thanks to uncounted man-years of development, representing the toil of a host of innovative contributors, all Ambitious Card routines today are essentially personalizations. It has been asserted that such personalized routines no longer contribute to the existing glut of Ambitious Card material. Following that line of reasoning, some seem to argue, no other Ambitious Card routines should see print. I strongly disagree with this proposition, and I intend to hold my routine up for examination by way of making the point. I fully realize that none of you are likely to use this routine as written, however much it is of a piece. You will—as I did with others—borrow, adapt and modify its parts in personalizing your own routine. This is as it should be, and you are welcome to do so. I believe my routine makes a genuine contribution, but that judgment is ultimately yours.
My presentation coherently holds my routine together through a carefully chosen number of iterations, almost every one different from the others, yet each similar enough to remain completely true to the plot and premise—in marked contrast to the gross departures included in many routines. Nearly every iteration in my routine introduces some new, original, modified or novel element, whether presentational, methodological, technical or perceptional in effect-condition. I believe that these elements, including refinements that reflect thirty years of development and experience, permit me to bring an insight that more than justifies its inclusion in this book. Moreover, I've invested too much of myself in the development of this routine, and too many magicians who have seen it—some on numerous occasions—impatiently await its publication, so that they may be permitted to perform it.
I'll assume you already know the Ambitious Card plot. Starting from the beginning, I depart from the typical approach, I use a face-up Moveable Card Pass as my opening. As best I can determine, I was the first to conceive this idea—not the technique, of course, which is usually used as a control, but the application. (I recently learned that Paul Cummins independently developed the same idea many years after I did.) This opening sequence positions you to have the card signed, while it's on the face of the deck, and prepare for a Triple Lift, which greatly facilitates the first two iterations, making them appear very fair.
The recurring presentational element that drives my routine is established in the first conventional demonstration of the effect: my statement that I'm placing the card into the middle when I'm actually placing it elsewhere. Of course, the spectators disagree with the statement, though often that dispute is not voiced. This "conflict" motivates the next near-duplication of the previous sequence and presentationally impels the balance of the routine. From that point on, each sequence is different and, in various ways, slightly more impossible. Further, until the closing sequence, you maintain the pattern of the card being inserted into the deck, the spot being questioned and the card returning to the top, where you can begin again. The number of iterations—seven—was modeled after Vernon's routine—though mine is one iteration shorter because I work more slowly than the Professor did.
"Coming Up in the World," my third sequence (the fourth and fifth iterations), is now classic and included in nearly every modern Ambitious Card routine. Alan Ackerman stated that it was "One of the three most important moves of the twentieth century." This statement allows me great pride.
My next sequence, using the Pass or the Covered Side Steal, is unique and original with me, though it seems others have adopted the sequence since I started doing it some thirty years ago. Here again, the history should be known. Further, this sequence puts the lie to claims that the Pass can't be done under fire. It can; it has, through thousands of performances; I do it.
The modified action on the Hofzinser Change, as I perform it, is referred to in the text as "The Peel Change." The technical difference from the Hofzinser Change is small but important, and the application is novel. It is new and very strong—people literally jump when the card changes and reverses at the same time. This is a phase that many will, I'm confident, adopt, now that it's published. It is one of the easiest and most strikingly visual Ambitious Card moves extant. You may not like this move, as it presents little technical challenge, but your audiences will.
The palm-off of the top card, as I perform it, is standard in almost all particulars, but few working performers regularly use a Palm Transfer in their work. I have for many years and I do to this day. Moreover, the Simulated Shuffle Cover Action, with the card Palmed, has been adopted by others but is original with me, though some may have independently discovered it as well. All that said, the Card to Wallet ending includes a technique that Derek Dingle and I worked out together many years ago (circa 1974), for speed-loading a wallet. This allows you to load a wallet about as fast as you can get your hand into and out of your pocket. It is long overdue that the history of this technique be shared, particularly since Frank Garcia, and perhaps others, seem to have insinuated the technique was theirs. I hasten to add that it has always struck me that the Card to Wallet is a non-sequitur ending for the Ambitious Card plot. Moreover, at least in the case of my routine, it is weaker than the cumulative impact of the balance of the routine. Nevertheless, it is the ending I use, and if one is going to employ it, one should use the best combination of techniques available. That should include my Palm Transfer and the Speed Load. These simple touches are shared here, detailed for the first time in print.
