Created by Tim Ellis in 1991

How can you develop your creativity in an art form with as many rules as magic? Break them!

Remember the old saying: “If an accountant makes a mistake, he calls it a “computer error”. If a plumber makes a mistake, he charges you more. If a doctor makes a mistake, he buries it. But if a magician makes a mistake, he’s a bad magician.” Does it really have to be so? Many great new effects have been created when magicians have made mistakes and dealt with them on the spot. Improvising. One way actors improve and develop their improvisational skills is in a show called ‘TheatreSports’™, invented by Keith Johnstone. Theatresports™ is an improv show based on two teams challenging each other to games and scenes.

So in 1991 Tim Ellis developed a series of games for magicians called, you guessed it, MagicSports. Many of the games are based on mistakes which have occurred in real life situations which put the participants under pressure and push their creativity to new limits, other games are based on those developed by Theatresports™. Here in Australia MagicSports is usually played behind the closed doors of a magic club or at a convention as a “late-night” event. In Germany, The Flicking Fingers even play some MagicSports games in their public shows.



In 2003 MagicSports workshops and a demonstration competition were staged at The FISM World Championships of Magic in Den Haag.

If you get really good though, try playing a whole match in front of the paying public, you’ll be surprised how much they love it!

So, without further delay, press play and let the MagicSports Theme Music (written by Australian composer Craig Bryant) set the mood as you enter a world filled with exciting, high adrenalin spontaneity! Have fun!!!



Like Theatresports™, MagicSports has a number of ‘Training Games’ you can play at home or in a small group to prepare yourself for competition.

QUICK TRICKS – Creativity game

Requirements: One randomly selected non-magic item.

All of the players stand in a line and one item is passed from player to player. Each player has 20 seconds to present a different trick, gag, or a bit of business with that item.

ONE WORD PATTER – Patter game

The player performs a trick, but is only allowed to say one word (suggested by other players) instead of their usual patter. As well as allowing the player to concentrate on the technical aspect of the trick, this game also helps the player to discover the power of altering the tone of their voice while delivering patter.

ILLUSTRATION – Presentation game

Requirements: A blindfold.

One player is blindfolded and tells a story or discusses a theme. At the same time another player must illustrate this theme using magic. (Card tricks, cups and balls, ropes, etc.)

REPEAT GAMES – Rollercoaster game

Requirements: A trick that may be repeated several times (Sympathetic Silks, Ambitious Card, Egg Bag, Torn and Restored Paper, etc), or a trick with a few similar phases (Cups and Balls, Macdonald’s Aces, Card Rise, etc).

The player performs the trick once, focussing on the magic. Then the trick is repeated two or three times in different variations suggested by other players (an emotion, a profession, a situation, a magician, etc).

THE DEAD TIME GAME – Presentation game

Requirements: Simple props like a deck of cards or stack of coins.

The player’s challenge is eliminate the “dead time” in otherwise very boring actions in magic. (eg: shuffling, culling, counting something, etc.) The other players nominate the action, and the player has to come up with a creative presentation to make that action interesting.

DIFFERENT TRICK GAME #1 – Creativity game

Requirements: A whole selection of tricks.

The first player does a trick, and the second one has to do a trick that is as different to the first one as possible.

DIFFERENT TRICK GAME #2 – Creativity game

Requirements: One trick.

The first player does a trick, and the second one has to do a trick that is as different to the first one as possible. This time, however, both players have to use the same props (Billiard Balls, cards, cups, etc).


Requirements: One deck of cards.

One player plays a spectator, and the other acts as the magician who is going to perform a card trick. He makes offers to the spectator like “Would you like to choose a card?” and the spectator can either accept the offer (choose a card) or reject it and make a counter-offer (“I want to choose three cards.”) If the spectator makes a counter-offer, the magician must accept it enthusiastically and still try to make a trick out of it. Every part of the trick, from choosing a card, replacing it in the deck, shuffling etc, should involve offers and acceptance or counter-offers. This game really teaches both players the value of team-work and highlights the role of the spectator.

EYE CONTACT GAME – Spectator game

This is a Theatresports™ game known as ‘The Beep Game’. The player performs a trick and attempts to maintain eye contact with every one of the spectators. As soon as his eyes make contact with a spectator, that spectator must raise his arm. As eye contact is lost, the arm slowly lowers until eye contact is made again and the arm again is fully raised. If the arm reaches the bottom, the spectator goes “Beep, beep, beep” and the game is over.

Gaston’s variation on this game has the performer also palming a billiard ball in each hand. In addition to keeping eye contact, the performer must also avoid flashing the palmed objects. If any spectator sees the objects, he or she is to call out “Flash!” and the game is over.

