Method and Handling

After Hours Magic: A Book of Al Thatcher Card Magic

Encyclopedia of Card Tricks

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Pilose One

Once you have the stacked deck in play, split it exacdy in half and riffle shuffle the halves together legitimately. The easiest way to split at the exact center is to use the ace of clubs as a key card. Start with the deck on end as shown in illustration 1.

Riffle back with the right thumb until you spot the ace of clubs as shown in the illustration. Then divide the deck at that point. Table the two halves and shuffle them together.

Explain that you're going to demonstrate the most legendary method of cheating at cards, the center deal. Explain the concept briefly. It's important that the audience is clear on what you mean by center dealing so that they can properly conceptualize what they're going to see. I usually pick up the deck in dealing grip and pull a card partway out of the center as I explain.

Ribbonspread the deck lace up on the table as you explain the advantages of being able to deal yourself any card you want from any part of the deck you want. As you patter, point to various high cards in the spread. This gives the audience a good opportunity to see the (apparently) thoroughly shuffled condition of the deck.

Pick up the deck and spread through itT upjog-ging all the red cards. Strip out the red cards and ribbonspread them vertically on your right. Ribbonspread the black cards vertically on your left. (See illtistration 2.) Separating the reds from the blacks undoes the effect of the earlier riffle shuffle. (This is a very old principle going back to Charles T. Jordan.) Nevertheless, the order of the cards will still appear random to the audience.

Pick up the red cards as you explain that you want the spectator to select one. Start spreading through the cards with the faces toward you, then tilt your hands down so the spectator can see the faces. As you do so, cull the queen of diamonds (which is fourth from the face) under the spread. II you time it correcdy, the action of tilting the spread down will completely hide this action.

Explain to the spectator that you want her to touch the face of a card as you spread through them. When she does, cull that card under the spread, using the queen of diamonds as your guide. Continue spreading as you point out that the spectator could have chosen any card. (See Ultimate Oil & Water for details on the underspread cull.)

Square up the packet and place it face up on the table to your right. The cull has controlled the selected card to the bottom with the queen of diamonds directly above it (back in its proper position in the setup). Caution the spectator, and the rest of the audience, to remember the selected card.

Gather up the spread of black cards and place it face up to your left. Explain that, from this point on, you'll handle the cards face up to make it easier for the audience to follow what's happening. You're now going to riffle shuffle the two halves together as follows. Begin by releasing a small slug of cards from the right-hand (black) cards. Continue shuffling the two halves, but time it so that you're left with a small slug of cards on the right and two cards on the left. (These will be the ace of clubs and king of spades.) Release the right-hand cards, then

the two leJt-hand cards on top of all

Telescope the cards together for about hall their length. Comment, "Give me just a moment to memorize the resulting fattem, of reds and blacks. Ohu>, no problem." As you say this, ribbonspread the telescoped deck vertically in front oi you as shown in illustration 3. In doing so, let the bottom few cards remain bunched up. This hides the slug of cards on the bottom of the black half and the selected card on the bottom of the red half. Gather the spread almost instantly. (This spread will sell the notion that reds and blacks are thoroughly mixed together.)

You now push the two halves together, apparently squaring the deck, but actually setting up for a strip-out shuffle with a block transfer. Here is the way I do it. Push the two halves together until they're flush except for about half the width of the white border. Each hand is positioned at its respective end of the deck with the second and third iingers at the outer corner, the thumb at the inner side, and the forefinger curled on top. This position is shown is illustration A. The position of the third fingers is important. They're at the ends of the deck at the very outer cor-

the inner edge. This will square the deck along the sides but leave the two halves offset at the ends for about half the width oi the white borders.

It now remains only to strip the two halves apart. Each hand grips its half at the extreme outer end between the third finger and thumb as in illustration 7. (Illustration 8 shows the same situation with the forefingers moved for clarity.) The right hand strips its

ners. They push inward toward each other as in illustration 5 until the cards square. However, because the pressure was exerted at the outer corners, the cards will mesh in a slight X.

