Analysis

wIn regard to effects, always remember that an audience wish to be entertained so never ask them to think or remember to any great extent." Jack Merlin, "And a Pack of Cards"

& There is a version of Cards Across usually attributed to Johnny Paul and/or Jim Ryan that involves having a spectator count off twenty cards. She then cuts these cards into two piles and is instructed to count one of them. If, for example, it contains twelve cards, the performer points out that the other pile must contain eight cards. The audience must now remember that Jane has twelve cards and Alice has eight cards. I've seen this version performed numerous times and have been struck by how often either Jane or Alice forgets how many cards she is supposed to have. (Ii she doesn't remember, what chance is there that the rest of the audience will?)

This shouldn't be surprising. The audience is given two arbitrary numbers to remember (typically, eleven and nine, twelve and eight, or thirteen and seven). Additionally, they must remember which person has which number. Compare this to the traditional approach of starting with ten cards in each packet. Now the audience has only one number to remember: ten. Furthermore, since there is only one number, they don't have Co remember which person has which number; they both have ten. Finally, since our culture uses a ten-based counting system, ten is probably the easiest number on Earth to remember. Even a tipsy audience should be able to handle

that. This approach conforms to Darwin's Law: Make it easier for them to remember -what you luant them to remember than it would be to forget it

Another problem with the cut-and-count-one-packet approach is that it relies on indirect proof of how many cards are in the second packet. The only real proof is a subtraction problem performed by one of the spectators. (And it's worth noting how often they get that wrong. Performer: "If there are twelve cards in this packet, how many are there in that packet?" Spectator: "Seven,")

Indirect proof is fine for ancillary aspects of an effect. But when you re dealing with something that pertains to rhe whole point of the effect, you need direct proof. 0 you point out that twelve from twenty equals eight, therefore, the second packet must contain eight cards, people are likely to think, "Well, yeah, I guess." If, instead, they see the packet counted, they know how many cards it contains.

& There is undeniably a lot of counting in this trick. Magicians tend to feel that counting piles of cards is boring. In most tricks, they'd be right. However, Cards Across is about the number of cards. Counting the cards is how the audience experiences what has happened. The alternative, discussed above, of having the spectators add, subtract, deduce, conclude, and surmise, distances them from the magic. Don't turn this trick into an arithmetic lesson and a series of abstractions. Make it a concrete miracle. Let them see, hear, and feel the magic by counting those cards as much as necessary to drive home what happened.

Credits

This is based on Bill Malone's Leoj) o/Faith which, in turn, is based on Paul Harris' Los Vegas Leaper. Both can be found in The Art of Astonishment, Booh I,

Harris' main contribution was the ingenious application of an old false count, traditionally performed by the magician, to allow the spectator to count one of the packets without the performer touching it again, (Most versions of Cards Across allow the spectator to count the cards but require that the performer handle them afterwards.) Almost as important is his way of justifying the procedure as an alleged casino practice. Bill Malone's contribution was the application of the half-pass to allow the second spectator to also count her packet without the performer touching it afterwards.

My contributions are: the use of red cards and black cards to permit identifying which cards traveled across; the method of transferring cards from packet to packet; the Hamman count convincer; and the use of the bottom deal to distribute the reds among the blacks.

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