Sleight of Hand or Something More? The Magic Behind Magic Shows

min read
An illusionist makes a card appear to be floating.
BetMGM Jul 23, 2023, 4:10 AM

You may have a magical experience when you play online casino games, but some of you may be looking for a different kind of magic. Thankfully, for those of you who are hoping to be wowed by feats of illusion, there are real magic shows to keep you entertained when you decide to take a break from playing live at a casino online. 

Take a look at some of the secrets behind how to do magic tricks and how great magicians astound us every time they get up on stage.

The Magic Behind the Magic

While it would be wonderful to say that magic and illusions are truly a unique and completely inexplicable power that only certain individuals hold, the reality is that it’s a skill that can be developed if you are willing to put in the time and effort. 

Whether it’s a disappearing object, ropes that you cut and then magically reconnect or even the ability to saw a person in half, there are different tricks and techniques to fool your audience and make your act seem like you really are able to bend reality. 


The article “This Is How Magic Tricks Actually Work” from Bustle discusses a technique called priming. This is simply putting people into a certain frame of mind so that they are more likely to make certain connections or associations. Priming is vital to how to do magic in real situations.

“‘We think what may be happening is that people are effectively confusing their expectations with a true sensory experience. This expectation is so vivid that it can actually be mistaken for a real object,” researcher Matthew Tompkins said, according to Science Daily.

“This is hardly the first study to make you question your grasp of reality — eyewitness accounts are notoriously subject to suggestion, and research has shown that it’s dependent on everything from your imagination to the language you grew up speaking. In a 2012 study, researchers even found that the wording of a magic trick can lead you to choose different cards.”

This idea is also explored by the Ars Technica article “Study: Magicians’ priming techniques are effective at influencing choice.” Alice Pailhès, a psychologist at the Goldsmiths University of London, has studied how magicians can use certain techniques to influence people, focusing on how British illusionist Derren Brown guides people to think specifically about a 3 of diamonds during his act. 

“To prime the audience member to think of the number 3, Brown asks them to imagine the ‘little numbers down in the corner of the card and in the top.’ As he does so, he rapidly draws 3s in the air, as if on an imaginary card, with his index finger. Finally, he asks the spectator to imagine the ‘things in the middle of the card, the boom, boom, boom, the suits’ while pointing to three imaginary symbols in the air. The entire priming exercise lasts just 15 seconds.”

Pailhès developed a test and found that using Brown’s method resulted in 17.8% of people choosing the 3 of diamonds, 38.9% choosing a 3 from all four suits and 33.3% choosing a card from the diamond suit. Without priming, people didn’t choose the 3 of diamonds or even just a 3 anywhere near as often. Considering that she had little experience as a magician or illusionist, Pailhès was surprised at how powerful priming was.

Tricking the Brain

Of course, knowing how to do magic tricks goes way beyond cards. Magicians have also taken advantage of “gaps” in our visual processing in order to create other exciting tricks. For example, in the article “Tricking the brain: How magic works” on The Conversation website, Gustav Kuhn discusses how illusionists trick people into believing a ball has disappeared. 

“For example, the vanishing ball illusion is one trick that colleagues and I have studied. In this trick, a magician throws a ball in the air a couple of times and then makes it seem to disappear by pretending to throw it again when, in fact, it remains secretly concealed inside his hand. What is surprising about this illusion is that most people – almost two-thirds – experience an illusory ball being tossed up in the air at the third throw, even though it never leaves the magician’s hand. We experience this ‘ghost ball’ because we see what we believe is going to happen rather than what has actually taken place. The illusion shows that people perceive things that they believe will happen in the future, even when this belief is completely unfounded.”


Other tricks rely on misdirection to shift the audience’s focus away from something the magician is trying to obscure and to complete the illusion, such as making an object disappear or reappear.

The art of misdirection in illusion is like a dance performed by magicians and entertainers. It’s all about tricking our minds and creating an enchanting sense of wonder. How does a magician wave his hands and convince you that something impossible just happened?

Magicians use various techniques of misdirection, such as sleight of hand, body language and verbal cues, to direct the audience’s focus away from the secret moves and hidden mechanics behind their illusions. By controlling where the audience looks and what they perceive, magicians can create seemingly impossible feats.

Misdirection is an art that requires precise timing, flawless execution and a deep understanding of human psychology. It plays with our expectations, exploiting our tendency to focus on the obvious and overlook subtle details. It challenges our perception of reality, reminding us that appearances can be deceiving.

These and other illusions rely on the fact that our brains and eyes aren’t always as perfect as we’d like to think they are, and sometimes our minds use a little creativity to help fill in the parts that we think are missing.

Even if It’s Not Real, It’s Still a Lot of Fun

There are, of course, many more tricks to discuss, but that would take a lot more time than you may have. For now, these examples highlight the main point to note: that while most of us would love these acts to be actual magic, they are usually skilled illusionists, making us believe something even if it isn’t true.

