Let’s say, for the sake of hypothesis, you are playing poker in a Las Vegas casino and card-trick master Shin Lim takes a seat at your game.
Time to walk away, right? Maybe run?
“No, don’t worry about me,” Lim says, chuckling. “I play Texas Hold ‘em, but I never cheat. I don’t even know how. I have a whole different set of skills.”
Lim has played in the poker rooms at Wynn Las Vegas and the Rio, but before he became famous. “Nobody recognized me,” he says. “I have no idea how it would be now.”
Instead, Lim is cashing in as a magician. The reigning champion of “America’s Got Talent” and a favorite to capture the series’ ongoing “Champions” competition is headlining The Mirage this summer. He’s taking dates at the Terry Fator Theatre on May 31-June 2 and July 26-28.
Tickets will go on sale Wednesday and start at $39.99 and can be purchased at any MGM Resorts International box office, online at mgmresorts.com/mirage or ticketmaster.com, or by calling 800-963-9634 or 702-792-7777. Children under 5 are not permitted, and older kids must be accompanied by an adult.
Lim says these dates could evolve to monthly headlining appearances, “100 percent, that’s what I’d like. Most recently, the magician out of Boston performed in Las Vegas in November at Paris Theater, joining fellow “AGT” Season 13 finalists comedians Vicki Barbolak and Samuel J. Comroe, trapeze artists Duo Transcend, and the rocking teen vocalist Courtney Hadwin. He says his next appearance on “AGT: Champions” is coming up in four or five weeks.
Lim is joined on the all-star series, which runs through Feb. 18, by such Las Vegas performers as Piff the Magic Dragon of Flamingo’s Bugsy’s Cabaret, Tape Face of House of Tape at Harrah’s, and Billy and Emily England of “Absinthe” at Caesars Palace.
The 27-year-old Lim mentioned during his time in Vegas with his “AGT” co-headliners that he was in talks with a prominent Strip resort. He’s found one, but is not performing in a theater that has never hosted a magician residency. Fator is a famous ventriloquist of course, and the theater is host to the star-laden “Aces of Comedy” stand-up series.
But Lim asserts he will need to tailor his act for a venue that wasn’t built for sleight-of-hand magic.
“It’s not ideal for close-up magic; the stage is raised a little too high for my liking, but I’ll make it work,” Lim says. “I’ll make it work. I might have to resituate the cameras. I can change my magic to fit the room.” Paris Theater, too, is big, and Lim dazzled the crowd with adept use of video panels behind and at the sides of the stage.
Just prior to the “AGT” performances at Paris, Lim mentioned he was in talks to headline a prominent Vegas venue. Playing the city has been a dream of his since he was forced to give up playing classical piano as a kid, suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome. His path to magic was effectively charted during his title run on “AGT.”
Inspired by such revered magicians as David Copperfield and Lance Burton, Lim rose to prominence as a guest on Penn & Teller’s hit series “Fool Us.” The first of his two appearances on the CW show has received a little more than 55 million views on YouTube. His card artistry twice “fooled” the long-running Vegas headliners, with Penn Jillette saying, “The idea of doing card tricks — which are silly at their very core — really seriously and really, really importantly is wonderful.”
Lim is that. He sent my head spinning with a close-up card trick during our chat at Paris Theater (during which he appeared to move the image of the queen of spades from a playing card to his own chest).
Lim will find many familiar faces in the Vegas magic community. Currently, 16 magic or mentalist shows are performing residencies in the city.
“I think it’s because people want a family show, and mine is a family show,” Lim says. “Magicians have the vibe of winning big, of being able to beat the system, beat the house.” On or off the stage, this is a guy who knows how to play his cards in Vegas.
John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His PodKats podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts.Contact him at email@example.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.