Review: Rock Paper Winner by Mark Elsdon

[vc_row][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_custom_heading text=”Reviewer: Mark Wong”][vc_column_text]Rock Paper Winner is exactly as it purports to be. Imagine this – a spectator freely chooses a symbol (rock, paper, scissors) for himself, with an option to change his mind. Then, the next spectator chooses another symbol for herself, and is also given an option of whether she wants to change her mind.  Leaving you with one final symbol on the table. You then gesture to a folded business card that has been in full view the entire time, and surprise surprise – the outcome of the game has been written down clearly in a two phased revelation, which is so accurate that it not only predicts who wins, it also predicts exactly who has what symbol.

When Ning first contacted me to review this piece, I was currently serving my time in the Army, doing my reservice (In Singapore we have to go back and serve the nation for ten additional years after our national service is over) As poker cards were not allowed in the army, I was constantly fiddling with my half dollars, itching for something to do. And that’s where Ning came to save the day with this beautiful piece of almost propless mentalism!

For this minimalist effect, only a pen and some pieces of paper (namecards will be perfect) are required. Everything else is pretty much on autopilot once the trick begins and that really helps you focus a lot more on your presentation.

At only 8 pages long, this manuscript was a breeze to read through, and if I had to describe it in one word, I would say it is “devious”. Though the principles used in this effect is not anything staggeringly new, the thought put into it is brilliant – so simple yet effective and it leaves spectators with hanging jaws and an overwhelming urge to scratch their heads. I tried it on my army mates, and also to a few different groups of people while performing at events, and it truly is pretty much foolproof. There is only one “move” that has to be done but it is so well covered and motivated that it will fly by even the most discerning of spectators.

After performing the trick a couple of times, I realized that pre-writing the prediction helps a little with eliminating dead time with the audience. Without revealing too much, writing a stack of predictions and adding on key details during the performance itself really helps to expedite the trick.

My only main gripe with this is that this trick cannot be performed in a one-on-one setting; in his manuscript, a minimum of three participants is required for this trick (two spectators and one performer). Having said that, though the prediction is inherently stronger with the dual phased revelation for all the participants, perhaps with some thinking, a creative performer might be able to modify the routine to be able to play well as a multi-phased revelation for a single spectator.

However, with all that being said, it definitely does not take away from the fact that this trick really is ingenious and that it really lives up to its product description of

No gimmicks, no ‘process’, no dual reality, equivoque or any other nonsense.”

I feel that personally, its not very common to see many effects out in the market now that can abide by those “rules” and still be as remarkable as Mark Elsdons brainchild. On top of that, at only £12, this ebook truly is a steal.

If I may, I guess we could say that Rock, Paper, Winner is… …  unequivocally good.


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Ning Cai is a Singapore Literature Prize nominated author, who was also long listed for the Epigram Books Fiction Prize in 2016. A bestselling writer, she is also recognised for her illusionist/ escapologist stage character Magic Babe Ning, and recognised by Channel News Asia as South East Asia's first professional female magician.

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