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Topic: Practicing the shells. Getting proficient.
Message: Posted by: John C (Feb 18, 2005 11:58AM)
I am a fairly competent magician. I work fairly consistently. I have never thought about 3 Shell Game in the past, it always sounded sort of esoteric and far out.

I just purchased Charlie Frye's Eccentricks II DVD and he performs a really cool shell routine. I just loved the patter. It fit me to a "T."

So, I purchased his shells and then today I just purchased the S4S shells. It is really an interesting routine and the props are rather interesting.

So, now I lay me down to "practice." It's not easy...is it? Charlie makes it look so easy but to talk the patter and move the shells is not a simple task. I remember what my friend Allan Hayden writes in his Fancy Ring Routine book about counting the rings:

"The passing back and forth and turning of the rings may seem confusing now, but just wait 'till you're on stage!"

This is the way I KNOW it's going to be with the shells.

So, waddya' say guys/gals is it just a matter of sticking with and practicing it over and over until it's written in memory?

Any other tips that would help me get up to speed with the shells? I don't really need to know about the different shells etc just the best way to get proficient at it?

Thanks to all!

John Cesta
Message: Posted by: drwilson (Feb 18, 2005 12:23PM)
I have been working on the shells also, and have to agree that it's not easy, but I think that I have dumb hands. It takes me a long time to get moves right. It sure looks easy when Bob Sheets does it on the video!

All I can offer is encouragement. Advice you'll have to get from someone who has mastered the shells.


Message: Posted by: John C (Feb 18, 2005 01:56PM)
On 2005-02-18 13:23, drwilson wrote:
It sure looks easy when Bob Sheets does it on the video!


It all looks easy when Bob Sheets does it!


Message: Posted by: Leeman (Feb 18, 2005 02:30PM)
When I was starting out with the shells I read a post here that said to practice the steal and load while watching tv. This really helped me get the individual sleights down. As for remembering the sequence of the moves and the patter I am sure that you will get it down soon enough. With practice of course.
Message: Posted by: mota (Feb 18, 2005 02:31PM)
I am a total hack when it comes to shells, but love them. What I do is begin the mix, keeping track of where it is supposed to be in my mind. That way my body language is consistent with where the pea should be. Then at the end I pick one of the other positions and make sure the pea ends there. During the mix, I just do so randomly.

Once in a while someone will start to guess anywhere but where it isn't. In that case, just make sure that once or twice it ends up where it should...at that point they glaze over and you can do just about anything.

In the unlikely event you don't know, School for Scoundrels has a shell game DVD coming out soon. Don Driver, who is in, loved it...I too, anxiously await the day. It would probably be a good thing for you, also.
Message: Posted by: BerkleyJL (Feb 18, 2005 02:36PM)
I was always under the impression that the location of the pea was not determined until AFTER the spectator had made a guess...

or maybe I attribute too much skill to Harry Anderson.
Message: Posted by: Magicmaven (Feb 18, 2005 03:30PM)
All I have about the shells are the SFS street shells, and Tom Osborne's book. That book is great. Within literally minutes I could the steals and loads fairly easily, and competently. Keep at it. And practice a lot. The TV idea is nice, I do it a lot. But make sure that you are doing it correctly as you practice. You don't want to imprint bad habbits into your mind.

I can't wait for Whit Haydn, and Bob Sheet's new film, it is supposed to be great.

Message: Posted by: drwilson (Feb 18, 2005 03:34PM)

That's one way. Remember, though, that if you have thoroughly convincing the mark...I mean, the audience...that there is only one pea, there might be peas under two shells. The mark says, "This one," you show the pea somewhere else and steal from where he guessed to show that empty. This makes sense in some routines as one of the methods to keep the mark off balance. It looks so fair as you lift the wrong shell to show it there. You couldn't have put it there as you lifted the shell, and in fact you did not.


Message: Posted by: BobSheets (Mar 1, 2005 09:47AM)
Practice is fun, theraputic and Zen like when you're in the zone. Just start pushing them around and you won't believe the ideas that will just come to you.

When I workshop the shells I have them do just 3 sequences over and over again. Drilling the shells is what you have to do so you know where everything is.

The new DVD Whit and I just finished has the routine I teach for begginers and if you drill that sequence you'll have a beginning routine and one to use for one on one when you expand your routine to a more advanced set.

Leave the shells out and push them around when you walk by. It's still fun for me and hopefully it will be for you.

Message: Posted by: roguemagic (Mar 1, 2005 01:24PM)

When is the new DVD being released? I literally, just purchased "Absolutely Nuts" from you, via the internet, a few minutes ago.

Take care,
Message: Posted by: John C (Mar 2, 2005 09:59AM)
How about the "perfect pea" vs a simple sponge pea. I haven't been at this long enough. What is the consensus? They do seem like totally different "feels."

And as far as practicing does it make a difference in the long run whether I trade off between the two?


Message: Posted by: Dave V (Mar 2, 2005 11:26AM)
It's like a C&B routine with sponge balls instead of tennis balls. To me, once they see that it's something highly compressible, in their mind the secret is exposed.

