Magic trick

I like watching magicians. I can never figure out how they do it and just enjoy being fooled by them. Magician Dan White appeared on Jimmy Fallon’s talk show and did the following trick.

See if you can figure it out before reading the partial spoiler after the jump.

I think I can figure out everything about the trick except how White knew whether the coin was in Fallon’s hand or not. He clearly knew it before he went into his mind-reading spiel each time and once he had that, everything else falls into place because he poses the alternatives to match what he had already written on the currency note.


  1. M can help you with that. says

    The high-tech way to do it would be for there to be a short-range signal (RFID-ish? Or just a magnet?) coming from the coin (which may well be fake). Notice that Dan’s hands go near Jimmy’s fist and pocket before he says what to think of; the ring on his left hand in particular is definitely big enough that it could house some sort of feedback device.

    …or I could be overthinking this, missing the obvious low-tech way of doing it, etc. My only experience with stage magic is as an audience member.

  2. Rob Grigjanis says

    I have a long-standing mistrust of people whose profession involves misleading others. Watching the first episode of Katherine Mills’ “Mind Games” just made me dislike her rather than wonder at her awesomeness. I wouldn’t watch any more, but I wonder if she ever explained any of her tricks.

  3. besomyka says

    After the first demo, I tried reading his face like I would if I were playing poker, and I was able to guess the next two correctly. I could have been lucky, but I don’t think Fallon is a very food liar.

    Anyway, I think the guessing was just that because the trick was really about the bill. The guessing game was just a way to get him to commit to some decisions that were enumerable so that he could reveal the correct bill. Note he didn’t have Fallon open it, and he used some slight of hand there after the color reveal. I suspect that even if he had guessed wrong at some point, the end and the real trick would have still played out. He would have said, something like, “Well clearly we’re playing an honest game, but it turns out you really won because…”

  4. Holms says

    A low tech possibility is that he looked closely for a minute reaction each time he said ‘red’ ‘mug’ etc. and spotted a tiny giveaway movement on each hit he made. Other than that, I suspect the tenner actually had nothing on it in advance but had something pressed against it as it was unfolded, something that left an ink imprint on the note matching what Fallon had said each time. Notice at 5:39 especially, the say in which the note is being unfolded seems to indicate that something is being pressed or rubbed against it under his fingers.

  5. Reginald Selkirk says

    There are several components to this trick.

    The first is guessing where Fallon has the coin. This could be classical mentalism, done by reading some aspect of body language, facial micro-expressions, muscle tension or some such. Some historical examples are pretty amazing for someone who doesn’t know what is going on.

    The easiest way to handle the printing on the bill would be to switch bills. That would have to be done after all 3 answers were in. I didn’t see him make a switch, but then the camera angle changes several times which makes the video less convincing (it is conceivable that it was edited to conceal something, but that would require the production crew to be in on it.)
    Another possibility would be to have 8 (2^3) bills on very thin paper, and conceal the other seven as the winning bill is unfolded.

    Probably the most important aspect is the showmanship, and he did a good job of that.

  6. Mano Singham says

    The $10 bill bit is impressive but I think is the most easily explainable.

    There is only one bill on which he has already written the three symbols. Once he knows whether Fallon has the coin or not, he chooses the two options in order that what he has already written on the bill matches the correct coin option.

    Notice that he gives the two options only after Fallon has taken his hand out of his pocket.

  7. NL says

    He also moves his ring finger very close to Fallon’s pocket. He has something that is sensing the coin. Maybe a fake coin that’s magnetized, then a sensor to measure its magnetic field?

    The note always has the markings on it, and the options changed depending on where the coin is.

  8. chigau (違う) says

    Those sleight-of-hand people always have those looong slinky fingers.
    And those slinky gestures.
    I hope Fallon checked his wallet, after.

  9. Johnny Vector says

    I sort of feel like using a technological trick to know where the coin is is cheating. But I know a lot of magicians, and a lot of tricks involve exactly that kind of “cheating”. (If it were a religious revival I would remove the quotes; magicians are paid to cheat so it’s okay.) Sometimes it’s best not to know the trick, but I’m always a sucker for a good punchline like this one has. Personally I prefer a really good sleight-of-hand, even if I know how it’s done. Even watching Teller do cups and balls with clear cups was amazing.

  10. hyphenman says


    In my misspent youth I had the honor of meeting and getting to know a rather famous vaudeville magician Tommy Windsor.

    Tommy never showed me this particular illusion, but here’s what I think happens. There are only eight possible combinations (2^2) of the three binary decisions, so the illusionist places eight bills in Fallon’s various pockets and, based on Fallon’s responses, reaches into the appropriate pocket to withdraw the correct bill.

    Yes, Fallon was probably a confederate, but anyone called onto the stage by an illusionist is almost always a confederate.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *