Mustache Reflections

Today this article from Esquire, Five Men Reflect On Their Self-Isolation Moustaches, comes across my desk. It featured five gents being interviewed about their mustaches.

Despite the fact that my ‘stache has …
♣︎ appeared on national TV
♥︎ was displayed in epic 10 feet wide signage on the stage of the Rio Hotel & Casino
♠︎ was instrumental in me fooling magic icons Penn & Teller
♦︎ and it’s pretty darn cool
…Esquire declined to interview my mustache. Or me. I’m not really sure how this works.


I will correct this mistake and interview myself using some of the actual questions from the article.

When did you start growing it?

How does it make you feel?

Who has the best mustache in the world?
What? Come again?

What message do you have for the haters right now?
What? I don’t even know that that means.

Any grooming tips?
It’s a mustache. It’s not that complicated.

What was your inspiration?
Son, who wrote these questions?

Are you liable to get heavily involved in mustache-related subcultures?
You’re going to have to leave now.


Doc Dixon
Both myself and my mustache are available for online events worldwide.

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Recommended Reading

Questions people never ask:

“Officer, I do a little law enforcement myself. Any book recommendations to learn more stuff?”

“Hey, you up there on the pole! I’ve always been interested in electricity. Any books you can recommend on putting up my own power lines?”

Questions I hear frequently:

“I’d like to learn some magic. How can I do that?”

“I do a few card tricks. Where can I learn more?”

For these questions I have answers.
Please keep in mind, my age guides are arbitrary and uninformed, meaning while I’m informed about the book, I don’t know you or your child. Take advantage of the Amazon “Look Inside” feature and judge for yourself.

Also, this list is far from exhaustive. Even though I have seven kids, including six sons ages four to thirteen, my collection of beginner magic books isn’t huge. Why? Well, when my kids want to learn magic, they have the Book of Their Dad (includes a Fool Us trophy), and my personal magic library that’s about a thousand books strong.

For parents of the younger than twelve year old child:
Big Magic for Little Hands: 25 Astounding Illusions for Young Magicians by Joshua Jay
Spend some time with your kid. Get a little artsy and crafty. A great book, well-produced and targeted for the younger set.

For parents of the twelve year old & older child:
A Book of Magic for Young Magicians: The Secrets of Alkazar by Allan Zola Kronzek
An underrated classic! It not only teaches several great tricks, but it shares the psychology behind the tricks. Highest recommendation.

Magic: The Complete Course by Joshua Jay
Good stuff! Even comes with a DVD. This would be great for any kid to find gift wrapped under the tree or by the birthday cake. Josh is an old friend and he does good work.

Mark Wilson’s Complete Course in Magic by Mark Wilson
Decades old, it was the first primer for thousands of magicians. At 472 pages, it’s downright encyclopedic. Highest recommendation.

Magic For Dummies by David Pogue
Forget the “for dummies” tag. This book has some great stuff in it delivered in the now well- known “Dummies” humorous style.

So you want to learn some sleight of hand, do you? For teens and older:
The Magic Book: The Complete Beginners Guide to Anytime, Anywhere Close-Up Magic by Harry Lorayne
Harry Lorayne is a living legend amongst sleight of hand magicians for his dozens of books on card sleight of hand. This is his book for the non-magician public to bring them onboard. Highest recommendation.

Now You See It, Now You Don’t!: Lessons in Sleight of Hand by Bill Tarr
Great magic primer with a wide variety of material. Keep in mind, this book was written over 40 years ago and like many magic books of its vintage (like the next one), teaches sleight of hand with cigarettes.

And finally …
The Amateur Magicians Handbook by Henry Hay

I received this book for my 12th birthday and it’s the book that started not only myself, but generations of magicians on this path. Not as slickly produced as the other books mentioned (it was written in 1950!) its power to inspire is unmatched.

Hope these suggestions help. If you have questions, you can reach me via the contact form on this site.


