Match Made In Zebulon


Self-workers beware. If you are willing to stick with me through this description, you will have a very impressive revelation. It starts with a shuffled pack. One card is selected and lost in the pack. Another is selected under impossible conditions. The deck is split into two packets which are simultaneously dealt face up. Both of the selections appear at the same time. It appears impossible that the magician could have known the subsequent events which the spectator would have done which altered the location of the first selection. Further, the conditions for the second selection are such that they make it impossible for the magician to know the location or the identity of the second chosen card. Indeed, the magician knows none of the above. However, he finds both cards in short order.

As if this isn't enough, following a complete description of this trick, I will show you how to make it even more miraculous by adding a third-selection.

Background. Stephen Minch's The Collected Works of Alex Elmsley is easily the best book of 1991 to date. The book contains wonderful material by one of the top minds to grace our fraternity. The book will provide seeds for other items for decades to come. None of the material is new — but much of it is timeless.

One item, dated September 21, 1957 piqued my interest. It appeared to be unfinished. There seemed to be so many possibilities for improvements (and I don't use this term lightly). I am referring to Penny Plain on page 374. This is a revelation of a selected card under circumstances which seem impossible. I would encourage you to consult the book so that you can compare the results.

The Work. Have the deck of cards shuffled by a spectator. Have a card selected and controlled to the top of the pack. If you are doing this for magicians, try using a lesser known control. You don't want them to deduce the selection's location at the conclusion of the control. You want to leave them guessing. Riffle shuffle, retaining the top card of the pack.

Hand the deck to a second spectator with the instructions that he start dealing the pack into two sister piles. When he has dealt almost a third of the pack, tell him that he may stop the deal whenever he gets the urge. For now, we will assume that he stops the deal with an the same number of cards in each pile. Pile A contains the selection on the bottom. Pile B is the other pile which contains the same number of cards as pile A.

Ask the spectator to choose either pile. Arrange to have him select pile B. He may shuffle pile B, then note the top card and remember it. To lose this card, he is to cut off the top half of pile A and place it on top of pile B. Note the approximate size of the remainder of Pile A. Is it five cards, ten, fifteen, etc.? It is helpful to get within five cards either way.

He now places the remainder of pile A on top of the talon (the balance of the pack which remain undealt). Note that this sends the first spectator's selection to the middle of the tabled cards. The spectator hands you his packet which contains the second spectator's selection.

There are now two ways to proceed, depending upon whether you can do a Faro shuffle. Since the faro shuffle is my preferred method, I will describe it first. In both methods, you will apparently take your packet behind your back and arrange to place the second selection in a position identical the the first selection in the tabled cards.

Using the Faro. State that there is no way for you to know the location or identity of either card. This, in fact, is true. To make it even more difficult, you will shuffle the cards. Suiting actions to words, split the pack at the center and execute an out-faro. (When you are finished, the original top card will be back on top. If the pack had an odd number of cards, ensure that the extra card goes with the top half.) Small packets are easier to faro than a complete pack so you should not have any accuracy problems here.

After openly shuffling the packet, take the packet behind your back or under the table. State that you will move the second selection to a position which will locate the first selection. A moment ago, you noted the approximate number of cards left on the table from the original pile A. Assume this to have been 15 cards. Go down to a card approximately 15 cards from the bottom of the packet and outjog a card. Bring the packet back into view with the back of the outjogged card showing. Square the packet.

You want the spectators to think that you actually moved a card to that location while the cards were out of view. Actually, you left the cards in the same order they were originally.

Place your packet on the table face up beside the face down tabled pack. Deal through both packets simultaneously, one face down card with one face up card. Ask the second spectator to call "STOP" when he sees his selection. Both selections will appear at the same relative location at the same time. When he tells you to stop, ask the first spectator the name of his card. Turn over the top card of the face down packet. It will be his card.

Alternative to the Faro. If you prefer not to use the faro, take your unshuffled packet (Pile B plus the top of Pile A which the spectator placed on top of his selection) behind your back or under the table.

