approach.

The Bottom Palm

I suggest you begin your journey to masterful palming with The Bottom Palm because of several big advantages it has over the more popular Top Palm.

First, the Bottom Palm is easier to learn. Second, you can keep the deck in your left hand, above the palmed card, for as long as like. It looks as though the deck sits normally in your hand.

In performance, this will make it very easy to retire with the palmed cards because you can wait for as long as you like, without fear of detection.

In the Pathways System, you’ll discover many of my favorite Bottom Palm methods. But why wait? Start using my easiest method right now, which appears in one of our most popular posts here.


Side Steals and Diagonal Palm Shifts

Side Steals and Diagonal Palm Shifts allow you to palm a card or cards directly into either hand from any position in the pack.

Left and Right Hand Steals use the exact same palm positions as the Bottom and Top Palm – and they become most helpful in situations where you want to steal the card(s) from the pack without first shuffling or passing them to the top or bottom of the deck.

Remember, in most cases, 90% of the final effect on the audience will be easily achieved using only a Top or Bottom palm. Surprisingly few effects demand such directness.

Miracles like Card to Pocket , Card to Wallet and any effect where four-of-kind are produced from an audience shuffled pack can all be performed, with roughly the same impact, using only a Top or Bottom Palm.

How Palming Skills Progress

With a little practice, you’ll be able to use the Autopilot Card to Pocket in performance. You’ll be able to not only palm a card, but imperceptibly retire with that card to your pocket.

As you perform the Card to Pocket regularly, you’ll acquire the confidence to retire without moving immediately to your pocket. After a few months, you’ll one day feel bold enough to relax with the palmed cards to your side or in your lap.

This may seem ambitious now, but you’ll be surprised at how quickly you develop the ‘sleight of hand confidence‘ to ‘hold out’ cards while the audience shuffles.

The image above shows a card midway through the Side-Steal Sleight Cluster

This image shows a card midway through the Diagonal Palm Shift, otherwise known as a Left Hand Side Steal


The first time you ‘hold out’, you’ll be so pleased and amazed that you may nearly give yourself an award!

But in short order, you’ll begin to rely on this tactic all the time!

And that means you’ll need to start covering your tracks. Once you start using palms in your sleight of hand, for a variety of effects, including multi-phase routines like “Card to Pocket”, you’ll positively NEED alternate methods to keep the audience off your trail.

For that reason, Side Steals and Diagonal Palm Shifts will ultimately play a crucial role in your advancing repertoire. However, don’t hurry the process.

Just as each stage of this Blueprint has led to the next, the left and right hand palming positions you learn at first will become second nature as you use them. It doesn’t take very long.

And you’ll discover as you progress, that Side Steals and Diagonal Palm Shifts will actually come to you. You’ll find you’ve already half-learned these incredible sleights before you even practice them.

The Spread Cull

The Spread Cull allows you to spread casually through the deck and to steal any card or cards you want, and to move them secretly to any location you desire. As far as sleight of hand goes… this is very useful!

It’s an astounding tool, but difficult to acquire and perform with real confidence. The best path forward is to focus on developing your Hand to Hand Spread, followed by the Classic Force on the same line.

These techniques develop your ‘spread intelligence’, so that when you’ve acquired many of the techniques in this Blueprint, you’ll be ready master the Spread Cull in short order.

Now You Know the Pathway!

Many valuable techniques and sleight of hand moves do not appear on this Blueprint. I decided to include only the most important, valuable techniques I’ve encountered over the last 20 years.

My hope is that you can use this material to develop your own card magic without wondering what to do, what comes next or if you’re practicing the right things.

Now that you’ve read the whole plan, I suggest you go back and start at Stage One. It Provides a complete suite of card magic tools.

Use those tools to perform amazing magic for anyone you know. Then let those tools, and the micro-skills they include, provide a foundation on which to master first your Stage 2, and then Stage 3 skills as you need them.

I sincerely hope you’ve enjoyed the Complete Card Magic Blueprint – I’ve had a great time developing this material and teaching it to passionate magicians all over the world. And now, it’s yours!