Doc Dixon

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From New York Times To Newnan GA

The hit show Penn & Teller: Fool Us was recommended in a recent New York Times “Letter Of Recommendation”:

““Fool Us” is, in other words, an island of civility and generosity in our cruel, contentious and otherwise debased times.”

If you’ve read my previous post about my involvement on the show, you know I could not agree more. Read the article here.

And From New York City to Newnan, GA!

I was honored to be featured in the current Newnan Coweta Magazine in a great story by Sue Mayer Davis. You can read it online here, pages 30-32.

If you’d like a print copy and live in Coweta County, Georgia (like I do) you can find the magazine all throughout the area or stop by the Newnan Times Herald and pick up a free copy.

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How I Fooled Penn, Teller & Myself: LIVE At The Rio Casino

If you haven’t read the previous three Fool Us posts, go to parts one, two, and three.

Sunday afternoon, September 22, I went to the Penn & Teller theater to run through my routine for the tech crew. As I’ve mentioned in the previous posts, the professionalism, enthusiasm and kindness I experienced with the TV team in March continued with the Penn & Teller stage team in September. I worked with dozens of team members and every single one during every single interaction was wonderful to work with.

After the tech rehearsal I had dinner with my wife, Bethany and close family friend, Joe Curcillo. At 9 pm we sat down to watch the Penn & Teller show, knowing in 90 minutes I’d be joining them onstage to do my Fool Us guest spot.

September 22, 2019 10:30 Showtime!
Rio Hotel & Casino @ The Penn & Teller Theater

Penn Jillette Introducing Me At His Show…

“Now we have such a treat for you. We have one of our Foolers, and there’s not many of them over the six years that have fooled us. And a lot of people that have fooled us do it with some sort of new technique …a lot of times it’s electronics or something like that.
But for someone to come out and fool us with one of the oldest tricks in magic and with just pretty much technique that’s so good we couldn’t follow it, I think he is the only one that’s ever done that and you’re about to be blown away with a classic of magic.
Ladies and gentleman, Doc Dixon!”

Because I was backstage waiting to perform, I wasn’t able to attentively listen to the introduction until after the show. When I did finally hear it, it was heartwarming and validating. My approach to magic, and for that matter much of life, is Old School. I’m not a luddite, but I am resistant to fads. I like gadgets as much as the next guy (or magician), but gadgets break. My hands have rarely failed me.

In magic terms, I love performing the classics. There’s no greater illustration of that than my Fool Us performance. I did the shell game, a “game” that literally goes back to ancient Greece. For the past hundred years most magicians have ended it the same way: the pea is covered with a shell and shot glass and the pea ends up in one of the other shells. A few years back I said to myself, “No. That’s good, but I have to do better.”

The first step was figuring out what that “better” would look like. Eventually I decided to have the pea initialed and end up in a pristine walnut which, by the way, is also another very Old School bit of magic — having a signed object disappear from one place and appear in another.

After I created that ending figuring out how to do it was easy. By “easy” I mean multiple prototypes, failures, and adjustments, hundreds of hours of work, hundreds of dollars, and pounds & pounds of walnuts — but it was gloriously fun, A.K.A. easy, because I had that goal in mine and I knew I was going to get there.

And I got there.
And after Penn Jillette’s introduction I was sharing it on stage at the Penn & Teller theater.

I performed my shell game routine, this time with two members of the audience taking the place of Penn & Teller. Afterwards I was awarded my Fool Us trophy on stage. Penn & Teller went out to greet their fans as they have done for virtually every show for the past 40+ years.

The Monkey Room

The Monkey Room is just that. A room with a monkey theme. It’s where Penn & Teller hang out with their guests after the show. Google Penn & Teller Monkey room to learn more and see pics. A very cool room indeed, but I like monkeys, so I may be biased in this regard.

In addition to my wife and Joe Curcillo, some of the other guests were thrash metal legend from Slayer, Kerry King and his wife. Fun people. A pleasant way to pass an hour.

