Anytime there's a list of the "best magicians," it's always the stage and television performers who are recognized. But close-up magic can require even more finesse and skill. That's because close-up magic tricks are performed within just a few feet of the audience using small props such as cards, coins, cups, balls, and sometimes even live animals.
This list includes the top 10 commercial magicians who regularly perform at trade shows, corporate events, and restaurants—the bread and butter of the close-up world.
1. Johnny Ace Palmer
To watch Johnny Ace Palmer in action is to see the art of magic in its highest form. Palmer's close-up performances are technically bewildering, perfectly polished, and immensely entertaining. His work has been honored by the Academy of Magical Arts (Magic Castle) with awards for Parlour Magician of the Year, Lecturer of the Year, and Close-up Magician of the Year. He was featured in March 2009 in an episode of "Masters of Illusion."
2. Bill Malone
This performer is completely commercial and the consummate pro. He can entertain any crowd at any time and under any conditions. His sleight-of-hand is impeccable and his stage persona is hilarious. He has received the Merlin Award from the International Magicians Society and appeared on many network specials.
3. Michael Ammar
Ammar combines a warm and friendly performing style with extraordinary mastery of the cups and balls. He is widely honored both as a performer and as a magic instructor.
His "magicians' magician" title is no idle self-boast. Daryl (real name Daryl Martinez) was the real thing. He won the gold medal at the World Congress of Magic in Lausanne, Switzerland in 1982, and had a headline act at Caesars Magical Empire in Las Vegas. He passed away in February 2017.
5. Paul Gertner
Paul Gertner resides at the elusive intersection between entertaining magic and sharp business acumen. He is one of the most successful trade show workers in the business and a FISM (The International Federation of Magic Societies) winner. He appeared twice on "Penn and Teller's Fool Us," fooling the famed magicians both times.
6. Bob Sheets
Bob Sheets is as hilarious as his magic is devastating. In 1996, he won first place in London at the prestigious Ron MacMillan World Close-up Magic Contest. He also lectures and teaches magicians in locations around the world.
7. Ricky Jay
Ricky Jay was a respected magic historian and author and highly skilled in magic as well as the methods of cheats and card throwing. An actor as well, he appeared in movies such as "The Prestige" and the HBO series "Deadwood." He passed away on November 24, 2018.
8. Gregory Wilson
A commercial performer with exceptional charisma and deadly magic chops, Wilson's "Off the Cuff" magic instructional video is a must-have in any magic library. Wilson won the FISM award twice, specializing in confidence tricks and sleight of hand. He performs at the Magic Castle in Hollywood and is part of Syfy's magic show Wizard Wars with Penn & Teller.
9. David Williamson
Every magician knows of David Williamson, one of the most outrageous personas in magic. He's the winner of many magic awards including the International Brotherhood of Magicians' sleight of hand competition, Gold Cups Award of Excellence in close-up magic, and "Most Wanted Magician" at the 2003 FISM convention in Den Haag. He's appeared around the world and on TV and received the Performance Fellowship by the Academy of Magical Arts and Sciences at the Magic Castle in Hollywood.
10. Shoot Ogawa
Shoot Ogawa, a Japanese magician, performs jaw-dropping routines around the world. His best-known tricks include the Ninja Rings and the Muscle Pass as well as the "Laws of Attraction" illusion. He has been named Close-up Magician of the Year twice as well as Parlour Magician of the Year by the Academy of Magical Arts.