• Alex Hui

TRICK REVIEW: Pocket Nightmare by Max Maven

Updated: May 14


Here is my in-depth review of Pocket Nightmare by Max Maven.


REVIEW PHILOSOPHY


When I review a product, I’d like to judge the product by itself per se, but not putting past record or creator’s name/reputation into consideration. As I have no affiliation with any magicians or dealers, I am free to give my readers detailed information about the product (without secret revealed). I will provide what is not said on the advertisement and details beyond the product itself.


You will have everything good and bad about the product. Almost nothing is left out.


I believe by giving you the most transparent information, you will become a well-informed buyer in long run.


And this is the goal of my reviews, and I hope you will agree in-depth and unbiased reviews are good for the community.


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WHAT YOU GET?


You’ll get a Bicycle deck with some specially printed cards. For those who has learnt this effect in Kayfabe volume 3, you will be delighted that 36 gimmick cards are included instead of 15 cards in the original version (I would call this release a Penguin version).


And a link to the online tutorial is included in the box.


QUALITY OF THE GIMMICK


The deck is not fully gimmicked. Only 36 cards are printed in a special way, and the remaining cards are normal cards.


Since the cards are printed by the US Playing Card Company, you will expect you receive a high quality deck of cards.


As you may aware, the deck is handed to spectators to search for the peeked card at one point of performance. While the deck cannot be examined, it can be handled relatively freely by spectator. Since the deck is only handled by spectator for a short span of time during performance, it should last a long time. Even if the deck was mishandled and damaged a bit accidentally, it doesn’t affect how the deck works.


In addition, the principle of the gimmicked cards is versatile enough for you to accomplish other effects.


To conclude, the gimmick quality is quite as expected. No surprise or disappointment at all.


QUALITY OF THE TUTORIAL


The video lasts about 18 minutes & 54 seconds. The performance is recorded in front of live audience in studio. The explanation is done in studio with a straight-ahead camera most of the time.


Length (in minutes) of the main parts (I literally counted):


  • Performance - 2:10

  • History - 4:56

  • Gimmick - 2:18

  • Explanation - 8:47

  • Conclusion - 0:15


‘History’ session starts with some background information about how this trick is born. Then Max Maven talks about the Ken Krenzel which somehow inspired his presentation. Next he moves to talk about the plagiarism of this effect. This session is quite interesting because the story is fun and it’s always good to learn about how a creator develops his effect. As we are all standing on the shoulders of giants, this session is a good reminder of how we should treat our own creations.


In ‘Gimmick', Max Maven introduces the gimmick cards and the improvement. He briefly mentioned the reason why you are receiving different number of gimmick cards from his original effect.


In ‘Explanation’, Max Maven goes into the execution of the effect. He follows his presentation and explains what should be done at different stages of the effect. There is a handling to be used when the effect doesn’t work as it should be. And Max also gives advice on audience management when they search for the peeked card. The information is enough for you to perform the effect, but learners may be surprised at how few tips are given provided that the effect has been performed for 40 years.


Overall, the production quality of the tutorial is not bad. But it is way too short for an effect with such a long history. Except beginners, most competent magicians should be able to understand mechanism well enough to execute it, but it is another matter whether they can perform it with maximum impact. There are many small issues I am aware of but they are not answered on the tutorial. So, this tutorial is like being able to teach you swing your hands and legs in the swimming pool so that you can float but not able to make you swim confidently. That being said, for performers with strong presentation and experience, they should have no issue at all.


DIFFICULTY


The mechanism of this effect is very easy to understand. It involves almost no sleight-of-hand.


However, audience management is crucial. There are at least 2 moments (1. Peek; 2. Selection searching) where the effect can go totally wrong. Once it goes wrong, it’s hard to recover.


I would advice learners to understand the effect fully before performing it.


PERFORMANCE ANGLE


There is no restriction on angle. In the performance, Max is standing on stage right (from audience’s angle, he is on left). Thus there may be a moment where a move (which is only done when the effect doesn’t go smoothly) may be seen, or if thing goes wrong during peeking,


I would suggest to perform this effect on stage left, covering even that very slight chance of flashing. I believe Max is doing perfectly okay on stage right with this effect (his performance in Kayfabe is also on stage right), but we are not Max Maven, right? So it’s better to play safe.


CLOTHING REQUIREMENT


There is no strict requirement for clothing, because you can perform it as long as you have a pocket on the right side. It’s because you need to put your right hand in the pocket while your left hand holds the deck.


You don’t need a pocket if you are not performing with Max Maven's presentation.


WHO CAN DO IT?


In general, this effect can be performed by magicians of any levels. However, its impact mainly depends on the showmanship. In other words, just like Penn & Teller can make a Vase Trick into miracle, whether you can make this a great trick depends on you solely, but not the method.



