Bottom dealing


THIS ESSAY was originally written as a monograph in 1978. I endeavored to update it for this book, but there may be some recent bibliographic oversights.

The analysis is, nevertheless, as valid today as I believe it was when I wrote it.

Whenever cards are dealt, an observant viewer would be able to describe some aspects of the deal. Such an observer would not be able to name these factors as we can, but they are readily apprehensible. These are the kind of factors that are equally relevant to the description of legitimate deals. While these "Appearance" factors and the "Technical" factors described in the second portion of this investigation have crossover effects, it is useful to segregate overt Appearance factors from covert Technical ones. We can further segregate covert Technical factors from overt ones. Because it helps to do so, I have, and the third portion of this treatise addresses overt Technical factors.



There are a small, finite number of ways a deck of cards may be held when dealing from the bottom. It is my purpose here to recognize those I feel are worthy of separate denotation, without qualitative consideration of factors of dealing technique. The list of denoted techniques is comprehensive without necessarily being exhaustive. It is not my position that all possible grips have been discovered, to say nothing of explored; nor would I hold that I am aware of every existing technique.

Fun. GRIP—The most "natural" way to hold a deck of cards is the way in which most card players hold them. There is reasonable dispute on this subject. Some maintain that all four fingers at the side of the deck (commonly referred to as Full Grip) is the most natural hold (Figure 152). It appears that Mario was responsible for the designation Full Grip, which was and is sometimes called Four-on-the-Side Grip, a less than euphonious name. Mario was also responsible for many, though not all, of the currently known techniques for dealing Bottoms from Full Grip.

mechanic's Grip—Some dealing "experts" argue that moving the first finger around to the front of the deck (commonly called Mechanic's Grip) is equally natural. I believe both arguments have merit. All else being equal, Full Grip is to be preferred, as Mechanic's Grip has a bad reputation (largely due to Scarne) in certain quarters. In any event, Mechanic's Grip seems to have been the grip of choice for manipulation as early as 1680 (see Charles Cotton's The Compleat Gamester) and remained popular through Jonathan Green's 1843 An Exposure of the Arts and Miseries of Gambling and John Philip Quinn's 1881 Fools of Fortune. Not all of these sources specifically address the issue of Bottom Dealing, but each suggests or illustrates decks being held in what has come to be known as Mechanic's Grip. While it is not clear who coined the term Mechanic's Grip there is consensus that it is distinguished by the presence of the first finger at the front of the deck. There its function is to help exercise control. It has never been argued more forcefully than do I that the diagonal pressure between the first finger at the front and the lowermost point of the crease below the base of the thumb, provide the control necessary for Bottom Dealing in this grip (Figure 153). These two control points assist by freeing the other fingers from the task of holding the deck, thus allowing them to get out of the way of the exiting card.

S.F. GRIP—Perhaps the earliest generally recognized Bottom Deal grip variation, though surely not the first developed, is that described in John Nevil

Maskelyne's 1894 work, Sharps and Flats. The position described by Maskelyne is somewhat akin to Mechanic's Grip in that the first finger of the gripping hand is in front of the deck. It differs from traditional Mechanic's Grip in that the deck is held higher and further forward in the hand, similar to the starting position common for many Bottom Palms (Figure 1 54). Few have seriously explored the S.F. Grip, other than Mario and Warren Wiersbie (see Seconds, Centers, Bottoms, 1960, page 78) both of whom appear mistaken as to what constitutes the Grip.

erdnase Grip—s. W. Erdnase's 1902 book The Expert at the Card Table established a new grip from which to deal but it is worth noting that Erdnase, who was generally quite careful about laying claim, does not do so for this grip. Nevertheless, the terms Erdnase Grip and the Erdnase Bottom Deal are nearly universally accepted. The distinguishing characteristic of the Erdnase Grip is that both the first and second fingers are on the front end of the deck (Figure 155). While Erdnase also shows the first finger as around the left front corner of the deck, this would only be possible for those with fairly long fingers, a point which Erdnase does not address. Erdnase is relatively strict about this position and illustrates it repeatedly. He even argues that this position is critical to proper execution of the deal. I take Erdnase at his word, defining Erdnase Grip as what Erdnase says it is, but I do not limit the definition any further than necessary.