Doc Dixon and Kerry King, thrash metal legend of Slayer in the Monkey Room
(Doc is on the left)

The next day I FedExed my trophy back home to Georgia. It arrived Friday, September 27. I could tell she missed me. I call her Foolie. (Don’t judge me.)

And that wraps up this adventure. Ready & eager for the next one and armed with the lessons learned from this one.

Thank you to all who took time out of their busy lives to share this adventure with me through their well wishes & congratulations.

Thank you to my audiences & clients who are a big part of every magic trick I do, not only the one with the 3 shells & a cork pea.

Can’t wait to show you my new magic.

Thank you to the entire CW Fool Us team.
Thank you to the entire Penn & Teller team.


Good night, everybody.

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How I Fooled Penn, Teller & Myself – Part 3 of 3

Cork pea initialed by Penn Jillette amidst the walnut it was found inside

This is part three, where I’ll talk about what has happened after the show and how I fooled myself.

If you haven’t read part one or part two of this series, I recommend you do.

Last post we left off where I was about to begin my performance of my version of the shell game.  I conclude my performance. Penn & Teller deliberate for what seems to be at least ten minutes while Alyson Hannigan and I chat. Yes, this is edited down for television. Then Penn begins his part. This, too, is edited for television. And then …

Penn Jillette: “You fooled us.”

Me: “YES!!”

Hugs and handshakes. Penn, “What a great routine!”

Penn & Teller walk with me off stage. We take a few pics. I thank them profusely. Their graciousness in hosting magicians from around the world advances the craft I love so much. Mike Close is there — big hug to my old friend. Larry Herbst, the director from my intro segment is there. More hugs. I am ecstatic. Round of huge congrats from the crew. 

I go up to my hotel room at the Rio and call my wife and tell her the great news.

Because of the non-disclosure agreement I signed, the first four and a half months after the show were hurry up & wait

And now the real work begins …

July 15 I received my air date. I was permitted to announce my appearance on the show, but not the result. I go into promotion overdrive — TV interviews, press articles, emails, etc.  Getting eyes that matter on the show because that’s what businesses do. 

September 9 my episode airs. Sit down with my wife, 6 sons and in-laws in our living room. There were a few non-trick related additions in what you saw on TV or online, like the music, the “ding-ding-ding” after I said “round two” and “round three.” These were all added in post-production. As I watched the show at home with my family I was thrilled at the talent of the Fool Us team in these enhancements. 

Within seconds after Penn Jillette said, “You fooled us,” congratulations start to flood in via social media, phone, and text.  All greatly appreciated. 

Second wave of promotion drive begins, more TV, emails, and a podcast interview with a best selling author who is also a magic fan

Finally,  how I fooled myself:
Only after winning did I realize how much
my clients won

For trade show clients, they now say, “Come to our booth and see the magician that fooled Penn & Teller!” Of course, once there, I amaze them with magic that incorporates my client’s message. Interestingly, I’ve had clients point out that advantage TO ME before I mentioned it to them. Marketing professionals tend to understand things quickly. 

For my public and theater show clients, “Come to our venue and see the magician that fooled Penn & Teller!” Every theater want to put “butts in seats.” This helps.

And my private party clients love it, too. 

September 21 first my wife and I flew out to Las Vegas for my appearance in the Penn & Teller Show September 22 and to officially receive my Fool Us trophy. 

Next Post: Just like those Quinn Martin productions from my youth, I have an epilogue …
Tales from the Rio Hotel & Casino, my performance in the Penn & Teller Show, and the MONKEY ROOM! 

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How I Fooled Penn, Teller & Myself – Part 2 of 3

The moment when I had not yet realized I had fooled Penn & Teller, but Alyson Hannigan did!

If you haven’t read it yet, please read part one of this series.