Even if this is the case, that doesn’t make seeing these masters at work any less exciting, and half the fun is trying to figure out how they did what they did.

Great Illusionists To Watch at MGM

If you want to be amazed by some of the greatest illusionists alive today, be sure to check out these great magicians at one of MGM’s great venues.

The Mac King Comedy Magic Show – Excalibur Hotel & Casino

Mac King’s Magic show at the Excalibur Hotel is an absolute delight for both magic enthusiasts and casual audiences alike. King’s unique blend of humor and mind-boggling illusions creates an unforgettable experience that leaves you amazed and entertained from start to finish.

One of the standout aspects of King’s show is his impeccable comedic timing. He effortlessly weaves jokes and witty banter throughout his performance, ensuring that laughter is never far away. His comedic prowess adds an extra layer of enjoyment, making the show not just visually stunning but also incredibly fun.

The magic tricks themselves are nothing short of impressive. King’s mastery of misdirection and sleight of hand is evident in every trick he performs. From turning a simple rope into a live snake to making goldfish appear out of thin air, each illusion is executed flawlessly, leaving the audience in awe of his skills.

Another highlight of the show is King’s interaction with the audience. He has a natural ability to engage and connect with people, effortlessly involving them in his tricks. This interaction creates a sense of camaraderie and makes the audience feel like part of the magic.

The intimate theater setting at the Excalibur Hotel provides an up-close and personal experience, allowing everyone to appreciate the intricate details of King’s illusions. The overall production value is top-notch, with well-designed sets and lighting that enhance the magical atmosphere.

Shin Lim: LIMITLESS – The Mirage

The two-time winner of “America’s Got Talent,” Shin Lim, presents LIMITLESS, a show filled with magic and illusion that will have you questioning whether you can ever trust your eyes again. Lim is one of the world’s best card illusionists but is not alone in this incredible show, with another “America’s Got Talent” finalist, Colin Cloud, bringing his incredible mind-reading abilities to an already stellar show.

What sets Lim apart is his ability to seamlessly blend sleight of hand with artistic expression. His card manipulations are executed with such precision and elegance that they leave you questioning reality. Each trick flows seamlessly into the next, creating a smooth narrative that keeps you hooked from start to finish.

One of the standout aspects of LIMITLESS is Lim’s artistry. He uses music, lighting and choreography to enhance the impact of his illusions, creating a visually stunning experience. The intimate setting of the theater allows every audience member to witness the intricate details of his magic up close, intensifying the sense of wonder.

Lim’s presentation style is both humble and charismatic, inviting the audience into his world and making them feel like part of the magic. His storytelling adds depth and emotional resonance to the performance, making it more than just a series of tricks but a transformative experience.

LIMITLESS is a testament to Lim’s extraordinary talent and creativity. It’s a show that pushes the boundaries of what is possible in the realm of close-up magic, leaving you awestruck and inspired. If you’re seeking an enchanting and mind-bending evening, Shin Lim’s LIMITLESS at The Mirage is an absolute must-see.

David Copperfield – MGM Grand Las Vegas

David Copperfield’s magic show at the MGM Grand is a true spectacle that showcases the legendary magician’s unparalleled talent and showmanship. From start to finish, Copperfield’s performance is a masterclass in the art of illusion, leaving the audience mesmerized and amazed.

One of the most striking aspects of Copperfield’s show is the sheer scale of his illusions. He effortlessly makes objects disappear, reappear and transform in ways that defy logic and leave you questioning what is possible. Whether it’s making a car vanish or walking through the Great Wall of China, Copperfield’s grand illusions are awe-inspiring and push the boundaries of imagination.

In addition to his mind-blowing tricks, Copperfield’s charisma and stage presence are captivating. He effortlessly connects with the audience, drawing them into his world of wonder. His storytelling ability adds depth to the performance, making it more than just a series of tricks but a captivating narrative.

The production value of the show is also top-notch. Elaborate sets, stunning lighting and seamless choreography enhance the overall experience, creating an immersive atmosphere that adds to the magic.

Attending David Copperfield’s show at the MGM Grand is not just watching a magic show; it’s witnessing a master magician at the height of his craft. With his remarkable illusions, engaging stage presence and unforgettable performance, Copperfield’s show is an absolute must-see for anyone looking to experience the pinnacle of magical entertainment.

Enjoy Great Casino Gaming at BetMGM

When you’re done having a great time at one of the incredible magic acts hosted by MGM, be sure to pop into one of their many incredible casinos to experience the magic of casino table games, poker, slots and much more!

And if you’re not at the Las Vegas Strip just yet, you can still experience the magic of all the best online casino games with fantastic magic systems at BetMGM. Enjoy all the amazing types of casino games, including online poker and online slots, on offer – all you need to do is register at BetMGM.

Actress Vanessa Hudgens flipping casino chips next to the text "The King of Casinos"
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Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.