straddle Grip—For many years after Erdnase no new grips seemed to appear, but in fact another novel grip was being explored by Walter Scott (see Eddie McGuire's 1930 work, Phantom at the Card Table, page 23), Dr. James Elliott (in Dai Vernon's Ultimate Secrets of Card Magic by Lewis Ganson, 1967, page 172) and perhaps others (Figure 156). Straddle Grip—sometimes known as Elliott Grip—never gained wide acceptance as a Dealing Grip, but I am unwilling to dismiss it, as both Scott and Elliott were highly praised for their exceptional technique. At the same time, I am not persuaded that Straddle Grip was first applied by either Scott or Elliott and I am, therefore, unwilling to accept the designation Elliott Grip.

master Grip—Mario was a clever, sometimes cagey, man. His description of Master Grip in Seconds, Centers, Bottoms (page 7) was perhaps Mario at his

cagiest. As Eddie described it, the element that distinguishes Master Grip from all of its predecessors is that control is exercised by placing the tip of the first, second or third finger directly on the outer right corner of the deck. It is hard to believe that no one had thought of doing this earlier. I recognize there is room for disagreement here. Surely, others had made the adjustment from the front of the deck to the corner of the deck to improve their leverage. What others failed to recognize was what they were doing. Part of Mario's genius was a detailed awareness of what his hands were accomplishing. Rules of the game being what they are, Mario got it into print first and Mario will "justifiably" receive credit for it, however much some may begrudge him.

Modified Erdnase Grip—Once Mario had established Master Grip there was little doubt that anyone experimenting with it would discover that it has some very desirable features and only a few drawbacks. That said, it is a short step from Mechanic's Grip to Master Grip and just as short a step from Erdnase Grip to what has come to be known as Modified Erdnase Grip. One can argue long and loud and rename them to please, but Master Grip is to Mechanic's Grip what Modified Erdnase Grip is to Erdnase Grip. In short, both are the Master Grip versions of pre-existing grips. The naming convention confuses the issue. Mechanic's Grip with the first finger moved to the corner is Master Grip and Erdnase Grip with the second finger moved to the corner is Modified Erdnase Grip (Figure 157). The problem is that Master Grip is not really a grip at all, but an example of control-point theory. (Mario was always good with concepts but not always with language.) Viewed from the perspective of control-point theory, the scope of Mario's Master Grip claim becomes clearer. Mario must have known this. If there were any doubt, Mario saved us some debate by describing both Grips in print. On page 7 of Seconds, Center, Bottoms he describes the Master Grip concept as it relates to the use of the first finger at the corner and a rather low position for the deck in the hand. On page 28 he discusses shifting the position of the inner corner and, on page 29, shifting the outer corner to the first, second or third finger. Finally, as if to cover his tail, on page 100, he applied what was clearly a description of Modified Erdnase Grip to a Center Deal. In short, if you're dealing with a finger on the corner of the deck, you're in some form of Master Grip. I accept the designation Modified Erdnase Grip, but only because it is now common parlance and more convenient than designations like First-, Second- and Third-Finger Master Grip. What some may find confusing is that Darwin Ortiz and Gene Maze, leading proponents of the Bottom Deal, have become associated with two different, published, definitions of Modified

Erdnase Grip. I believe Darwin is correct in his definition in The Annotated Erdnase (1991, page 72). I differ with Steve Hobbs in his characterization in Gene Maze and the Art of Bottom Dealing (1994, page 2). (Gene confirms that he deals from Erdnase Grip not Modified Erdnase Grip, though he doesn't bring his first finger as far toward the corner as Erdnase describes.)

pseudo grip—-This is another of Mario's useful but questionably chosen nomenclatures. What Mario calls Pseudo Grip is not so much pseudo as disguised. The deck is held in either Mechanics or Master Grip, but the cards are beveled forward to obscure the position of the forefinger and give the illusion of all four fingers resting at the right side (Figure 158). The specific idea relates to the notion I referred to earlier. Since some individuals feel that Full Grip is the most natural appearing grip, it follows logically that if one cannot deal from Full Grip, a deal that appears to be done from Full Grip is the next best thing. In 1967, Mario contributed a deal to the New Tops 1967 Trick Annual (page 40) that did precisely that. The deal is excellent, regardless of whether it appears to be from Full Grip or not. It is soft, relatively quiet and quite reliable. In any event, as is too often the case, we are saddled with the designation Pseudo Grip even if I would prefer Disguised Grip.

