## Phase I

Casino Destroyer

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i find mvs h !, k jm.rformin(; this routine more and more as an after show piece. It's during that time when folks stick around to chat and ask the standard questions: "How did you get into magic?" and "Do they let you into casinos?" Normally I'll perform a couple of short gambling routines to test the waters. If the crowd seems game, I'll go for it.

It was Darwin Ortiz who first suggested the proposition bet patter that 1 now use: "Folks, here's where we all get a little et.lucat.ion. A proposition bet is one that you can t and won't win. To say that the odds are against you is an understatement. You'll sooner win the Chinese lottery than a well played prop bet. If you'll promise to pay close attention and try to resist the temptation to place a reckless wager on the game, I'll demonstrate one of the most diabolical sucker bets going."

All the while you should be casually shuffling the cards. I perform a series of casual overhand shuffles with one or two loose faro-type weaves. I want to establish this as my preferred method of shuffling, albeit unusual looking, so that later when it's required it will pass unnoticed. These faro shuffles aren't perfect shuffles. In fact I want them to look as normal as I can so 1 reposition the cards after the initial weave and spring them together with the traditional bridge that usually follows an in the hands riffle shuffle (Figure 1). This part of the shuffle at least is normal looking to most people and will help disguise the perfect faro required later in the routine. (I'll also describe the faro-less method, when the time comes.)

"This game is based on the well known fact that when a shuffled deck is dealt two at a time, there are only three possible ways the cards can fall: a black pair, a red pair or a mismatched pair. Can anyone think of another possible combination? These are the only three possible combinations. Is there any way to know which combination is going to come up? No, of course not. And so the odds of receiving any one of the pairs is even. In other words, you would have an equal chance of winning if you were to bet on any of the three pairs, wouldn't you? Of course you would."

This condescending explanation is delivered in a humorous singsong manner. Demonstrate the three possible color combinations by dealing the cards face up, two at a time. The pairs are dealt stud style into the appropriate pile. If the first pair that turns up happens to be black-black, place this pair, still spread, forward and to your left. The next two cards will go to the right of the first pair, directly in front of you, unless it's another black pair, in which case they'll go on top of the first two. And the last combination is dealt forward and to your right.

The purpose of this display is apparently to show the ran

dom occurrence of the three possible color combinations, but your real goal is to bring four cards of one color to the top of the deck. After you have built up a pile of four of one color (let's say for example it's the red pile), replace the three piles on top of the face down deck with the red pile going on top of all. As you replace them, gain a pinky break beneath the four red cards. This dealing sequence was also included at the suggestion of Darwin Ortiz. Once again, his experienced eye has come to the rescue. (His other less experienced eye just sat there blinking.) I used to spread the cards face up while up-jogging examples of the three color combinations and cut a four of a kind color group to the top when I came to them. By dealing the cards out while explaining the breakdown of the colors, you not only foreshadow the dealing that is to follow but you also eliminate any unnecessary or unnatural handling of the cards. This is yet another example of Mr. Ortiz's annoying habit of isolating a weakness in one's routine and turning it into a strength.

"Since this is only a demonstration, I'll provide the pot. This is the last of my gambling money. 1 promised my wife that when it's gone I'm going to quit my evil card playing forever and come home. Fifty-two dollars: a one dollar bill for every card in the deck. Even though I have nothing to gain, I'm willing to stake my hard-earned cash on the outcome of this game."

So there you sit with a break below four red cards. Let's assume that you are holding the deck in the left hand. With the right hand reach into your pocket and remove the envelope containing the money. Begin to place it, flap side up, on top of the deck. Kxtend the left pinky to the right as soon as the left edge of the envelope hits the base of the left thumb and the four red cards will be carried about an inch to the right underneath the envelope (Figure 2). Only then does the left thumb press down on top of the envelope, holding it firmly in place with the four red cards now stepped an inch or so to the right of the deck proper. In fact it is desirable that a bit of the deck proper is visible to left of the envelope. Don't move the pinky to the right prematurely; you must wait until the envelope makes contact with the base of the thumb or you'll be in danger of flashing this simple, yet crucial maneuver.

