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Ortiz was born and raised in New York City, where he had a keen interest in card tricks since childhood. In 1974, he dropped out of NYU Law School and pursued card magic full-time. During that time, he initially supported himself playing blackjack (using card counting techniques) and as an instructor at Harry Lorayne's memory school in New York City. Ortiz is a contemporary and close friend of the influential US coin magician, David Roth, and was initially mentored by the seminal British/US close-up performer, Derek Dingle.
Ortiz later became a consultant to a number of casinos in the United States, Europe, Africa, UK and Australasia, and was a regular featured presenter for a succession of years at the World Gaming Congress in Nevada.
Ortiz is the author of books on gambling and magic. The most recent book on his original routines was Lessons in Card Mastery. His book Strong Magic focuses on practical presentational techniques for close-up magicians. The book has been broadly embraced by the professional and amateur magic community but initially met with negative reviews from the two major US trade publications MAGIC and Genii. Demand for the book has been high, despite the initial inability of the original publisher to reprint the text. Ownership of the copyright has recently returned to the author (along with two other books Darwin Ortiz At The Card Table and Cardshark) and the books are once again being made available to the trade.
Ortiz's second book on magic theory, Designing Miracles is an exposition on the design of powerful magical effects, and is subtitled Creating the Illusion of Impossibility. The book posits and analyzes various theories regarding the perception and cognition of lay audiences and provides practical examples and advice on the construction of effects, aimed at maximizing their impact and deceptiveness to a lay audience.
Ortiz's major work for the lay public on gaming protection is Gambling Scams 1984. He also authored an influential annotation of S. W. Erdnase's The Expert at the Card Table titled The Annotated Erdnase in 1991 which was published to the magic trade.
Ortiz currently resides in Washington, D.C.