Al Schneider needs help with Cups and Balls

Discuss your favorite platform magic and illusions.

Postby Guest » 07/24/06 03:59 PM

My new Classic Cups is doing very well.
I believe it is revolutionary and some people are agreeing.

But one must be seated at a table to do it.

Several have asked for a stand up version.

I am working on a stand up routine. But I do not know what people expect.

Does this mean the performer stands beside the dinner table while performing?

Does this mean there is a table as in on stage or parlor?

Is the interest mainly for Street Magic?

The critical issues are this:
1. What is the height of the table relative to the performer. Should the table be hip level or gut level.
2. Must it be done surrounded?
3. Do you want the steals to come from the body, the table or a case at your side.
4. How important is it to have no steals. (I have several methods for this.)
5. Is it important for the audience to see under the table as in street magic?

I am working with several options. One is to place a board across two chairs for the table.

I have about 5 rouitnes for walk around stand by the table single cup routines. Really killers.

I have a street magic no load version with three cups. It is a bit short and want the above questions answered before proceding.

I am curious what you might have to offer.

Al Schneider

Postby Richard Kaufman » 07/24/06 05:51 PM

One of my great pleasures at the SAM convention was having Al sit at the Genii table and do magic all day every day. Beautiful coin magic--you should see the looks on people's faces when he does "Osmosis."

I watched him perform his "Zombie" routine a dozen times--can't get enough of that one.

But his cups and balls was the topper. People watched it again and again and couldn't follow the sleights, let alone the loads. Al's developed completely new timing on the loads. Fun to watch from the back, too!
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Postby Pete Biro » 07/24/06 06:12 PM

I think the most practical routine (that would get the most use) is a strolling type routine at a dinner table with either NO LOADS or the loads from your pockets. The loads need not be HUGE, but should be a good CHANGE from the balls used during the routine. I think limes are good as they are DARK and easier to palm/load without tell tale leaks, like a bright lemon for example.
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Postby Guest » 07/25/06 10:33 AM

Al, I would be interested in anything you have to say about standup C & B, as it tends to be performed in a wide variety of conditions and venues where performing seated is difficult. Keep up the experiments!

John R

Postby Guest » 07/25/06 01:04 PM

Your current routine is so well crafted, it would be hard to imagine it on the streets, but it would be great to see what you come up with. For a "Street" style stand up routine, I'd imagine a pouch wouldn't be unreasonable as you'd probably wear one anyway rather than have bulging pockets. I'd prefer that over a table servante just for transportation convenience. Having an uncluttered table also allows for some comedy bits with the table itself that wouldn't be possible with a servante or your table mat adaptation.

My favorite table height would be high enough that my palms would rest flat on the table. Maybe a bit higher if you want to facilitate your moves where the side of your hand rests on the table. Of course you or I would need a taller table than let's say, Gazzo. Some prefer that the table is tall enough to hide the top edge of the pouch for loading purposes, but I'll leave that to you to see what you come up with. Typically for any Gazzo trained performers, it's not a problem as the moves to and from the pouch are justified.

As always, I'm looking forward to seeing the results of your work.

Postby Guest » 07/25/06 02:04 PM

Originally posted by Dave V:
...My favorite table height would facilitate your moves ...
That is ideal, unfortunately the tables at the pub, cafeteria etc are not always designed to suit one's sleights.

Can we explore realistic situations where one might be called over to a table where others are sitting, and without unsettling the company, perform a magical routine ???

Postby Guest » 07/25/06 02:35 PM

My reply was specifically targeted to the "Street" performer. It is realistic to assume since he brings his own table that a street performer would have full control of his table space and dimensions.

So it seems Al has at least two different stand up scenerios to deal with. "Busker" style, with your own table, and "Table Hopping" where you're restricted to the table space provided.

Postby Guest » 07/26/06 06:15 AM

Dave V, right on.
Actually I am facing 4 senarios.
Busker style street work.
Table hopping.

I am getting a few things out of all this.
To me when people say stand up that means to me Stage. So I have been focused on larger balls and visibility.

However, what I am getting is stand up with people 2 or 3 feet away and a bit more. The significance of this is that I do not need to worry about really large props. As Pete says a lime final load is fine (of course he is speaking to table hopping.) But what I am getting from most is a small audience close to the performer. I am also getting that the routine need not be done surrounded although good side angles are desired.

My intent is to eventually focus on all four styles of performing. To me the stage will be the biggest challenge. However, I am going after busker style first.

