Cups and Balls – one of the oldest, and best, magic tricks
For many years, proficiency with the Cups and Balls was the measure of a magicianâs skill. Artfully done, even skilled performers, knowing the secret moves, don’t see them being done. In a nutshell, the routine begins with three opaque cups, and a small ball hidden beneath one of them. The prestidigitator moves them around, leaving the spectator to try and follow the ball and guessing which cup the ball is hiding under – but only guessing correctly when the magician wants him to. It can lead to comedy, with multiplying balls, or jaw-dropping astonishment with the trick ending by upending all three cups, and revealing anything from fruit to fowl under all three of the ’empty’ cups. There are hundreds of variations, with many great magicians having put their own spin on the Cups and Balls.
Variations on the Cups and Balls
- The Chop Cup, created by American magician Al Wheatley (who performed as “Chop Chup”) allowed him to perform the routine with one, gimmicked, cup.
- The Thimble Rig – using thimbles and a pea
- Find the Pea – using walnut shells as the ‘cups’ and a pea
- Find the Lady – done with cards, a common site on large city streets as con artists demonstrate their skills with three cards, including one Queenâand all the spectator has to do is âfind the ladyââwhich only happens when the cardsharp wants it to.