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EndersGame
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Effortless Effects (Ryan Schlutz)

Getting acquainted with the simple but strong card magic of Ryan Schlutz

BACKGROUND

I first came across Ryan Schlutz courtesy of his terrific video from Vanishing Inc Magic entitled Super Strong Super Simple. I've always been interested in self-working card tricks, and have even written a few articles on the subject: one about why you should try self-working card tricks and where to learn them [link]; another ten of the best self-working card tricks in the world [link].

When listing the best videos for self-working card magic, I had plugged Big Blind Media's outstanding series of DVDs entitled Ultimate Self Working Card Tricks. This now consists of multiple volumes, and is easily my top recommendation. But I could easily have mentioned the Super Strong Super Simple DVD alongside it.

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Ryan Schlutz's Super Strong Super Simple video has 16 very strong self-working card tricks, including several classics that were on my all-time Top 10 list of the world's best, namely "Emotional Reaction" (Dai Vernon), "Out of This World" (Paul Curry), "Prior Commitment" (Simon Aronson), and "Shuffle-Bored" (Simon Aronson). It also included four of Ryan's own effects, and I'd especially grown to love his clever "Forget to Remember". This is an amazingly simple and astounding routine which has a spectator merely think of a card, which you then produce as the only card you'd set aside previously in the card box. Ryan is also a terrific teacher, explaining things clearly and concisely.

So having met Ryan Schlutz courtesy of Super Strong Super Simple, it was time for me to explore more of his work. In this review I'll be taking a closer look at Ryan's DVD Effortless Effects, produced by Big Blind Media, and commenting more generally about what he offers us.

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THE TRICKS

The Effortless Effects DVD features seven different tricks from Ryan:

1. Clearly See-through
Effect: Your spectator looks at a card from a shuffled deck, which becomes "invisible" ... but then reappears face-up in the middle of the face-down deck!
Comment: The "invisible" idea gives great scope for some acting and makes for nice presentation possibilities, as a very fun and powerful effect. Two versions are taught, one basically self-working and the other a more advanced version. This is a great example of a method Ryan calls the "GAP Principle", and which will be a feature for much of the video.

2. No Hassle Hof
Effect: A card is mentally chosen from a packet of random cards, and the spectator is given four Aces to hold. The thought of card then trades places with the Ace matching its suit, despite these being held by the spectator's hands!
Comment: This is basically an almost self-working version of the Hofzinzer Ace routine (hence the clever name). Once again two handlings are taught, and the small set-up needed with a small stack is well worth it, given how powerful a punch this packs, and how minimal the sleight of hand required is. This trick was good enough to be marketed by Penguin Magic as a separate effect!

3. Split Decision
Effect: A spectator's chosen card in a shuffled and cut deck is identified by means of a lie detector test, which narrows down the cards to finally reveal the selection.
Comment: Lie detector tests make for fun presentation, and this is a very entertaining and powerful trick.

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4. Wrongly Convicted
Effect: After a card is selected and shuffled into the deck, the spectator cuts to a card in a small packet taken from the deck - and they find themselves holding their selected card!
Comment: This is apparently Ryan's own favourite from this collection. There are two handlings offered (one easy, the other harder), and it's very fun and engaging to perform.

5. Forget to Remember
Effect: Your spectator merely thinks of a card, which is first discovered to be missing from the deck in their hands. As an added twist, you then produce their thought-of card as the only one you'd set aside in advance - from the card box which was on the table the entire time!
Comment: This is one of my personal favourites from the set, and the simplicity of the method may surprise you, given how impossible it seems. A small bit of prep is needed, but the astounding outcome gives a good payoff. Ryan has some very clever thinking behind this, and I've seen many people blown away when I perform this!

6. Fish Sandwich
Effect: The concept of reading "poker tells" is introduced, in which you will apparently read your spectator's body language while asking questions. Then two kings are inserted face-up into a shuffled deck, and the spectator slowly discards cards between them until they're left with a single card ... that you name!
Comment: This trick is somewhat of a longer one, and it does switch gears from the initial reading of body language to a mind reading type phase. But if you like these kinds of presentations, you'll have a lot of fun with this. A real strength is that it can be done completely impromptu.