In this plan there will be a three cup no load routine. Pick up the cups and go. There will be no bag to hold the cups and the working surface is not critical. Can be done in a birthday suit. Unfortunately the moves will not be sophisticated. The focus will be slam bam get on with the show. The entire performance will be aimed at smashing the audience between the eyes with the climax. In my previous routines the cups are simply tipped over to reveal the final loads. In this one the audience is baited to put the heat on you rigth up to the finish. They all know what to expect. Then at the end, splat, they get hit in the face.

Again the moves are fairly standard. However, I intend to include sections that can be left in or left out. They are for those that feel obliganted to do finger flinging or make the routine longer.

Curiously this version will probably work on all four of the above.

Does anyone have any other suggestions? Love to hear them.

Al Schneider

Postby Steve Bryant » 07/26/06 06:33 AM

Another kind of standup magic is bar magic, where the magi is working either behind the bar or simply at the bar on the same side as the specs. I started doing the Vernon routine in that setting a few years ago, with this extreme advantage. I could dress casually, which meant I could wear a sweatshirt with big pockets in the front. No one ever saw the final loads coming, even when I was working virtually surrounded. (The disadvantage I found in working bar cups is that some bars are not level, so the small balls tended to roll.) Front loading is a great way to go if your attire permits it. (But I think magicians who are wearing a large leather pouch in front are in serious denial.) I've never been happy with trying to load from my hip pockets as Vernon did, or even from ball holders attached at the rear inside my jacket. The balls or whatever were always too tight.
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Postby Guest » 07/26/06 10:42 AM

Good point.
It seems we are specializing.
Somehow it would be nice to nail down the venus.
I actually took a course on being a bartender.
I graduadeted and they gave me a certificate and a card to put in my wallet. So I am a card carrying bartender. Never used it though.

Any more thoughts?

Al Schneider

Postby Guest » 07/26/06 11:26 AM

Originally posted by Al Schneider:
...Any more thoughts?
How about working at a podium at a meeting or trade show?

This came to mind remembering Paul Gertner explaining the nature of his working venues when asked about a stand up handling of his routine.

Postby Pete Biro » 07/26/06 11:29 AM

Podium type situation? Chop cup ala Ken Brooke's routine (Paul Daniels has taken that routine 'round the world)!
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Postby Guest » 08/28/06 11:39 AM

After reviewing some of the comments on this forum and studying some emails I received from others on the subject, I put together a stand-up cup and ball routine. While this sounds like I did a quick job of it, a lot of time has gone into it. Unfortunately it only has one large ball as a final load.

I devised a method to produce two more large balls. However, the R&D process is turning out to be quite lengthy. If and when it is completed it will be quite good. The whole routine will continue to be a single package not requiring steals from pockets or other places. It also promises to be repeatable for the same audience. It needs a lot of work so I will come out with it another day.

The new routine is called LA Street Cups. You can view it at

It uses standard cups although they are the stubby variety. There is nothing more than three cups, the required set of small balls and a large final load ball. There is nothing else. I put a board on two chairs to perform the routine to highlight the versatility of the whole thing. I have not mastered the routine yet so you will pick up a few technical problems with the routine.

I hope you enjoy it.

Al Schneider

Postby Pete Biro » 08/28/06 09:25 PM

Brilliant the way you handle the load ball throughout. One suggestion, like Johnn Paul, who uses only one final load (a lemon) stack the cups then lift to show the final load.
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Postby Bill Wells » 08/29/06 06:28 AM

Al -

I agree with Pete that your handling of the loaded cup is extremely well done.

For additional inspiration, you may wish to review Scotty York's "X-Rated Cups and Balls" (the routine is not "blue", the title is derived from the fact that one could do the routine in the nude) in which the 3 cups are loaded with the final loads from the onset.

You continue to push the envelope - thank goodness!! :)

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Postby Guest » 08/29/06 07:12 AM



I like that idea from a theatrical point of view. In fact I would like to do that for it kind of rounds out the performance.

The manner of doing it now is based on a routine I did long ago with the old Adams cups and fuzz balls. There I had a very clean way of loading the ball from the lap. It was totally perfect. I developed it because it was easy and I really needed things easy.

The routine only produced one big ball at the end. As in the LA Street Cups a single ball disappeared to appear under a cup. Then another ball disappeared to appear under another cup. Finally a single ball disappeared and the third cup was lifted to reveal a large ball.

