The Obedient Faro

Effect: The deck is shuffled and the top five cards are shown. Someone is asked to name any one of the five he likes, then to choose a number from one to twenty. The performer places the five cards face-down on the deck and gives the cards two faro shuffles. He then hands the pack to the spectator and asks that he count down to his chosen number. When the card at that number is turned up, it is found to be the spectator's selection. The feat can be repeated. The result is always successful, and only two shuffles are executed—no more, no less.

Method: In his booklet. Faro Notes, Edward Mario published a method for positioning the top card at any number in the pack, using faro shuffles (see "Exact Placement", pp. 61-62). While this work was theoretically interesting, in practice the system became unwieldy, as there were many contingencies in which three or more faros were necessary to place the card as desired. The number twenty, for example, required live shuffles. The effect described above represents a similar problem, developed by Mr. Elmsley. His solution allows the placement of a specific card at positions one through twenty in the pack, with only two faro shuffles. This is hardly a trick with which to entertain laymen. It is designed purely to puzzle and impress fellow magicians, and that is how Mr. Elmsley uses it. Indeed, he managed to perplex Dai Vernon with this feat some years ago, and later shared the secret with him.

The chart on the opposite page shows the system of shuffles. The top row indicates the position of the selection before shuffling. The left-hand column defines the type of weave needed for the first shuffle, then the second. O = out-weave; I - in-weave. Each of the cells shows the desired final destination for the selection after the two shuffles have been made. For instance, if you wish to move the top card to a position third from the top, you would perform an in-weave, followed by an out-weave.


1st CARD

2nd CARD

3rd CARD

4th CARD

5th CARD

O —O






O —I






I —o






I — I






Notice that the Os and Is, representing the weaves, also felicitously represent the numbers 0 through 3 in sequence, in binary notation. Even if you are not familiar with binary numbers, the memorization of these four should pose no problem.

Have the deck shuffled and set face-down before you on the table. Pick off the top five cards and display them in a face-up fan. Ask someone to name one of the five. Explain that you will shuffle the deck only twice, and will cause the card to appeal" at any number from one to twenty. The choice is his. Once both card and number have been specified, you must subtly position the selection to allow you to shuffle it to the specified location.

If the spectator asks that the selection be transported to positions one, two, three or four from the top of the pack, you must maneuver the selection to the top of the packet before executing the shufiles. If positions five, six, seven or eight are called for, the selection must begin second from the top of the packet, and so on.

Your chances of having the selection lie in the necessary position without moving it are good. The end cards of a fan are seldom chosen. It is also unlikely that a position near the top of the pack will be specified, since the task of shuffling a card already near the top to a nearby location hardly seems a challenge. Therefore, the selection is most often one of the center cards, and these cards govern the mid-range of post-shuffle positions, those most frequently requested.

However, should you need to move the first card to fifth position, the second card to fourth position, or the fourth card to second position, this can be done by squaring the fan, turning it face-down and dealing the cards briskly onto the pack, reversing their order. False deals (which are greatly simplified with a small packet such as this) also can be used to reposition the card. Use whatever means best suited to conceal the repositioning of the selection. A nonchalant attitude is one's greatest ally in such situations. If you cannot shift the card without causing suspicion, it is better to do the repositioning openly and casually.

If the number requested is one, two, three or four, you only need use the shuffle combination directly to the left of the number in the chart. For higher numbers, a simple calculation determines the required starting position for the card and the combination of shuffles required to deliver it to the chosen location. First, think of the number of cards that must lie above the selection when it rests at the chosen number. Say, fourteen is named. Thirteen cards lie above the fourteenth. Divide this number by four: 13*4 = 3 with a remainder of 1. This tells you that, to deliver the selection to position fourteen in the pack, it must begin third from the top. 1 (the remainder) in binary notation is OI. Thus, one out-weave, followed by an in-weave will place the selection fourteenth from the top of the pack. Here is another example: Nine is the position chosen. Eight cards rest above the ninth. 8 -r 4 = 2. Thus, the selection must begin second from the top of the deck; and since your division has left no remainder, the remainder is 0—00 in binary—which tells you to do two out-weaves.

While the system may seem complex in its explanation, a bit of study will show that it is logical and requires little memorization and only one easy calculation.

Once the shuffles are completed, hand the deck to the spectator and let him verify for himself that his card lies at the location requested. One or two repetitions of this feat should bolster your reputation with magical associates.

[January 3, 1965}

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