At this point, the right thumb at the right inner corner slides inward toward the right along the top edge of the cards as in illustration 6. This causes the two-card block to swivel off the left half into alignment with the right half. (This constitutes the block transfer.) Your second fingers now slide outward along the front of the deck as your thumbs slide inward along

half forward while the left hand keeps its half in place as in illustration 9. As soon as the halves clear, the left hand lifts its half so that the right hand can slip its half underneath. This lower half is stepped to the right for less than the width of the white border.

Your right hand now lifts up the top three-quarters of the deck. Your left hand picks up the bottom quarter and places it on top of the deck. Finally, the right hand takes all the cards that are stepped to the right, about a quarter of the deck, and cuts them to the top. The tip of the left third finger at the outer left corner of the deck ensures that the right hand takes only the stepped cards. The deck is now in the following order from face to back: the ace of clubs, the king of spades, twenty-six red cards, twenty-four black cards.

You're now going to do a simple tabled double undercut to bring the ace of clubs to the bottom. Get a left thuirb break under the ace. Your right hand now cuts about half the cards from the bottom to the top. It then continues by cutting all the cards below the break to the top. The ace of clubs will now be on the bottom and the king of spades on the face of the deck.

You're now going to perform Caryl's Triumph cutting display, apparently to further mix the cards, but actually to further sell the notion that the reds and the blacks are mixed together. Your right hand cuts off slightly less than half the deck, tabling it to the right as your left hand slides the lower half to the left. The two hands now move in unison. Each cuts off about two thirds of its half and carries it to the far end of your working surface. Each hand then cuts off about half of those cards and deposits them halfway between the other two packets. The resulting layout will look as in illustration 10. Notice that the face cards of the six packets alternate red and black, giving the clear impression that the colors are / \ -J 10.

mixed throughout the deck.

To gather the cards, the hands now move in staggered fashion. Your right hand places the center-right packet on the outer right packet. Your left hand then places the outer left packet on the inner left packet. Your right hand now places its combined packet on the inner right packet. Your left hand now places the center left packet on the combined inner left packet. Finally, your right hand places the right half on the left half.

This method of gathering the packets, which I've been using for almost thirty years, differs from Daryl's original handling. It's designed to make the sequence look like a multiple cut rather than a display. Your apparent purpose is to further mix the cards. The fact that the colors are seen to be well mixed seems incidental. (Paul Cummins has expressed similar thinking in Personal Triumph, «-From a Shuffled Deck in Use...)

At the end of the cutting sequence, the deck is back in the same order. The only clue to this (act is that the king of spades is back on the face. However, so many cards will have been flashed during the cutting that no one will notice. (This is, however, why you started with the ace of clubs on the face and later cut it to the bottom. Otherwise, you would have the king of spades on the face throughout the shuffle sequence, which would be noticeable.) As you shuffle and cut, explain to the audience that you're attempting to keep track of the exact location of every red card in the deck.

Pick up the face-up deck and point out that the face card is black. Spread the three or four bottom cards and point out they are also black. Therefore, if you want to deal yourself a red card you cannot deal it off the top or the bottom. "But if scmxehoii; J knew that the two of hearts mas exactly fourth from the top of the deck" you say, 'And, if I really could deal myself any card I wanted from any f>art of the deck I wanted* I could deal myself the turo of hearts—like this." As you finish this line, perform a strike second deal. The two of hearts will materialize.

Continue, "And, if J really bod succeeded, throughout all those shuffles and cuts, in heefnng track of the exact location of every red card in the deck—and if I really could deal myself any card I want from any part of the deck I if ant—I should he able to deal the red cards out from in-between the black cards. I could actually center deal all tu>enty-suc red cards in a f>ile on the table, leaving nothing but black cards in my hand And if I really could do that, it -would look like this."

As you finish this last line, start dealing strike seconds in rapid-fire fashion into a pile on the previously tabled two of hearts. Only red cards will appear. Do not necktie the deck during this dealing. On the contrary, tip the deck down to give the audience a clear view of the face of the deck. You want them to see the red cards being pulled out, apparently from the center of the deck. (I'm assuming that you can do the strike second deal well.) Also, make sure that the pile of cards is reasonably neat; the order of the cards must not become disarranged during the dealing.