I have always had some dissatisfaction with the presentation of the Ambitious Card plot. All Ambitious Card routines, including mine, suffer from some as yet unidentified missing presentational element. My dissatisfaction is based on my feeling that there should be something more to the premise than there is in any routine I've read or seen, even my own. Honesty demands that I admit this—though I can't help but believe that others have felt it and failed to confess it. Nevertheless, I feel that my routine better balances the presentational elements that must be addressed in an Ambitious Card routine; it's just not perfect. It's all it can be but not all it might be. Whatever my hope that someday I'll find the missing presentational hook, I highly commend this routine for your consideration. Use what you feel fits your style and integrates well with your own efforts. Carefully consider, if you will, the internal logic and progression of the routine. All these elements contribute and can take you a long way toward improving your own treatment of this classic plot. I'm confident everyone will find something useful in studying this construction.
REQUIREMENTS: You will need a normal deck of cards and a wallet of your choice, from which to produce the card at the end of the routine. There are a wide variety of gimmicked wallets, including the Washington (a.k.a. LePaul, a.k.a. Jennings) Wallet and the Mullica Wallet. I have used a few of these at various times. I have never noticed a significant difference in reaction from spectators. Use the type with which you feel most comfortable. I will tell you flatly, I am a proponent of what has come to be known, however questionably, as the Balducci-Kaps Wallet. I have owned one since the earliest models were made by Willie Schneider for Ed Balducci. 1 have used one, almost exclusively, for well over thirty years; I'm not about to change now.
Spread the deck face up between your hands and slightly in-jog the card second from the face in the process. Address a spectator with the request, "Name any card you see." As soon as the card is named, I say, a bit too emphatically, "Where the heck [depending on the crowd, this expletive may be stronger] is that?" This keeps focus on the card, since I've observed that people tend to look away once they've voiced a choice. When I've located the named card, I openly separate the spread just above the point where it lies. The named card thus becomes the card at the face of the left-hand portion. This emphasizes that the card is in the middle. I then reunite the two portions of the spread.
Execute Mario's Moveable Card Pass (New Tops, Vol. 9, No. 3, March 1969, page 27) to bring the named card to the face of the deck.
To refresh the recollection of those who may have over-looked or forgotten the Moveable Card Pass, the following brief description should serve. The technique is quite easy to perform. With the deck spread from left hand to right, place your left thumb on the exposed portion of the card you wish to move (the target card). In this case, this is the named card. Your left fingertips contact the under-surfaces of the cards to the left of (beneath) the target card. The length of your right fingers contact the undersurfaces of the cards to the right of the target card. Bending your arms at the elbows, raise both hands until the upper surfaces—in this case, the faces—are fully obscured from the view of the spectators.
Simultaneously, bend your left thumb, dragging the target card to the left without displacing any of the other cards (Figure 132). The target card should slide out of the spread until its right side clears the card above and to the right of it, which is held by the right hand.
As soon as the target card is freed, apply downward pressure with the right spread on the left spread. At the same time, move the hands toward each other, closing the spread. The right-hand portion of the spread should pass under the target card, which continues to be held in position by the left thumb
(Figure 133). When the last of the right-hand cards is sure to pass below the target card, the move is effectively done. The deck will still, however, be in an unsquared condition. Your right hand can release its hold and take its time in moving to Overhand Grip, where it completes the squaring. The target card will be uppermost as you finish squaring the cards.
NOTE: It isn't necessary, or even particularly helpful, to look at your hands as you perform this move. One can readily learn the feel of the technique. Feel is actually a better gauge, as the eyes tend to lead one to make the action larger than is necessary for success. Look at the cards as you learn it initially but practice it while you watch TV or in the dark; you'll develop a finer technique. In performance, I look at the spectator to whom I'm working and I usually ask a question. I find this the best approach.
During the necktie action of this sleight, look at the spectator and say, "Approximately how far from the face of the deck would you say your card is?" The spectator will think a moment. While the deck is held with its back toward the audience, square the spread, forming a fourth-finger break at the in-jog you created earlier; that is, under three cards.
Regardless of where the spectator guesses the named card might be, lower your left hand to show the card and say, "You're close." Try not to sound clever with the remark; it is intended to be amiable, not sarcastic.