The envelope should lie with the opening hanging over the right side of the deck. As soon as the red cards have been stepped underneath, the right fingers release their grip, unfold the flap and enter the envelope to pull out the bills (Figure 3). The following things happen in one motion: The bills are slid on top of the envelope re-closing the flap with their left edges as they go, the left thumb raises up to allow the bills

to continue to the left and the right fingers grip the four red cards from beneath as the right hand carries everything except the deck proper off to the right. The envelope is placed on the table to your right so that it can be easily retrieved later. I some-rimes place it on the table's edge so that it overhangs a bit making it easier to regrip the four hidden cards without fumbling when it comes time to reload them on top of the deck. Another strategy is to place the envelope on the card box or a drinking glass or wallet lying in the center of the table; any object that allows the four cards to project over its edge will work.

T know that this may seem like a long description for a seemingly simple act, but there is a natural appearance to what I've described. If the steal is attempted without any forethought or rehearsal, the actions may appear muddled and unmotivated.

"Now, I need two opponents to play against who will promise to take the money and keep it if they win. You, sir, which color do your prefer, red or black? Red? Fine, you'll be known as Mr. Red and you will receive all of the red pairs. No, sir, Mr. Red not Mr. F-d! And you, madam, will be known as Ms. Black and will get all of the black pairs. I guess that makes me Mr. Mismatch. The player with the most cards in his or her pile will take home the cash. No matter how much I beg, you must promise to keep the money if you win; it's the only way I'll learn."

If you've been doing other tricks for these people previous to this routine, you probably have learned which of them are good sports. This is the time to use them. I wouldn't pick the skeptical or combative person to play the game; you will need to be in complete control at all times and won't want to be distracted.

Continue to casually shuffle the cards as you speak and be sure to throw in another loose faro-like weave in the mix to subliminally reinforce its naturalness. Just before the game is to begin say, "OK, let's start," and begin to perform an in the hands riffle shuffle up to the point when you have one half of the deck in each hand with the thumbs ready to release the cards. Look up and say, "Oh, you don't trust me." Then place the two halves in front of a third spectator and say, "You shuffle!" Of course you know he can riffle shuffle well because you carefully observed him during your previous performance. Don't allow him to shuffle more than once. (It doesn't actually matter how many times he shuffles this time, but it will later.)

"Now, George, you alone are responsible for the order of the cards. By shuffling them you have just determined the winner of this game."

Up until this point you have been handling the cards very casually, but now after his shuffle you handle them very formally, taking care not to spread them too much or do anything that would give the audience reason to believe that you altered the order of the deck after the last shuffle. Deal the pairs deliberately to their namesakes and keep talking about Georges shuffle and the money and anything else to keep them from mentally counting their cards as you deal them. I've even told people not to count them during the deal as there would be time for an accurate count later. The reason for waiting until after the deal to count the piles, besides it being too confusing to keep three running tallies going, is to provide cover for a simple miscount on your part. Because you've stolen four red cards from the deck, Mr. Red will have four less than Ms. Black. If everyone were to call out their real total, anyone adding them up mentally would catch the four card deficit.

So, while the other two players are busy counting their cards, pick up your pile and say to yourself mentally "four" then spread over two cards and take them into the other hand as you mentally count "six..." then two more, counting to yourself "eight..." and so on until you are about two-thirds of the way through the packet. Then you begin saying the numbers out loud, whispering at first, "22, 24..." then louder, "26, 28, 30..." and then announce your total in a loud voice, "32," as you take the final two cards and look up. By this time the other two players may or may not have announced their totals. Even if they have, ask them to repeat the numbers so everyone can hear. If, as in our example, you did indeed receive 32 cards, then Mr. Red would have eight and Ms. Black would have 12. Anyone doing the arithmetic will get 52 and won't feel the need to challenge your count. You have just psychologically replaced the four missing cards.

