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Cups and balls

Magic illusion trick / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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The cups and balls is a performance of magic with innumerable adaptations. Street gambling variations performed by conmen were known as Bunco Booths.[1] A typical cups and balls routine includes many of the most fundamental effects of magic: the balls can vanish, appear, transpose, reappear and transform.[2] Basic skills, such as misdirection, manual dexterity, sleight of hand, and audience management are also essential to most cups and balls routines. As a result, mastery of the cups and balls is considered by many as the litmus test of a magician's skill with gimmick style tricks. Magician John Mulholland wrote that Harry Houdini had expressed the opinion that no one could be considered an accomplished magician until he had mastered the cups and balls.[3] Professor Hoffman called the cups and balls "the groundwork of all legerdemain".[4]

Johnny Fox performing cups and balls routine at Maryland Renaissance Festival. A gibeciere can be seen around his waist.
Hieronymus Bosch: The Conjurer, 1475–1480. Notice the person on the far left is stealing a man's purse while he is distracted by the game

Instead of cups, other types of covers can be used, such as bowls or hats. The shell game con is a rogue variant of the cups and balls used as a confidence trick.[5]