NO GRIP—Last but by no means least, as of 1978 we have Bottom Deals with no grip at all, just the deck lying on the fingers. Two versions of this breed of deal appear in Ken Krenzel's 1978 book The Card Classics of Ken Krenzel (pages 226 and 229). Ken is clearly a proponent of such approaches, as he offers still another, the Gravity Bottom Deal, in his more recently released Close-Up Impact! (1990, page 188). Both the Fingertip Bottom Deal and the Thumb-Grip Bottom Deal (not really a grip as I define it) require moderately large hands and are, therefore, unworkable for me. I do not conclude, however, that other No Grip deals would necessarily be as problematic, dismissing the consideration of their desirability.

While on the subject of gripless deals it is worth mention that both Mario and I have developed techniques for dealing Tabled Bottoms. Mario contributed his in Seconds, Centers, Bottoms (page 92) while mine appears in Epilogue,


No. 18 (1973, page 167) and The Magical Record and Thoughts of Wesley James (page 18). The elements that make for a useable Tabled Bottom are completely different from those that relate to other Bottom Deals and thus will not be explored further here. They are mentioned merely for completeness.


Grip is not the only factor that defines or distinguishes a deal. There are others, some apparent, others technical, each having an impact on the other. Among the apparent or overt characteristics is the Take. The Take, as I define it, is the visible manner in which the card is taken from the deck. Unlike the Grip, the Take is frequently dictated by the circumstance in which it is applied, rather than the technique being employed. Nevertheless, the Take is as related to legitimate deals as it is to false ones.

Standard Take—The most common Take is face down into an essentially palm-up hand, in preparation for a face-down Deal or Sail (Figure 159). I term this a Standard Take or Normal Take. More Bottom Deal methods have been applied to this form of Take than any other.

stud Take—For some purposes and in some games of chance, cards are turned up as they are dealt. One of the most common occasions in which this occurs is in the game of Stud Poker. This manner of Take is thus referred to as a Stud Take. Here are two approaches to the Stud Take.

Overhand and Underhand Stud Take—-When a card being dealt is turned over it is generally turned end for end rather than side for side. Even so, there are two ways the card can be turned. They are sometimes termed Overhand and Underhand. In an Overhand Take the right hand is palm down when it grasps the card, and the back end of the card passes over the front end during the turnover (Figure 160). Conversely, during an

Underhand Take, the right hand is palm up when it grasps the card, and the near end of the card passes under the front end (Figure 161). This might not be worth distinguishing were it not that they have both technical and application related advantages and disadvantages for magic, though not for gaming. Thus, for magical purposes, they are not always interchangeable. As an example, an Underhand Take deal can be performed so a viewer never sees the back of the dealt card. This can be used to facilitate a Color Change or to hide the use of a double-faced card. This would be impractical, if not impossible, with an Overhand Take.

No TAKE—The final Take designation might be called No Take in that there is no taking hand. Such deals are perforce One-Handed but there are a number of different techniques that may be applied.

I have excluded from this portion of the discussion some other Take variations. These include: Deep Take, End Take, Scissor Take and Back-End Take, to name a few. These variations are more closely tied to technique than to a viewer s perception of the Take function. They are, therefore, more related to Action than Take and will be addressed in that section.

To this point I have only examined the overt elements of the Bottom Deal. These factors, as stated earlier, apply equally to legitimate and false deals. The next two sections relate to those elements that generate a Bottom Deal and

Bottom Deal Technique



make it deceptive. These factors distinguish the Straight Deal from the Bottom Deal. The two sections address different aspects of the Bottom Deal: Covert and Overt. The distinction will become apparent.

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  • italo lo duca
    How to do stud bottom deal?
    3 years ago
  • tracey
    What is the best grip for bottom dealing?
    6 months ago

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