March 1 “Walnuts, sir? Do you know the duck guy?” 
I flew out of my home near Atlanta and a monkey wrench was almost thrown in before I got off the ground. In every rehearsal and performance of the routine I crush a walnut. Not wanting to go walnut shopping in Las Vegas, I brought a bag of about a hundred walnuts with me. For reasons that were never explained to me, the walnuts in my carryon bag sent up a red flag to the TSA. I was delayed about twenty minutes in line. I stood there, smiled nice, and kept thinking, “They are just nuts.”

I was finally allowed to pass and arrived in Las Vegas March 1. It was fun chatting with the show’s driver on the way to the Rio as he shared a few stories about the other acts. Lesson learned: my minor hiccup with the TSA and walnuts in Atlanta is nothing compared to traveling internationally with half a dozen ducks

I settled into my room and worked the routine a dozen times.

March 2, 2:00PM, Shoot 48 second spot that precedes my performance
The Fool Us team are tops. The director of my spot, Larry Herbst, is great to work with. A kinder, more gracious, more professional director I could not ask for. His entire team is the same way.

Oddest and most oddly professional moment of the whole thing: when I shaved that morning I apparently missed a small whisker on my left cheek. The camera operator pointed it out, then took out his Swiss army knife, popped out the blade, and proceeded to dry shave that sucker right off my cheek. I sat there thinking, “I bet this never happened to Houdini.”

That 48 seconds was the result of three hours of shooting with me. When I finally saw it September 9 on TV, I was very pleased with the intro segment and absolutely loved that Larry closed it with me saying, “Penn & Teller, it’s time to play the game.”

After the shoot I took a walk around the casino, just to get rid of some nerves. Had dinner with Mike Close and a caught up on a few years of not seeing each other. Wonderful time. Mike is the behind the scenes magic ringmaster/plate spinner of Fool Us and is the person Penn & Teller talk with while they are deliberating the method of the trick. I went back to my room and ran the routine another dozen times.  

March 3 – 5:45PM, Rehearsal (Off stage, Belize room – Penn & Teller Theater)
I run through the routine for Mike, the director, and the tech team in a small conference room near the theater. Plenty of laughs. It felt loose and fun. The magic goes perfectly …except for one not so small detail: the routine went over seven minutes. Not a small problem in a TV spot that’s supposed to be five minutes. When told this I reply, “Not a problem. I’ll tighten it and we’re good to go.”

I go back to my room and perform the routine two dozen times, tightening the pacing and script. When I hit 4:50 ten times in a row I stopped.

March 4 –  A day off
Made a few business calls and sent emails and, you guessed it, worked the routine several times. Had lunch with a fellow trade show magician who was in town. Always great to break bread with others in the business. He showed me his twist on a classic magic routine. Because I was 26 hours from showing Penn & Teller my twist on a classic magic routine, this was great to see. 

March 5 – Show Taping
10:30AM Call time for dress rehearsal
2:00PM Showtime
As per show procedure, that morning I text a member of the show team a pic of myself in the clothes I’d be wearing for the show. It’s a standard TV practice to make sure I’m not wearing anything that would not work well on TV, like a checked pattern or bright white. 

You can see the pic to the left. I know. I’m no fashion model, but here’s my reason for sharing this. The team member responded to the text with …

“You’re gonna kill!!” 

It was just a simple, standard wardrobe check, but that attitude of encouragement and enthusiasm ran through the entire Fool Us team.
Every. Single. Interaction.
Every. Single. Person.
To any of the Fool Us team that might be reading this: love you guys. 

Soapbox in 3-2-1 …

This attitude of encouragement is the whole show. Look at many of the other talent showcases on  television. Frequently the judges are snarky. The contestants have to submit to the indignity of some prefab sob story. Ugh. 

Now look at Fool Us. Everything about that show elevates the craft and the guests. When the guest magician does not fool them, take notice: Penn will always graciously praise them. 

