The Too Obvious Theory

1,1 issue 5-6, pp.247-50, of the Hierophant. Rick Johnsson published an essay entitled "The "foo Perfect' Theory." Tommy Wonder wrote that, "This theory has been rather widely accepted." He may be right, but that's not my impression. Almost every time I've seen someone bring up the Too Perfect Theory it's been only to attack it.

Let me begin by stressing that I don't entirely agree with the Too Perfect Theory. Yet, I think the essay raises some important points. Admittedly, Johnsson's reasoning is so obviously flawed and some of his advice so inimical to good magic that it's easy to understand why many would rush to poke holes in his logic and condemn his position. In doing so, it's easy to overlook that some of his examples are valid, though the conclusions he draws from them may not be.

For instance, he considers an effect in which you have a spectator shuffle a deck, place it in his pocket, and go into another room. He then reaches in his pocket, pulls out any card, and notes its identity. He buries the card back in the pocketed deck and returns. You immediately announce, correctly, that the chosen card is the ace of spades. Johnsson points out that any intelligent spectator will immediately realize that all the cards in the deck must be accs of spades.

As a preferable alternative, he suggests using the same method (a forcing deck) and having the spectator follow the same procedure to select and replace the card. This time, however, when the spectator returns, you take the deck, give it a cut, and deal cards as the spectator spells his card (which will, of course, be the ace of spades). Finish by revealing that thc spectator's card appears on the last letter. Johnsson argues, correctly I think, that the spectator is far less likely to suspect a forcing deck.

you ro show one card and deal off another. The effect is that yD card and vet. after you deal it off, ir is another. °u a

When you reveal rhe change, the spectator will undoubtedly besh Yet, a moment later, he may ask, "Can 1 see the top card?" T^ ? ^ mean that he has figured ouc what a double lift is or that you did th ' badly. It does mean that his instinctive understanding of contiguiC him a good idea where and when rhe trickery must have happened f^* is just as bad. A potentially good trick has been ruined because the s V tor was allowed to ask himself the right question: "How did the perfo^ switch the top card for an ace?" er

By contrast, consider a simple effecr combining both the pass and h double turnover. Have a card selected and buried in the deck. Do a 6 to bring it to the top. Perform a double turnover as you comment that^ course, the top card of the deck cannot be the spectators card. Turn the double face down and deal the top card onto the spectators hand. Now snap your fingers and have the spectator turn over the card to reveal that i has changed ro her card.

The shock impact of this effect will be at least as strong as that of the two previous examples. But the lasting mystery will be much stronger Why? Because the spectator will ask herself: "How did he make a card that was in the middle of the deck change places with one in my hand?" There is no chance that she can find even a vague or general answer since, of course, that's nor what happened.

But you can't do a pass, you say, only a double turnover? Then try this. Have an ace on top of the deck, a king second from the top, and a duplicate ace third from the top. Perform a double turnover to show the king and deal it to the left. Perform another double turnover to show the ace and deal it to the right. Snap your fingers and turn over the two cards to reveal that they've changed places. "The spectators will ask themselves, "How could he have switched the two cards on the table when they never came anywhere near each other?" The answer, of course, is that you couldn't have. The only conclusion left to the audience is thar they've witnessed a miracle. (Like the copper/silver transposition mentioned earlier, this is an example of the bank shot approach.)

One last example should make the poinr. A young would-be magician acquires a marked deck. He uses it to immediately tell people what card they chose. The effect is that he can identify cards without seeing the feces. The method is that he has a deck that allows him to identify cards without seemg the feces. Needless to say. this effect will fool no one.

Bv contrast, a dev.ously mmded pro m.ght usc a marked deck in thc „ wing manner. He has the cards arranged in a memorized stack. He ,0l rs lout his ability to determme the number of cards in a packet by P*rL He has a spectator cut oft a packet and hand it to him. While prc-rn* to weigh the cards in his hand, he reads the back of thc top card of u Imainder of the deck. He then announces thc number of cards he is

(°«c lcSS thaI1 thC StaCk "Umber °f thC HC rCad)"11,e sP<*tator "the packet and verifies that the number is correct. C°UThe spectator walks away asking himself, "How can the performer de-iine how many cards there are in a packet handed to him?" Because [""asks the wrong question, thc answer won't be marked cards. (If the rformer introduces a conceptual barrier by felse shuffling thc deck at thc ^tset, the secret will be even safer.)

[his is why I consider Gene Finnell's free-cut principle a brilliant concept but consider Spelling the Aces, the effect usually associated with it, an Inferior USe of the concept. The free-cut principle is a method of control-lino the positions of cards despite the fact that a spectator buries them in ¿seemingly random fashion. The effect of Spelling the Aces is that the aces end up in the positions die performer wants despite the fact that the spectator buries them in a random fashion. The spectator is left to ask, "How did the aces end up where he wanted despite the fact that I buried them?" Because of the ingenuity of the principle, he is unlikely to ever arrive at a detailed answer. Nevertheless, the effect degenerates into a puzzle rather than a miracle.

Compare this to an application of the free cut principle that Martin Nash and I devised independently and published virtually simultaneously. The spectator "randomly" buries the aces. The performer shuffles the deck, and then shows that he has controlled the four aces to the top. The spectator asks himself, "How could he control those aces despite the fact that I buried them wherever I wanted?" The false premise (that the aces were randomly positioned by the spectator) becomes a "given" in the spectator's speculations rather than a subject for speculation.

Bob King has accomplished something similar in his version of The Ten-Handed Poker Deal. He has the spectator bury the aces. He then gives the deck one riffle shuffle and deals out a ten-handed game. The aces fall ro the performer. The inner reality is that the free-cut principle positioned the aces every tenth card from the outset. The false shuffle changed noth-lng- The outer reality is that the performer stacked the aces in one shuffle, feet that the spectator buried the aces wherever he wanted before the performer shuffled makes it a particularly astonishing display shuffle creates the false frame of reference. Ifyou omitted the" h^'"' simply dealt out rhe ten hands immediately after the spectator b"15 aM aces, you woujd be back ro rhe same flaw found in Spelling the A

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