You must second deal exactly twenty-four cards. You can ensure this in either of two ways. First, you can use the queen of diamonds as a key card. When you think you're approaching twenty-four cards, slow down the deal. As soon as you see the queen of diamonds, stop dealing. The other approach is simply to count the cards silently as you deal and stop on the twenty-fourth. This will mean that you can't patter during the dealing. I prefer to do the deal in silence anyway, so the audience can concentrate on the visual display. Therefore, I use the latter approach and rely on the queen of diamonds as a double-check.

Square the pile oi red cards with your right hand and ribbonspread them some distance in front of you. Announce that there is only one red card left in the deck. (This is true. You've actually dealt twenty-five cards since you dealt the two of hearts before dealing the run of twenty-four.) Explain that you purposely left one red card for last, the card the spectator selected earlier.

During these comments, obtain a break below the top two cards of the face-up deck. Perform a Vernon two-card push-off and grip the double from above in the right hand. Continue thumbing off cards as you spread the top half-dozen or so cards across the table as shown in illiistration 11. (If you don't do a two-card push-off you'll still find this an effective display. Just grip the double with your right hand as you start to spread the cards.) As you do, point out that there are no red cards near the top of the deck. Square up, and then spread a half-dozen or so cards from the bottom as you point out that there are no red cards near the bottom.

Ask the spectator to name her card. State that her card is now fifteenth from the top. (After what they've just seen, no one will question this claim,) Deal a second in the center of the table to produce the 12. selected card. Finally, ribbonspread the remaining cards in front of you to show that they consist of nothing but black cards. (Illustration 12 shows this final display.)

Phase Two

Pick up the red pile. Spread through it, upjogging all the hearts. Strip them out with your right hand. What you do next depends on the suit of the selected card. If the selected card is a diamond, ribbonspread the hearts face up on the far side of your working surface to your right. Fan out the diamonds and insert the selected card in the fan, apparently at random, but actually in its proper place in the setup. You'll notice that the odd cards are in sequence on one side of the fan and the even cards are in sequence on the other side. (Although the details vary from one suit to another, this basic pattern is true oi all four suits.) It's therefore easy to quickly spot where the missing card goes. After replacing the card, ribbonspread the diamonds face up beside the hearts. If the selected card is a heart you do the same thing except, of course, that you ribbonspread the diamonds first, fan the hearts, replace the selection, and ribbonspread them.

Pick up the black pile. Spread through it, upjogging all the spades. Strip them out with your right hand and ribhonspread them lace up in front of you to your right as your left hand ribbon-spreads the clubs face up beside them. The resulting layout will look as in illustration 13.

Your setup is still intact. Each of the four suits is in exacdy the order you originally placed it except that the sequence of the red cards has been reversed by the second dealing—something that you took into account when first setting up, (In the course of the handling, the ace of clubs, queen of diamonds, and the selected card have been shifted back to their proper positions in the stack.) Nevertheless, the cards appear randomly mixed. Unless someone were to scrutinize them closely ^-something no one is going to do—he would never detect a pattern.

During this sorting procedure, explain, 7 could tell that some of you held bach a little mi your applause. And I can understand iwhy. You re thinking, Tie took it pretty easy on himself as far as the memory part u/as concerned. Sure, he did have to keep track of the exact location of every red card in the dec!?. But he didnt have to keep track of the location of every card in the deck by its exact identity.1 In other words, I didn't have to remember, for example, that the jack of shades u>as exactly twenty-fifth from the top of the deck. To make this next £art more of a challenge, I will keep track of every card tn the deck by its exact identify"

Point out that you've separated the cards by suit. Gather up the spades as you explain that you want to check to make sure that you did get all thirteen spades in this pile. Turn the packet face down and count the cards aloud into a pile on the table. In actuality, you alternate dealing bottoms and tops. The first card comes off the bottom. The next card comes off the top, and so on. Every odd number in the count comes off the bottom; every even number comes off the top. This is easy because you're only dealing from a small packet. But it's difficult because you have to continually switch from one kind of deal to the other. But it's easy because nobody is looking for any moves at this point. (The bottom line is that it'll take some practice.)