ANALYSIS OF THE EFFECT


I will include my analysis of the effect in my product review. In this analysis, I will present my view on the strength and weakness of the effect. And will also go deeper with magic theory in mind.


This is a card-to-pocket effect. And there are usually two main issues in this type of effect, namely the VANISH and the PRODUCTION of the selection.


In this version, Max Maven has done a great job in making a clean vanish of the selection without sacrificing much freedom of the trick. Even though the deck cannot be shuffled by spectators at the beginning, the fact that spectator can search for their own selection increase illusion of the degree of fairness in this effect. Since at no point the magician can manipulate the cards, the vanish of the selection can only explained by magic. This is what makes this effect great in the first place.


Of course, clean effect always needs sacrifice. The method itself is brilliant, but it requires good audience management if it is performed in casual setting. With spectator which may go wild like street performance, they may want to inspect the deck unless you have established yourself as a competent magician already. However, if the performer stresses too much that he won’t using sleight-of-hand, then the first solution that lay audience may come up with is trick deck. So, think about your performing environment and how to stage the effect properly to avoid troubles.


TIPS


  • If you knows that the spectator is not peeking at the target zone, you may want to push the deck forwards when he is peeking, so that you have a bigger leeway to make the move. Never depend on spectator to open the deck widely enough, because you have asked him to take a peek, the peek will only open the deck slightly for sure.

  • If you want to make sure you will always get the card 100% correct at the target zone, buy 2 decks of Pocket Nightmare to make your ultimate Pocket Nightmare deck. It may sound ridiculous, but if it will remain as your lifetime effect, the idea doesn’t sound too bad at all.

  • Left-hand magicians have to learn how to hold the deck in left-hand peeking position, and do that life-saver move if thing doesn’t go perfectly.


PROS ABOUT THE EFFECT


  1. Gimmick is versatile

  2. A solid effect with strong presentation

  3. In a sense, easy to do


CONS ABOUT THE EFFECT


  1. The tutorial is way too short. Advices are barely enough.

  2. If number of gimmick can be increase from 15 to 36, why not make a full deck?


A COMPARISON


A common question by potential buyers is, which of the following trick should I get?


  • Pocket Nightmare

  • Get Sharky

  • Card To Pocket by The Other Brothers


Putting aside the controversy of plagiarism (because there are 2 versions of stories and I simply don’t know the truth), let me give my 2 cents on how should we compare.


In strict sense, Pocket Nightmare and Get Sharky look exactly the same to most audience. A card is peeked and then vanishes from the deck, it was produced afterwards. Both versions need a peek with similar degree of freedom (audience can’t riffle the deck), and both decks can be handed to the onlookers. One main difference is, the 'Get Sharky’ deck can be handled much more freely by spectators while there is restriction on 'Pocket Nightmare’ deck.


Does it mean Get Sharky is better than Pocket Nightmare in terms of methodology?


I don’t think so.


The reason is simple. It’s because both effects are, point me out if I am wrong, meant to perform in different environments.


Pocket Nightmare's neat methodology allows almost ‘hand-off’ approach. Performer can look away, the deck can be passed to audience, and only one card from pocket is cleanly shown. It is suitable for ‘stage’ performance where audience is easier to manage and misdirection is more difficult to execute (you can hardly misdirect the whole audience).


Get Sharky, while it is also super clean, requires performer to face the deck at one point of the effect. The effect can withstand higher pressure from audience but it’s less elegant in terms of method. The deck feels plastic in spectator’s hands. In street performance or in casual setting where misdirection is easier, Get Sharky may be a good choice. But it will suffers a bit on stage as looking at the deck timely is important. It’s not as clean as Pocket Nightmare in this sense.


How about Card To Pocket by The Other Brothers? It’s not a card-to-pocket in very strict sense. It is ‘I-know-your-thought-of-card-and-thus-I-took-it-out’ effect. But since the vanishing of the card is very clever and really looks magic, I highly recommend it as well. But this effect, like Pocket Nightmare, is better performed in a more controlled environment. You may want to know more details in my in-depth review here.


FINAL VERDICT


The product is nicely produced. An effect with 40 years of history and still performed today is unbeatable.


However, I wish more information can be provided in the tutorial and let me understand this effect in-depth.


There is no difficult sleight-of-hand involved and therefore suitable for performers of any level.


I am satisfied with the quality of the product. At US$40, I will highly recommend it for people who loves easy-to-do miracle.


  • Product Quality: 8/10

  • Video Quality: 7/10

  • Effectiveness of Tricks: 10/10

  • Practical (Vanish): 9/10

  • Practical (Production): 10/10

  • Creativity: 9/10 (this is created 40 years ago!)

  • Cost Performance: 9/10

  • Final Score: 9/10


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