Run through the following "milk shuffle" to arrange the cards as needed. Hold the packet in the right hand in Biddle position. Peel off the top card into your left hand by itself. Now, using your left thumb and fingers, simultaneously pull off the top and bottom cards of the packet, onto the single card in the left hand. Continue this "milking" procedure until you have exhausted the cards in the right hand. When finished, use the same outjog feint used during the faro method — only this time do it from the top of the packet, not the face. That is, outjog an indifferent card about fifteen cards from the top of the packet.

Place your packet on the table face down (unlike the instructions for the faro method) beside the face down tabled pack. Deal through both packets simultaneously, flipping the top card of each half face up. Ask both spectators to call "STOP" when they see their selection. Both selections will appear at the same relative location at the same time.

Important Note. One of the stronger points of this effect for magicians is that the two packets (A & B) do not have to be identical in size when the spectator originally dealt the pack into two piles. That is, the magician doesn't have to instruct the spectator to deal two equal piles. The spectator can stop after dealing a card on either A or B. For this reason, the piles will either be identical (if they deal two equal piles) or Pile A will have one more card than Pile B when the spectator stops.

Up until now, we have assumed the piles were equal. If the spectator stopped the deal after dealing a card on Pile A, there is one slight variance in handling when you later take the pack behind your back or under the table. If you are using the faro method, secretly transfer a card from the top (back) of the pack to the bottom (face) while the pack is out of sight. If you are using the milk-shuffle method, transfer a card from the bottom of the pack (face) to the top (back) while the pack is out of sight.

You will have your favorite method of doing this, either using the faro or the alternate. You do not have to remember both procedural adjustments. Simply remember which one applies to your particular favorite method.

I prefer to give the spectators achoice. "Would you like me to shuffle the packet before attempting to find your card?" They invariably say that they would. I execute the faro and then proceed.

Remember that if you use the milk-shuffle method, they do not know the cards have been mixed. They don't see the shuffle in process and it onlytakesa few seconds to execute. They thinkyou are hunting for one of the selections and relocating it.

Regurgitations. I feel there are several advantages of this over the original Elmsley creation. First, the faro is a cleaner and simpler handling when compared to the "shuffle" which arranges the cards behind your back.

Second, if you prefer the alternative to the faro, the description described above takes a fraction of the time to execute as the shuffle used by Elmsley. The shuffle itself is twice as efficient, pulling two cards instead of one. It is used with approximately l/4th the pack instead of 1/2. (You don't even have do it with the full packet. You can do it until you know you have more cards in your left hand than twice the number which was left on the table as the remainder of pile "A".)

Third, you are not required to deal all the way through the pack. This makes for a quicker trick, less drawn out. It also hides the free-cut principle better since you are not dealing with two piles which are exactly 26 cards each.

Fourth, not requiring both packets have the same number of cards would make it harder for a well versed magician to reconstruct.

Fifth, having two selections and arriving at a coincidence further disguises the principles involved. In the Elmsley trick, the remainder of Pile A remained on the table. After you execute the shuffle behind your back, you deal through pile A and your pile. When you run out of cards in pile A, you arrive at the sole selection in your pile.

This seems to call attention to the number of cards in pile A being the key to the trick which of course it is. By having another selection on the bottom of pile A and then combining it with the undealt balance of the pack, there is no heat at all on the number of cards in each packet. The number of cards doesn't play a role, all attention is directed to the location of the selections. And, this is exactly where you want the attention directed.

Finally, I should mention that Steve Minch mentions that volume II of the Elmsley book will contain Penelope's Principle, a faro shuffle procedure which is a more mature but related idea to Penny Plain. He may be using a similar shuffle to locate the single selection. I didn't originally use the faro shuffle. I simply streamlined the alternate method explained in the Elmsley book and added the second (and later, the third) selections.

After I showed the workings of the trick using the alternate method to Steve Pressley, he noticed the trick's resemblance to the method used in his Completed Masterpiecel&ÎÎ (Trapdoor #39). He suggested I try the use of a faro. I tried it and I realized that the packet must be turned over and dealt from the bottom (face).

