## Three Piece Combo

cutting to the four Aces, under the title "Minimal Aces" (see my Mumbles lecture notes). Simple work, but it really looked impressive, even to jaded cardmen, because the cuts were genuine and there were no moves to speak of. That little ditty has evolved over time into a very strong three-phase routine that you, oh lucky one, are about to explore with me.

This is based on existing principles and known sequences; therefore some intermediate knowledge of card technique will be assumed in this description. I will not be discussing the mechanics n o n 1996, I published a routine for O

of the false shuffles and cuts used in the routine. I will though, when the time comes, tell you where you can find anything you may not know about.

(I know some will complain that a densely written description, such as this one, is antithetical to learning, I'll just smile and hark back to my teenage years, when 1 studied Roy Waltons books. These were books intended only for the dedicated. They were filled with complex descriptions of intricate sleight-of-hand, and there were no illustrations—not one. I can't tell you the hours of joyous frustration 1 reaped in working through those items. It taught me how to really read, and how to understand what I was reading. This description will be a lot easier than that, but 1 make no apologies for not illustrating it. I think reading is an essential skill, Besides, it's just standard false cuts and shuffles. Its the way they are combined that is worthwhile, and that can't be illustrated. It has to be understood.)

The cards are uncased and given a couple of riffle shuffles, after which the four Aces are cut directly and neatly from their diverse positions in the deck. The Aces are then clearly shuffled into different spots in the deck and instantly appear on top.

tangled web

(Why you ask? We'll get to that. Meanwhile there is still a lot of shuffling going on.) Then the Aces are slid openly into four different parts of the ribbon-spread deck and the deck is shuffled again. The magician announces that he will attempt the impossible. He will not control the four Aces; instead he will control the forty-eight cards that surround them. After exhaustively shuffling and cutting the deck, it is spread face up across the table. All the red cards are seen to lie on one side, the blacks on the other, with the four Aces resting conspicuously in the wrong halves: the red Aces in with the black cards, the black Aces in with the reds.

Before wc get any further into this, IT1 boast just a little. I've been using this routine for a very long time, and have fooled some of the best magicians in the world with it. (After a grueling three-hour session in Hawaii five years ago, Bill Malone asked if I would teach this to him. Out of dozens of effects we performed and talked about, this is the one thing he asked me for.) Its been especially gratifying to fool "the boys" with this, because it consists entirely of principles they know and probably use. What fools them is the construction and not the techniques employed.

Most important to me, this routine has proven very effective with the paying public.

To prepare, somewhere, sometime during a private moment, I separate all the red cards from the black cards, arranging the black cards on top and the red cards on the face, i then find the four Aces and set them on top of the face-down deck. One last thing before they go into the box—I crimp the bottom card so that it can be cut to the face. A downward corner crimp is fine, or a strong lengthwise bow; whatever is comfortable for you. Into the box they go and I'm set.

It's important to understand the effect. This is not magic; it is a demonstration of skill. Some thought then has to be given to where and when and under what context this effect is presented, I leave the aesthetic decisions to you, but Til remind you that once the audience is convinced of your skill, the parameters of your performance change accordingly. This isnt necessarily a bad thing, but it must be kept in mind when considering an effect like this.

Okay, it's show time.

The deck comes out of the box and is tabled. I give the cards one straight cut and then dribble

them onto the table. I now close the box and place it aside. My right hand cats at the crimp (near the center) and carries the top packet to the right, where I table it. A Zarrow shuffle is performed, with the right-hand cards going beneath the top card of the left-hand pile. Ifyouusethe other standard Zarrow handling, just use the other hand to make the cut whenever I call for a Zarrow. (There is an illustrated description of this shuffle 111 Card College, Volume 3 by Roberto Giobbi, 1998, p. 629. As a teenager, 1 learned it from an excellent though unillustrated description in The Book of John by John Mendoza, 1978, p. 5.)

Just to be certain we are together on this, that Zarrow shuffle puts three Aces under the crimped card near center and the remaining Ace is on top. Great. I square them up, let go of them for a moment, and then use my left hand to cut at the crimp before doing a second Zarrow shuffle under one cover card. This restores the deck to its original order.

As I begin to talk about gambling and cheating, my right hand undercuts about half the cards from the bottom and I perform the up-the-lad-der false-cut with this packet. This has the effect

of one straight cut, but looks like a bit of a mix. (Charlie Miller brought the up-the-ladder multiple cut to us from the gambling tables, or so I've been told. This beautiful false cut is described by Paul Harris and myself in The Art of Astonishment, Volume 2, 1996, p. 259. The original published description appeared in Hugard and Braue's Expert Card Technique, 1940, p. 78.)

I stop, square everything up, and announce that I will cut to the four Aces, one by one. I dribble the cards to the table, square them up again, and then simply raise the top half at the crimp, taking the crimped card along for the ride. Using my free hand, I turn up the Ace sitting on top of the tabled packet. How's that for an opening to an ace-cutting routine? Bam. Right to it.

1 replace the upper half onto the lower one and square the cards. My left hand cats at the crimp, so that my right hand can slide the lower cards out and to the right. T immediately do a very extended up-the-ladder mix of the right hand's cards, bringing the three Aces back to the top. The instant the cards are squared, I snap the top card face up (it's an Ace), pause, and then toss it onto the first Ace on the table.

