The merlin pushthrough

THE SPLIT

split the pack, taking less than half from the top to the right. Place the adjacent inner corners together, just touching, with the packets at an approximate 165-degree angle to each other. (This angle has more to do with consistency with my Zarrow Shuffle than it does with the Push-Through technique.) Regrasp both packets along the sides, near the far ends, with the second, third and fourth fingers at the front side and the thumbs of each hand at the near side. All fingertips should rest on the table. The first fingers are curled, the first joints or the fingertips resting on top of their respective packets (Figure 221). These positions are not absolutely critical. Some people hold the packets for tabled riffle shuffles differendy. The hand positions, however, should be absolute mirror images of each other. I like an Open Shuffle Position, as described, but a Closed Position, with the hands nearer the adjacent ends of the packets, is not precluded. It is important that you have full control of the packets and you must shuffle lightly.

THE INTERLACE

Raise the thumbs, lifting each half of the deck, and slightly move both packets diagonally forward and toward each other. The cards should not visibly

bend. Release about a half-dozen cards from the left thumb. (If you're shuffling on a hard surface, you will find it helpful to create a larger bed on which to shuffle. You might want to drop as many as fifteen cards from the left thumb before the right-hand cards start to fall.) With no break in rhythm, drop about five cards from the right-hand stock. Still without pause, continue the actions with both thumbs until all the cards have been released and interlaced. Cards should fall from the left thumb last. I must stress, lightness is the most critical factor in this interlace process, regardless of the condition of the cards.

THE ALIGNMENT

When the corners are interwoven, move both hands toward the outer ends of the packets. Frame the extreme front corners with the second and third fingertips. That is, position the third fingers on the outer ends, near the front corners, and the second fingers on the front side of those corners. The balls of the thumbs should contact the near edges at the corners (Figure 222). The first fingers remain curled on their packets.

Squeeze firmly and lift the cards almost, but not quite, to the point of raising them off the work surface. Rotate the packets until they are parallel with each other, with roughly half the length of each packet interlaced. The packets should not bind.

You will now adjust the alignment of the cards in preparation for telescoping. To accomplish this, keep your second fingers on the front edge, but shift them to the extreme

corners of their respective packets. The thumbs take up the equivalent positions on the near edge. When this position has been achieved, press firmly. The cards will align perfectly along the horizontal plane (Figure 223). This adjustment also "adds some air" between the cards, to further prevent binding. You can now let the deck settle back onto the table; your lifting of it has served its purpose.

THE TELESCOPE

This next procedure is the most difficult aspect of the Merlin Push-Through to describe, but it is the essence of the Shuffle. I refer to it as the "Pinch-Through." Move your left second fingertip to the left front corner. Make only light contact. Your left thumb should move to a point on its packet about a third of the length from the left end, along the near edge. The thumb should also make only minimal contact. The right hand will perform most of the early work.

The left side of the right first finger moves to contact the right side of its packet (the original top portion) near the front corner, and your right thumb shifts about a third of the way in from the right end on its edge of the packet (Figure 224). With the side of the right first finger, push the right packet forward and to the left. At the same time, slide that finger firmly back, toward you, as the right thumb slides to the right along its edge (Figure 225), until the thumb and first fingertip meet at the corner (Figure 226). This is a pinch-like action.

You can, to some degree, control the amount of the original right packet that will extend through the left end of the left packet by how you perform the pinch action. Two major factors influence this distance: (1) The greater the angle at which you push the packet forward, the farther through the front edge the right front corner will move. (2) When the right first finger makes its initial contact, the closer it is to the near edge, along the right end, the greater will be the portion of the right packet that can be moved through. Just over a white borders width is sufficient; any more is unproductive.

NOTE: Some may prefer to use the right second finger to push the right packet, leaving the right first finger free to screen the front edge of the deck. 1 see this as a matter of choice, dictated by application. It does hide the angling of the right-hand packet, which you may feel is desirable. I find this approach prevents selling the precise squaring action that is part of the strength of the technique. Were I to use this technique for more than one shuffle of a sequence, I would probably switch to the more screened second-finger push. When used for just one shuffle, as I most often do, I like to stress the squaring action.

THE CONJOIN

The next action is crucial. Move the right second finger to the front right corner and grasp the deck firmly between that finger and die tip of the right thumb (Figure 227). The left thumb pushes the protruding jog at the left near edge to the left and forward. The left second fingertip, rolling clockwise, helps to enlarge the amount of the original right-hand packet that comes through on the left. It comes farther through when you pull the packet, using pressure against the side of the original left-hand packet for leverage. It's difficult to understand this odd leverage until you actually try it. If you've done everything correctly, you'll have about three-eighths of an inch of the former right-hand packet protruding, telescoped from the left side. This completes the push-through process, creating an apparently coalesced condition. In actuality, the telescoped position is reasserted with the original top of the deck extending to the left. Pause briefly to check your grip and allow the apparent condition to register.