7. Needs a Name
Effect: Starting with a borrowed shuffled deck, after your spectator has returned a selected card to the deck, you find it with a performance of "muscle reading" that involves feeling their pulse.
Comment: This is a classic and familiar presentation, but the clean handling has advantage that it doesn't rely on a force and it all seems very fair to the spectator.

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THE GAP PRINCIPLE

Besides the tricks themselves, there's a seperate section where Ryan teaches what he calls "The GAP Principle" (an acronym for Grab A Packet), and discusses it with Liam Montier. I would suggest watching this section ahead of the explanations for the tricks.

The GAP Principle is a utility device that helps you control a spectator's selection without sleight of hand, and which is employed in some of the effects. This principle has a lot of application, because it effectively allows you to force a thought of card. In other words, think "Classic Force" using the mind and psychology, while seeming very fair! I love this idea and have really enjoyed using it.

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PERFORMANCE EXAMPLES

Do you think I'm making some of these routines sound better than what they actually are? Judge for yourself by checking out some of the performance clips that BBM has released:
● "Clearly See-through" (start at 35 sec)
● "Spit Decision"
● "Forget to Remember"
●""No Hassle Hof" (promo performance from Penguin Magic's digital download for this effect)

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IMPRESSIONS

Here's what you can expect from this particular DVD and from Ryan Schlutz's videos more generally:

The tricks: This is a very fine collection of card magic, with some genuinely strong tricks. Sometimes a collection only has a couple of standouts, but with Effortless Effects it's hard to pick just one or two "best" routines. I think the first five are all super strong, with "Forget to Remember" being one of my personal favourites. The fact that Penguin Magic has been selling "No Hassle Hof" as a separate digital download for $10 gives you some indication of the strength of the material here. The effects aren't all just variations of the same theme, and there's plenty of variety to choose from and work with. Despite the relative simplicity of the methods, there's really nothing here about endless counting and dealing, and all the deception lies in Ryan's clever thinking.

The GAP principle: If there is a common thread through this particular video, it is the GAP principle which Ryan teaches and applies to most of the tricks. Magicians will know that it's usually a bad idea to string together as part of a routine multiple tricks that have the same structure or presentation. Fortunately that's not the case here. You get enough variety in the types of effects that you could combine several of these tricks into a nice little routine if you wanted to. But "under the hood" there is very nice principle that he works with and uses, and it certainly is something that you can get mileage out of in many other settings as well. This can really help make your magic seem more powerful, because in your spectator's mind their selection will be far more random, free, and fair than it actually is.

The presentation: What I love about most of the tricks on this DVD is that they really allow you to have fun as a magician. Of course magic needs to be entertaining for your spectators first of all, but performing has to be enjoyable for us too. Tricks that are fun for both spectators and the performer tend to be ones with good presentation. The presentational approaches of many of the tricks in this collection allow a lot of scope for acting and engagement, e.g. lie detector test, reading poker tells via body language, pretending a card is "invisible", and muscle reading. I love these kinds of presentations, and you get some good variety in this collection.

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The difficulty: The ad copy goes a little overboard in suggesting that there are "no sleights to worry about". Beginners will be able to manage with some practice, but these are not completely self-working tricks. Despite the title, they're not entirely "effortless", and you will have to put in some effort - as is the case with nearly all magic. But they are certainly in the category of "Easy Moves". If you can hold a break and know the very basic card handling fundamentals, you'll have no problem at all. Some of the tricks rely on pencil dotting and key cards, which even beginners can manage. New magicians will certainly find several tricks here they can do, so it is a video that most people will benefit from.

The teaching: Ryan is highly regarded for his skill in teaching magic. After coming across his work, I did some reading up about his credentials and reputation, and found that he is consistently applauded for this. I was pleased to discover that the general consensus of opinion is that the teaching sections of his video are clear and concise, while remaining as detailed as necessary. I also like the fact that with several of the tricks he offers two different ways of handling each routine, with an easier method and also a more advanced method for those with more experience.

