push-OFF—Let me begin by saying that my developmental view of the Push-Off approach is chronologically incorrect and I know it. I take this seemingly odd approach because it helps my understanding of the Second Deal. I could readily appreciate argument for a different perspective. What is important to me is functional relationship rather than chronology. I pay homage to the developmental relationship only in passing, as it is largely irrelevant for the purposes of magic. There are, historically, remarkably few magic-related uses of the Second Deal and in nearly all instances method is irrelevant to the application.

Two Card Push-Off—The Two-Card Push-Off Second Deal is well exemplified by two major approaches. One is best typified by the description in Erdnase (page 58), where the deck is beveled, giving the thumb access to the front edge of the top two cards. The other is described in Expert Card Technique (pages 13-16), where the thumb's pressure forces some of its flesh over the edge of the top card until it engages the second card. There is even a combined technique described in Buckley's Card Control {page 120). These approaches are all difficult to execute reliably because one must confront many variables. The brand and condition of the deck, the moisture and softness of the thumb's skin and the number of cards in the deck all have significant impact for even the most experienced Two-Card Push-Off Dealer. I surmise that, were it not for the excellent illusion these deals create, even given the characteristic push-off action common to such deals, they might well have fallen completely from favor. As it is, the Two-Card Push-Off Second Deal has fallen from most popular (based on the literature) to a distant third behind other techniques (based on personal observation). Such is the stuff of progress.

One-Card Push-Off—Many of what are often thought of as Two-Card Push-Off techniques could more accurately be called One-Card Push-Off or Multi-Card Push-Off techniques, depending on one's perspective. I prefer the designation One-Card Push-Off. The literature in the earliest period of their published development (Sharps and Flats, The Expert at the Card Table and later in Mario's Side Push-Off Second Deal, page 41 of Seconds, Centers, Bottoms) called for pushing off cards from the top of the deck in a rough spread. The thumb could then be placed on the upper card while the fingers of the gripping hand immobilized, or sometimes helped to push out, the second card. The taking hand could then remove the second card while the top card was retained or adjusted back toward the top of the deck. Such deals were fairly easy of execution but produced only a limited illusion, even of the negative type. (Just as a reminder, a negative illusion is the appearance that the top card must have been taken because no other card could have been.) Perhaps the best example of this type of deal is described as "Another method" on page 59 of Erdnase. Deals of this type have completely fallen from favor, with the exception of a few individuals who still use this approach for End-Take style Deals.

The One-Card Push-Off techniques that remain and grow in popularity today are the progeny of the Vernon New Theory Second Deal (Dai Vernon's Further Inner Secrets of Card Magic, 1961, page 52). Ron Bauer has discovered that the essence of Vernon's New Theory Second appears in Dariel Fitzkee's translation of Maurice Sardina's 1949 book, The Magic ofRezvani, attributed to Rezvani (page 26). It is worth mention that Charlie Miller is therein reported to have been impressed with Rezvani's performance. In light of the close association between Miller and Vernon, it is difficult to believe that Vernon would not have been made aware of Miller's observations prior to 1961. Reviewing the Fitzkee description will permit each reader to reach his own conclusions about how much Vernon may have added to or refined the then ten-year-old technique. My judgment is that, while poorly described, all but the Take mechanics are the same, though the timing of the top-card movement may be argued. It is, nevertheless, likely that Vernon, not having witnessed the Rezvani performance, may have re-invented Rezvani's technique based largely, if not solely, on Miller's description.

In any case, my friend Russell Barnhart has published his treatment of the One-Card Push-Off in a pamphlet called Two Second Deals (1974). Derek Dingle has a One-Handed version that combines elements of the comical "Snow-Shoe Second" with the "New Theory" or One-Card Push-Off to produce a Deal that is no joke. It has one of the finest Positive Illusions of any deal I've ever seen. It appeared as "New Theory on Vernon's New Theory Second Deal" in Derek's 1982 opus, The Complete Works of Derek Dingle (page 160). My own treatment of the New Theory Second addresses the problems many experienced with the Vernon deal: ease and reliability. Many found the Vernon deal exceptionally difficult because deck condition was such a major issue, making the deal unreliable because one too often came up "empty" (with no card at all). Much of the problem is psychological because the fundamental, defining element of the New Theory Second is easy. The New Theory, in my opinion, is that the tip of the thumb can push the top card while the inner part, near the joint, pushes the second card. I am persuaded that my Sure Theory Second Deal solves all of the problems. It is, in my biased opinion, the best of the breed to date (see Pasteboard Perpensions, page 28).

no Push-Off or Dead Thumb—If one conceives of the relationship between Two-Card Push-Off and One-Card Push-Off Deals as purely numerical, the next logical thought is a No-Card Push-Off. As it happens, there are No-Card Push-Off Deals. They can be thought of as bridging the gap between Push-Off Deals and Strike type Deals. The three principal No-Card Push-Off deals are the Master Method of Walter Scott (The Phantom of The Card Table, circa 1930, page 10), the Ghostly Second of Vynn Boyar (Ghostly Seconds, 1949) and the No Touch Theory Second of Mario (Seconds, Centers, Bottoms, page 124). These techniques incorporate a theory that has come to be known as "Dead Thumb." They are actually Strike Deals. They are called Dead Thumb because the thumb of the gripping hand moves only because the thumb of the taking hand pushes it. I confess that the fundamental notion behind these deals has never persuaded me. That notion, to wit, if no card is pushed off, the only card that could have been taken is the top card, is at the core of all Dead Thumb Deals. In my opinion, building the entire theory of a deal on a negative illusion is a highly questionable practice. Moreover, having seen a handful of individuals perform such deals and having experimented with them myself, I remain unconvinced that they succeed even on their own terms. It may even be argued that "freezing" the thumb draws undue focus to the top of the deck.