THE SQUARE

Squeeze the deck firmly between the second fingers at the front and the thumbs at the rear. As the thumbs apply pressure, move them a quarter of an inch to half an inch along the near edge, toward their respective ends. At the same time, move the third fingers inward, toward your body, pressing lightly against the ends but firmly into the work surface. This combination of actions actually helps to increase the sureness of your grip and to assure that the strip-out you are about to perform will be complete and successfid.

THE STRIP-OUT

Use your right hand to hold the original left-hand packet stationary, but raise the entire deck a bit over an inch. In doing this, move the original right portion diagonally back about an inch and to the left about two inches (Figure 228), until it clears the current right-hand packet. Move the latter straight down to the table and release your hold on it. Next, move the right hand back to take the left hand's packet and carry it directly above the tabled packet. After a very brief pause, place this packet firmly onto the tabled stock and square the reassembled 228

deck. It should appear that the left hand took its packet from under the right hand's packet. The space under the right hand's packet is created at the moment of the strip-out to aid the illusion that this is what has happened.

NOTES ON THE BEVEL: The reliability of this or any Push-Through

Shuffle can be markedly improved by beveling the deck from left to right,

top over bottom (Figure 229), before beginning the Split, and maintaining the bevel throughout the Strip-Out process. The problem is that the bevel is something of a tell. Moreover, if the bevel is less than about three-quarters of an inch it has negligible benefit. Each performer will reach his own conclusions about the desirability of this "insurance," but you should at least experiment with it in practice sessions. I find the bevel most useful with new decks, which tend to be slippery. The only fully viable technique I've found for creating the requisite bevel condition is to place the left end of the deck on the table and tilt it to the left. Then you can sit the deck flat on the table. I've experimented with beveling an already tabled deck with little consistent success.

AN ALTERNATE STRIP-OUT PROCEDURE

This alternative procedure is an absolute gem. I almost elected to withhold it, but since its forerunner has now seen print, I'm releasing it for those, like myself, who find an extra note of finality in a Triple Cut. The technique is closely related to the Aronson Strip-Out, (Simply Simon: The Magic of Simon Aronson, 1995, page 65). The sequence can be used with other Push-Through Shuffle techniques, and I often do so. Here we will apply it to the Merlin Shuffle.

When you initially split for the shuffle, take more than a third but less than half the deck to the right. When you then shuffle, make certain that you leave about a third of the deck, at the bottom, unwoven on the left side. Also make sure that the top card of the right-hand packet is released before the last card of the left-hand packet. Perform the push-through technique as taught. At the completion of this action, use your left thumb to slightly lift all the interwoven cards at the near side (Figure 230). This will enable you to form a right thumb break below this group at the right near corner. The left fingers then grip only the interwoven cards that project on the left side.

NOTE: As Paul Cummins pointed out when I showed him this technique, the break can be dispensed with. I find it helpful in facilitating the Strip-Out that is about to occur, and in the formation of the packets in the cut sequence that follows. Paul did not find the break useful. I suggest you learn the sequence while using the break. You can elect to perform the sequence without the break once you're comfortable with it.

Simultaneously move the right hand diagonally forward to the right and the left hand diagonally backward to the left. The left hand moves back a bit more than the width of the deck, and left about half the width of a deck. The right hand stops a bit more than two deck-widths forward and a deck width to the right. This strips-out the interwoven cards under cover of the larger action of the right hand's movement.

Release all the cards below the right thumb's break, creating a forward pile, somewhat to your right. Carry the upper portion back diagonally about half the width of a deck and to the left about the same distance. Release the right hand's cards to the table at that 231

point, creating a central second \ts51IcOA-, ^tx pile. Meanwhile, the left hand __^^ ~ ^

continues to hold its packet, > \

nearest you and a bit to your IKiS^SglL—y ^

left. The three packets form a /y-

left hand's packet and place it ^^

onto the center packet. In a y^

continuing action, pick up the combined center packet and place it onto the far packet. This reassembles the deck and every card is in its original position. If this is the last shuffle of a sequence, as I think it always should be, the deck will be reassembled in front of a person to your right. This is the person to whom the deck would normally be passed for the cut. In my experience, this triple cut usually persuades that person to tap rather than cut the deck. This makes it a very powerful technique when you've just put in a stack or switched in a cold deck, as it avoids the need to beat the cut. It also argues strongly for the persuasiveness of the shuffle and cut sequence.

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