JUGGLING – Failure game

Requirements: 4 to 5 juggling balls.

The aim of this game is to attempt to juggle more balls than you can possibly manage. When the inevitable happens and you drop them, instead of getting angry, annoyed or upset, laugh about it and take a big bow as the other players go wild with applause. By doing this over and over and over again, it helps to make rehearsal (and performance) fun by taking the “sting” out of failure.

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Two teams of two to four players each are chosen to compete against each other. These teams should choose exciting names for themselves, like: “Eight Kings”, “Vernon’s Vermin”, or “The Ten Foot Poles”… you get the idea.

Four judges are chosen and armed with score cards from 0-5 each. (Or you can use a ‘Clap-o-meter’ and let the audience’s applause determine the winner of each game).

One scorekeeper/timekeeper is chosen, though two separate people can handle these jobs if you want to get more people involved.

Two tricks or routines should be brought by each team member, which they can perform either to music or patter. They must also bring along an unlimited supply of novelties, gimmicks or accessories, which they may find useful during the course of the games.

An MC (MagicSports host) is chosen and armed with a list of the games, rules and any small accessories (bells, pens and paper etc) required for the selected games.

The stage manager needs to provide a selection of standard music on CD, familiar to most magicians, which the contestants can call for should they wish to perform an effect without patter. He or she should also bring about a dozen CDs in a variety of musical styles that are totally inappropriate for magic.

Cheating is allowed, as long as you don’t get caught.

Toss a jumbo coin at the start each game to determine who plays first.

Decide what games you’ll play. Choose about 6 or 7 of the following games. Try to play at least one from each of the different categories. If you like, let each team choose it’s own game from each category. (eg: in the Rollercoaster Games section, one team might play Emotional Rollercoaster, while the other chooses to play Style Rollercoaster).

At the very start of a night of MagicSports, each member of each team takes turns in reaching into a box without looking, and removing one weird object. This sets the scene for the final game of the night, Make A Trick.



“A game based on the real life experience of getting to a venue and discovering that you need one or two more tricks to “pad out the show”, but you had nothing with you…”

Requirements: An assortment of strange and unusual items – either novelties, toys, or standard household goods, anything at all except magic props!

They have until the end of the match to combine these items to create a brand new magic trick. They can use any other items they find backstage – including magic gimmicks – in the performance of the trick. One player, or the entire team, can present the trick.

SCORING: Their score should be higher if all of the items feature prominently, and logically, in the completed presentation.

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“This game developed after hearing “rumours” about what really goes on backstage at FISM.”

Requirements: A table and a trick comprised of at least three pieces.

The player sets their trick on the table on stage. (eg. zombie ball with cloth, stand and gimmick). A member of the opposing team then offers to bring the table on at the appropriate time. That person then takes the table and props off stage and, while out of sight, secretly removes one item (eg. the cloth). The MagicSports MC introduces the performer, and the opposing team member brings the table on.

SCORING: The performer scores according to how well they perform with the remaining items on the table. They don’t have to do the trick they originally intended to do, as in many cases they won’t be able to, they just have to improvise and be inventive.



Requirements: A trick, a table, and any props you’ve brought or anything you find backstage.

The player starts to perform their prepared trick at the table on stage. His assistant however, is from the opposing team and keeps bringing objects onstage to the magician, which he then has to integrate into the trick.

TIPS: Gaston discovered that it is more effective for the assistant to bring ordinary items (the performer can make more out of it). Also, it’s better to do a trick with this game that is not too complicated (no constant palms etc.) but is constructed in a way, so the performer is busy with the trick the whole time. The assistant should also time his or her entrances to help the performer to successfully incorporate each item. Coming on at natural breaks in the routine works much better than simply interrupting the performer. The performer can also call the assistant on from time to time.

SCORING: The better the performer makes use of each item, the better the score.



Requirements: An object is hidden under a cover. A bell.

The opposing team secretly chooses any object, places a cover over it, and puts it anywhere on the stage. The player performs a trick. When the MagicSports MC rings a bell, the performer has to use the hidden object and integrate it into the actual performance. (Slightly easier than “Assistant From Hell”).

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“This game was introduced into Theatresports™ after Keith Johnstone saw it on a Laurel and Hardy film.”

Requirements: Two chairs set on stage like a television interview program.

Two players from the same team work together on this one. One is the “Expert”, the other is to be his or her “Arms”. The “Expert” is sent out, so he can’t hear what is said.