I )on't worry about losing your money; you'll always come out on top. In fact, thanks to the efforts of computer wiz Jeff Payne of Cigital Inc. in Reston, Virginia, we now know that, even without the four ghost cards, the odds are heavily in your favor. Out of 100,000 theoretical games played, 95.6 percent of them will be won by the dealer, 4.4 percent will be won by the opponents, and those won by the opponents are won by a slim margin: 18 cards each to the dealer's 16 in most cases. So, with the four "phantom" cards added to the dealer's count, there is little reason to worry about being beaten.

"Way to shuffle, George. You know, I really wanted to lose just once. Too bad, this must be my lucky day. I should go play lotto!"

As this is being said, gather the cards together, face down, in the left band. With the right hand pick up the envelope with the money on top and the four red cards below and place it on the deck so that the four cards fall flush with the rest of the deck underneath. Slide the bills back into the envelope with the right fingers and set the envelope off to the side. Continue shuffling the cards as before. Be sure to include a couple of faro-type weave shuffles for good measure.

The purpose of the first phase is not only to establish the rules of the game, but also to demonstrate the unbalanced count at the end of the deal. More specifically, we want the audience to think that Mr. Red and Ms. Blacks piles will always he unequal when dealt from a full, shuffled pack when actually the opposite is true. In the second phase we will build toward a satisfying gasp of astonishment as the crowd witnesses the impossible: Mr. Red and Ms. Black are dealt the same number of cards from a well shuffled deck!

phase ii

"folks, lf.t mf show you how this little scam works. When I told you earlier that the odds were split evenly three ways, 1 wasn't being completely honest. 1 know, ma'am, it's hard to believe that this face would lie. But I told you earlier that there are only three possible color combinations; actually there are four: Red-red, blackâ€”black, red-black and black-red. You see, the odds were really double in my favor."

For me, this is the most crucial part of the routine, the point that requires that I not only keep their interest, but bring it to a peak. During this explanation your body language should fit the purpose; you take the energy level up a step as you take on a more earnest tone and your actions become more animated, in contrast to the formal croupier attitude you held during the game. You should make eye contact with as many of the surrounding spectators as possible as you lecture on this fascinating statistical subterfuge.

"1 really want someone to take this money away from me so let's play again and this time I'll sit out. Any mismatched pair will be discarded and the game will be between Mr. Red and Ms. Black only."

Once again begin an in the hands riffle shuffle to the point where the packets are about to be intermeshed, then look at

George as if you had almost committed some unforgivable act. Place the two packets in front of him in such a way that it will be easy for him to pick them up and with an apologetic shrug say, LTm sorry, George, here, you shuffle." Then leaning back with arms folded, you say, with a look of mock disgust, "I can't believe that you still don't trust me."

It doesn't matter where the deck is split for the shuffle during these first two phases, but it will matter during the third phase. By establishing this little running gag each time they shuffle the deck, you get an opportunity for a little laugh and, more importantly, you eliminate the suspicion that would be created by simply cutting the dcck for them to shuffle in Phase III. When you make a joke out of it you disguise the fact that there is really no reason for you to perform that action in the first place.

Begin dealing the cards. In this round you will be creating a face down "discard" pile of mismatched pairs and, in the process, you will be secretly preparing the colors to be stripped out of each other at the end of the deal while the other players are counting their cards. During the deal you will be jogging all of the black cards of the mismatched pairs to the left as you casually toss them face down on the discard pile in front of you. Here's how: As the right hand turns each pair face up, the thumb pushes the face card forward and to the right and simultaneously the right fingers close slightly in order to pull the other card back. The face card is now jogged forward about half its length (Figure 4). This is an excellent display position, allowing everyone to clearly see the color of the two cards, and for the sake of uniformity of action, this method of turning and spreading the cards should be used throughout this routine. As before, the colored pairs go to the corresponding players.