And don’t forget Alyson Hannigan, who is charming and gracious during the entire magic marathon that is the Fool Us filming schedule. 

Back To The Schedule …

 10:30 am After being guided through the maze that is the backstage of the Rio, I go on the Penn & Teller stage to do a run through of my routine. Everything goes smoothly and I am jazzed. 

I go back down to the green room. The director comes to chat with me, paraphrasing,  “Doc, you got the time down, but punch up the funny to what it was before.” In the on-stage dress rehearsal I had rushed through the performance, sacrificing funny for speed.
I respond, “Not a problem.” 

Waiting to go on, I relaxed, drank 5 cups of coffee (if you know me personally, you’re thinking, “Huh, cutting down, Doc?”), and chatted with other magicians from Germany, Spain, and Scranton, PA. Yes, even Scranton.

2pm “No time for love, Dr. Jones.” It’s showtime. 

Keep in mind, the live audience doesn’t see the 48 second profile you saw on TV. I walk up to the table and set down my props. Penn & Teller are sitting in their chairs. A warmup comedian is chatting up the crowd between the acts, talking about “egg laying mammals.” I make eye contact with Teller and say, “That’s a monotreme.” Teller nods his head and smiles approvingly. At least that’s how I choose to interpret it because I like to think I’m not the only magician who knows such odd things.

Alyson Hannigan, ” Check out the magic of DOC DIXON!”

Watch it here. 


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How I Fooled Penn, Teller & Myself – Part 1 of 3

Teller, Myself, & Penn Jillette initialing a cork pea

Now in its sixth season, Penn & Teller: Fool Us is an incredible showcase for magicians – maybe the best ever. Every episode brings in magicians from around the world who are trying to fool two of magic’s smartest minds, Penn & Teller.

I appeared on the show this season, my episode airing on The CW network September 9, 2019. If you haven’t seen it yet, you can watch it here. In fact, if you have seen it, watch it again. These blogs will make more sense that way!

My Path To Fool Us: Two Roads Meet At The Fork

Road One
I love the shell game. Three walnut shells. A green pea. It immediately engages with its deceptive simplicity. It’s not like poker where you have to know the difference between a full house and straight flush. No. All you have to do is keep track of what shell has the pea. Simple stuff, right? It is that assumption of simplicity that has helped grifters from around the world take millions of dollars from their victims.

For street grifters and conmen the appeal of the game is obvious: it gets the money.

For me, the appeal is the hook. When I’m performing at a private party or corporate event and I lay out the three shells I actually see the people lean in. They’re thinking, “I’ve heard of this game, but I have never had the chance to play it. It’s a glimpse into the fascinating world of hustlers, but in a totally safe way. This is going to be fun.”

When I’m representing my clients at a trade show booth it’s part of my traffic magnet strategy. While the audience members lean in at a party when they see the shells, trade show attendees walk up to the booth. Prospects watch, certain the pea is under this shell, only to discover it’s under that shell. The winning shell, of course, represents the product or service I’m representing at the trade show booth.

For magicians, a classic climax of the routine is where the pea is covered with a shell AND a shot glass held down by a spectator’s finger. Despite this, the pea vanishes and reappears underneath another shell. It’s a great finish, but several years ago I realized I wanted something better for my work and for my clients.

“I wanted the pea to be initialed by the spectator to rule out a duplicate pea. I wanted the initialed pea to end up in a place that’s impossible, surprising, but yet makes sense.” 

And that’s exactly what I created.

Road Two
In December of 2018 I received a phone call from a friend of nearly thirty years, Mike Close. He’s one of the magic consultants on the show, and is one of the most knowledgable and respected magicians on the planet. In addition to performing, for the past 30 years he’s been sharing his work with magicians through his books, DVDs and video downloads.  Mike was calling me to see if I’d like to have one of my tricks published in his newsletter. A gracious offer from Mike and one that I immediately accepted.