Consider what the lay audience sees/does. They are trying to get their mind around what is going on. After those first two appearances they know there is a ball already under the third cup. The first two times a ball disappears and appears under a cup, you are essentially telling them what is going on. When I did this long ago, the spectators were pointing at the third cup screaming that there was already a ball there. They are on this like a hawk on a mouse. When the big ball is revealed, the response is very strong.

You see this is not passive as in most cups and ball routines in which the cups are just lifted to reveal the big balls. Here, the audience is hot on you. They know something is going to be under that cup and they are waiting to see it.

This is why in LA Street Cups the last cup is treated very carefully and my hands are shown very carefully. I dont want anything to spoil this sequence.

However, I really dont know.

The final answer is to try it both ways and let the audience vote with their response.

Al Schneider

Postby Pete Biro » 08/29/06 08:53 AM

Yah... you have figured it well. And Wells' suggestion about looking up York's routine might give you more inspiration... but as the routine you now have is quite good, don't screw it up by thinking too much :D
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Postby Jeff Haas » 08/29/06 12:20 PM

Al, I like it a lot. The only part that seems to need a bit of trimming is the center section, where the balls travel from the middle cup to the end. Seems to be a bit slow there.

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Postby Guest » 08/29/06 01:02 PM


While developing the routine I kind of felt the same way.

Not sure what to do about it.

Al Schnedier

Postby Al Schneider » 11/29/12 12:39 PM

Much time has passed.
Did a bunch of stuff for L&L.
They have come out with the DVD on cups and balls.
Here is what I ended up with the LA Street Cups.
I have performed it a fair amount in the real world.
First off, I dropped the penetration sequence in the beginning. I started hearing comments that there must be a fourth ball to accomplish that sequence. The only reason I liked the sequence was that it effectively showed the cups MT.

About the middle sequence of going from the middle cup to the end cup. It has worked out really well. As I performed it the sequence led to good byplay with the audience. I switched from a gambling idea with money to a gambling idea with goats as some Greek doing this on the streets of Athens. The sequence of repeating the same moves and saying each time the ball goes over there, "You owe me another goat." It sells really well.

When I first did this I would say, "You owe me a dollar." People got really offended with that. When I said, "You owe me a goat," they looked at me as if I was weird but accepted it and it continued to be funny.

The routine as written up in "Al Schneider Magic" by L&L is my final routine. I have done it many times in a coffee shop and on the street. It sells very well. Some guy that hung out at the shop that must have seen it 30 times, admitted he could not see where the final big ball came from.

All the best.

Al Schneider
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Postby Al Schneider » 02/25/15 04:12 AM

Just passin by again. I have entered a couple of contests not related to magic and waiting for results. So, just killing time.

I have never stopped working on the cups and balls. (Also never stopped working on the rings, but that is another story.)

Update on the cups and balls. My desire was to have a routine that could be done almost anywhere. About four months ago I finally hit it. It is a long story but here is the result.

The props are a bag, a cup, a large ball, and three different colored small balls if you want. No gimmicks or any other material. The final load and small balls can be fairly large for cups and balls. There are no fancy moves. Everything is carried in the bag. Could also use the bag to carry other props. The three balls are handed out to the audience, then the cup is handed to the audience. All is fully examined. The bag is spread on the table like a closeup mat. (Stops balls from rolling.) A short three ball sequence ensues. It is amazing. The cup clearly MT is placed mouth down and a spec is asked to put their finger on it. A small ball is caused to disappear and the spec is asked to raise the cup to see it has appeared. They lift the cup and there is the big guy.

This is all self contained. Big guy automatically loaded. No body loads, no pockets, do it in a B-suit. Do it again and it still killzem.

The three ball sequence is on Youtube. It is titled "A Little Cup and Ball Routine." The load sequence has been explained in a DVD by L&L, can't remember which. Abut three months ago I put them together for this routine. This is intended for a worker.

I am planning a book on this. Will do when I get a round tuit.

Called OMG II after the one in the L&L DVD which was OMG. I hope that is what they say when the big ball is revealed.

All the best.

Al Schneider

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Postby Dustin Stinett » 02/25/15 04:34 AM

Al, may I please embed the Youtube clip here?
And consider yourself asked about the rings!
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Postby Al Schneider » 02/25/15 06:34 AM

I am honored by your request.


