I discovered magic in 1958, after reading John Scarne's autobiography "The Amazing World of John Scarne." In this book he described how he could cut to the four Aces in a shuffled deck of cards. Johnny said that he would spot the Aces during a riffle shuffle and count how many cards fell on each Ace and later cut to that number.
This description fascinated me and I thought to myself, "I would love to see that performed some day!" Years passed and I moved to Hollywood and the Magic Castle. This was in the Summer of 1967. John Scarne arrived at the Castle one night, around 1972. I had the pleasure of joining Dai Vernon and Johnny for dinner that evening.
After dinner, out came a pack of cards. Dai asked Johnny if he would cut the Aces for me. Johnny was obi iging, but he performed an entirely different routine from what T described above. When he was finished, we talked for a while. Then the Professor said, "Mike, knock out the Aces for Johnny!"
The following routine is the one I performed that evening.
Start with the Aces on the bottom of the pack, in any order. Perform a couple of table riffle shuffles, retaining the Aces on the bottom. Hold the pack at the right and left sides with your thumbs and second fingers of both hands, as if to begin a split for another riffle shuffle. Lift the pack about a 1/2 inch off the table and push the bottom card to the right for about 1/2 an inch. Use your left third finger to push the card, which is an Ace. The side jogged card will be covered by die right hand.
Undercut one-half of the deck with the right hand and place it on top of the left hand portion so that the jogged card goes flush with the right edge of the left hand portion of deck. This will step the top half of the deck to the left. Now cut the top half back to the bottom. All you have done is transfer the bottom card to the top.
1 now perform the first half of Dai Vernon's "Cold Deck Cut," to be found in Dai's book, Ultimate Secrets of Card Magic," pages 1 68 and 169. I feel that most everyone who buys this book will have Dai's book also. It should not be necessary to repeat what has already been written.
If you do not wish to use Dai's "Cold Deck Cut," you can undercut one-half of the deck with your right hand and slap it on the left hand half, leaving a step at the inner left corner. Grip the pack again with the left second finger and thumb at the left side of pack and the right second finger and thumb at the right side of the pack. Push down on the step with your left thumb, forming a break. Transfer the break to your right thumb. Lift the pack off the table a couple of inches with your right hand, maintaining the break with your right thumb. Say: "Watch the center pile!"
Drop one-half of the cards below die break to the table in front of you. Now move the pack forward a few inches and drop all the cards up to the break. Now move forward again and drop the rest of the cards. You have made three packets of cards. The top card of the center packet is an Ace and the other three Aces are on the bottom of the forward packet.
Turn over the top card of the center packet and place the Ace face up on the table, off to the side. Assemble the deck again, placing the nearest packet on the center packet and this combined packet on the furthest packet. The remaining three Aces are again on the bottom of the pack.
Riffle shuffle the pack again, holding the three Aces on the bottom. Cut off about two-thirds of the pack to the right, with your right hand. Place them next to the smaller packet and begin another riffle shuffle. Drop a block from your right thumb, then drop one Ace from your left thumb, then another block from your right thumb. Then shuffle the remaining cards evenly. Push the packets together until the cards bind. Release the Ace from the left thumb and pull the right hand portion diagonally forward and a little to the right, taking the protruding Ace with it. Say, "One card got stuck!"
Remove the protruding card and turn it over showing the second Ace. Place this Ace on the table with the first one. I believe this shuffle sequence is to be credited to Mr. Carmen D'Amico. Place the forward packet back on top of the near packet so that the two remaining Aces are back on the bottom.
Grasp the pack with both hands again in riffle shuffle position. Lift the pack slightly off the table and release one Ace with your left thumb. Form a break over this Ace with your right thumb. Strip small packets of cards from the top of the pack onto the table with your left thumb and second finger. Swing the right hand portion of deck forward and back as each small packet is taken with left hand.
When the left hand has stripped about one-half of the cards to the table and as the right hand is swinging its packet forward, release the broken Ace with your right thumb. The forward motion of the packet will cause the Ace to revolve face up and fly to the table. It seems to appear from nowhere.
