Here is my in-depth review of Pocket Nightmare by Max Maven.
When I review a product, I’d like to judge the product by itself alone. I will try to put myself
into readers’ shoes and give the most honest review.
I paid full price of the product, and
come with no affiliation with any magicians or dealers, thus as a consumer I want my readers to have
I will provide what is not said on the advertisement and details beyond
the product itself.
If the product is good, I say it out loud. At the same time, if there is bad
about the product, I don’t hesitate at all to say it. I do not judge based on the magician’s
reputation or history. The quality of the product is the only thing I will take into consideration.
I believe by giving you the most transparent information, you will have better knowledge to
Helping my readers is my biggest goal with this review.
WHAT YOU GET?
You’ll get a Bicycle deck with some specially printed cards. For those who has learnt this
effect in Kayfabe volume 3, you will be delighted that 36 gimmick cards are included instead of 15
cards in the original version (I would call this release a Penguin version).
And a link to
the online tutorial is included in the box.
QUALITY OF THE GIMMICK
The deck is not
fully gimmicked. Only 36 cards are printed in a special way, and the remaining cards are normal
Since the cards are printed by the US Playing Card Company, you will expect you
receive a high quality deck of cards.
As you may aware, the deck is handed to spectators to
search for the peeked card at one point of performance. While the deck cannot be examined, it can be
handled relatively freely by spectator. Since the deck is only handled by spectator for a short span
of time during performance, it should last a long time. Even if the deck was mishandled and damaged
a bit accidentally, it doesn’t affect how the deck works.
In addition, the principle of
the gimmicked cards is versatile enough for you to accomplish other effects.
the gimmick quality is quite as expected. No surprise or disappointment at all.
The video lasts about 18 minutes & 54 seconds. The performance is recorded in
front of live audience in studio. The explanation is done in studio with a straight-ahead camera
most of the time.
Length (in minutes) of the main parts (I literally counted):
‘History’ session starts with some background information about how this trick is born.
Then Max Maven talks about the Ken Krenzel which somehow inspired his presentation. Next he moves to
talk about the plagiarism of this effect. This session is quite interesting because the story is fun
and it’s always good to learn about how a creator develops his effect. As we are all standing on the
shoulders of giants, this session is a good reminder of how we should treat our own creations.
In ‘Gimmick', Max Maven introduces the gimmick cards and the improvement. He briefly mentioned
the reason why you are receiving different number of gimmick cards from his original effect.
In ‘Explanation’, Max Maven goes into the execution of the effect. He follows his presentation
and explains what should be done at different stages of the effect. There is a handling to be used
when the effect doesn’t work as it should be. And Max also gives advice on audience management when
they search for the peeked card. The information is enough for you to perform the effect, but
learners may be surprised at how few tips are given provided that the effect has been performed for
Overall, the production quality of the tutorial is not bad. But it is way too
short for an effect with such a long history. Except beginners, most competent magicians should be
able to understand mechanism well enough to execute it, but it is another matter whether they can
perform it with maximum impact. There are many small issues I am aware of but they are not answered
on the tutorial. So, this tutorial is like being able to teach you swing your hands and legs in the
swimming pool so that you can float but not able to make you swim confidently. That being said, for
performers with strong presentation and experience, they should have no issue at all.
The mechanism of this effect is very easy to understand. It involves almost
However, audience management is crucial. There are at least 2 moments
(1. Peek; 2. Selection searching) where the effect can go totally wrong. Once it goes wrong, it’s
hard to recover.
I would advice learners to understand the effect fully before performing
There is no restriction on angle. In the performance, Max is
standing on stage right (from audience’s angle, he is on left). Thus there may be a moment where a
move (which is only done when the effect doesn’t go smoothly) may be seen, or if thing goes wrong
I would suggest to perform this effect on stage left, covering even that
very slight chance of flashing. I believe Max is doing perfectly okay on stage right with this
effect (his performance in Kayfabe is also on stage right), but we are not Max Maven, right? So it’s
better to play safe.
There is no strict requirement for
clothing, because you can perform it as long as you have a pocket on the right side. It’s because
you need to put your right hand in the pocket while your left hand holds the deck.
don’t need a pocket if you are not performing with Max Maven's presentation.
WHO CAN DO IT?
In general, this effect can be performed by magicians of any levels. However, its impact
mainly depends on the showmanship. In other words, just like Penn & Teller can make a Vase Trick
into miracle, whether you can make this a great trick depends on you solely, but not the method.
