Routine: Chop Cup

What happens?

The audience is shown a metal cup and a small ball.  There is a small decorative box on the table as well.  Someone in the audience is selected to take part in a guessing game.  The person remains in his or her seat and reacts to the magician as the game is played.

The magician pretends to place the ball into the cup, and then seems to take the ball back out and put it into the decorative box instead.  He asks the spectator to guess, “Where is the ball?  In my pocket or in the little box?”

The spectator correctly guesses that the ball is actually in the box.  From that point on, the spectator never again guesses correctly.  The ball is always somewhere unexpected.

Finally, when the spectator guesses that the ball is back under the cup, when the cup is lifted up, a lemon appears!  Then the cup is lifted again and this time a potato is revealed.

Get your Chop Cup here.

Note: For the stage version of the trick I have the audience member remain seated.  When doing this for children, I have two of them come up and stand on either side of me.  The trick is just as effective in the “up close” circumstance as it is when done with the spectators farther away.  With the children next to me, I get some wonderful reactions!

What is different about my handling of the Chop Cup?

The thing about my routine that I think is unique, is that I do not have the final loads for the cup in my pocket.  I like my costumes to fit well.  I do not believe in looking sloppy on stage, as in having a coat unbuttoned and hanging open, just so I can do a trick.  I also do not believe in purchasing clothes that are a size too big, in order to have room to put secret and/or extra pockets in them for the purpose of carrying magic on my body.  In my opinion, no matter what you do, having a lemon and potato in your coat pocket is not going to look good!

Of course, there would be the option of building a special table with the final loads hidden inside.  This would keep the bulges out of one’s pockets.  It is a practical solution, but another of my opinions is that doing the Chop Cup on a thick table results in diminished effectiveness, because lay people think the final loads somehow come up through the table top.

Second Note:  For Birthday Party and living room settings, I use a smaller Chop Cup with a sponge ball and regular rubber ball for final loads.  I do keep these in my pockets, because they are small.  My remarks about not having the loads on my body only apply to working with a larger cup and such things as a lemon or potato.

My solution to the problem of where to keep the final loads is a decorative box.

I went to Hobby Lobby and found a fancy box that was the perfect size.  The cost was about $7.00.  (More than what I usually spend for such a box, but it was the perfect size and looked “cool.”)  The Chop Cup, balls, and final loads all fit into the box.  This means I have a carrying case for the complete routine, and the case also makes the trick easy for me to present.

The lemon and potato are in the box.  A primary premise of the routine is “Is the ball under the cup or in the box?”  So I my hand travels back and forth to the box a number of times.  This makes it easy to pick up the final loads when needed.

Required for this routine

1. A Chop Cup.  For those who do not know, the Chop Cup has a magnetic aspect.  Two balls are used in the routine, one reacts to the magnet, the other does not.  By this, the cup can keep a ball hidden (when upside down) or release the ball for a reveal (when the cup is set down with a smack on the table).  The magician is “one ahead” by way of the extra ball and magnet.  This creates distractions that make it easy to steal the final loads. Buy yours here.

2. About the Chop Cup.  There is a small version that is great for getting started.  It is inexpensive and easy to use.  If you have no experience with the prop, you might want to begin with that version.  For this routine I use a larger cup.  It is about 3 1/2 inches tall and slightly more than 3 inches wide at the mouth.  It is not any harder to use than the smaller cup.  The increased difficulty only relates to the size of the final loads.  You must get them into the cup without being noticed and, since they are bigger, that is a greater challenge.  Apart from dealing with the loads, the larger cup is a great prop and, in light of the cost, a great value as well.

3. A box of some sort.  Search for something that is just large enough to contain the cup, balls, and final loads.   You do not want it to be any larger than necessary.  An important feature of this box is that the lid should stand up!  This creates cover when your hand goes into the box to grab the loads.  You also will need the balls that come with the cup and whatever you choose to use for the final loads.  The lemon and potato that I use are made of wax.  That way they don’t get rotten, and I like the weight.

4. A side table or flat surface.  My preference is to do the routine on a small table top.  I have an assistant stand next to me and hold the decorative box.  If I do not use an assistant, I use a larger table top and have the box off to the side.

5. The ability to do the sleight known as the “French Drop.”  (Taught on many  DVDs.)


Select someone from the audience and explain that it is time to play a guessing game.

“The game is simple.  It involves just two things, a ball and a cup.”

Show the ball and cup.  The ball is the magnetic one.

“Watch carefully.”

Place to ball into the cup.  Turn the cup mouth down.  The ball will stay attached to the bottom of the cup.  Pretend to take the ball back out of the cup at the last minute and put it over into the box instead.

“All you have to do is guess where the ball might be.  Is it under the cup? Or in the box?”

As you say, “Under the cup,” pick up the cup and show that nothing is there.  This will lead the spectator to say, “The box.”

“You are correct. Good job.”

Reach into the box and take out the duplicate ball.  The spectator will assume it is the original ball.