With Warmth,
Aaron Fisher

P.S. Sleight of hand is so rewarding! If this Blueprint has helped you, there’s a VERY good chance that my Pathways Training System can save you hundreds or thousands of practice hours and dollars on your own path to astonishing card magic.

You can find out all about the Pathways Training Program here. You’ll be very glad you did.

(Thanks for reading! I’d love it if you would give a little back and “share” this article to others who might enjoy it.  Also, leave your comment or question below and we will read each and every one…)

Sleight of Hand for Magicians — Learn Magic Tricks for Free

The Handy Guide to Sleight of Hand:

Sleight of Hand Technique Introduction, Tutorials & Resources

Sleight of hand — (also known as prestidigitation or legerdemain) describes the base techniques used by magicians and card manipulators to control cards, coins and other objects covertly.

Understanding sleight of hand is the key to understanding magic.

Magicians Penn and Teller explain sleight of hand perfectly with this video clip below.

While Teller performs (silently), Penn explains the seven principles of magic…all sleight of hand techniques.

Sleight of Hand (Basic Principles of Magic) as described by Penn and Teller:

This video is a great introduction to sleight-of-hand techniques. After watching, be sure to check out some of the other videos below for some card tricks using sleights.

1. The Palm – To hold an object in an apparently empty hand.

2. Ditch – To secretly dispose of an unneeded object.

3. Steal – To secretly obtain a needed object.

4. Load – To secretly move an object to where it is needed.

5. Simulation – To give the impression that something that has not happened, has.

6. Misdirection – To lead attention away from a secret move.

7. Switch – To secretly exchange one object for another.

Rinse and Repeat.

Card Sleights:

Becoming a great card magician takes more than memorizing a few tricks.

You need to learn how to handle cards with confidence and master card sleights. Here are some for you to try.

The Glide. In this video tutorial gillymasta explains the sleight commonly known to card manipulators as “the glide”, as well as ideas on how to work this into a routine.

The Glide Video Tutorial:

False Cuts – Another handy sleight of hand card manipulation. There are tons of false cut techniques. Here is a nice example:

More Sleight of Hand Tutorials and Resources

Also see: Palming Cards | One Handed Palm | Hinge Color Change


The Rules of the Sleight of Hand Artist are three, and all others are in vain. The first and second are “practice”, and the third one is “practice again”. – Edward Victor

Edward Victor kept his hands busy, a famous card manipulator as well as a Shadowgrapher.

Examples for “sleight-of-hand tricks” and how to use it

Examples for “sleight-of-hand tricks” and how to use it — Nyanglish

sleight-of-hand tricks

39 examples
(0.09 sec)

  • If a trump card is played then the highest trump wins the trick.
    If a player can win the trick then they must do so.


  • To meet expenses, he sold the three houses that he had inherited from his mother.
    The following year, he added a new trick to his program that became especially popular.
    Seats at the Palais Royal were at a premium.

  • I’ve been saving New York for dessert.
    I know it’s a low-down trick to take things from these people.
    They only know this and that and pass to and fro and think ever and anon.

    Cited from Strictly Business, by O. Henry

  • James tricks him into taking advantage of her by having her pay for everything.
    Over time even Mollie begins to form a friendship with James.

  • After each trick any exposed face down cards from the partner’s hands are turned up and revealed.
    Play then continues with the lead from the hand that won the last trick.
    Alternatively, the game can be played as per three-handed but with a «dead hand».

  • A marriage can not be later declared using a king previously declared in a meld of four kings as the point score is less.
    A card played to a trick is no longer available for game play.
    It is taken by the winner of the trick and placed face down on a separate pile.

  • He, Yureka, Aradon, and Olios take one path, by which they meet up with Basara.
    After tricking him to let them follow him, they continued to the castle.
    After battling Kast, they realized that it was impossible to defeat him as he would infinitely heal.

  • This must be declared just before the tricks are going to be played out.


  • Experienced players will be able to use this to their advantage.
    The hand value is what the deal will be worth after all tricks have been played.
    It is not only determined by the 10 cards held, but also by the two-card Skat.

