Dai Vernon – The Professor – Close Up Magic – Slight of Hand Artist

Published by Magic Every Month Staff on


Dai Vernon  was considered by many as the greatest close up magician to
ever walk the planet.   Dia Vernon was born in Canada in  1894 and passed
away in 1992.  Dai’s expert sleight-of-hand technique and EQ knowledge
garnered him universal respect among fellow magicians who fondly called
him “The Professor”.  His influence on the magic world is hard to describe.
He always had time for up and coming magicians. He lived out his last years
at the
Magic Castle in California.


Dai Vernon’s Legendary Cups & Balls Routine



Very few magicians have developed the slight-of-hand skill coming remotely
close to Dai Vernon.  As legend goes,  
Harry Houdini (who in his early years
billed himself as “The King of Kards”) often boasted that if he saw a card
trick performed three times in a row he would be able to figure it out.




Vernon then showed Houdini a trick, where he removed the top card of the
deck and placed it in the middle, and then turned over the top card to again
reveal the original card. Houdini watched Vernon do the trick seven times,
each time insisting that Vernon “do it again”. Finally Houdini’s wife, and
Vernon’s friends said, “Face it Houdini, you’re fooled.” For years afterward,
Vernon used the title “The Man Who Fooled Houdini” in his advertisements.

Dai’s dad took him to see a magic show when he was eight years old and
Vernon’s love affair with magic started that day. The first magic book
Vernon ever owed was the most famous card trick book every published
“Expert at the Card Table” by S.W. Erdnase.  Vernon said by the time he
was 13 years old he had memorized every trick in the book.

There is also a story in the magic community about Vernon meeting another
young magician from his home town who asked Vernon, “What kind of Magic
Do You Do?”.

Vernon asked the young man to name a card. Vernon then proceeded to pull
a pack of cards from his pocket, Vernon turned over the top card of the deck
to reveal the card the young man had named. Dai Vernon then said, “That’s
the kind of magic I do, what kind do you do?” 🙂


Genii Magazine (1963)

Vernon made his home in the legendary Magic Circle in New York city which was
basically the back of an old magic shop. The most skilled and famous card
magicians in the world lived there. There is another popular story involving
Dai Vernon and Walter Scott.

This event happened in 1930.  Unknown card hustler at the time, Scott into
the Magic Circle to demonstrate his skill. Scott was blindfolded, on of the
men watching shuffled and cut a pack of cards and handed them to Scott.

Scott then proceeded to deal out six hands of five card draw poker, and in
the process delt himself 4 Aces and a King. He fooled every magician
present earning him the nickname “Phantom of the Card Table”.

Many magicians believed that Scott’s skills could be as polished as Dai
Vernon’s.  However the only magician in the Circle that didn’t witness
this demonstration was Dai.

Magic was Dai Vernon’s passion.  He spent most of his life traveling all
over the United States looking for card cheats and anyone he might be
about to learn sleight of hand with cards from.  Those in the know say
he was under-credited for much of the work published in


Dai Vernon spent most of his life traveling all over the United States of
America looking for card cheats and anyone who might know anything
about sleight of hand with cards. He was famously under-credited for much
of the work published in Jean Hugard and Frederick Braue‘s Expert Card Technique,
though a later edition included an extra chapter which acknowledges Dai
Vernon’s contributions. In fact, a huge portion of the sleight of hand had been
discovered by Vernon over years of searching.

Vernon was perhaps the most skillful sleight of hand artist that ever lived
and, with Ed Marlo, possibly the most influential card magician of the 20th
century. Among magicians, he is credited with inventing or improving many
standard close-up effects with cards, coins, and other small items. The “standard”
Cups and balls routine is his, and his 6-ring “Symphony of the Rings” remains
one of the most popular Chinese linking rings routines in use to this day.

Vernon spent the last thirty years of his life as Magician-in-Residence at
The Magic Castle in Los Angeles, California. There he mentored numerous
well-known magicians including Ricky Jay, Persi Diaconis, Doug Henning,
Bruce Cervon, Larry Jennings, Chuck Fayne, Max Maven, Michael Ammar
and John Carney. All mentioned have become some of the best close up
magicians in the world.