If you were to examine the spade packet now you would find that the cards are in numerical order. Place the packet face down off to your right. Point out that since all the spades are there, you must have all the clubs in the other packet.

Gather up the hearts as you explain that you want to check to make sure that you got all thirteen hearts 'in this pile. Turn the packet face down and count the cards aloud into a pile on the table. You handle this packet exactly as you did the spade packet. Alternately deal bottoms and tops, starting with a bottom. This deal-counting should be done casually, not showcased. Remember that you're doing this as a check for yourself, not to prove anything to the audience.

The heart packet is now in reverse numerical order. Place this packet face down off to your left. Point out that since all the hearts are there, you must have all the diamonds in the other packet.

Gather the diamonds and clubs into side-by-side, facedown packets (clubs on the left) in preparation for a tabled riffle shuffle. Say, "Give me jast a moment to memorize the exact order of all thirteen clubs. Okay, no fwob-lem." As you deliver this line, quickly spread the clubs face up, then gather them up, and turn them face down again. This action is consistent with your claims and also shows the audience again that the clubs are "randomly" mixed. (In fact, the clubs are in exacdy the same order listed in the original setup. The diamonds are in reverse of the order originally listed; the second dealing in phase one reversed the order of all the red cards.)

You're now going to perform a Zarrow shuffle. The right-hand cards (diamonds) must go under a block of seven carda. In other words, you shuffle the two halves together, dropping cards from the right half faster than the left half. When you're holding back exactly seven cards on the left, drop all the remaining cards from the

right and drop the seven cards on top. Then disengage the halves and slide the right-hand cards under the seven-card cover.

It will take some practice to be able to hold back exactly seven cards, (With practice, however, it's perfecdy practical to do this shuffle by feel alone.) The good news is that the small size of the two packets, combined with the large cover block, makes the Zarrow shuffle look extremely convincing.

Follow this shuffle with a second Zarrow shuffle. Setup for this shuffle as follows. Your right thumb lifts up about half the packet at the inner right corner. Your right hand then pulls these cards out as your left íorefinger retains the top card in position so that it coalesces with the lower half. (In essence, you perform a slip cut.) Replace the right-hand cards on top, sidejogged to the right. (Make the jog as small as you can manage.) Your right hand now undercuts the bottom half of the upper, sidejogged portion and places it on top, square with the bottom half. Finally, your right hand undercuts all the remaining sidejogged cards and places them on top. As you do this, your left thumb catches a break at the gap created by the pulled-out packet. Cut all the cards above the break to the right. (This sequence has the same effect as simply performing a slip cut as in the originad handling of the Zarrow shuffle. In my view, however, it's more deceptive.)

Zarrow shuffle the right-hand packet under the top card of the left-hand packet, (Normally I avoid Zarrow shuffling under only one card. When working with such small packets, however, the Zarrow shuffle becomes so deceptive that you get a good illusion even with only a one-card cover.)

As you shuffle, explain, "Although the clubs and diamonds are being thoroughly shuffled together, you hnou) that I could take these fru«ifcy-$wc cards and center deal all thirteen cluhs in a row, leaving nothing but diamonds m my hand. Ybu hnoiu 1 can do that because you sour me do it with the reds and the blacks. So, to make this fmrt a little more of a challenge, Im going to center deal the clubs in order"

The order in which you initially placed the clubs is such that, by alternately dealing off the top and the bottom you can produce them in order. Nothing that has happened throughout the routine has changed this, including the Zarrow shuffles. The first shuffle merely positioned the clubs that must be dealt off the top above the diamonds and the clubs that must be dealt off the bottom below the diamonds. The second shuffle, of course, changed nothing at all.

Take the twenty - six - card packet face down in dealing grip. Deal thirteen cards in a face-up row at the far end

of your working surface. However, you alternate dealing from the top and bottom. Deal the first card off the top, the second off the bottom, and so on. All the odd cards come off the top and the even ones from the bottom. (This is the opposite of what you did xuith the sf>ade and heart ¿jackets.} The thirteen clubs will come out in numerical order.