NOTES: I have not altered the handling of the Moveable Card Pass given from that described by Ed Mario. My sole contribution is how I apply the technique. It would appear from the published record that Mario had two primary applications for his technique. His principle application was as a control, as is reflected to some degree in the name he gave it. It is, when executed with a face-down deck, a fine card control. His other application is as a means of secretly culling cards—akin to the Under-the-Spread Cull and the Mario Prayer Cull, an expansion of the Hofcinser technique. It is this application that comes closest to mine. I do cull a card but, distinct from the Mario notion, the result of the cull is revealed almost immediately. The difference parallels those of a Double Lift and a Top Change. Both turn on exchanging one card for another, more or less secretly. The perceived results, however, are quite different. The difference in audience response is also parallel. One may object to my claim of originality for having conceived the
idea of applying this technique in this, more immediate, way. Placing that objection aside without dismissing it, 1 maintain that this application contributes to the Ambitious Card plot. The response elicited from an audience when this sequence is well performed and properly timed is exceptional. No other application of the technique produces a reaction close to it in type or intensity, [f the discovery of an application of this strength is nor worthy of recording, my judgment on what constitutes entertaining magic is fundamentally flawed. I'm confident that is not the case.
If I'm working for a small group and/or there aren't other distractions, I'll use a different, superior, presentational ploy for this sequence: While the spectator is looking off, thinking or, having answered, looking at me as I speak, 1 lower my left hand. The named card is then staring up for all to see, yet they don't see it, as they are looking elsewhere. This is somewhat like the loss of focus that is produced in the Card Under Glass. Whatever the spectator's answer, I repeat it. I then slowly allow my gaze to lower to the face of the card. When I see it, I jump slightly, as though startled. This triggers the spectator to do likewise, as the fact that the card is on the face of the deck registers. This usually initiates a pleasant laugh. I then say, "You're close."
Have the spectator initial the face of the named card. Some address must be given to this matter. My routine, like most others, is designed to be performed in walk-around situations. Often there is no table available. This makes signing a card physically awkward for the spectator. I, therefore, usually request the spectator's initials only, unless a bar or other such surface is very close. Without a table, juggling the deck, a Sharpie (my pen of choice) and its cap can be inelegant for the performer. The best solution I've found is to remove the pen with my right hand and hold it by its cap. I allow the spectator to pull the pen from its cap and initial the card while I hold the deck with the card on the face. With my right thumb and first finger I take back the pen from the spectator while holding the cap with my curled fourth finger (Figure 134). I can then re-cap the pen with just one hand (Figure 135).
If you try to take back both the pen and cap, or have the spectator try to insert the pen into the cap while you hold it, you are very likely to get ink on your hand unintentionally. Some sort of mark is important but not as important as one might think in this routine. This is related to my construction. Since the card is named from a face-up deck and its vanish from the deck occurs before its revelation in the wallet, and since that vanish happens with the deck in the spectators hands, the idea of duplicates is logically eliminated in the minds of spectators. Even so, the presence of a mark ties the spectator to the card, which does contribute to the impact. Moreover, in routines constructed differently from mine, an identifying mark may be imperative.
After the card is initialed, I execute the Two-Step Double Lift Hit Variation (here, to be precise, a Triple Lift), but other forms of Double Lift will also serve. At the completion of the Lift, your right hand should be holding the three cards as one, by the right near corner, between the right thumb above and the fingers below. Use the triple card to lever the deck face down in your left hand. Flip the Triple over, face down onto the deck.
With your left thumb at the front left corner of the deck, openly pull down the bottom card of the deck and insert the top card (the spectators believe this to be the named one) into the opening you've formed, second from the bottom (Figure 136). Push it square. As you do so, say, "I'll place the card in the exact middle or center of the deck." Some spectators may grumble that it's not going into the center. Most will be polite and not say anything, but they know. In any case, continue.
Ask the spectator where the card is, saying, "Roughly, how far from the top of the deck would you say the card is?" The spectator will probably tell you, "Second from the bottom," but all manner of guesses are possible. Pause for a moment, as though you are surprised by the response, then say, "Let's begin again." Simultaneous with the delivery of that line, execute the Two-Step Double Lift (Non-Hit Variation). Display the face of the named card, then flip the Double face down onto the deck and immediately remove the top card. (You can use the previously described Gordon Turnover Variation, page 164, and Unload Subdety, page 167, to accomplish this.) While your right hand holds the face-down card, say, "I place the card precisely in the middle of the deck." Insert the card near the bottom. It should be apparent to the spectator that it is going only a few cards from the bottom. Push it square.
"Now, roughly, how far from the top of the deck would you say the card is?" Your assisting spectator will likely respond that it is near the bottom or on the top. Regardless, simulate a Two-Step Double Lift as you say, "You're getting very close. Let's begin again." Raise the face-up card about six inches above the deck and drop it, allowing it to flip face down as it falls. You may not catch the card correcdy every time. Sometimes it will land face up on the deck, in which case you simply turn it face down on the pack. Either result is fine. The reason for the drop is to reinforce the singularity of the card without having to say anything about it.
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