Catalytic progressive aces

March 11, 1990 SEWT

The progressive Ace premise has generally been considered a Ken Krenzel "problem" dating back to the 1960s. Stephen Minch, the ever-helpful publisher of this work, brought to my attention that Roger Smith may have been the first to have published a version of the Progressive Aces, in Necromancer (Vol. 1, No. 1, August 1970, page 6). The Smith treatment, however, is nearly incomprehensible in parts. One of the appealing aspects of the routine is the simplicity of the plot. The first Ace vanishes from the first packet and appears in the second. The two Aces from the second packet then vanish and appear in the third. Those three Aces then vanish only to arrive in the fourth and final packet. Over the years a number of people have published versions. To my knowledge, Buddy Ackner s marketed version (which also includes a William Zavis handling) has created the most interest.

After watching Ken Krenzel's performance of his Progressive Ace routine (The Card Classics of Ken Krenzel video), I realized that he had, perhaps unintentionally, defined a variation of the premise. He does not specifically call it a premise variation but to my way of thinking it is. The variation is the open use of a "catalyst" card. (In both his routine and mine it is a Joker. I have discussed this issue with Ken, who has been a friend since we were kids, and he agrees.)

The open use of a catalyst card considerably alters the avenues of approach to the premise. Ken uses the Mexican Turnover in his handling. In the routine that follows, I use it as a means for accomplishing a Scoop Addition. I am not satisfied that either Ken or I have taken the catalyst idea to its ultimate refinement, but I feel confident we have both advanced the effort to solve this interesting problem.

EFFECT: A Progressive Ace assembly with the added element of a "catalyst" card, which is both openly and secretly of assistance in the performance of the routine.

SET-UP: On top of the deck are the four Aces in CHaSeD order, followed by an indifferent card, then a Joker (Ace of Clubs-Ace of Hearts-Ace of Spades-Ace of Diamonds-indifferent card-Joker-talon). It helps if the face-down deck is given a fairly pronounced lengthwise concave bend. This effect should be performed without a close-up pad, for reasons that will become apparent.

ill Remove the top four cards (Aces) and ribbon spread them from right to left, with the Diamond at the face.

jig Perform a Double Turnover of the next two cards to reveal the Joker. Use your H! right hand to take the face-up double card (Joker and indifferent card) and H| scoop up the Aces. By pushing with the first two fingers of the right hand you |>-: can easi'y add the lower (indifferent) card under the Aces (exposed in Figure 30). Jv : The action is like that of the K.M. Move, or the opposite of the block push-off action in an Elmsley Count. Carry the lac e-up, scooped Aces to the top of the ||| deck and hold them there, under your left thumb, jogged to the right for about three-quarters of their width. Move the Joker to the right, clear of the Aces, then

NOTE: What I've described are only the essentials. The logic of the routine can be improved, however, with a more elaborate sequence: When you've turned over the double card, displaying the Joker, take it onto the deck so only about one quarter of it overlaps. Hold it in place with your left thumb. Next move your right hand to pick up the tabled Aces but intentionally have difficulty due to the hard, slippery table surface. After an attempt or

two, abandon the effort and move your right hand back to take hold of the Joker (double card). Take the card(s) into right-hand Pinch Grip and move to the table to use it as a scoop; then continue with the add-on. This brief sequence makes it clear, without a word being spoken, why you use the Joker as a scoop throughout the routine. I consider this sequence nonessential but quite useful in reinforcing the logic for what might otherwise be a questionable action.

Place the Joker aside, face up, near the right front corner of your working area. Deal the top four cards (believed to be Aces) in a left to right backward diagonal line (Figure 31).

Explain that you will place three cards on 31

each Ace and illustrate by spreading off the top three cards. Square the three, forming a break beneath them. Deal off the top four cards from the deck into right-hand Dealing Grip, counting them as three while reversing and rearranging their order. That is, take the top card; then take two as one, facilitated by the break you formed under the top three cards; and take one more card to complete the count. Square the cards as you place them back onto the deck. Stop and say, "Let me be fairer. I'll show them to you." (The function of this first count is to displace the Ace of Diamonds, not to false count four cards as three.)

Spread off the top three cards and two additional ones in a short sideways ribbon (Figure 32). With the right hand, take the top three cards, in spread condition, into Overhand Grip. Pull the remaining two cards back square with the pack, forming a break under them as you do so. Rotate your right hand briefly palm up to show the faces of the cards. Fairly square the three cards against your left thumb and deposit them onto the leftmost tabled card (an indifferent card believed to be the Ace of Clubs).

The right hand again approaches the deck from above and lifts off the two cards above the break as though they were one. Move these cards to the right

and spread the next two cards over to complete a supposedly three- (actually four-) card spread. Lift this spread away from the deck and rotate your right hand palm up, showing the three faces. Rotating the right hand palm down, square the left edge of the spread against the left thumb and secretly drop off the bottom card of the four. No break is required to accomplish this drop-off. It's made possible by controlling the angle at which pressure is applied as you push the spread closed against your left thumb (Figure 33). Try it a few times and you'll acquire the feel. Deposit the three cards that remain onto the second tabled card from the left, the Ace of Clubs. This packet will now contain both the Ace of Clubs and the Ace of Diamonds.

