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Here's Why Apollo Robbins Is The World's Greatest Living Pickpocket

Let's take a moment to understand the genius of distraction.

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This is Apollo Robbins.

He's described on Wikipedia as "an American sleight-of-hand artist, security consultant and self-described gentleman thief and deception specialist."
Frederick M. Brown / Getty

He's described on Wikipedia as "an American sleight-of-hand artist, security consultant and self-described gentleman thief and deception specialist."

Here's the moment he stunned Willie Geist on NBC's Today show.

In the course of a three minute routine, he'd managed to slip off his watch and wear it without him noticing.

At one point he'd done this.

It wasn't even the best bit of the routine: he'd not only stolen a pen and a $100 bill; he'd stashed the bill inside the pen.

Over seven million people have watched this routine on YouTube.

View this video on YouTube

youtube.com
He is probably best known for an encounter with Jimmy Carter's Secret Service detail in 2001. While Carter was at dinner, Robbins struck up a conversation with several of his Secret Service men. Within a few minutes, he had emptied the agents' pockets of pretty much everything but their guns. Robbins brandished a copy of Carter's itinerary, and when an agent snatched it back he said, "You don't have the authorization to see that!" When the agent felt for his badge, Robbins produced it and handed it back. Then he turned to the head of the detail and handed him his watch, his badge, and the keys to the Carter motorcade.

So how does he do it? Robbins told Green:

Via youtube.com / New Yorker

With the attention diverted, Robbins is able to play in the dark spaces you see above.

You can see how Robbins creates a point of focus for his target.

Via youtube.com / New Yorker

Head on, the target will only ever be able to look at Robbins - but look how with one movement he's made their eyes drift away from him.

Via youtube.com / New Yorker

Robbins talks about "grift sense" - the ability to subconsciously see through another person's eyes.

The results are quite astounding.

youtube.com / ABC

He told Green: "I can analyze how I do things, but the actual doing it—when the synapses just start firing—I can’t explain.”

In this TED talk (from 5 mins in) you can see how utterly powerless people are in the face of his skills.

No matter how many times Robbins tells the participant what he's going to do, he's still far too quick for him.

Robbins grew up in Springfield, Missouri, the son of a pastor.

He had two conflicting influences in his early life - on the one hand, his pious father, and on the other, two larcenous half brothers, both of whom had learned pickpocketing from an Uncle. Robbins started running away from home and playing truant. He says that his father, convinced Satan was possessing him, held him down and tried to cast the Devil out.
Frederick M. Brown / Getty

He had two conflicting influences in his early life - on the one hand, his pious father, and on the other, two larcenous half brothers, both of whom had learned pickpocketing from an Uncle. Robbins started running away from home and playing truant. He says that his father, convinced Satan was possessing him, held him down and tried to cast the Devil out.

He chose a different path in life to his step brothers.

youtube.com / ABC

But it wasn't easy. He endured the break up of his marriage, a breakdown, and poverty such that he had to sell his collection of magic books.

He's now an established face on the Las Vegas magic scene.

Via youtube.com / ABC

And has set up Whiz Mob, a sort of roaming consultancy full of ex-cons, magicians, ex-police and others who offer lectures on pickpocketing, con games, crooked gambling and other types of deception.

You can find out more about Apollo Robbins here.

And follow him on Twitter here.