Now the audience decides what he specialises in. (Mentalism with rabbits, the pass with gigantic cards, vanishing the Golden Gate Bridge, etc.) When he returns he takes a seat and places his hands behind his back. His teammate sits behind him and slides his arms through his colleague’s armpits so that they become the “Expert’s” arms. The MagicSports MC then interviews him, and as he answers the questions, the other player uses only his arms to try and give clues to the expert as to what his area of expertise actually is.



“Great for those who want to perform, but have nothing to say.”

A member of the opposing team acts as the translator, while the player performs a trick and speaks in gibberish. The translator “interprets” what the player has apparently said, and thus alters the whole course of the trick.

SCORING: Points are given according to how well the player copes.



Two people play. One person is the arms and does a trick (preferably a card trick) while the other is the body and the voice, he directs the action of the effect. Can be played by opposing team members, or even with an audience member as the body.

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Requirements: One trick. A bell. Pen and paper.

The MagicSports MC asks the audience for six different emotions. Three positive and three negative. The emotions should be extreme like: furious, over-excited, confused, murderous, paranoid etc. The performer then presents his or her trick normally until a member of the opposing team rings a bell and reads out one of the emotions. The performer must continue the trick in that emotional state. Try to get through all six emotions during the course of the trick, and try to end on a positive emotion.



Requirements: One trick. A bell. Pen and paper.

Exactly the same format as Emotional Rollercoaster, but this time the MC collects six different styles from the audience like: horror movie, infomercial, street magic, musical, slapstick etc. The technician can help by adding the appropriate mood music to each style, and the opposing team to add to the challenge by combining styles as the game progresses (musical street magic, horror infomercial etc).

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“This game developed after experiencing this situation several times in real life: Just minutes before going on stage the client has asked if I could incorporate their fantastic new product into the show… then they introduced me.”

Requirements: A trick that can be performed with patter.

One team member waits side stage, ready to perform, as the MagicSports MC asks the audience to nominate a product of any kind (eg. Clothes Pegs). The MagicSports MC now plays the role of the client and introduces the performer like this: “Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s great that you could all come for the launch of our fantastic new Clothes Peg. And now, here to tell you all about it, please welcome (performer’s name).”

SCORING: The player scores highly depending on how well he or she incorporates the product into the patter line of the trick.



Requirements: A trick that can be performed with patter.

One or more players are to perform a pre-rehearsed trick. The MagicSports MC asks the audience to nominate a secret for the player (or different secrets for different players), eg. they just won a million dollars, or she met the man of her life, or his wife has left him, or he is jealous of his colleagues, etc. The secret must be transparent in the performance, but it should never be mentioned directly.



Requirements: A group trick that can be performed with patter or to music.

The opposing team presents a choreographed routine of magic. The player has to integrate himself into this choreography as perfectly as possible (like in those movies when the hero flees and rushes into the middle of a ballet or theatre and has no other choice but to play as along as well as possible in order not to be caught). The opposing team must perform it’s routine as planned and leave the integrating entirely up to the player.



Requirements: A trick that can be performed with patter.

The player has to do perform their trick, but the MagicSports MC asks the audience to suggest a place (a church during a funeral, or on a mountaintop during a blizzard, etc), and the performance must reflect the location.



Requirements: A trick that can be performed with patter.

The player sits on a chair in the middle of the stage, prepared to do a trick. The MagicSports MC asks the audience to help create a fictional character for him by asking questions like: What is his profession? Why does he do magic? If he would be an animal, what animal he would be? How old is the character? Which colour he likes best?

At the end of this questioning, the player gets up and tries to be that character as he performs his trick.



Requirements: A trick that can be performed with patter.

The player has to do perform their trick, but the MagicSports MC asks the audience to suggest a specific audience (a thousand bakers in Carnegie Hall, or in front of the President of the United States in the oval office, or in front of 12 dangerous criminals). The performance must reflect this location.

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“This game was created by our friend Christof!!”

Requirements: A trick.

The performer is given three tasks to do by the MC, or audience (maybe one task is kept secret from the audience until the conclusion of the game). The tasks might be: steal a watch, get a card into someone’s pocket, move a pair of glasses from your jacket pocket into your pants pocket. These tasks must be accomplished, undetected, during the performance of a trick. The whole team can assist

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“A game developed from working in venues where the sound technician was drunk and inevitably played the wrong music for the magic act.”

Requirements: A trick and a dozen CDs numbered from 1 to 12. Only the stage manager knows what the titles of these CDs are.

After the toss of the jumbo coin, one member of the team who is going to play first (“Eight Kings”) gets their trick ready. Meanwhile the opposing team (“Vernon’s Vermin”) selects a number from 1 to 12. The stage manager tells the MagicSports MC how many tracks are on the CD, and the MagicSports MC asks the audience to choose a track number.

