The Lucky Guess

The Lucky Guess element is exactly that - a pure guess which lacks any of the subtlety of the "Good Chance Guess" explained above. The psychic simply offers a name, set of initials, date or place and sees if the client accepts it.

If it is a hit, it seems miraculous and will be sure to impress the client. What is more, it can be used afterwards to give sceptics a thump, since it is apparently inexplicable. If it is not a hit, the psychic can easily move on to something else (see 'The Win-Win Game').

Although there is nothing subtle about this element, it needs mentioning since it is so useful in cold reading terms. It is also worth emphasising that many clients apply great latitude when interpreting the psychic's offerings. The same sort of ambiguity which helps Fuzzy Facts to become specific hits also helps Lucky Guesses. Take an example like this:

"The name Jane means something to you. I can see someone you have known quite a while, with blonde hair".

The psychic is simply guessing. However, she has not said anything specific about how the name relates to the client, so more or less any connection will do. "Jane" could be a relative, a professional colleague or a friend. She could be alive or dead, known well or only distantly, linked with the present or the past. There are endless possibilities for this guess to count as a hit.

If the client knows a Jean, Jenny, Janet, Joanne or someone whose name sounds close, she may well offer the mild correction and credit the psychic with a near-miss. This close-sounding name could be a first name, surname ("Jones") or a nick name. It could be male or female ("Jan" is a common male name in some countries). Once you appreciate the interpretative latitude which psychics enjoy, it becomes clear that a Lucky Guess stands at least a fair chance of eventually being considered as a hit.

The three-part guess

It is also worth pointing out that if a guess is composed of two or three parts, the client is likely to pay attention only to those parts which are correct. In the example given above, the guess contains three parts: "Jane", "known a long time" and "blonde hair". If the client has recently met a Jane with blonde hair, this will be considered a remarkable display of psychic divination. The inaccurate part (about having known her a long time) will be overlooked. Similarly, if the client has known someone with blonde hair for a long time, the psychic will be given some credit even if this person is not called Jane or anything like it.

The same applies to any guess consisting of multiple parts. Only the bits that fit get remembered. For this reason, many cold readers make sure their Lucky Guesses always consist of two or more parts.

Here is another example of a three-part Lucky Guess:

"Now for some reason I'm seeing significance with the end of August, something like the late twenties, the twenty-sixth of August, maybe a date close to that, and a man, related to you, who wears glasses."

If the client is married to a bespectacled man whose birthday is August 27 th, the psychic will be credited with astounding powers which science is powerless to explain. However, the guess affords plenty of scope for at least partial success.

The date could be more or less anything from the 24th of August to the end of the month. It could refer to a birthday, an anniversary, a holiday, a social function or an important decision. It could be significant every year, or just last year or just this year. It could be significant personally, socially or professionally.

The man could be a husband, partner, brother, relative, friend, colleague or a professional contact (such as the client's doctor or accountant or garage mechanic). He could be someone the client has known for years, or met once. Alive or dead, near or far, well-known or a distant acquaintance. The more possibilities you become aware of, the more chances you see for the Lucky Guess to be sufficiently correct, in one way or another, to constitute a hit.

Of course, the more Lucky Guesses the psychic includes, the higher her chances of getting a hit somewhere along the line. Some psychics manage to mention dozens of different names, sets of initials, dates or places in a single reading. The misses get forgotten. The hits are the ones that impress the client, and get talked about afterwards.

In my own readings, I have found it worthwhile to use the Lucky Guess element very sparingly, just in case the client gets suspicious of the technique. However, I generally include at least one, and usually two, in every reading. If it happens to be a hit, it is an inexplicable miracle and highly impressive. If not, it is soon forgotten.

When they work, Lucky Guesses provide very useful re-enforcement of belief both for the psychic (who wishes to convey the impression that she is genuine) and the client (who does not wish to believe she has given her time, money and trust to a fake).

Habitual guessing

I should just add that many cold readers get into the habit of using Lucky Guesses even when not giving readings. For example, when chatting to someone for the first time they may casually toss in a guess as to that person's star sign, or a relative's name, or a particular hobby. It is no crime to be wrong, and after all the psychic can always say she spoke before she had developed a proper rapport. On the other hand, if the Lucky Guess happens to be right, then such casual displays of effortless accuracy are the stuff of legend.

On one occasion I was talking to a TV researcher on the phone. I made some mild joke about her being "highly efficient, a typical Sagittarius". As it happened, her star sign was Sagittarius and she was highly impressed. Throughout my involvement with this particular TV crew, the researcher never tired of recycling this anecdotal evidence of my astounding powers. I have shown salesmen how to use similar approaches to make friends with 'chilly' receptionists who may be unhelpfully good at blocking access to strong prospects. The Lucky Guess cannot hurt, and may often help.

For completeness, I ought to add that the magic fraternity has developed several ways to guess (or appear to guess) a stranger's star sign with perfect accuracy and without using the Lucky Guess. However, such techniques fall outside the realm of cold reading.

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