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Carroll County native Max Major bets big on roulette act in ‘America’s Got Talent’ semifinals

Mentalist Max Major, a Woodbine native, gives a mind-bending performance in front of hundreds of audience members watching remotely Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020, on NBC's "America's Got Talent."
Mentalist Max Major, a Woodbine native, gives a mind-bending performance in front of hundreds of audience members watching remotely Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020, on NBC's "America's Got Talent." (Chris Haston/NBC/Courtesy photo)

On Tuesday evening, South Carroll High School graduate Max Major turned to roulette in the hopes of keeping his run going on “America’s Got Talent.”

The NBC competition show is now in the semifinals round, and the fate of the remaining performers is determined by viewers across the country voting for their favorite acts. Major, a self-described mentalist, performed in the episode that aired Tuesday evening, then will find out in the Wednesday broadcast, also starting at 8 p.m., whether he’ll keep competing.

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The grand prize of the nationally televised competition is $1 million and a headline show in Las Vegas.

Major began his act Tuesday night by saying that making it this far in the competition felt like winning the lottery. He enlisted the help of judge Heidi Klum, having her hide a poker chip behind her back and then hold out both fists, with the chip hidden inside one. Of course, he guessed correctly.

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For the main part of his performance, they turned to the roulette table. Klum recorded numbers between one and 36 that were picked by herself, host Terry Crews, fellow judges Howie Mandel and Sofia Vergara, and two randomly selected audience members who were watching remotely.

Then Klum spun the roulette wheel, landing on a number that no one had picked: 13. Major then said he wasn’t aiming for one in 36 — rather, one in a million. He asked Klum to open a wallet on the stage, and revealed a lottery ticket showing every single number that had been picked.

But wait! On the back of the ticket was a note, “Go bigger," in reference to a bit of constructive criticism Vergara had for Major after his previous act. So, he said, he kept that in mind, not only by placing this real bet, but also by taking out a billboard in Hollywood with all of the selected numbers — as well as 13.

“Even when it feels like it’s all up to chance, you can always trust your instincts,” he said, closing his act.

The performance earned the audience’s approval, with a swell of applause, but some of the judges were a bit tougher. Vergara and Mandel both said they were somewhat confused by the act, though Klum defended it, describing it as “terrific.”

Afterward, though, viewers complained on Twitter that Major got a wrong number, saying that an audience member picked 13 for the roulette wheel but Major repeated it back as 14. That would have meant that his lottery ticket numbers were one off.

Major acknowledged the concern Wednesday morning, tweeting “Is 13/14 the new Blue Dress?” in an apparent reference to a viral debate from 2015 about whether a dress was white and gold or blue and black.

In his performance in the quarterfinal round, which aired Aug. 25, Major asked one of the judges and scores of audience members to draw anything that came into their minds — and all involved drew some version of a smiling sun. He explained on stage at the end of his act that he used subliminal messaging, hiding multiple images of a sun in plain sight throughout a video of himself that the judges and audience had previously seen.

“There’s nothing I could have done differently, I wouldn’t change a thing,” he told the Times in an interview after the performance but before learning whether he would advance. “I feel amazing with how it went, and that’s all you can really do.”

Before “America’s Got Talent,” the Woodbine native put on shows at an early age, and then in his teens he performed at the Carroll County 4-H and FFA Fair where he demonstrated feats of mentalism, which he has described as a marriage between a magician’s showmanship and psychology, mixed with science and hypnosis.

“I still have a story to tell, and I hope to show people something they’ve never seen before and give people a chance to question their own mind,” Major previously said in an interview. “My act isn’t about tricking or fooling people, it’s about showing everyone how incredible the human mind is.”

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