The Fork
While on the phone I thought of my shell game routine and pitched it to Mike for Fool Us.
His reply: “Love it. Send it.”

On December 18 I sent the producers a video of the routine.
And waited.
The producers of the show go through hundreds of submissions before making their final choices. I had confidence in the trick, but even with the Fool Us team being the best in the world at filming magic, I knew filming a trick whose focus was an autographed 10mm pea would be a challenge to get on the air.
So I assumed nothing and just waited.
On February 5 I got the email, “Congratulations, we would like to officially book you to appear on Season 6 of Penn & Teller: Fool Us”
My shooting date was March 5.

28 Days Later*

*Not the 2002 British apocalyptic horror film

For the 28 days between February 5 and March 5 my home because Fool Us Prep Central. Now keep in mind, my wife and I have seven kids – a 29 year old married daughter living in Virginia, and at home six sons ages 12,11,10,8,6, and 4. For readers doing the “you know what causes that?” joke in their heads, for our six sons the answer is adoption. But adopted or biological, six boys that age are loud, rambunctious, and deserve and demand daddy’s time. So what’s a magician dad to do? 

Muscle Memory
Much of sleight of hand is thinking while practicing and rehearsing so thinking isn’t necessary during performance. The required moves just effortlessly happen, like the muscles have a memory of their own. That level of preparation is necessary no matter what the venue is, but is especially needed when trying to fool two legendary magicians on national television.

So how did I hone the muscle memory?
And still present the shows I had booked in February?
And still run my business?
And most importantly, still try to fulfill all the responsibilities of a husband of one and father of seven?
I rehearsed the routine in virtually every gap in my schedule.

If I had five minutes to spare at home, I’d walk in my office and rehearse the routine. Some times I had over an hour. Other times it was just that five minutes. Many times I thought I had five minutes, only to be called to Dad duty. Would it have been easier to make like Superman and go off to a magician version of a Fortress of Solitude to prepare? Sure, but if my first priority was making things easy I wouldn’t have seven kids. My seven kids make my life better, not easier, and I wasn’t going to use them as an excuse not to prepare.

I went through at least fifty pounds of walnuts that month. In addition to the rehearsals, the script was tweaked and rewritten for the unique performing situation of Fool Us. The pea was changed from a plastic green pea that smudges slightly to a cork pea that would better display the ink for the camera. Even the method, which was already solid, was slightly altered to make it a bit more bulletproof.

Unexpected by-product: I also discovered several new ways to incorporate walnuts in my diet. Dee-lish. 

March 1 I flew to Las Vegas.

For what happened in Las Vegas, read How I Fooled Penn, Teller & Myself – Part Two.

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Lessons From The Groundhog

Tomorrow the men of Punxsutawney will give a lesson in Old School showmanship. Half a dozen guys dressed to the nines will take a whopping ten minutes to lift up a ground hog and tell people if it’s going to be cold. If you ever have to speak in front of a group, there are lessons to be learned.

Here are the few of the highlights for me:

The men will be dressed well — “stylin’ & profilin’” (Thank you, Ric Flair.)

The speaker acknowledges all the members of the Punxy Mafia like Wayne Newton thanking his band. “Mafia” wasn’t their term. A friend in Punxsutawney tells me that’s how locals describe the groundhog inner circle. (Thank you, Dennis.)

He holds up the groundhog for several seconds milking the applause and cheers. Can you milk a groundhog? Do they have nipples? (Thank you Meet The Parents.)

Once he gives the prediction, he doesn’t blather on for minutes. He wraps things up in seconds, just like the end of a Thanksgiving parade. (Thank you, Santa.)

Stay Warm, Punxy Friends!

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Manliness & Beards


But first, three stories about my late father.

When I was in my teens he severely sprained his right wrist. This was during the many years when every Saturday he would take my mom and grandmother shopping. (Neither my mom or grandma drove.) The first Saturday during his wrist injury my mother assumed she’d stay home that weekend and mentioned it to Dad. I’ll remember his reply forever. I was sitting just to his right when he said, “My wrist is going to hurt whether I take you to the mall or not. Let’s go.”

