Shiftless Royalty

A card is chosen and lost back into the deck. Ten cards are taken from the deck and alternately turned face-up and face-down. Instantly they're all face-down except for the chosen card.

Alex Elmsley first developed the idea and published it as "A Minor Triumph," in The Gen (April, 1956). Without being aware of Elmsley's effect, Robin came up with the same effect, but a different method, and published it as "Acrobatic Cards" in Handle with Care (1964)

J. K. Hartman used Marlo's "Simple Shift" for a similar effect in which alternating face-up and face-down cards suddenly face all one way— without a chosen card revelation ("Every Which Way," first published in Loose Ends (1978) and later republished in Card Craft (1991)).

Here, the Simple Shift is used somewhat differently than in Hartman's version, and not only does a mix of face-up/face-down cards right itself, leaving a chosen card the only face-up card, but also the packet splits into Kings and Queens in the process.


1. Have a card freely chosen, but say to the spectators, "Don't make it a King or a Queen. I need them to help me with this trick." Control the chosen card to the top of the deck.

2. Spread through the face-up deck and openly upjog the Kings and Queens as you come to them. Add the chosen card to the rear using the Vernon Add-on technique. Set the deck aside as it won't be used further in this trick.

3. Spread the cards face-up, keeping the chosen card hidden at the rear. Let's say that there was a King just in front of the chosen card. Sort the other Kings below it in the left hand, the Queens in the right.

4. After displaying the two packets briefly, use the Queens to flip the Kings face-down. Square, then re-spread all the cards into a fan in the left hand, holding the bottom two together as one. Place the top face-up Queen on the bottom of the fan, outjogged. The next Queen goes between the two bottom face-down cards, and so on. The last face-up Queen should go between the top two facedown cards, but slightly to the right of the top card (Fig.1). This enables you to turn your left hand over, openly showing Kings on the other side (Fig.2) without exposing the selection on top.

5. Turn your hand back down again, close the spread, then use a version of Marlo's Simple Shift, as follows:

Arch your right hand over the elongated packet with the first finger resting on top. The left first finger pushes inward on all the outjogged cards, while the right first finger presses down on the top card. This causes all eight cards below the top card to move inwards as a unit, while the top card remains static and finishes covering the face-up Queen (Figs.3 and 4). Alternatively, use your left thumb to maintain the pressure on the top card (original Marlo method).

The right thumb immediately pivots out the injogged cards and places them on the table. At the same time, the left hand turns palm-down, which isn't noticed as face-down cards are seen on either side. Your right hand then places the left hand cards on top of those already on the table, as you say, "Let's just close things up and give the cards a cut. Now what was the name of your card?"

6. Spread the cards to show the chosen card face-up in the middle. "I told you I needed the royalty to help me with this trick. And your card did a little trick, too. He separated the Kings and Queens." Flip over the cards to show Kings are on one side of the chosen card and Queens on the other.


An alternate way to do "Shiftless Royalty" that uses an original idea called the "impaired count."

Do exactly as above through step 3.

4. Hold the packet in a Biddle grip. Count the four Queens into your left hand, secretly taking both top and bottom cards as one on the first Queen. Continue to count the four Kings, but pick up the complete left hand packet as you count the first King—finish with a block on top.


4a. Get a break under the third Queen from the face and do a Turn-over Pass as you turn the pack face-down.

To check, the order from the top down is three Kings - the chosen card -four Queens - a King.

5. Say, "I'm going to alternate the cards so that five face one way and five the other. While I'm doing this I want you to watch for the selected card." Now you do the "impaired count":

Hold the packet face-down in right ^

hand Biddle grip. Pull off the top card deep into your left hand—turn your right hand palm-up, and pull off the face card face-up on top (Fig.5). As you're doing so, turn your right hand palm-down again as the card is emerging so the spectators don't see the face-card. This is the only time in the count when you need to be careful. Say, "First pair—a Queen facedown and a King face-up." Name each King as you come to it. Place these to the bottom of the packet.

Again, pull off the top card into your left hand—turn your right hand and pull off the face card face-up on top (this is a discrepancy, but it doesn't register). Say, "A second Queen face-down and a King face-up." Place these to the bottom of the packet.

Repeat this for the third and fourth pairs. The spectator's reason for watching the count is to make sure that all the face-up cards are Kings.

6. Take the packet in dealing position and ask, "Were all the Kings facing the same way?" As you speak, get a break at the natural division (under the top four cards). They will say "yes" to your question. Execute a HalfPass as you turn the packet face-up end for end (this is the Lin Searles Half-Pass), saying, "Well, now so are the Queens. And the Kings and the Queens have separated."Spread to display.

7. "Not only that, but they seem to have found one card. What was your card?" Turn the fan over to display the chosen card. "I told you that I needed royalty to help find your card."

Three cards return to their owners under the direction of the Ringmaster.

This was adapted from Robin's "Triple Change", which was posted on his web site.

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