ANALYSIS OF THE EFFECT
I will include my analysis of the effect in my product
review. In this analysis, I will present my view on the strength and weakness of the effect. And
will also go deeper with magic theory in mind.
This is a card-to-pocket effect. And there
are usually two main issues in this type of effect, namely the VANISH and the PRODUCTION of the
In this version, Max Maven has done a great job in making a clean vanish of the
selection without sacrificing much freedom of the trick. Even though the deck cannot be shuffled by
spectators at the beginning, the fact that spectator can search for their own selection increase
illusion of the degree of fairness in this effect. Since at no point the magician can manipulate the
cards, the vanish of the selection can only explained by magic. This is what makes this effect great
in the first place.
Of course, clean effect always needs sacrifice. The method itself is
brilliant, but it requires good audience management if it is performed in casual setting. With
spectator which may go wild like street performance, they may want to inspect the deck unless you
have established yourself as a competent magician already. However, if the performer stresses too
much that he won’t using sleight-of-hand, then the first solution that lay audience may come up with
is trick deck. So, think about your performing environment and how to stage the effect properly to
- If you knows that the spectator is not peeking at the
target zone, you may want to push the deck forwards when he is peeking, so that you have a bigger
leeway to make the move.
- Never depend on spectator to open the deck widely enough,
because you have asked him to take a peek, the peek will only open the deck slightly for sure.
-If you want to make sure you will always get the card 100% correct at the target zone, buy 2
decks of Pocket Nightmare to make your ultimate Pocket Nightmare deck. It may sound ridiculous, but
if it will remain as your lifetime effect, the idea doesn’t sound too bad at all.
Left-hand magicians have to learn how to hold the deck in left-hand peeking position, and do that
life-saver move if thing doesn’t go perfectly.
PROS ABOUT THE EFFECT
2. A solid effect with strong presentation
3. In a sense, easy to do
CONS ABOUT THE EFFECT
1. The tutorial is way too short. Advices are barely enough.
2. If number of gimmick can be increase from 15 to 36, why not make a full deck?
The product is nicely produced. An effect with 40 years of history and still
performed today is unbeatable.
However, I wish more information can be provided in the
tutorial and let me understand this effect in-depth.
There is no difficult sleight-of-hand
involved and therefore suitable for performers of any level.
I am satisfied with the
quality of the product. At about US$40, I will highly recommend it for people who loves easy-to-do
- Product Quality: 8/10
- Video Quality: 7/10
- Effectiveness of Tricks:
- Practical (Vanish): 9/10
- Practical (Production): 10/10
- Creativity: 9/10
(this is created 40 years ago!)
- Cost Performance: 9/10
- Final Score: 9/10
Thank you for reading.
ALEX MAGIC REVIEW (YouTube, Instagram)
31 of 32 magicians found this helpful.
I know some people who were disappointed with this; but I knew exactly how this worked when I
ordered it; so I was overjoyed to get it. If you want to perform this like Max Maven does, it’s
going to take some work. You have to do an excellent job in picking a spectator and make sure you
provide instructions that can’t be misconstrued. I’d suggest also being ready with a means to get
back on track if your spectator takes things a bit sideways. It’s risky; but has a great payoff.
I’ve developed a completely different handling that removes the risk and, I think, (and based on
audience reactions), has just as strong a finish. Kind of makes it a little different trick. But
equally as effective.
If you’re good at audience management, and don’t mind some minor risks,
you’re going to have a ball with this one. If you want a ready-made trick that doesn’t require some
work from you - either in presentation and audience management, or in developing a handling that is
not suggested or taught; then you may be slightly disappointed.
The only thing different I’d
like would be an option for a different force card. For example, sell a deck with a five of hearts
and another one with a seven of spades and another one with a four of diamonds...like that. Just
three, maybe four force options. I’d buy a deck for each option! That’s how much I like this one.
I gave it 4 stars, rather than five, though; because there is only one force option sold, it has
only one handling taught and you have to take a pretty good risk to perform it as taught.
15 of 15 magicians found this helpful.
If performed as it is in the video, this effect has about a 50/50 chance of you getting caught, no
matter how much you practice it.
I've performed this effect 31 times since receiving it
and have been caught 17 times. Yes I kept count, because I wanted to replace my invisible deck with
this. Unfortunately, if you do it the way it is done in the trailer, any thorough spectator is going
to look in the middle of the deck, or check cards one by one, or even just separate them further
If you perform this for magicians, in front of other magicians, I am sure it
will go great. The reason is because we will follow the instructions exactly as we are told. In this
type of environment you have a bunch of people demonstrating magic tricks, so we all go along for
the ride since we want to see the end anyway. Of course he only goes through it quickly without
really trying to bust Max, why would he want to ruin a great moment?