strike—If you aren't convinced by the logic or illusion created by Dead Thumb Deals, you can go back to pushing off the top card, but this time with no effort to move the second card. Once the top card is out of the way, however slightly, one can "strike" the second card with the side of the taking thumb, driving it over the fingers' side of the deck. When the edge of the struck card is over far enough, the second finger and thumb of the taking hand can complete the removal of the card. While this is done, the thumb of the gripping hand can pull the top card back flush with the deck. That's the essence of all Strike Deals. In the heyday of the Strike Deal, dealers would brag about how little they moved the top card, how fine their "brief" was. This attitude was born of the same misguided notion as the Dead Thumb Deals: If the top card does not move, then it must be the top card being dealt. When I first learned the Strike Second Deal (from Expert Card Technique) I learned it this way. Boy, was I wrong.

TAKE—Some time in the early 1960's I met and became friendly with Francis Carlyle. When he saw that I could already deal an "acceptable" Second, and a Bottom (after a fashion), he elected to "set me straight." It was Francis who taught me the idea of the Take Second Deal. (The designation is mine though the technique was his.) Francis insisted that it didn't matter how far you opened the brief as long as you opened it at the right time. According to him, the right time was when the thumb of the taking hand was over it. He reasoned that as long as the thumb was over it, a viewer could not determine the size of the brief. The outgrowth of this thesis is that the brief could be opened wide enough to permit the entire pad of the taking hand's thumb to contact the second card. The gripping hand's thumb could then wait until after the taking hand's second finger had a hold on the second card before pulling the top card back. This Take approach allows a much softer, smoother, more reliable and more natural looking Deal. The interesting thing is that many former Strike Dealers, once putting ego aside, have gradually converted to more Take style Deals without acknowledging, or even necessarily recognizing, that they have done so. It has never been clear to me whether Carlyle actually invented this modified approach. I know he claimed the specifics of his way of dealing it, but perhaps not the underlying concept. He never published this technique but after his death it was included in Roger Pierre's The Magic of Francis Carlyle (1975, page 163) without resolving the scope of Francis' claim. Finally, while he describes a form of Strike Deal, Bill Simon, in his book Effective Card Magic, offers the best pedagogical approach to Second Dealing I have ever read. While the text may or may not have been written by Jean Hugard, the pedagogy was Simon's. It should be required reading for anyone who wants to learn to do a Second Deal. He also describes some of the most interesting Second Deal effects extant.

side strike—a more obscure form of Strike Deal, not often seen, moves the point where contact is made to the finger-side edge of the deck. There are few descriptions of this type of deal in print (but see Mario's Movie Second and Deep Second in Seconds, Centers, Bottoms, pages 54 and 56 respectively). While I've never put in any serious work on this type of Deal, the few people I've seen use them have gotten a strong negative illusion from a very natural looking Deal. Slydini had a version {New York Magic Symposium, Close-Up Collection One, 1982, page 65). Krenzel's version of Slydini's Deal appears in the same volume (page 68). Finally, in Richard Turner's two-volume video, The Cheat, he performs an interesting hybrid of the Push-Off and Side Strike techniques. The Side Strike concept is worthy of further exploration.


The scope of action elements related to Second Deal techniques is wider than those for Bottom Deals. The definition of such elements, however, remains the same: everything and anything that makes a deal easier, smoother or more efficient, except techniques addressed at creating deceptiveness or illusion. Deceptiveness and illusion relate to cover. Because the scope of this topic is so wide, I can no more readily take a systematic approach here than I could for the Bottom Deal, however useful such an analysis would be. This section will, nevertheless, touch on the major points.


Most of the Action elements applicable to the Bottom Deal apply to Second Deals as well. In fact, some, such as the Necktie, are more effective. Wrist Swinging, Wrist Turning, Bobbing and Reverse Necktieing (an approach advocated by Simon Lovell in Second to None: A Specialist Book on the Art of Second

Dealing, 1993) are also useful to the Second Dealer when used judiciously. A problem tends to arise when it is assumed that if a little action is good, more is better. As a result, some False Dealers begin to look like sailors sending semaphore. They fail to realize that their actions become "tells" that can be read from across the room. What is most troubling about the excessive action is that it is so prevalent many perpetrators have only a vague idea of why they are using it. Why, as an example, would one work on a Dead Thumb Second and then hide the illusion they've worked so hard to perfect by taking the top card out of view with a Necktie? Is there some fundamental flaw in their Second Deal that must be covered, or is it that they've chosen deals that produce no illusion and are trying to hide that fact? If lack of illusion is the problem, and one can't, for whatever reason, use a more deceptive deal, then a small Necktie action is sufficient. If a lazy top card is the problem, fix the problem, don't incorporate a Wrist Swing or, worse, an Elbow Swing. One might add an action to match one's Bottom Deal but that's a different issue. You get the idea. The state of Second Deal development has advanced far enough to make the need for heavy action rare. My best advice is to confine any action except Carry to tone deck-thickness up and down, ±one deck-width side to side and ±a half deck-length front to back. That's about a three inch by six inch by six inch space. More is excessive. Less is more.

Was this article helpful?

+1 0

Post a comment