Put this ball into the palm of your left hand.  Show it to the spectator.  Pretend to take it back out and place it into the box.  (This doesn’t have to be a great sleight…the spectator has no idea what you are going to do so you can get away with this.)

“Time to guess again. Is it in the box or under the cup?”

It does not matter what the spectator will say, he will be wrong.

“No it isn’t in the box.”  (Show the hand empty that reached into the box.)

“And it is not under the cup.”  (Lift up the cup and show nothing is there.)

This time put the cup back down firmly so the magnetic ball is dislodged.  While still out of sight, it will fall to the table top, where it will later be revealed.

“Actually the ball is still in my hand!” (Open the left hand and show the ball is still there.)

“I cheated. That’s what makes this game fun.  Let’s try it again.”

Take the ball from your hand and apparently put it into the box.  Actually keep it palmed in your right hand.

“Now is the ball in the box or under the cup?”

The spectator will say, “The box.”

“No, it is over here under the cup.”

Lift up the cup and show the ball beneath it.  As you take the cup away and show this ball, secretly drop the ball from your right hand into the cup.  By this, the cup is reloaded.  This ball is not magnetic so will be revealed the next time the cup is lifted up.

“Try again.  I place the ball into my left hand.”  (Do a French Drop so the ball remains in your right hand).

“Where is the ball?”

The spectator will say, “In your hand.”

“No, it is under the cup.”

Open your left hand and show it empty.  Pick up the cup and show the ball beneath it.  As you do, reload the ball which is hidden in your right hand, so it is back under the cup.  This is the magnetic ball.  Load it so it sticks to the underside of the cup.  By this, it will not be revealed the next time the cup is lifted.

Show the ball in your left hand.  Take it with the right hand and place it on top of the upside down cup.

“Now where is the ball?”

The spectator will say, “On top of the cup!”

“No, it is on the bottom of the cup, you see, the cup is upside down!” (Joke)

Turn the cup right side up and toss the ball into it.  The magnetic ball is already down in the bottom of the cup.  Let the non-magnetic ball roll back out of the cup and into your hand.  Place the cup mouth down on the table.  Do this with a firm smack so the magnetic ball is dislodged.  This means, the next time the cup is lifted, it will be revealed.

Show the ball in your hand, then place it into the box.  As you do, drop off this ball and secretly pick up the lemon.

“Now, is the ball in the box or under the cup?”

Whatever the spectator guesses, lift up the cup.  As you lift up the cup to show the ball beneath it, secretly load the lemon into the cup.

“It is under the cup!”

Put the cup back down.  Take the ball and put it into the box.  This time, drop off the ball and pick up the potato.

“So once again, where is the ball?”

No matter what the spectator says, indicate the cup.

“It cannot be under the cup.  There is no way it can be under the cup.  Why not?  Because there is a lemon under the cup!”

Pick up the cup to reveal the lemon.  As you do, secretly load the potato into the cup.

“That means the ball must be back in the box.”

Pick up the ball, from the box and show it.  By doing this, you are indicating that your hands are empty, and removing attention from the idea that you recently picked up something from the box.  The psychology is that you are showing that you “left the ball in the box.”  Attention is on putting something into the box, not taking something away from it.

“So the ball is back in the box.”

Look back at the lemon.

“And now we have something truly amazing to consider.  If the ball is in the box, could it be that there is finally nothing under the cup?  Let’s check.”

Lift up the cup and show the potato.

“That’s unbelievable.  It is a potato.   This means our guessing game has definitely come to an end.  Let’s have a big round of applause for this man who was such a good sport!”

The essence of the routine

The above text is a lot to read.  I wrote in detail for those who want to try to learn it.  The essence is this…

  1. The ball is apparently taken from the cup and put into the box.  The spectator guesses this correctly.
  2. The ball is apparently taken from the left hand, but really left there. The faked action is that the ball is placed into the box.  The spectator is asked to guess if the ball is under the cup or in the box.  The answer is neither.  It is in the magician’s hand.
  3. The ball is placed into the box.  Yet it appears under the cup.
  4. The ball is placed into the left hand.  The spectator is asked to guess the location of the ball.  He says it is in the hand. The hand is empty.  It appears back under the cup.
  5. The ball is placed on top of the upside down cup.  The spectator says the ball is on top of the cup.  The magician explains that it actually is on the bottom of the cup.  The ball is placed into the box.  It appears back in the cup.
  6. The ball is again put in the box.  A lemon appears under the cup.
  7. The ball is shown to be back in the box.
  8. Finally a potato is found under the cup.

Final comment

Although there are multiple steps in the presentation, this is not a complicated routine.  It is simple and direct, which makes it strong.  It is worth the effort to get out a Chop Cup and play with the sequence.  I think you will like it.

When performing the routine, make sure to be considerate of the spectator.  Although he will not guess correctly, do not make fun of him or put him down.  Just keep saying, “Let’s try again.”  At the end of the routine the spectator is not a loser.  Rather, the magician, spectator, and audience all are surprised by a lemon and potato bringing the venture to an end.  Keep the presentation positive and upbeat.


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