Variation In The Diagonal Palm Shift

JT WAS Richard Cardini who drew my attention to this sleight, and he found this through misreading the Diagonal Palm Shift of Erdnase and he, of course, preferred the variation to the original. Dai Vernon expressed the opinion that it was good and Cardini has made a perfect sleight of it.

Another writer, George de Lawrence, wrote of the same sleight in 1920, in Modem Card Tricks, published by Arthur P. Felsman. Detail is lacking in the book, but up to a point the same description given in The Expert at the Card Table suits admirably.

The Diagonal Palm Shift is a beautiful sleight which allows the performer to palm the cards in the left hand, after they have been pushed into the middle of the pack. The variation allows the cards to be pushed into the pack in the same way, but they are palmed in the right hand.

In demonstrations of card dealing I make great use of this sleight and palm, and find it a good finish in the Acrobatic Jacks, just as James Thompson has used the variation in his Four Ace Trick Unique.

There are a number of possibilities in both, and the final handling of the cards in each sleight are my own, differing from fhat given by the respective authors.


The pack is held in the left hand by the sides, between the first joints of the thumb, and the second, third and little fingers. The first finger is curled up at the bottom of the pack. Figure 40.

The spectator inserts the selected card into the pack, pushing it home until only about half-an-inch protrudes. Bring the right hand over the pack, with the little finger at the side of the protruding card. Second and third fingers are at the middle of the end and the first finger is close to the end corner; the thumb close to the inner end corner of the pack. Figure 41.

Diagonal Pass Cards Drawing

push the protruding end with the right little finger, about a quarter-of-an-inch to the left, so that the right first finger can push the tilted corner down the side of the pack, the card moving slightly diagonally, and the opposite corner just grazing the right thumb and protruding about three-quarters of an inch. Figure 42 shows the position of the card.

The left and third little fingers are released sufficiently to allow the card to protrude at the side.

The left thumb now takes the place of the right hand first finger, pushing the corner flush with the side of the pack. The diagonal position of the selected card is now perfectly concealed, and the pack is held in a natural and regular manner. Figure 43 indicates the position, from above, the right hand not being shown for the sake of clarity.

The next action is to palm the selected card in the left hand, as the right hand passes the pack to be shuffled.

With the left little finger against the side of the card, swing or turn it inwards, using the right thumb as a pivot. Straighten out the left first, second and third fingers, catching the outer end as it turns, as shown in Figure 44. At the same time slide the pack outwards and to the right. The left hand turns over and inwards with the palmed card and the little finger is slipped to the end. Figure 45 shows the performer's view as the card is palmed.

There should be no force or twist employed, the card running out as freely as though drawn. The card and pack must continue on the same plane until quite free of each other. The left little finger may press the side of the card very slightly upwards, so that as it is palmed it will bend into, instead of away from the left hand.

As the card is being turned by the little finger, the left thumb is raised, letting the right thumb with the corner of the pack pass under it, so that the card can lie parallel with, but still above the left palm.

As the pack is slid out, the right thumb slides along the side of the card which is not actually palmed until the hands are almost free from each other.

The whole action may be made as quick as a flash and without a sound, yet when performed quite slowly it is still perfectly deceptive.

The left hand may seize the pack by the corner, between the first finger and thumb, as the card is palmed, leaving the right hand free; but the beauty of the "shift" is the natural and simple manner of palming the selected card by the ordinary movement the right hand makes in passing the cards to be shuffled.

Erdnase then says: "We wish to particularly impress our readers with the merits of this palm shift. It is not difficult if a proper understanding of the action is obtained, and it is of great assistance in card tricks.

"It dispenses to a great extent with regular shifts and blind shuffles, and it can be accomplished under the very nose of a shrewd spectator without an inkling of what is taking place.

"The usual procedure of card handlers is to insert the little finger over the selected card, shift the two packets, and palm the card from the top in the right hand. This process takes time; the shift must be concealed by a partial turn, swing or drop of the hands, and to palm, the pack must be covered at least for an instant. In the palm shift described the card is placed in its diagonal position with apparently the customary movement of squaring up, and the rest is accomplished, as it were, by handing the pack to be shuffled.

"Several cards may be palmed together, when inserted at different points, or from one point, or from top or bottom. If the top card is to be shifted, it is slipped into the same diagonal position and held in place by the right little finger being curled on top. The action is the same. When the single palm shift is acquired the rest will come easily."

The above description is given as Erdnase wrote it, simply because no better description could be given. It contains a lot of detail, but each detail is important and is an example of good card handling; it is not only a good sleight, but forms a basis of holds for other sleights, for the pass, for putting a crimp into a selected card and, of course, for the variation.


The use of this variation is more for manipulators of cards. James Thompson, in Modern Card Effects, uses this in his "Four Ace Trick

Unique". The aces are exhibited and inserted at different points in the pack. The pack is fanned and then squared up and the aces are pushed into the pack. The four aces are then produced in a fan from the arm.

Up to a point the procedure is the same as in ihe Diagonal Palm Shift. The card, or cards, are pushed into the pack in the same way, but are left protruding at the inner end of the pack, instead of being palmed in the left hand.

The right hand may casually be shown empty and the body turns to the left. The protruding cards are held in the crotch of the right thumb and forefinger; the left arm bends upwards, taking the pack but leaving the card or cards in the right hand (Figures 46 and 47), which then produces them from the elbow.

Once the Diagonal Palm Shift is understood, there is no difficulty in the variation. There is no real continuity in it, as in the former, but as a sleight it may be used very effectively.

(To be Continued).

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  • segan
    How to do the diagonal palm shift trick?
    1 month ago