  • At least one bowler from each of the ten nations that play Test cricket has taken a Test hat-trick.
    A player has taken two hat-tricks in the same Test match only once.
    Playing for Australia against South Africa in the first match of the 1912 Triangular Tournament at Old Trafford, Manchester, England, leg spinner Jimmy Matthews took a hat-trick in South Africa’s first and second innings, both taken on 28 May 1912.

  • Freestyle is about show and competitors are judged on their creativity.
    Both the difficulty and the number of tricks make up the final score.
    Sailors who perform tricks on both tacks (port and starboard), and perform the tricks fully planing score higher marks.

  • George Hallam set two records for the club that day.
    He scored the first ever goal for the club, and also the first ever hat-trick.
    Their first competitive game at home also ended in an emphatic manner, beating Boston Excelsior 11-0, with Edwin Teesdale scoring four goals.

  • A game that is won (by taking the necessary amount of trick points) can not be lost after the fact, no matter what.
    After the last trick has been played, the hand is scored.
    Winning conditions for Null games are different from suit and Grand games.

  • The game is played like most other trick-taking games.
    The first trick is led by the player to the left of the dealer.

  • Rodney has always had the most mind boggling most difficult tricks on top of having invented 50, 60, who knows how many tricks.
    Just about every modern day flat ground trick that we are doing today he invented.
    Mullen has completed numerous public speaking engagements and has been invited to present on topics such as his personal life, skateboarding, innovation, creation, and the concept of community.

  • Houdini first did it behind a curtain, forcing the audience to listen to thumps while watching a billowing curtain for many minutes.
    He found the trick went over better when the audience could see his struggles.
    In one of his later and more popular acts, he would perform the straitjacket escape while hung upside down from a crane.

  • It may require a year to train a sea lion to perform a trick for the public.
    Its long-term memory allows it to perform a trick after at least three months of non-performance.


  • I think people can tell when you’re tricking them with movie magic.


  • Nearly all trick-taking techniques in bridge can be reduced to one of these four methods.
    The optimum play of the cards can require much thought and experience and is the subject of whole books on bridge.

  • However, this is something you will need to verify.
    A quick call to your council/town should do the trick.

Crash Course in Sleight of Hand Card Tricks

The DVD gives more results, faster, than any video in its class.
Each «move» is broken down fully and taught by acclaimed teacher Brad Christian… it will take practice, but soon you will look like a pro and you will perform sleight of hand that is completely amazing. More over, you will learn to entertain people. You’ll learn to reach out in any situation and easily provide amazement and awe.


The video isn’t just about cool ‘moves’ with cards, its about learning to be confident and being able to create reactions in people at a moment’s notice. Creating a reaction opens a door in that person you never had access to before. You have to see it — and feel it — to believe it.

You’ll get addicted to it.


People open because you made them leave their normal life for a moment. This happens because you created amazement in the person.

We’ll be brief here however there were a lot more details. One of our customers was confronted by a gang on his way home at night. As he was emptying his pockets to give them his cash he dumped a deck of cards out. They asked him why he was carrying those. He said they were for magic and that he was just learning —— the gang made him prove it. He was shaking like a leaf, but did a few things from our videos for the thugs… and simply blew them away.

They let him go. And they were congratulating him when they told him he could go.

Step into the DVD with Brad Christian. You’ll feel like most people do… like Brad is talking just for you, like he’s your good buddy and friend. You’ll know that he really wants you to ‘get’ the material and that he has made it as easy and understandable as possible. You’ll be vastly entertained in the process and you’ll see things you never thought you’d see on a mere DVD.


It’s amazing what you can do when you know just a few simple moves with cards. Just a few basic moves will take you out of the realm of doing «grandfather» magic (the tricks grandpa showed you that involved laying out rows of cards and then finally finding the card you picked). You’ll be inventing tricks yourself from these valuable simple moves taught in Crash Course with Cards.

Soon you’ll be doing things you never thought you’d do! This is magic ability and skills you’ll have and USE your whole life. And it is fully backed by the Ellusionist 90-Day unconditional guarantee. There’s nothing to lose. Pick up your copy today.