If the face card (the one jogged away from you) is red and the other card is black, then turn your right hand face down and deposit the cards on the table so that they are parallel with the table's edge and the red card is now jogged to your left and the black card is on top of it jogged right (Figure 5). If the face card of a mismatched pair is black (Figure 6), then smear the

cards back in the opposite direction as you turn the right hand back over to toss them on the discard pile {Figure 7).

The larger action of the wrist turning over will cover the smaller action of the cards moving over each other. It doesn't even matter if someone sees the cards sliding over each other as you do this; it looks so natural that they will not attach any meaning to it. In fact don't try too hard to keep your pile too neat; it should look like your just tossing your pairs down haphazardly (Figure 8). Needless to say, you'll be emphasizing their growing piles while

Fig.8

downplaying your discards so they won't be paying much attention to what you're doing with your cards anyway. Remember, for all they know one of them will be winning 52 dollars and the game will be over. Only you know that there will be a third phase. This is the one ahead principle in action. I love it!

Pick up your now telescoped packet, squaring the long edge against the table top as you do so (Figure 9), and hold it from above with the right hand in position for a Hindu style shuffle (Figure 10). The left hand approaches from below the packet and grips the telescoped (in this case) red cards and draws them out and allows them to fall into the left palm in typical Hindu shuffle fashion (Figure 11). Continue by drawing small groups of black cards from the top of the remaining stock and allow them to fall on top of the red cards. It should appear that you merely picked up your discards and casually mixed them while the other two players were counting their cards.

At this point you should quickly spread through your cards to make sure that you didn't leave any colors mixed. Just make some remark about how you wish you could have played this round as well because you have so many cards. Don't allow any of the spectators to get a glimpse of your cards while you spread. If you find any stragglers, simply down jog them as you come to them and strip them out after you have re-squared the deck face down. With a little practice, you'll learn just how much to spread the cards during the deal and just how to lay them down so that you'll soon he able to strip out the colors with 100 percent accuracy.

At this point you may want to false shuffle your packet. I don't recommend it because you want all of the attention to be-on the other players' cards now. The strength of this routine lies in the perception that you don't manipulate the cards at all, and any studied shuffling after the strip out may be seen as superfluous handling of the cards. Just set your packet aside while the other players finish counting their cards.

"How many did you get, Mr. Red? 14? Ms. Black? 14? A tie! Wow, George, do you know what the odds are against that happening? Astronomical! Unbelievable! Well, I guess the dealer keeps the pot when there's a tie. That's too bad. 1 really wanted someone to win."

During this shameful delivery, pick up Ms. Black's cards and slap them on top of your own so that all 26 black cards are together on top and then slap all of these on top of Mr. Red's packet so that the 26 red cards are together underneath them. While still wondering aloud how this could possibly happen, split the deck at the center and perform a perfect faro shuffle. Regrip the telescoped cards and allow them to waterfall together, bridge style as before.

I normally perform one or two casual overhand style false shuffles before setting the deck down. There is a particularly effective shuffle described on page 164 of The Expert at the Card Tabic by S.W. Erdnase. It's the Fourth Method for retaining the entire order in the Legerdemain section. In short, you begin as if you are going to perform a standard overhand shuffle. Hold the cards on their edge in the left hand in the usual position for shuffling. Undercut about half the deck with the right hand and make the ordinary movement to mesh the cards

together. Actually you allow the right hand cards to fall on the top of the other packet gradually as you "saw" the right hand packet back and forth in a lateral motion as if forcing the two packets to interlace (Figure 12). All of the right hand cards fall, unaltered, to the top of the deck with the result being that you've simply given the deck a cut. If you actually interweave the cards in this manner a few times, you can see how easily the real action can be imitated.