The semi-professional was worried that his trade might not bring in enough income to support his family.
But he decided to give up his day job as a porter in Jenners in 1999 to become a full-time showman.
And now his gamble has paid off with his naming as the best magician in Scotland.
The 38-year-old from Drylaw cast his spell over a panel of his peers to win the Murray Wand for Showmanship.
He said: "I nearly jumped out my chair when I won it. It was such a great feeling, especially when it's given to you by fellow magicians who all voted on it."
Gary's passion for magic began when he was a teenager performing for families with tricks aimed at a younger audience. Since then he has launched his own company, Magic Incorporate, performing at corporate events, launches and award ceremonies.
"Just last weekend I did two weddings, so it keeps me busy," he said. "People tend to hire me to spice up events such as company product launches, as my magic gives it a bit of an edge."
Gary has also made his first TV appearance, in the comedy Dear Green Place written by the creators of Still Game.
But the magic circuit is where he feels most at home, performing favourite tricks such as turning a 10 note into a "$1 million" one, seemingly by simply folding and unfolding it.
He puts his success down to his father, Henry Pickup, a stand-up comedian who retired from the business earlier this year.
Under his stage name of Harry Kidd, Gary's father was a sought-after entertainer who once supported legendary singer Dusty Springfield. Gary said: "It all came from my dad. He's been a popular comedian in Edinburgh for years, so he definitely inspired me to become a performer."
He's now planning a tribute to mark his father's retirement. He said: "It would be great to do something for him.
"He's been so popular about town over the years, so he deserves a bit of fuss being made of him."
His Murray Wand was presented in Greenock at the weekend by the Scottish Association of Magical Societies.
The association consists of groups from cities such as Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee and Perth, which all have their own annual conventions and award ceremonies, and before taking this year's top national prize Gary scooped the 2007 Edinburgh Magician of the Year award.
Ricky McLeod, president of the Scottish Association of Magical Societies, who presented the wand to Gary , said: "Gary's a very good magician. He outshone everyone else at the convention."
TOP FIVE FAVOURITE TRICKS
Bill in lime: A member of the audience signs a bank note and hands it to the performer in exchange for a lime. The borrowed note is later revealed inside the lime, which the member of the audience has been holding throughout.
Linking finger rings: Three finger rings are borrowed from members of the audience. The performer magically links the rings together in front of the audience, then unlinks them and returns them to their owners.
Gypsy thread: A length of thread is broken into several pieces and later restored to a single strand.
Ambitious card: The spectator selects a card, which is signed and returned to the pack. The card appears at the top of the pack no matter how many times it is placed back in.
Bill change: A bank note is borrowed from a spectator and is changed at the magician's fingertips into a completely different note. The note is restored to its former state before being returned.