Sleight of hand | Define Sleight of hand at

ExamplesWord Origin

See more synonyms for sleight of hand on Thesaurus.comnoun

  1. skill in feats requiring quick and clever movements of the hands, especially for entertainment or deception, as jugglery, card or coin magic, etc.; legerdemain.
  2. the performance of such feats.
  3. a feat of legerdemain.
  4. skill in deception.

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Origin of sleight of hand

Middle English word dating back to 1350–1400 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for sleight of hand

Contemporary Examples of sleight of hand

Historical Examples of sleight of hand

  • The laugh which followed this sleight-of-hand was loud, long, and universal.

  • It may be, that, as you would suspect, even this might be sleight-of-hand.

  • Being a sleight-of-hand performer, he can do things that you could not see.

  • I asked him how he accounted for this wonderful display of sleight-of-hand.

  • At sleight-of-hand he is far below the level of the average European performer.

British Dictionary definitions for sleight of hand

sleight of hand


  1. manual dexterity used in performing conjuring tricks
  2. the performance of such tricks

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Collins English Dictionary — Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Idioms and Phrases with sleight of hand

sleight of hand

Trickery, deviousness, as in By some sleight of hand they managed to overlook all bonuses. This term alludes to the performance of magic tricks with the hands. Its figurative use dates from about 1700.

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The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.

How Sleight-of-Hand Magicians Trick Our Brains

A magician named Zan Zig performing with rabbits and roses in 1899.

Credit: BotMultichillT | Creative Commons

When watching an expert magician make a playing card vanish, pick-pocket a volunteer or perform any other startling sleight-of-hand trick, it seems that the harder you try to pay attention to their lightning fingers, the more easily you’re fooled.

This is no coincidence. As you will learn on «Brain Games,» a new series on the National Geographic Channel that illustrates the minor miracles required to pay attention and form memories, brains run on just 12 Watts of power. That’s about a third of the amount used by an average refrigerator lightbulb. Such limited resources make us highly susceptible to trickery , because it only allows us to concentrate on one thing at a time. Magicians utilize people’s inherent single-mindedness to great effect.

Brains have two kinds of attention. The first, called «top-down» or decision-making attention, is what you use when you decide to focus on a stimulus or task (such as this article). Top-down attention is controlled by the part of the brain called the prefrontal cortex. Second, we employ «bottom-up» or surprise attention when we quickly shift our focus onto an unexpected stimulus, such as a ringing phone. This is a more primitive response system controlled in areas of the brain called the sensory cortices.

Magicians trick you by occupying both forms of your attention. Left with no others, you’re completely and hopelessly distracted from their sleights-of-hand.

In «Brain Games,» a sleight-of-hand artist named Apollo Robbins, who once made headlines by pick-pocketing Secret Service agents who were accompanying former President Jimmy Carter, says, «Distracting people can be quite simple.» [Why We Zone Out ]

Robbins employs «top-down distractions» by getting people to focus either on a conversation or on his actions. By being entertaining or just confusing he demands their attention. Meanwhile, on the side, he quietly removes their watches or scarves. «If I need to steal from a difficult spot, I like to use a ‘bottom-up’ attention strategy to direct the focus,» Robbins says. Clapping loudly, a sudden movement, or in an example demonstrated in the show, waving a spoon in the air, are all examples of such strategies.

You might think that you, unlike most other people, wouldn’t fall for such simple strategies, because you’re a multitasker you can pay close attention to several things at once. However, according to experts, multitasking is an illusion.

«Realistically, we can only process one thing at a time. We’re effectively ‘serial processors,'» says David Strayer, a psychologist who conducts research on attention at the University of Utah. «When we try and multitask, we’re just switching from one activity to another.»

Despite the fact that brain scans show we can only focus on one thing at a time, Strayer explained, people often have the illusion that they’re balancing all their tasks equally, and performing well at all of them. «You become blind to your own impaired performance,» he said.

This may be why it’s so frustrating when you fail to catch a magician in their act. You really thought you were paying attention to everything so how did they manage to trick you?

An encore presentation of «Brain Games» airs this Thursday, Oct. 13 at 8 pm ET/PT.

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