With my left hand I cut the top half to the left and then perform a Zarrow shuffle under one card. This splits the two remaining Aces, putting one under the crimped card near center, and leaving the other on top. I carefully square the cards, take a deep breath, and cut at the crimp. Using both hands, 1 simultaneously snap the Ace on each pile face up. Tossing them onto the other two Aces, I reassemble the deck, with the crimped card at the face.

1 offer to repeat this, "even though nobody asked," and give the deck a false shuffle or two (Zarrow or any full-deck or red-black false rif-fle-shuffle you prefer). 1 finish by cutting about a quarter of the deck from the top to the bottom. This puts the crimped card up a bit from the face.

In the next sequence T use a combination of genuine cuts with up-the-ladder cuts, apparently losing the Aces into four different parts of the deck. Notice that two things happen during this sequence: The Aces appear to be genuinely placed here and there at random, but in fact are all controlled together under the crimp; but more important, the order of the deck is preserved

while the cards are apparently mixed quite a bit. This is the sequence that fools the wise ones.

With my left hand, I cut at the crimp, lifting the upper portion only slightly, and drop an Ace face down onto the tabled lower portion, saying, "One will go in very near the bottom." The left hand replaces its cards (including the crimped one) onto the Ace and tabled pile. In a continuing action, without releasing the left hand's grasp on the cards, I immediately cut about a quarter of the deck from top to bottom. This centers the crimp and the first Ace. Dribble the cards to the table in a show of fairness.

"J'll drop one in near the middle." 1 cut at the crimp again and put an Ace onto the bottom half. Replacing the cut, I square up the cards and, this time, dribble them first, before squaring them and again cutting about ten or so cards from top to bottom. This moves the crimp and two-ace "slug" up near the top.

"One near the top. Not at the top, but near.'5 I once again lift at the crimp and drop an Ace onto the tabled cards. Again, without a pause, I replace the cut-off cards. With my right hand, I then undercut everything below the crimped card and ii

T A N g L D Web do a short up-the-ladder mix with this packet. The crimp is once more at the face of the deck, and the three Aces are together on top.

Allow a spectator to place the final Ace on top of the deck and cut it anywhere she wants. I like to offer one other person a chance to cut the deck, too.

"Four Aces, clearly in four different locations in the deck. So, how many shuffles and cuts would you say one would need to move them all up together at the top of the deck? Three? Eleven? Try one." I give the deck my best pull-through false shuffle, followed by one straight cut at the crimp, (The pull-through shuffle is wonderfully described, with photographs, in Dai Vernon's More Inner Secrets of Card Magic by Lewis Gan-son, 1958, p. 43. Another good source is Card College, Volume 3, p. 637.)

I now dramatically snap the four Aces off the top of the deck, one by one, tossing them forward into a pile.

It's important here, I think, to over-shuffle the deck absent-mindedly before the climax. I've been shuffling and cutting throughout the routine, so nobody, and I mean nobody, can anticipate what's

coming. So I shuffle, cut, shuffle, cut—mixing it up with real cuts, false cuts, up the ladders, Zarrows, and pull-throughs. But I don't draw attention to it. I don't want to telegraph that something is coming. I finish by cutting the crimped card again to the face. Note that the colors are perfectly separated with the red cards below and the blacks on top.

I ribbon spread the face-down deck widely across the table. Picking up a black Ace, I slide it face down into the spread near the bottom end. I next slide a face-down red Ace in near the top end. Picking up the other red Ace, 1 slip it in about a third or so down from the top. Finally, I insert the remaining black Ace two-thirds or more from the top. The important thing is that each one goes into the opposite-colored bank of cards, the two black Aces amongst the red cards, and vice versa. I leave the Aces outjogged, to emphasize the fairness of the procedure, and then let the spectators slowly push the Aces in, square the spread, and give the deck a cut.

I now do twTo very fast Zarrow shuffles, and then several genuine cuts. "You might wonder if it can be done only with Aces. The truth is, I can

(ontrol every card in the deck, at any time. I'll prove it. I'll show you the four Aces one last time, I)ut I'll do it by ignoring the Aces and manipulating the other forty-eight cards in the deck." This is said during the last two shuffles.

I now slowly and genuinely cut the deck, bringing the crimp to the bottom. "Even though it looks random, there is nothing random or haphazard about what I've done here. I've manipulated the entire deck around those four Aces. Seriously— and I can prove it." I ribbon spread the deck face up across the table, disclosing the separation of reds and blacks. This is a big moment, so let them appreciate it.

"All the red cards, separated from all the black cards—with four notable exceptions. The Ace of Hearts, the Ace of Diamonds, the Ace of Spades, and the Ace of Clubs." With that, I extract each of the Aces from its opposite-colored half of the spread.

Keep in mind that you could do the opening two phases, without the red-black climax, and instead maintain any stack you wish. I think it's a very good idea to present effects that seem to mix the cards, before presenting any effect depending 011 a stack.

The key to this routine is to become so confident, that you can do it without seeming to study the cards. It should seem entirely straightforward and almost absent-minded.

The shifting crimp idea used in the second phase is based on a display by Dai Vernon that he devised for his "All Backs" routine in Expert Card Technique (1950 expanded third edition, p. 459). He would apparently cut at different spots in the deck and show a back at each location. He was in fact showing the back of the same card each time, by shifting the break up and down in the deck. I simply applied this principle to the apparent losing of four cards, while altering the break to a crimp and giving the procedure a tabled handling. This sequence can be used anytime you need to control multiple cards.

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