If you like this type of trick, this particular one is definitely worth your study and practice. It has become one of my favorite miracle-type tricks.

Editor's Note:

In the last issue, I wrote a "teaser" for the material which was to be in this issue. Things didn't go exactly as planned. All the material promised will be delivered within the next two issues. I apologize for any confusion for those of you who keep copious notes... SLB.


If you have stayed with me this long, you must be serious about your card magic — or you like math. Since this is an attachment to the preceding trick, you should thoroughly understand the previous trick before you start on this.

Almost everything is the same until the end of the trick. Start by having two cards selected. Control one to the top and one to the bottom of the pack. For this example, we will assume that the selection on top is the ace of spades and the selection on the bottom is the ace of clubs. Remember whose card is on top and whose is on bottom. This is the same as the previous version except that you only controlled one card to the top.

You may have noticed that during the previous routine, the bottom of the pack is never disturbed. This allows the selection which you controlled to the bottom to stay there throughout the original trick.

To elaborate, hand the pack with the two selections to a third spectator who deals the pack into two tabled sister packets. He picks up and shuffles the sister packet which does not contain the original top card, the ace of spades. He notes the top card of his packet (we will assume the queen of spades). To lose the queen, he cuts off the top half of the tabled sister packet which contains the original top card (that is, the other sister packet) and places it on top of his packet. The balance of the tabled sister packet (still containing the original top card) is placed on top of the balance of the deck.

With the packet in your hands, execute either the faro or the behind-the-back milk shuffle as explained in the previous trick.

Status. You now have a packet you are holding and the balance of the pack on the table. The ace of clubs is on the bottom of the pack on your left. If you used the behind-the-back shuffle, the queen of spades is as far down from the top of your packet as the ace of spades is from the top of the pack. However, if you used the faro, the queen of spades is as far up from the face of your packet as the ace of spades is from the top of the pack. From here, you will proceed based upon which shuffle method you used. You can become proficient with either, or you can learn both and offer the spectators the choice as explained in the last trick.

FARO METHOD. If you are using the faro, place your packet face up to the right of the face down pack. Each hand simultaneously takes one card from each packet, forming two new packets in front of the original packets as shown in figure 1. You are dealing toward the spectators. The piles being dealt are in the same condition as those being dealt from. That is,the face down cards remain face down, and the face up cards remain face up. As

Figure 1

before, ask for the spectator who chose the final selection (the queen) to call stop when he sees his card.

When he calls stop, you will be holding the queen of spades face up in your right hand and the ace of spades face down in your left. Hand this face down card to the person who selected it. (He was the one who selected the card you originally controlled to the top of the pack.)

While the spectator who took the ace of spades is confirming his selection, use the queen in your right hand to scoop up the face up pile closest to the spectators. Drop this packet (with the queen on the bottom) back on top of the face up pile from which it was dealt. This puts the queen back in the same position is was at the start of the simultaneous dealing. The cards above it have been reversed during the dealing but that won't affect the trick.

The ace of clubs is on the bottom of the face down pack on your left which you are dealing from. Pick up this pile and drop it on top of the cards which were dealt from the top of the pile. This blatantly places the ace of clubs the same number from the face of this packet as the queen is from the face of the packet on your right. Have you no shame?

"We have one more selection to find. Let's try it the hard way — with both packets face up." Turn the pile on your left face up and table it again. Ask both the remaining spectators (ace of clubs and queen of spades) to call stop when you are holding their cards. Simultaneously deal one card from each pile until they call stop. You will be holding both of the remaining selections.

MILK SHUFFLE METHOD: If you are using the milk shuffle method behind your back (as opposed to the faro) you will bring the packet back out face down. Place it face down to the right of the balance of the pack. Deal through both, simultaneously turning one card face up from each packet and creating two new piles closer to the spectators. See figure 2. Both the person who chose the ace of spades (card originally controlled to the top) and the queen (last card selected) are to call stop when they see their cards. You will come to the two face up selections at the same time.

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