Method and Handling

Begin with a royal flush secretly on top of the deck. If you're adept with the underspread cull, you can easily achieve this by casually spreading through the cards before you start. (The underspread cull is taught in Ultimate Oil & Water.)

Perform any false shuffle retaining the stock. (If you used an underspread cull to achieve your setup, this shuffling will take the curse off the fact that you were looking at the faces of the cards a moment ago.) I use a jog shuffle, perhaps the most convincing false shuffle for a small top stock. Then give the deck two in-faro shuffles (i.e.. the top card becomes second from the top each time). The splits for the shuffles don't have to be perfect. In fact, neither do the shuffles. Only the portion containing the royal flush need be perfectly alternated, the top five cards on the first shuffle and the top ten cards on the second shuffle.

While shuffling, ask three spectators to help you. They should have some familiarity with poker, at least with the rank of hands. Don't, however, say something like, 'Triced some experienced poker players."That sort of comment tends to intimidate people who fear that their lack of knowledge may be exposed. (Besides, you don't need experienced poker players for this.) A question like, "Have you ever played poker at all?" will do the job. If they say, "A littlfi," that's good enough; they're drafted.

Deal the entire deck out among the three assistants and yourself. In other words, deal thirteen cards to each, as if dealing a game of bridge. (Due to the faro shuffles, the royal Hush will be the first five cards dealt to you,)

As you're dealing, explain, 1m going to give you a chance to do something that Im sure you wish you could do when playing for money, namely, decide what hand youre going to be dealt." Instruct each spectator to go through his cards and remove the best poker hand he can find. He should hold on to this hand and place the rest of his cards on the table, h

I always mention that a full house is likely to be the strongest hand they'll find and that, if they can't find a lull house, they should look for a flush or a straight. I also mention that it isn't imperative that they find the strongest hand as long as it's a good hand. The point is that you don't want them agonizing over this forever. You want them to just settle on a pat hand so you can move on.

While the spectators are sorting through their cards, you're doing the same with yours. Begin by putting the royal flush in order, and then shift it to the top of the packet and fan out the cards faces toward you. (Naturally, you don't allow anyone else to see your cards.) Remove the best poker hand you can find from among the eight non-royal flush cards and place it face down on the table. Place the remaining cards next to it.

Ask each player to remember his poker hand. He doesn't have to memorize each card hut should remember enough that, if he sees the hand again, he'll know it's the same one, *7f yauVe holding a full house remember that it's fours over queens, for example. If you re holding a flush, remember the suit and perhaps the highest ranking card in the hand."

Pick up the first spectator's eight-card pile. Take his poker hand from him and drop it on top. Pick up the second spectator's eight-card pile and drop it on top of that, so that the poker hand is buried in the middle. Cleanly square up the cards. Take the second spectator's poker hand and drop it on top of the cards you're holding. Drop the third spectator's eight-card pile on top of that. Again make a point of squaring the cards very cleanly so the audience is clear that both poker hands have been lost. Drop the third spectator's poker hand on top of the cards you're holding and finally drop your own eight-card pile on top of all. (When I speak of the first, second, and third spectators, T mean in clockwise order, the order in which they were dealt cards and in which they would bet their hands in a game.)

At this point the entire deck has been collected except for your own hand. Spread your poker hand face up on the table. Turn to a spectator other than the three assisting and ask him to help you remember it. I always make some apologetic comment about the poor value of the hand. (Yours will often be the weakest hand since you were choosing from among only eight cards while everyone else chose from among thirteen.)

While exhibiting your poker hand, obtain a fourth-finger break under the top five cards of the deck, I use a pinky count (taught in Darwin Ortiz at the Card Table). Actually, the break can be under anywhere from five to eight cards, so you don't have to be unduly concerned about the accuracy of your count. Set up for tilt under these cards.

Turn your poker hand face down and square it up. Pick it up with your right hand from above by the sides. Insert the packet into the tilt break as you comment that your hand will be buried in the deck just as the others were. Square up the cards, again stressing the fairness of the square up.

Give the deck a false cut followed by two in-faro shuffles (i.e., the original top and bottom cards end up second from top and bottom after each shuffle). This time both the splits and the shuffles have to be perfect. Finish with another false cut.

Deal out four poker hands, one to each of your assistants plus yourself. Each spectator will receive the hand he previously selected for himself and you will receive the royal flush. As you deal, instruct the spectators not to pick up their cards.

Turn to the first spectator and ask him what his original poker hand Was. Elicit whatever details he remembers (the values of the cards in a full house, the suit of a flush, the highest card in a straight, etc.) I pick up the hand and look at it while doing this, so that I can prompt the spectator if necessary. Once he has named his original hand, spread his new hand face up in front of him to reveal that he has received the same cards. Repeat this with the second and third spectators. (You'll find this makes a very strong impression.)

Turn to the spectator who was asked to remember your hand and have him name your original poker hand. Pick up your hand and look at it without letting anyone see it. Feign embarrassment that you failed to receive the right cards. Milk this as much as you can. If, for example> my poker hand consisted of two pair, I'll observe sheepishly that I didn't even get one pair. If the hand consisted of a diamond flush, I'll lament that I didn't get a single diamond. When you've exploited the apparent miss sufficiently, observe, Ttay say that it's better to be lucky than skillful and, boy, was J tucHy." Reveal your royal flush to climax the effect.

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