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Fooling Houdini

Adventures in the World of Magic

By Alex Stone
12-minute read
Audio available
Fooling Houdini: Adventures in the World of Magic by Alex Stone

Alex Stone is a magic-enthusiastic and Ph.D. candidate in Physics at Columbia University. He's written for several magazines and newspapers. Fooling Houdini is his first bestselling book.

  • Magicians and mentalists
  • People who’ve been fooled by magic or mentalism

Fooling Houdini (2012) is about the author's personal journey to learning the art of magic. It outlines the roots and philosophy behind the world's most elusive art form – and explains its inextricable link with science.

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Fooling Houdini

Adventures in the World of Magic

By Alex Stone
  • Read in 12 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 7 key ideas
Fooling Houdini: Adventures in the World of Magic by Alex Stone
Synopsis

Alex Stone is a magic-enthusiastic and Ph.D. candidate in Physics at Columbia University. He's written for several magazines and newspapers. Fooling Houdini is his first bestselling book.

Key idea 1 of 7

Magic has a lot in common with gambling and business.

What is magic, exactly? Entertainment? Deception? Well, it’s many things. Some of magic's characteristics are intuitive; others you might find surprising.

Magic is closely connected to gambling, for instance. A lot of skilled magicians have used their talent to gain a fortune through gambling, and many sleight-of-hand card tricks originate from gambling, as they were used in that field first (often illegally!).

In both gambling and magic, it's vital that you don't reveal your secrets or all of your skills at once. If you're too open about your trade, your audience will grow skeptical or lose interest.

Magicians and gamblers both have to see the world the way con artists do. Con artists look for the secret workings behind any game, be it politics, Wall Street or everyday life. They fool people; they trick them. Similarly, magicians also seek out such secrets and use them to their advantage.

There's a connection between finance and magic, too. Finance, gambling and magic have something significant in common: they all require a deep understanding of risk. They also all encourage you to bluff and throw off your opponents – and they're all partly based on luck.

Succeeding in magic (and in finance and gambling!) is largely about staying ahead of what others are thinking. You have to let them think they know something. Then they'll want to prove they've understood, a typically human urge.

Magicians employ a lot of tricks to help with this. Some of these, like the ego hook, are more common than others.

The ego hook refers to the strategy of catering to people's egos by making them feel smarter than they really are. It's like tricking someone into thinking they should go for a particular investment because it's “safe.”

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