As the player from “Eight Kings” is introduced and walks on stage to perform his or her trick, the stage manager plays the selected track, no matter how inappropriate it seems.

SCORING: The player is scored according to how well they can work to the music.

VARIATIONS: You can even play “Drunk Tech Doubles” if you bring in some illusions! “Drunk Tech Mixmaster” is achieved if the music is changed several times during the performer’s trick.

Have you ever seen the Chinese Sticks performed to ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’? How about the Professor’s Nightmare performed to ‘The Mexican Hat Dance’? You’ll be surprised just how well some tricks work with the most unlikely pieces of music. Try it at home with a video of your own act and a collection of CDs.

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“Basically… the original game of charades, with a magic theme.”

Requirements: Two lists of ten well known tricks provided by the MagicSports MC.

The team who is going to play first nominates a team member who will perform the charades. The other team members assemble on stage ready to interpret the “mimes”. They have two minutes to correctly guess as many of the tricks as possible.

SCORING: Each team should receive one point for each trick guessed correctly.



“This game was adapted from the world of Theatresports™.”

Requirements: Two hats, one contains slips of paper with body parts, the other is filled with emotions: angry, suspicious, tired etc.

The performer then must do their trick with (eg: angry fingers, suspicious eyes, or a tired neck). Can be played by more than one player at a time, they can all have different characteristics.



Requirements: Nothing.

Three players are on stage. The audience decides the scene they will act out.

One player is ‘The Magic Dealer’ the only dialogue he is allowed to speak in the scene are the names of tricks. (The Zombie Ball, Bottom Dealing, Double Lift, Mismade Lady, Six Card Repeat, etc)



“A game developed from the arrogant challenge that “I can make anything out of one modelling balloon.””

Requirements: Plenty of modelling balloons.

All players are on stage and each is armed with a balloon.

1 – They have sixty seconds to make any animal nominated by the audience.

2 – They have sixty seconds to make any object nominated by the audience.

3 – They have sixty seconds to make any concept nominated by the audience.

SCORING: Two points are given to the best creation from each round.



Requirements: A jumbo deck of cards. A blindfold.

For this Game you need four players. The MagicSports MC takes a pack of jumbo cards and has a spectator select a card, show it to the rest of the audience, and then sit on it. The remaining cards are well shuffled by a spectator and then divided evenly between the four players. The MagicSports MC is then blindfolded and sits on the side of the stage. He then asks the audience to suggest what the story will be about. (Ballerinas playing ice hockey, for example).

Just before each player begins their story, the MagicSports MC also asks the audience to suggest a story style. (Greek tragedy, Woody Allen movie, Horror, etc).

Each player has to use the cards in his hands as a guideline. (As in the classic ‘Sam The Bellhop’). When he has exhausted his stock of cards, the story should be finished.

As each player tells his story, the MagicSports MC listens carefully. When all stories have been told the MC is able to calculate, in a very dramatic manner, the identity of the only card missing from the deck is, and therefore the card the spectator is sitting on. (Oh yes. This card is, of course, forced).

Another version of Card Story has all of the players telling the same story. The MagicSports MC simply hands cards one by one to different players who continue the same story.



“This game was created by our friend Christof!!”

Requirements: One player from each team in a head to head challenge.

Two magicians, from opposite teams, compete against each other doing the same trick with the one set of props. They stand side by side, one being the right hand the other being the left. One begins the trick, with the first line of patter, the next continues it with the second line and so on. Winner is decided by the judges.



“Did you know Max Maven once performed as a magic clown? Now that’s a teaching video I’d love to see!”

Requirements: Two boxes are filled with slips of paper. One is filled with names of well-known magicians, the other is filled with different styles of magic.

The player comes on to present a teaching video as (whichever name is pulled out, eg:Jeff McBride) on whatever topic is pulled out (eg: balloon modelling).

SCORING: Purely scored on entertainment value.



Requirements: A player from the opposing team, who takes the role of the photographer.

A player is performing a trick on stage. The opposing player is in the first row and pretends to be a photographer. The photographer is giving stage directions for different body positions. The performer’s job is to justify these new positions, while still doing the trick.

SCORING: Better points for seamless justification

These are just some of the MagicSports games we’ve enjoyed playing. Try them at home or have a special night at your local magic club. I guarantee you’ll surprise yourself as you uncover your hidden creativity.

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MAGICSPORTS was featured in MAGIC Magazine, December 1992


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MagicSports Booklet

MagicSports Creativity Cards