The first copies of the Breakthrough Card System were published 23 years ago in 1983. Over the years, there have been reprints of the original, the 25th Anniversary edition, The Memorized Breakthrough Card System, articles in magazines, as well as the performances and explanations on this video. The system itself is thoroughly explained on the DVD with all the shortcuts and other handling tips. It is the intention of this series of guide books to present new ideas and not repeat what has already been presented elsewhere. With that in mind, and not wanting to repeat myself, I would like to give some further information on the background of the Breakthrough Card System and its very nature.
I have already explained in the discussion of the Radar Deck how I came to set out for a new stacked deck. The more I advanced in mentalism, the more I realized just how powerful a tool such a stack can be. The only ones I was aware of at the time were the Si Stebbins, the Eight Kings and the Nikola arrangements. (The John Cornelius stack was around, but it was designed for an entirely different purpose.) So, the state of affairs was such that, if you wanted to have a stacked deck that looked entirely random, it was the Nikola or nothing.
Most books teaching the Si Stebbins or Eight Kings guaranteed that a quick spread of the deck would never reveal any set order. Although I found that to be true, I knew that a really random arrangement would allow much greater freedom of working, especially in those effects where the cards are placed in the spectators' hands. That turned out to be of much more importance than I anticipated and I will explain its significance in a moment.
To paraphrase the words Banachek once said to me, the
Breakthrough Card System is my baby! That is why I can talk about it completely independent of myself like a father showing snapshots of his daughter. Many of those who first encounter the BCS marvel at its ingenuity, but I wonder how many understand its beauty? We start with one of the oddest number bases ever created (i.e. 52 cards made up of 4 different sets of 13) and create a mathematical formula that allows these cards to be arranged in what appears to be a totally random order. Not only are there no exceptions to the mathematics, but the system repeats upon itself, creating an endless loop. The arithmetic itself is hidden in the real "breakthrough," which is, although the value of the second card is determined by the first card, the suit of the second card is determined by that card and not the previous one! That is the momentous point that is most often overlooked by those examining this system for its uniqueness. To achieve the goal of the Breakthrough is impossible if the value and suit is determined by the first card only. I have seen many magicians on the forums trying to determine a mathematical way to locate any card at any position in the BCS deck. They always fail since they don't take into account this intricacy built into the system. So you see, even the mathematics themselves have a secret within the system!
I believe one of the subconscious appeals of the BCS to magicians is that it is not contrived. It is mathematically pure and exists rather than being made up or manufactured! It somehow feels more like gold than stainless steel! One also gets the feeling there are other hidden treasures within its dimensions that have yet to be discovered (and there are!)
The Breakthrough Card System has been compared to other systems and rated for its degree of randomness. I disagree totally with many of those findings and contend that the Breakthrough Card System is much more random looking than most other stacks. Many do not even have two cards with like values lying next to each other! This would certainly be expected to happen with a legitimately shuffled deck. This gives the BCS a tremendous advantage over its competition. Please spread out the deck and look it over closely. Notice the unequal sequence of the colors and suits. Look at the locations of the 10's and court cards. Notice the unequal spacing of the Aces. Take any value and see if you can find a relationship to other cards of that same value. Even notice how the top half of the deck bears no resemblance to the bottom half. This all may seem as though I am splitting hairs, but I would hope by now you would understand I am a totally practical person. It is the supreme randomness of the Breakthrough that makes it so effective in the performance situation. Now let me finally explain why.
In the first guide book, I discussed the difference in having something written in the center of a folded piece of paper and in the corner. Although some may argue that it makes no difference to the audience, I contend that it does. On a very profound psychological level, the paper with the writing in the center seems very much more secure to the spectator than one with the writing in a corner. Because it is obvious the writing cannot be peeked, the scrutiny level falls far below the circumstance when a word is written in the corner. I, personally, would never leave such a paper or card with the audience afterwards because of the fear they would find the not-so-difficult-to-work-out secret! Similarly, the randomness of the BCS affects the psyche in the same way.
As you go through this video with the guide book in hand, please notice how often I take the time to spread the deck in front of the spectator and just hold it there before I begin, letting him or her scrutinize the order and letting the randomness sink in. Also notice how the effects are purposely routined so that the spectators themselves often spread the deck and look through it. Pay attention to how often I actually ask if the cards are mixed up before beginning. Seeing the randomness of the cards disperses any doubt that the cards are unprepared.
Although you might think it far too subtle to matter, the random nature of the setup does, in fact, sink into the subcon scious of the audience. When they see three Tens within four cards or two Jacks followed by a Queen, their minds say, "These cards can't be in any set order. They are really mixed up!" I can't tell you how often I get e-mails and letters asking me what I do when someone wants to shuffle the deck. Please look at how this never happens and understand why that is the case! There is no need to shuffle cards if a person is already convinced they are thoroughly mixed! Please re-read that last sentence again!
Finally, I want to address the ongoing debate of whether or not a memorized deck is superior to a deck that is sequentially stacked. Although I have published The Memorized Breakthrough Card System and have stated many times over that any deck can be memorized, there are still detractors who insist the BCS should be used as simply a stepping stone for the higher plateaus of card magic using a memorized deck! I have nothing but respect for the work of magicians such as Aronson and Tamariz, but this advice clearly misses the mark and defies logic.
Rather than repeat the arguments I have painstakingly made in the above book, such as the incredible benefit of having both a numerically stacked and memorized deck, let me just say that I believe there are some who would try to justify their beliefs simply because they have put in a lot of hours in learning such a system! I work on a need basis. I don't understand how I would need to know how to get a new deck into a stacked order. Not only would I need to have many new decks available at any one show for each group of people I approached, but I seriously wonder if they would patiently wait while I went through a series of Faro Shuffles and other handling while I got the deck into position. I also think I would feel a bit of apprehension with the thought that one single mistake could mess up everything! Neither do I need a multitude of other effects that can be done with my stack. I already have more than enough and know plenty of card magic with a legitimately shuffled deck to handle situations once the cards have really been mixed! In truth, I wonder if I did go through all the trouble of learning a memorized deck that could be stacked from new deck position and went through all the shuffles and cuts necessary to set the deck, if I would then be willing to do a routine that ruined the stack in one effect! If that effect were so memorable to warrant all that, then wouldn't I want it to be such that I could repeat immediately with a legitimately shuffled deck?
My bottom line is always audience amazement. If any other card system can be shown to somehow increase that factor for the effects I demonstrate on this DVD, I would like to be shown how. I use the Breakthrough Card System for certain purposes and for those effects it is 100% effective.
With that said, let us begin the work.
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