After the Ace appears, slap the right hand packet on top of the left hand packet forming a step. Square tip the pack with both hands. Form a break with your left thumb as yoti push down on the step, squaring the pack. The step and break are at the left inner corner of the pack.
With your right second finger and thumb cut all the cards below the break to the top of the pack. The remaining Ace is back on the bottom. Transfer the bottom Ace to the top using the same method that you used for the first Ace. You are now going to use an idea that I believe is credited to Dr. Jacob Daley. I perform it as follows:
With the Ace on top, top cut to the right and perform a riffle shuffle. Hold back four cards with your left thumb. The Ace is on top of the right hand portion. At the finish of the shuffle, drop the four held back cards from the left thumb on top of the right hand Ace.
Square up the pack. The Ace is now the fifth card from the top. Cut the top half of the pack to the right again. Perform another riffle shuffle. Hold back one card with your left thumb. Glimpse this card, then let it fall on top of the right hand portion. The pack is squared again. The Ace is now the sixth card from the top and you know the top card. This is your key.
Let's suppose the top card is the Eight of Hearts. Cut the top half of the pack to the right again. Commence another riffle shuffle. Hold back three cards with the left thumb and hold back one card, your key, with your right thumb. Release the three cards from the left and then the single card from the right hand. Square up the deck. The top card of the pack is the Eight of Hearts. Then come seven "X" cards followed by the Ace.
Perform a tabled slip cut, taking the bottom half of pack and the top card to the right, separating the deck into two packets. The right hand portion has the Eight of Hearts on top of it and the left hand packet has the Ace, eight cards down. Ask the spectator to point to either half. If he points to your right hand half, turn the top card face up and display the Eight-spot. Say that you will find the Ace eight cards down in the other half. Pick up the left hand half and count down to the eighth card and slowly turn it face up to display the Ace.
If he points to the left hand half, pick it up and then reach over and turn the Eight-spot face up from your right hand half and say: "This Eight tells me that we will find the Ace, eight cards down in your chosen packet."
The formula is simple. You want to shuffle enough cards between the top key card and the Ace so that the Ace is the same number of cards down from the top as the key card, once the key card is removed with the slip cut.
If your key card is lower than a Five, just let it drop on top of the pack. Look for a new key card during your next shuffle. Just remember the Ace is one card further down each time you do this. 1 have been performing this routine for twenty-six years, and I have never had to set the Ace more than ten cards down. When the Ace is at tenth position you can use any picture card to act as a 'Ten' for your key card.
I have never had to use this, but if you still can't find a suitable key with the Ace ten cards down; shuffle one more time and add enough cards to the top to place the Ace in position to be spelled by its name. Pick up the pack and slowly spell down to the Ace.
If you put in some time on this routine, the results will repay you generously.
Before presenting "The Cutting Edge," I would like to say a few words about my friend and close confidant, Roger ¡Clause.
I first became acquainted with Roger's work through his one-man issue of the "Gen" magazine, years ago. I was still living in New York, and it was to be a number of years before we would meet in person. I was very impressed with that issue of the "Gen."
Roger's "Chinese Boomerang," his "Pulse Detector," and "Coins for Connoisseurs," among others, showed such brilliant thinking and beautiful handling that I knew that I must meet this man someday.
The story of that meeting is related in Roger's wonderful book, "Roger IClause: In Concert."
In "The Cutting Edge," which follows, Roger speaks about the many fond memories that we have together, over the years. Indeed, we have had great times, too numerous to mention.
But the fondest memories for me are the laughs, good times, pranks, and wonderful secrets shared many times over.
I must also mention Roger's lovely wife, Wanda. She has been so kind to me over the years. Ever)' letter that Roger has sent me is closed with "Wanda sends her love!" Then...send some "food for thought."
I have the highest respect and admiration for Roger's contributions to the art of magic. But 1 also love the man, as a person and trusted friend.
If you haven't met Roger, I hope the opportunity to do so presents itself to you, so that you can experience this "Star of Magic" and all-around good guy.
With affection and admiration,
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