7 Duplicate the look of the sequence you've just performed (Step 6), showing three cards, then squaring, but actually place only one card on the third Ace. Again, pressure as you close the spread against your left thumb substitutes for a break.

8 Repeat the preceding sequence but remove no cards. Instead, simulate the placing of cards onto the last Ace. At the same time, to cover this deception, reach across to the front right corner of your working area with your left hand, which still holds the deck, and pick up the Joker with your thumb and first two fingers.

NOTE: Some will worry about pretending to put three cards onto the last Ace while actually placing none. Some will worry about placing one card as three on the third Ace. Some people like to worry. In situations where people are close enough to grab the cards (as in bars) the concern may be somewhat justified. You need to be able to judge your audience. If you don't feel confident you can control your spectators, this is not a handling you should choose to use. In a formal performance environment you can be confident this ruse will pass completely undetected. You have established the action of placing three cards on each Ace with the first two Aces. By the time the third and fourth Aces are reached, the audience will have relaxed its scrutiny sufficiently so that they will not notice. The act of reaching across to pick up the Joker, coincident with the supposed placement of cards on the last Ace, is further insurance that the deception will not be detected. The point when the situation might most be suspected is just before the final Ace packet is scooped up. By the time that moment arrives there should be other issues on the spectators' minds, so it is extremely unlikely the swindle will be recognized. If this method is reserved for more formal

performance situations, where the distances are slightly greater, the dodge will unquestionably pass unsuspected.

For those who just can't bring themselves to be quite this bold, I offer two alternatives: You can place one card on the last Ace. This will require that you perform a false count at the end, when you reveal the four Aces to have arrived in the final packet. Alternately, you can place your card box on the last Ace, apparently to preclude tampering. You make the call.

Place the deck aside and pause to patter with only the face-up Joker in your hand. You might want to remind the audience that each of the Aces has three cards on it. (In reality, the first packet contains four indifferent cards; the second contains two indifferent cards and the Aces of Clubs and Diamonds; the third contains only two cards, an indifferent card and the Ace of Hearts; and the fourth packet consists of only the Ace of Spades.) Tap the tops of the first and second packets with the Joker. You may choose to explain that the Joker has special properties.

Use the face-up Joker to scoop up the first, leftmost, Ace packet, which is, of course, face down. Still using the Joker as an aid, flip the four cards face up into left-hand dealing position and spread them to reveal there is no Ace. Duck the Joker face up under the packet. Deal the four cards to the spot from which they came in a short face-up spread. When you deal these cards, in-jog the second card from the face in preparation for a break you will need to pick up later. It will appear that the first Ace has vanished, with its transposition soon to be revealed.

Use the face-up Joker to scoop up the second packet as you did the first. Flip these four cards face up into left-hand dealing position and spread them to reveal two Aces, the Ace of Clubs at the face and the Ace of Diamonds at the back. Duck the Joker face up under the packet. Deal the four cards from the pile into a spread at the spot where the face-down Ace packet sat, first laying down the two indifferent cards, then the Ace of Clubs followed by the Ace of Diamonds. There is nothing fancy about this, simply deal the cards out of order. It will be accepted as a means of increasing the clarity of the effect.

Turn the Joker face down and use it to scoop up the leftmost face-up spread of four indifferent cards. Flip the scooped packet face down into left-hand Dealing Grip. The Joker will be face-up on top. Obtain a break under three cards (Joker, indifferent card, indifferent card). With a little care you can preserve the in-jog you created earlier and convert it to a break in the process of scooping up the spread and squaring it. In a pinch, should you miss this break, you can use a Pull Down on the bottom two cards (also see my Splay Grip, page 382). Pause to comment upon the trip of the first Ace into the second packet.

Take the three cards (face-up Joker and two face-down indifferent cards) from the top of the left-hand packet as one, in right-hand Pinch Grip. Use these three cards to scoop up the second face-up spread (two indifferent cards and two Aces). Carry the entire packet to the left hand's packet and flip the four cards of the spread face down. Keep the scoop card(s) close to the packet so you can follow by dropping the Joker and the two cards below it on top of the packet. It is possible to deposit the cards hidden beneath the Joker on top of the packet without releasing your hold on the Joker. The action is very much like that used in a KM. Move. This is arguably more logical, but is also more difficult. I don't think it worth the risk of the cards falling out of alignment, but that's a personal conclusion. Assuming you release the Joker, the packet will read from the top down: face-up Joker, four face-down indifferent cards, face-down Ace of Clubs, face-down Ace of Diamonds and two face-down indifferent cards.

Take the Joker into your right hand and deal the top four cards from the left-hand packet to the table, in second position, one handed. Use the Joker to help square the tabled packet. Tap the tops of the second and third packets with the Joker, as a magical gesture or pointer. As you do this, secure a break under the top two cards in the left hand. A two-card Pull Down does the job better than a Push-Off and re-square.