Now imagine you're
dealing with a non magician, someone who is genuinely confused about where their card went. This
person will go back through the deck, and they will do it before you can say anything. In several
cases they simply spread the cards like amateurs and saw the dirty business when the cards had a big
Wish I could give this 5 stars, I love Max's work (The elephant trick via text is the
only phone trick I do) but I can't recommend this for lay audiences, especially the kind of
audiences we get here in Vegas.
8 of 9 magicians found this helpful.
Not that long ago, there was a dvd set that came out called Kayfabe by Max Maven. I loved Max's
work and I purchased the set right away. There was some tricks I liked and some I didn't like,
however there was one effect that stood out from the rest in that set and completely blew my mind
and was worth the price of the set, and that effect was Pocket Nightmare.
disappointed with the explanation however, because I found out that you had to have a very gimmicked
deck in order to perform this wonderful effect. Unfortunately a deck like that wasn't available and
you had to make one yourself, which was bad news for me because I wasn't good at making gimmicked
cards, so I was unable to perform this routine. UNTIL NOW!
This is THE deck needed to
perform this wonderful effect, and when I saw this was available I never clicked the "add to cart"
button so fast. Now this effect is bold and it will take guts to perform live, but don't be afraid.
Because the payoff is incredible. The performance itself is short and direct with no moves or
sleight of hand at all, and Max emphasizes that in the routine performance. My favorite moment in
the routine is when the spectator goes through the cards to find his chosen card and he can't find
it, so he has to look again.
And I've got to tell you, that moment will get the room,
like a ripple effect. Then that final reveal hits everyone like a ton of bricks and Max's final
line seals the deal perfectly. This effect is going in my professional set, it's just too good not
to be performed at every show. Now will this work 100% of the time? No it won't, but that's ok
because the payoff when it does work is more then worth it. And if you follow everything step by
step in the download as well as being confident in your abilities and performance, it should work
perfectly the majority of the time you perform this. The more you perform this, and the more the
effect works out to perfection, the more confident you will be.
I want to say a personal
thank you to Max Maven and Penguin for making these decks. Thank you so, so, so much for making
these decks for the magic world, and letting us have this wonderful routine.
6 of 6 magicians found this helpful.
I much prefer using Get Sharky for several reasons ... including the fact that I can give the deck
to the spectator. But it's a good trick.
4 of 4 magicians found this helpful.
The method is very ingenious. However, unless you are as good at spectator management as Max is,
this is likely going to be a hit or miss effect. I have tried it many times with random people on
the street and it has worked less than 50% of the time. I simply can’t add a ‘might work” effect to
my repertoire. I even tried having the spectator insert a card into the deck, rather than peek a
card. It still can go wrong and loses much of the impact. For the effect to be most impactful, you
need to let the spectator handle the deck twice and things can go wrong in both those handlings.
Either peeking too much, or mis-spreading the cards to look for theirs. I really wanted to be able
to use this. But it is collecting dust in my bin of hit or miss effects.
4 of 4 magicians found this helpful.
One of THE best tricks I have ever owned (and I have bought a lot of them!!!). A great progression
of moves ending in a surprising finale!!
4 of 4 magicians found this helpful.
The effect is outstanding and well worth the price! Be sure to take the time to listen to Max'
instructions and tips. You can easily give away information unintentionally if you don't.
4 of 4 magicians found this helpful.
I have waited a long time to post this review for two reasons - one, I was absolutely terrified by
what it takes to perform this illusion properly, and secondly, it has taken me this long to be ready
to put it before an audience with complete confidence, and that is what it takes - complete
Now go watch the promo video twice. Then come back and read this next part.
This is probably THE best illusion you will ever see, but to be done properly, you have to
be professional about it. Remember watching Max in performance of this? AT NO TIME during
performance does he flinch, hesitate, or do anything other than be self-assured, even when it is
supposed to appear that he isn't. THAT is what it takes to really perform this master level
If you are an actor first, you will use this. All the time. Buy two. If you are
NOT an actor, you're not a Magician, so it doesn't matter anyway ;-) Keep walking...
3 of 3 magicians found this helpful.
A brilliantly reimagined effect with a powerfully startling conclusion! I performed this last night
right out of the box and it KILLED!
3 of 3 magicians found this helpful.