November 7 1995

After Hours Magic: A Book of Al Thatcher Card Magic

Encyclopedia of Card Tricks

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four-as-four counts that hide two cards while showing two, in the handling style of the Elmsley Count, have been offered before. With few exceptions, such counts have found limited proponents. My good friend Noel Coughlin suggests that the lack of popularity is related to the lack of applications. It is certainly true that there is a dearth of material that takes specific advantage of such counts. I am reluctant, however, to accept that the fraternity is that shortsighted. I contend the primary problem with previous counts of this sort has been their technical difficulty. Secondarily, psychological factors, which I'll later address, come into play.

I have chosen to class all Four-as-Four counts that hide two cards as Faf-Two (Rhymes with laugh-two) Counts. Within this class are three categories of approach: Swap, Mask and Combined techniques. The Hamman Two-for-Four Count, described in The Pallbearers Review, Seventh Folio (Summer 1972, page 539) is a pure swap approach. It would be referred to as a Faf-Two S Count. The technique used in Daryl Martinez' marketed routine, "Chameleon Cards," is also a pure swap approach. The technique alluded to in my Carry Count description (Pasteboard Perpensions, page 4) is a pure masking technique. This would be referred to as a Faf-Two M Count. The treatment offered herein—the best to date, in my opinion—is a combined approach. It begins with a swap and concludes with a masking technique. It is a Faf-Two C Count. All these terms may be unclear at this point. They will gain clarity as the discussion continues.

Swap-type counts all involve swapping one card for three and three cards for one. This is done twice to simulate counting four cards. When one takes one card on the first count and swaps that one for the three-card packet on the second count, you then swap three for one on the count of three and conclude by placing the three cards, as one, onto the single left-hand card on the count of four. This makes the distribution of cards on counts three and four markedly disparate from what they should be. This disparity happens at a particularly problematic point because it is harder to maintain alignment at this stage of the count. (This is part of the psychological factor I mentioned.)

Conversely, taking three on the first count, swapping for one on the second, back to three on the third and, finally, one on the count of four, is better. It presents two problems however: First, the initial condition of the packet to be counted must be that the cards you wish to hide are sandwiched between the cards you actually count (unless you use the OPEC approach, which is illogical). Moreover, this is not the position one would typically be in, following a Half Pass for example. This necessitates additional packet handling. Further, this position does not recycle in the count.

The second problem is that on the count of one, three cards must be taken into the taking hand. This is brazen and somewhat intimidating for some performers. (The psychological factor again.) In sum, the swap approach is quite problematic, though certainly not unworkable.

Mask-style counts are easier to perform and don't require a beginning sandwiched condition. They do, however, suffer somewhat from the intimidation factor referred to in the three-one-three-one swap approach. I confess I don't find the problem as daunting in a mask-style count. It is, nevertheless, a factor. Still, for some purposes, a pure mask type count is quite viable.

The count about to be described is the happiest balance of the factors we've discussed in the swap- and mask-style counts. There is, however, one new skill that must be acquired to make the count smooth: the "Splay Grip." As it is a useful ability for any number of other purposes as well, it will be well worth the effort required to learn it.

THE FAF-TWO C COUNT OPENING POSITION: For practice purposes use two red-backed and two blue-backed cards or two face-up and two face-down cards. The packet should begin in Red-Red-Blue-Blue order. The cards that are to be counted start in right-hand Flexible-Count Grip, the right side of the packet pinched between the thumb above and the first two fingers below, while the right fourth fingertip rests against the right inner corner of the packet. This provides an alignment-stop for the cards taken back into the right hand. The cards will be counted into left-hand Dealing Grip (see page 54, which addresses this issue at greater length).

On the count of one, use the left thumb to drag the top card of the packet into left-hand Dealing Grip.

On the count of two, take the three cards from the right hand onto the one in the left, aligning them as well as you can. As the hands separate, use the right fingertips to drag the bottom card from under the left-hand cards. This action is much like performing a Jordan Count.

The new skill required in the count occurs next. As soon as the hands separate, after the count of two, the left hand must perform a two-card Pull-Down on its three-card packet. This becomes fairly easy due to the finesse I'm about to describe, but the finesse is a knack that is difficult to explain. Once you get it, it's easy. Until you do, it will seem nearly impossible. Keep working on it and your hand will learn the feel.


With the packet in left-hand Mechanic's Grip (first finger on the front edge), exert inward and downward pressure with your left first finger on the right front edge (not the corner) of the packet. At the same time, squeeze rightward with the base of the left thumb. Simultaneously, and most critically, with the pad of the left thumb, press downward and diagonally forward to the left on the top of the front left of the packet. In effect, you're sliding the top card against the rearward pressure of the first finger at the front, and the right inward pressure of the base of the thumb at the side, and the left diagonally forward pressure of the pad of the thumb. This causes the card to buckle upward at the inner right corner. The packet will take on a light reverse S-configuration when viewed from the corner. If you've done everything correctly and exerted enough pressure, the three cards will separate from each other. (The pressure dynamic here is that used by Harvey Rosenthal in his Pop-Up Move in Karl Fulves' Packet Switches [Part Three], 1977, page 184.) The top card will bow upward slightly. The bottom card will bow downward and the middle card will remain essentially straight, bowing slightly downward. You should clearly see the edges of each of the three cards, with about a quarter of an inch between them (Figure 288). Once you can get the packet to splay in this way, pulling down the bottom two cards is easy. I should point out that this splay effect occurs in packets comprised of more than three cards. This gives the Splay Grip broad applications in establishing breaks with small, multi-card packets.

On the count of three, place the right hand s card onto the left's cards and steal back the single card above the break from the left-hand cards. This action is also like a Jordan Count, but is done above two cards. When the hands separate there will be three cards in the left hand and one in the right.

The count of four is easy. Relax all breaks and fairly take the last of the right hand's cards onto the left hand's.

NOTE: The only point where the numeric distribution of cards is other than what you purport it to be is on the count of two. The distribution is correct on counts one, three and four. It is off by only one in each packet on the count of two. This is the time when a discrepant distribution is least detectable and is one of the strengths of this approach.

APPLICATION NOTES: One example of a situation in which this count would be useful is a Four-Card Brainwave effect. If you're performing such an effect with a magical presentation, you might want to show all four cards face down before the spectator names a suit. (See my "Four-Card Heisenberg" in ONYX, Vol. 2, No. 1, October 1998, page 10.) Since the packet consists of two face-up and two face-down cards, the Faf-Two C Count could be ideal.

The Faf-Two C Count can also serve as a form of face-up Gemini Move or Virgo Move. This is essentially the purpose to which Daryl applies the Faf-Two S Count in his "Chameleon Cards."

A Faf-Two C Count is also a substitute for a Hamman or Veeser Count in a four-card packet. It replaces an Elmsley or Jordan Count where no displacement is acceptable. No doubt other applications are possible. I leave them to the reader's ingenuity.

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