I was a teenager at the time, but I was smart enough to know I just saw an example of great manliness.

Fast forward 10 years. 

Dad comes home from taking Mom to the mall. He wasn’t much for shopping, so he’d typically either take a nap in the car or nurse a couple of beers for 2-3 hours in a tavern in the mall. This was one of the beer trips. Dad walks in the living room and is visibly shaken. He begins to tell my older brother and I about a woman at the bar who was hitting on him. The thought of this frightened and disgusted him. Now, in reality, I suspect she was just being an amicable bar patron. Still, his impression was that she was flirting and he was disgusted and afraid. He was not, “Yeah, I still got it” or, worse, “Got her digits”. No. His love for Mom was deep and eternal and anything that was a threat to that, even imagined, was to be loathed. At the time my older brother and I thought it was funny. Now, as a husband of one and father of seven I admire Dad even more. Manliness.

One more Dad story. Dad worked for the bus company for 20+ years. During this time he built a set of custom handrails (using ones scrapped from a bus) for the handicapped daughter of a family friend. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published a story about this and, to my father’s surprise, told more about my dad and less about the young lady. I remember how incredibly uncomfortable that made my dad, as he thought the girl and his father were heroic, not him. Manly.

So what’s this have to do with beards and manliness?

For a few years, like you, I’ve been seeing on Facebook and elsewhere online a ton of pics of dudes with beards and lumberjack shirts.
Then, after about a year of these bearded lumberjacks, I see the response of “if you can’t change a tire or fell a tree, ditch the beard and shirt.”

Both miss the point.  Facial hair and clothes don’t make the man, but neither do tires and trees. Hair, clothing, tire changing and tree felling are, at most, symptoms or affectations of what a man should be. So if you want to beard up, beard up. Want to shave it all? Shave. Chop down a tree or trim a bonsai tree? Live it up.

Either way, the cause of manliness is, and always will be, character.

Toughness and selflessness.
Fidelity to your spouse.
Service and humility.

That’s some manly (and womanly) stuff right there.

I miss Dad. I wish he could have lived to have met my wife and my seven children, but he died too soon. Though I frequently fall short, I aspire to live up to his example.


Doc Dixon 

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Card Cheats & Achieving Goals

So, how are your 2018 resolutions and goals coming? 

Confession #1: I can cheat at cards

Confession #2: I have cheated in card games. No. Not for money, but for amusement. Dealing one of my friends seven Wild Cards in a game of Uno and then watching the expression on their face is a guilty pleasure of mine. Yes, cheating at Uno won’t get me on the cover of Casino Monthly, but it will keep me from getting beaten up by security.

Confession #3 (last one, I promise): A huge chunk of the hundreds of books in my personal library deal with the methods, devices and legends of card cheating. And there are few legends bigger than P.J. Kepplinger and his holdout device.

I have to admit, I love these things. Equal parts card cheating gadget, Rube Goldberg device and a gizmo you’d see Artemus Gordon use on the TV classic The Wild, Wild West, these devices are hidden up the sleeve and take and place cards in the hand.

These devices arrived shortly after the civil war (much like Artemus Gordon) and were touted within the cheater’s world as an easier way to achieve the same results of difficult sleight of hand. Also, these devices were an easier way to get caught and shot. That is until the Kepplinger Knee-Spread Holdout.


Beautiful, isn’t she?

P.J. Kepplinger was a San Francisco card cheat and mechanical whiz. His holdout design and its release made his name immortal in the card cheating world.