And here is about my rings. As you may know, my stuff takes years to mature. I put some stuff in an L&L DVD on rings. The important part was linking solid rings via manipulation without a key. Then I came up with another way to link solid rings. This was presented at a lecture at Magic Inc. Few saw it for most were at the Genii convention last year. So, the moves are a bit old. I brought these together in a special routine. Don't know if I will ever publish it because it is rather special. It deviates from most routines in that the goal is to convince the audience magic is really happening. This comes from a desire to enable magic to match the power of mentalism. This is quite a task.

The routine is a challenge routine. The performer introduces a pouch somewhat like a laptop carrier. The performer opens it and pulls six rings out of the bag one at a time. Three guys are invited on stage. To the person on the performer's right a ring is offered for examination. Then a second. The two rings are linked and immediately handed to him for examination. The two rings are linked to a third ring. The three are immediately handed to the person for examination. The second person is addressed. Two rings are linked and immediately handed to him for examination. The sixth single ring is given to the third person for examination. The performer sticks his hands in his pockets and says, "These people have all the rings." Then the performer asks the left person to pull hard on the single ring. It doesn't give. The performer then takes that ring back and asks the man with the two rings to get together with the now ring-less guy. These two are asked to pull on the two linked rings. Those are given to the performer. Then all three men are asked to pull on the three rings. They cannot separate them. The three are returned to the performer. The men are asked to return to their seats. Then the performer holds the rings up and they are a chain of six. The chain is held up by one end ring. The chain is put back into the bag.

The story line is that this is the original linking rings from China that many many modern magicians attempted to copy.

Altering this sequence is difficult as the entire routine is choreographed to utilize the devices employed.

So, I have a question. How does this sound? The routine is to be done in a serious tone. No joke patter unless it is by play with the men helping. I am accused of being a boring performer. My belief is that if the audience sees what must be real magic, they will love it. That has been my experience. I think, in the right show, this routine would kill.

Anyway, that is it. Like I say I wonder if there are magicians out there that would value this. No plans to publish it immediately.

I want to buy a new camera before I get back to doing books.

Hope this wasn't to long.

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Postby erdnasephile » 02/25/15 07:33 AM

The ring project sounds really interesting and I would definitely value it! Thanks!
Last edited by erdnasephile on 08/28/15 04:18 PM, edited 3 times in total.
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Postby MagicbyAlfred » 08/28/15 01:32 PM

The cups and balls routine I perform is always done standing up, so that is all I can speak to. IMHO, a routine with final loads, if done smoothly and deceptively, will always surpass one with no final loads, that is to say in terms of LAYMEN impact and reaction (different rules apply for what impresses magicians).

I have always used 4 final loads, with each being of a different bright color because I feel it results in essence in 4 separate effects, whereas I believe uniformity/identicality of the final loads (e.g 4 yellow tennis balls, 4 white baseballs or 4 lemons), while still very strong, dilutes the impact. I have also found from experience that fruit elicits a substantially stronger reaction than big balls. My current final loads for C & B are a lime, an orange, a red potato and a lemon. All I know is it kills! I think the sheer incongruity of fruit exponentiates the surprise and magical effect.

Additionally, I do not consider loading from the pockets a liability or weakness. I have literally never had a layman say "those balls must have been in your pocket," nor (at least to my knowledge) have I ever been caught in the last 20 years in the final loading sequence. If the timing is right, the misdirection is perfect. I like to propel the little ball forward a bit when I lift the cup for each final load (an idea certainly not my innovation), as their eyes have to follow the movement, and it adds an extra compelling layer of misdirection. Again, just my opinion.

BTW, I recently sprang for a set of the Brett Sherwood nickel plated cups and 2 sets of his custom made balls in royal blue. If I could marry a set of cups...

Also found myself unable to resist ordering a custom wand from Allivan to go with the new cups. (Ebony with Purpleheart tips - beautiful piece of art!)
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Postby performer » 08/28/15 01:51 PM

My main objection to most cups and balls routines is that they go on too long. This is usually a result of the magician talking too much or the routine being too convoluted. Cups and balls routines can get very complicated for people to follow. If they blink for a moment they lose the thread of what is going on. You have to keep it simple to follow. I always lose track of what is supposed to happen when I watch the cups and balls.

I don't believe any cups and balls routines should exceed three minutes. I even think Vernon went on a tiny bit too long with it. Just a tad mind you. Of course there are exceptions such as Gazzo but you have to remember here that the trick is subordinated to the comedy. It is really a comedian doing a magic trick rather than a magician who is using comedy.

For most performers I would recommend cutting the running time down and keeping the effect as simple and uncomplicated as possible.
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Postby MagicbyAlfred » 08/28/15 03:27 PM

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