Since you're dealing face up, you'll need to do a stud-style bottom deal. I recommend Larry Jennings' stud bottom; Hold the deck in a modified mechanic's grip with the forefinger wrapped around the outer right corner

14. but with the inner left corner of the deck closer to the edge of the hand than usual. The second, third, and fourth fingers are bunched near the outer right corner of the deck, the tips flush with the top of the deck. This position is shown in illustration 14.

When dealing fairly you push over the top card for ( 15.

about half its width with your left thumb. Your right hand comes over palm down to take the card. In doing so, the right fingers cover the left thumb, The right third finger contacts the top card at the outer left corner. This is shown in illustration 15. Your right thumb just barely touches the edge of the bottom card of the deck. The fingers then draw off the top card Co the right and the thumb levers it face up. The right fingers must always cover the thumb when taking the card. This is what creates a strong visual retention when you deal the bottom card.

When dealing off the bottom, push over the top card with your left thumb as before. The left fingers then slide inward very slightly to buckle the bottom card. This

action is just enough to free the card. The actual buckling is done primarily by the outer joint of the middle finger and is so slight as to be imperceptible. The right hand comes over and contacts the top card as before. Again the right thumb just touches the bottom card. Your left thumb pulls the top card back

flush with the deck as the right hand comes away with the bottom card and levers it face up as shown in illustrations 16 and 17,

When you have finished dealing out the clubs, say, "Give me just a moment to memorise the eaact order of all thirteen diamonds. Ohay, no problem- To make this part a little more of a challenge, Im going to center deal the diamonds in reverse order." As you say this, ribbonspread the remaining cards face up and quickly gather them up again. This gives the audience a chance to see that the diamonds are still in "random" order-

Take the diamond packet face down in dealing grip. You will now deal these cards in a face-up row below the row of clubs. Using a stud deal, alternate dealing off the top and bottom just as you did with the clubs. Again, the odd cards come off the top and the even cards off the bottom. The diamonds will come out in reverse order, from king to ace.

You're now going to shuffle the spade packet, which you had placed off to the right, and the heart packet, which you had placed off to the left, together. The first shuffle will be a Zarrow shuffle under one card. You set up for it the same way you did for the previous Zarrow shuffle. Place the right-hand cards (the spades) on top of the left-hand cards, but don't let go of them. Perform the up-the-Iadder cut I described before to displace one card. Now Zarrow shuffle under one card. You'll be left with the spades on top of the hearts.

You must now give the packet an out-faro shuffle (i.e., the original top and bottom cards of the packet retain their positions). Both the split and the shuffle must be perfect. If you do an in-the-hands faro, you can use the king of spades as a key card for the split, A table faro would be more consistent with the other shuffles youVe done. I prefer an in-the-hands faro here, however, because the cascade really sells the fact that the cards are being thoroughly shuffled together.

During these shuffles, patter along these lines: "To finish off, Tm going to shuffle the spades and the hearts together. To make this last f>art a little more of a challenge J m going to center deal the spades and the hearts simultaneously and in oJ)f>asite sequences. Give me just a moment to memorize the exact order of these twenty -six cards. Oliay, no problem."

As you deliver the last two sentences, hold the cards in dealing grip and riffle up the back end with your right thumb as you pretend to memorize the cards.

Turn to a spectator and ask her to watch to make sure that you don't make any mistakes on the spades. Turn to another spectator and ask him to watch the hearts to make sure you don't make any mistakes there. Explain that you're going to center deal the spades in ascending order and the hearts in descending order.

You now proceed to do exacdy that. The spades and hearts alternate as a result of the faro shuffle. The spades are already running in ascending order and the hearts in descending order. Simply deal two face-up rows below the clubs and diamonds rows, alternately dealing to one row and then the other. This time all the cards come off the top. I suggest calling out the name of each card as you deal it. This underscores the seemingly gigantic mental, as well as physical, feat you re performing. The audience will see the spades and hearts gradually coming out in sequence in the two rows, bringing the routine to a spectacular end.

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