It's traditionally a "pea under the shell" game. They expect to see a pea, not a little spongey thing.

Some will argue for sponges. Glen Bishop has used them for years, but so far from what I've read here he's nearly the only one.
Message: Posted by: Whit Haydn (Mar 2, 2005 11:41AM)
It is simply a matter of choice. The sponge pea and the Perfect Pea (solid vinyl) both have advantages and disadvantages.

Glenn Bishop, an excellent shell game performer, prefers the sponge. The sponge pea of course, is more compressible, and therefore easier to pick up in the various pinch positions. It makes no visible movement of the shell as it comes in or out, and replacements are easily home-made. It requires a magician's mat to perform on.

The Perfect Pea looks like a real fresh pea, and looks much more solid. It shows up better from a distance. It is very visible and looks the way the spectators imagine a pea would look. It is more difficult for the spectator to imagine that it can come out from under the shell without making a movement of the shell.

The Perfect Pea works on any surface, even glass or marble, without a mat. It takes a little more practice to learn to grasp in the various pinch positions, but once the knack is obtained, I think it is easier to feel and control.

Finally, the Perfect Pea is available in a hard plastic pea called the Straight Pea that will not go in and out of the shells. This can be exchanged for the Working Pea and brought in or out of the game at will, or left on the table at the end so that the spectators can examine the pea or play with the pea and shells.

The Magnetic Pea is a third identical looking Perfect Pea that can be held out with magnetic holders (say behind a tie, under a table edge, in the back pocket) that enables a second pea to be held out and brought in at any time. With a magnet ring or magnet rigged shells like the Bruce Martyn Chopped Shells or our S4S Magnetic Street Shells, miracles can be accomplished.

I personally prefer the revolutionary Perfect Peas which Chef Anton and I designed and produce. These are the preferred pea of Bob Kohler, Bob Sheets, Eric De Camps and many other top pros. Many other pros prefer the sponge. It depends a lot on how and where you will be performing, and quite simply, what feels best to you.

I would not recommend going back and forth between the two types. You will do better to practice with one or the other so as not to confuse yourself--the right touch for one will be completely different from the other.

My bias is of course toward the pea that was designed for my own needs. Maybe Glenn Bishop can chime in with more of the advantages of the sponge pea which he prefers.
Message: Posted by: bishthemagish (Mar 2, 2005 12:05PM)
Whit I think your perfect peas are excellent. But they were not around when I started the shell game.

I think the sponge pea came about when magicians started to do the shell game as a magic effect.

I think the only pea that was available when I started the effect were the little black rubber peas that came with vernet shells. I think at the time this was the best set magicians could get to do the effect.

I feel that all magicians should choose the props, select the routine material they like, add their own way of doing things. and then get out and do it for people and let the audience reactions edit the routine down to a classic part of an entertaining show.

Sponge pea - hard pea it makes no difference to the audience.

As long as it was entertainment!
Message: Posted by: Riley (Mar 2, 2005 12:20PM)
My grandfather used beer bottle caps and a small ball of silver paper from a cigarette pack . . it was beautiful to watch, and was my first taste of the shell game. Wonderful!!
Message: Posted by: John C (Mar 8, 2005 12:20PM)

The Perfect Pea works on any surface, even glass or marble, without a mat. It takes a little more practice to learn to grasp in the various pinch positions, but once the knack is obtained, I think it is easier to feel and control.


Great I want to be able to work on any surface so I guess the PP is the way to go.

I notice when I am moving the shell that has the pea there is a slight hesitaion in the time it takes to do the dirty work. Is that because I am moving the shell to quick or is that going to be the norm? Or, should it be a smooth action?


Message: Posted by: Whit Haydn (Mar 8, 2005 02:49PM)
On 2005-03-08 13:20, johncesta wrote:

I notice when I am moving the shell that has the pea there is a slight hesitaion in the time it takes to do the dirty work. Is that because I am moving the shell to quick or is that going to be the norm? Or, should it be a smooth action?


It should be one smooth action. Just takes practice. I still have that problem on rare occasions when my hands are sweaty--like under hot video lights or working outside. In that situation, just try to make the other moves look the same.
Message: Posted by: JR Russell (Apr 1, 2005 06:57AM)
I am a huge S4S fan and have the shells and just ordered the video. I also have Bob Sheets absolutey nuts video and when I saw the scarab beetle shell, I knew I had to have that also. My shells sit on either side of my computer with a mouse pad on either side. So when I am sitting at my coumpter, I just fiddle with the shells/moves etc. You can practice on the mouse pad or slide it on to the desk and work off a smooth surface.

I would love to see/hear the patter that Bob Sheets uses with the scarab shells!