Use the face-up Joker to scoop up the second packet in preparation to reveal the vanish. The scooped packet is deposited face down on the left hand's four cards, with the Joker face up beneath it. Deal the top four cards face up into the second position, in-jogging the second card from the face as you do. The two Aces have vanished. The face-up Joker is now the top card of the left hand's packet. You should be holding a break below three cards.

Take the three cards, as one, into right-hand Pinch Grip and use them as a scoop to pick up the third Ace packet (an Ace and an indifferent card). Carry this packet to the left hand and deposit all of the cards except the Joker onto the left-hand packet, forming a break under all. The Joker is slipped out of the packet in a gesture to the right and is then brought back to the packet and inserted into the break. Square the cards.

Deal the top four cards (an indifferent card and the Aces of Hearts, Clubs and Diamonds) into a face-up spread on the table. The face-up Joker and two facedown indifferent cards remain in the left hand.

Turn the Joker face down and use it to scoop up the leftmost face-up spread of indifferent cards. Flip the scooped packet over onto the left hand's two cards, bringing the face-up Joker to the top. Form a break under four cards (the Joker and three indifferent cards) as you square. This is facilitated by the in-jogged card you set in the tabled spread. Pause to comment on the traveling of the Aces.

Take the four cards from the top of the left-hand packet into right-hand Pinch Grip and use these cards to scoop up the face-up spread (an indifferent card and the Aces of Hearts, Clubs and Diamonds). Carry the entire packet to the left hand and flip the four cards of the spread face down. Keep the scoop card(s) close to the packet so you can drop the Joker and the three cards below it on top. The packet will read, from the top down: face-up Joker, four face-down indifferent cards, Ace of Hearts, Ace of Clubs, Ace of Diamonds and three face-down indifferent cards. Here again, it is possible to deposit the cards hidden beneath the Joker onto the packet without releasing your hold on the Joker. The choice of techniques is yours.

Take the Joker into the right hand and deal the top four cards from the left-hand packet into the third position on the table, one-handed. Use the Joker to help square the packet. Tap the tops of the third and fourth packets with the Joker and, as you do so, form a break under the top three cards in the left hand. This is the most difficult break to pick up in the routine. I use a thumb count because I find it the surest method under these conditions, without looking. If you find a better technique (the obvious Triple Buckle or Pinky Count don't qualify), let me know.

Scoop up the third Ace packet and deposit it face down onto the left hand's six cards. Leave the Joker face up in the packet. Deal the four face-down cards into a face-up spread back into their spot on the table. The face-up Joker is now the top card of the left hands packet. The Aces have vanished and you should be holding a break below four cards.

Take the four cards, as one, into right-hand Pinch Grip and use them as a scoop. You'll need to keep your hand in motion to prevent the thickness from being observed. If you used the box as cover for the last Ace, you'll need to move it just before you proceed. Scoop up the fourth Ace "packet" but hold it in your right hand for a moment.

Turn your left hand palm down and pick up the tabled spread of indifferent cards from the third position. Place all these cards face down on top of the deck, which should be off to your left. You are simply clearing away the clutter.

Transfer all the cards, except the Joker, from the right hand to left-hand Dealing Grip. Maintain your grip on the Joker and deal it to the right. This will require that you slip it from the left-hand packet. Once the Joker is tabled face up to the right, return your attention to the left-hand cards. Deal them into a face-up line from the near left to the far right, revealing the four Aces to conclude the effect. If you wimped out and placed a card on the last Ace, you'll need a false display here. Since the extra card is the top card of the packet, turning the packet face up and dealing three cards to the table will leave you with a double (the Ace of Spades and an indifferent card) as the last card. You can use it to scoop the tabled Aces and flip everything face down into your left hand. Dropping the deck on top cleans up the evidence of the extra card.

NOTES: 1 am not convinced that this treatment of the Progressive Ace premise is anywhere near ideal. I haven't, at this point, performed it enough to comment meaningfully on how well it plays for lay audiences. I do know that it is easy to perform and well constructed. It has a small number of vulnerabilities. Those that exist are fairly well covered. The one factor that prevents me from endorsing this routine more fully is the assumption that the audience perceives the scoop action as innocent. I did not invent the Scoop Addition. It is, I believe, a Mario concept (The Linking Ring Vol. 34, No. 11, January 1955, page 82), though the same action is associated with the Mexican Turnover. The same type of problem exists with the Curry Turnover Change and similar sleights. The magic community has felt ambivalence over such moves for many years. I believe the Scoop Addition is less suspect than the Mexican Turnover. I don't know how much less suspect. The conclusion under which I currently proceed is that these techniques are accepted as natural. Still, at some level, audience members realize that the actions, however natural, could, at least partially, explain the effects they are witnessing. One might argue that such attitudes exist for many techniques in many effects. This is no doubt true. This, in my view, obliges us to examine the moves we elect to use under a critical light. We cannot blindly accept that such techniques are deceptive. In this case, the jury is still out.

Section T^ree

Packet Effects

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