The production: Effortless Effects was produced by BIg Blind Media, a top producer of instructional magic videos. While BBM makes everything as effortless as possible for us as viewers, it's clear that they put in an enormous amount of effort themselves with the production! As with all their videos, the visuals, lighting, and sound is all top notch. So is the format of the DVD itself, which is easy to navigate and sensibly put together. I especially liked the "Bullet explanation" feature employed here, where for each effect you get a brief run-down on the key elements of how to perform a trick. This is very handy if you just want a quick refresher without sitting through the entire teaching section, and I wish more magic videos had this!

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MORE RYAN SCHLUTZ

So now that I'm enjoying Schlutz so much, where do I go to next? Not counting individual creations or tricks released separately for digital download, so far Ryan has put out nearly half a dozen DVDs of card tricks, which are the following:

2012 - Completing the Cut (Vanishing Inc) - 12 tricks
2013 - Miracles Without Moves (Big Blind Media) - 7 tricks
2014 - Effortless Effects (Big Blind Media) - 7 tricks
2017 - Only Slightly Sleighty (Big Blind Media) - 7 tricks
2018 - Super Strong Super Simple (Vanishing Inc) - 16 tricks

Super Strong Super Simple will mostly be of interest to people looking for strong self-working magic that has stood the test of time, and is primarily from creators other than Ryan. Having said that, it does contain four of his own tricks, and he does a wonderful job of teaching the classics he covers. It is an outstanding collection with 16 different tricks that represent some of the very best self-workers of all time.

But if you are looking for Ryan's own work, it's the other four DVDs that you should go to, and the three Big Blind Media releases would probably be the place where I'd start in order to get introduced to his creative style of magic. Ryan himself has written that his first DVD, Completing the Cut, is not that good, because he was still figuring out who he was, and that the series he did with BBM is more in line with what he likes. It's also worth mentioning that a "Cuts of Schlutz" DVD box set is also available from BBM, and is a compilation of Miracles Without Moves and Effortless Effects.

Going forwards, Ryan has stated that he's not likely to put out any more DVDs at this stage, and that instead he's focussing more on releasing single products and books. He's been compiling a collection of his newer work into a book entitled False Anchors, which is scheduled for release shortly. It will contain a collection of previously unpublished effects of his, revolving around a concept called false anchors.

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RECOMMENDATION

Is Effortless Effects for you, and should you check out any other videos from Ryan Schlutz? Personally I've only seen Effortless Effects and Super Strong Super Simple. But if Ryan's other videos are anything like these, then he has a fine collection of work to his credit already. It's true that there are "only" seven tricks on the Effortless Effects DVD, but they are quite varied in style. And the fact that you also learn a valuable principle with application to a lot of other magic means that you get a lot of bang for your buck. Bear in mind that you can spend $10 at Penguin Magic for just one of these tricks (No Hassel Hof)! Whereas in Effortless Effects you get more than half a dozen - and virtually all of them are ones you'll want to test-drive and perform, because they have the capacity to astound people.

The fact that these tricks are extremely light on sleights, and are very easy to perform means that this collection will have a wide appeal. While being straight-forward to do, the actual "magic" will seem quite impossible in the minds of your spectators, and of course that's exactly what you want. There's also a solid range of different tricks, with some very fun presentational possibilities and plots. And the teaching by Ryan is excellent. Finally, it all comes together in a polished package from Big Blind Media, with top notch production values.

Ryan Schlutz is an ideal candidate for Big Blind Media's target audience, because he gives you hard-hitting magic that is easy to learn, fun to perform, and packs a real punch. I love his approach to magic, where the cleverness is in the method, and where careful presentation allows you to make the audience believe something truly impossible has happened. Bravo Ryan Schlutz, and bravo Big Bllnd Media - I look forward to seeing more from both of you!

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Want to learn more? Visit the publisher Big Blind Media or check their social media (Facebook, Twitter, Youtube).
Product pages: Miracles Without Moves DVD, Effortless Effects DVD, Only Slightly Sleighty DVD, Super Strong Super Simple DVD
More Ryan Schlutz: Cuts of Schlutz box set, and other Ryan Schlutz videos at BBM.

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