Fly Navy
Message: Posted by: Whit Haydn (Apr 1, 2005 09:15AM)
The patter Sheets uses with the Scarab Shells--"Discovered by Philistinian slaves under the watchful eyes of the Pharoah..."--was created by Doug Bush and first published in a pamphlet credited to Dr. Beaumont. This routine is contained on our DVD Introduction to the Shell Game.
Message: Posted by: Bill Palmer (Apr 1, 2005 10:34AM)
I just got through viewing the S4S DVD on the shell game. This is a great piece of work. I recommend it very highly.

I can't wait to get into the Three Card Monte DVD set.

I should add that there is a lot more included on the DVD. If you have a DVD player built into your computer, then you can not only watch it on your computer, but you will have access to some PDF files that have lots of goodies!!!!
Message: Posted by: Riley (Apr 1, 2005 01:50PM)
The S4S shell game DVD is on its way to me. If it's as good as the 3 card monte DVD set it will be brilliant! Bill, you're right about the PDF files on these DVD's - they're packed full of good stuff :)

Message: Posted by: NMaggio (Apr 1, 2005 07:32PM)
Lewis Ganson's "Routined Manipulations" was my basis for learning the shell game. The grid he used and the length of the routine seemed easy enough and short enough to be effective. After only a few days of concerted practice, I was able to make the moves without thinking too much. The icing on the cake was the Perfect Pea. Because of its construction, consistency became part of the moves.

Nick Maggio
Message: Posted by: Riley (Apr 5, 2005 12:03PM)
Well, the S4S Introduction to the Shell Game DVD arrived yesterday. It's brilliant, of course. (Another late night :) )

Martin Breese told me recently he learned the shell game [i]personally[/i] from Lewis Ganson, many years ago. Martin didn't make it to the recent Blackpool Convention - we'd arranged to meet up and talk shells!

I agree with Whit and Nick in their posts. Keeping with the same pea is the same as the pool or snooker player who keeps with the same cue. Even a new tip on the cue feels different. It's important in the shall game (and all magic) to reduce the variable as much as possible, for smooth presentation. The S4S Perfect Pea is the best I've ever used!

Message: Posted by: Erik Anderson (Apr 13, 2005 03:19PM)
As always, the members of the Café have offered up a wealth of great information and wisdom to you. I can only add my own experince. My learning curve was EXTREMELY long. While I had mastered the basic load and steal relatively quickly, I had my shells for the better part of a year and a half before everything seemed to "click" for me and came together.

In all honesty, I was more than a little intimidated by the shells. (Intemidated my aunt Fanny, I was flat scared of 'em if you want the honest truth.) It wasn't until I had the opportunity (read as "had no other choice") to work them all day for four days at an outdoor festival that I REALLY began learning what they were all about.

I cringe when I think back to how awful it must have looked that first day or two. But I got through it somehow. By the end of the second day I had relaxed, slowed down, stopped handling them like bricks, and was actually beginning to have fun with them.

Now, far from being intimidated by them, my shells are dear friends and one of the first things I reach for when I'm working.

So, just keep at it. It WILL come together in the end if you don't give up.
Message: Posted by: Mario Morris (Apr 14, 2005 05:44AM)
I enjoyed your latest DVD.
Message: Posted by: markmagic (May 13, 2005 10:31PM)
Bob Sheets has an excellent idea on the dvd, with the chips, and who can pick the pea. My routine has been the same for years, but I will now try to work this twist in.
Message: Posted by: Whit Haydn (May 14, 2005 02:31PM)
On 2005-04-14 06:44, Mario Morris wrote:
I enjoyed your latest DVD.

Thanks, Mario.
Message: Posted by: markmagic (May 16, 2005 04:06PM)
Yeah, great dvd Whit.
When are you going to have a book on the shells? Hopefully it will be as comprehensive as your SFS 3 card monte book!
Message: Posted by: tbaer (May 16, 2005 04:48PM)
I just got the S4S street shells recently and they are great. The perfect pea is remarkable. Works like a gem. It does take a lot of practice.
Message: Posted by: markmagic (May 27, 2005 12:48PM)
Anyone using the solid shell? I have never used one, wondering how it plays!
Message: Posted by: Magicmaven (May 27, 2005 07:09PM)
John, further up you mentioned a little hesitation that you made when stealling and loading the pea.

First of all of course practice will help. But I don't use the traditional pinch, I use the deeper pinch. This allows me to focus on just pushing the pea forward, letting it come out, and then when I spop pushing the shell forward-- pinch.

In other words, I think that the the deep pinch might help eliminate the action.
I am not a pro at all though, so if you think about possibly doing this or some versions you should probably contact Glen, or Whit, or someone who has a little more experience.

I believe Whit Haydn suggested this next concept as just something that looks ultra-clean: (for right handed position)
Index finger on forward hump (?) of the shell. Thumb on left side. Middle finger curled on right side of shell and the tip of your middle finger should be in the nitch of your thumb.
You are going to push the shell (with pea inside) forward far enough to the point at which the pea will roll allong the sides of your middle finger and thumb to the point at which the pea gets lodged in a thumb palm position.

Anyone try that before? Just wanted to hear some of your guys' experience with it if you have.

Good luck with the Shells John