The genius of its operation is the invisibility. No awkward bar to push up and down; the activation of this holdout is entirely invisible because it happens underneath the poker table. A cable goes up from the knees, up to the hip, then the shoulder. There it goes down the arm where the sneak (the part of the device that grabs the cards) can go in and out of the sleeve at the owner’s will. The cheat sits down and reaches into a small slit in one knee of his trousers. He takes out a cable and attaches it to the other knee. He moves his knees apart and the sneak appears in his palm. He moves his knees together and the sneak scurries back up his sleeve. It may sound crazy, but when used in the hands of a practiced professional it is a thing of deceptive beauty.

How The Kepplinger Holdout Was Unleashed For The Poker Cheats Of The World

From John Nevil Maskelyne’s, Sharps and Flats, 1894 …

In 1888, then, Kepplinger’s relaxation for some months consisted of a ‘hard game’ with players who were all professional sharps like himself. The circle was composed entirely of men who thought they knew the ropes as well as he did. In that, however, they were considerably in error. He was acquainted with a trick worth any two which they could have mentioned. However much the fortunes of the others might vary, Kepplinger never sustained a loss. On the contrary, he always won. The hands he held were enough to turn any gambler green with envy, and yet, no one could detect him in cheating. His companions were, of course, all perfectly familiar with the appliances of their craft.

Holdouts in a game of that description would have been, one would think, useless encumbrances. The players were all too well acquainted with the signs and tokens accompanying such devices, and Kepplinger gave no sign of the employment of anything of the kind. He sat like a statue at the table, he kept his cards right away from him, he did not move a muscle as far as could be seen; his opponents could look up his sleeve almost to the elbow, and yet he won.

This being the condition of affairs, it was one which could not by any stretch of courtesy be considered satisfactory to anyone but Kepplinger himself. Having borne with the untoward circumstances as long as their curiosity and cupidity would allow them, his associates at length resolved upon concerted action. Arranging their plan of attack, they arrived once again at the rendezvous, and commenced the game as usual. Then, suddenly and without a moment’s warning, Kepplinger was seized, gagged, and held hard and fast.

Then the investigation commenced. The great master-cheat was searched, and upon him was discovered the most ingenious holdout ever devised.

What do you think happens next? Did the other cheats beat him nearly dead? Did they shoot him dead? Keep reading …

What did the conspirators do then? Did they ‘lay into him’ with cudgels, or ‘get the drop’ on him with ‘six-shooters’? Did they, for instance, hand him over to the Police? No! ten thousand times no! They did none of those things, nor had they ever any intention of doing anything of the kind. Being only human—and sharps—they did what they considered would serve their own interests best. A compact was entered into, whereby Kepplinger agreed to make a similar instrument to the one he was wearing for each of his captors, and once again the temporary and short-lived discord gave place to harmony and content.

Had Kepplinger been content to use less frequently the enormous advantage he possessed, and to have exercised more discretion in winning, appearing to lose sometimes, his device might have been still undiscovered.

So what’s this have to do with keeping 2018?

Everything. Kepplinger’s victims had been cheated. Sure, they were cheaters, too, but let’s not get tied up technicalities. Bottomline: They lost money.

In 2018 you will probably face cheating and loss. 

Kepplinger’s victims faced the facts and didn’t ask,  “How can we get even?”
They asked, “How can we get ahead?”
They didn’t act on their anger. They acted on their ambition.

You and I won’t meet up with a cheat packing a Kepplinger holdout. (Well, you probably won’t.)

We will meet up with business competitors, failing vendors, bad weather, lousy luck, illness, liars, slackers, bad customer service, late deliveries, no deliveries, rush hour traffic, cookies when trying to lose weight, too much to do when trying to get to the gym, rude people, people that won’t buy, people that won’t sell, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera …

Will we stew in our emotional juices, thinking up ways to get even?
Or will we act on our ambitions?

Have a great 2018!

Doc Dixon
Comedian ♠️ Magician ♦️ Keynote Speaker ♣️

PS: If you’re looking for a speaker that’s a little different (and much more amazing and funny) for you next meeting, convention, business event, reach out to me at 1.888.Doc.Dixon or drop me a line here



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