Overhand Peeking Culling

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Bottom Peek & Retention Cull

When I started working with these ideas the primary drawback of the previous stacking methods was the need to have the cards in a known location at in the deck, generally the top or bottom. Consequently, it becomes desirable and arguably necessary to determine a method of peeking while performing an overhand shuffle. Originally, I felt the only really effective method would be to glance at the bottom card of the deck as it was held in the right hand overhand shuffling grip. The problem with this method is of course that only one card is visible, this does however constitute a beginning. Now, if you were to perform continual undercuts you could glance at a new bottom card with each subsequent undercut. This would allow you, presuming you peeled the cards from the deck only one at a time and undercut every single time you peeled a card from the top of the deck, to peek at half of the cards in the deck during a single shuffle. Unfortunately, on the second shuffle you would peek at only one quarter of the deck in new cards, meaning that after two shuffles a maximum of three quarters of the deck would be seen and the returns would be diminishing if you didn't alter the shuffling order. Nevertheless, the odds that you will be able to locate the cards you are looking for in those three quarters of the deck is fairly high, particularly if there is some flexibility in your stack. For example, the odds of being able to assemble three of a kind, a flush, or even a full house in this regard are quite high. If you began with some of the cards needed through a discard stacking process those odds would rise further.

Hypothetically, we will assume you were handed a completely random deck with one of the cards you desired on the bottom, we will say it is an ace. You will now attempt to cull the remaining three aces to the bottom with the first. Using this method of peeking at the bottom card, you would begin with an undercut allowing you to retain the first of the aces on the bottom of the deck. You will now continue by performing an undercut with each card that is peeled from the top of the deck, peeking at each new bottom card that is exposed as you go to determine whether it is an ace or not. When you see an ace, you will stop the undercutting process and shuffle off the rest of the deck in a conventional manner bringing that ace to the top of the deck. You will then begin over again by performing an undercut, which will move the top ace to the bottom and retain the previous ace on the bottom. Again, as before, you will perform undercuts watching for another ace, when you find it you will leave it at the bottom of the right hand packet, stop performing undercuts and shuffle the ace to the top of the deck. This time you have two options, since there are two aces on the bottom, which you must retain, you can either perform two undercuts, or peel the top card off first and then, under the cover of a series of cards, perform a multiple undercut of the two bottom cards. This process would continue for however many cards you wish to cull, though I should caution you that more than five or six becomes very tedious. Nevertheless, you may find it an interesting means of culling cards in a random deck. Personally, I find this to be an especially effective method for culling straights, as there is a guarantee that the bottom card of the deck is useful and at any one time, there should be eight cards in the deck for you to locate and cull. I seem to recall reading the statistics that in draw poker if you are holding three of a kind there is a 98% chance that you have the best hand at the table. A straight then is a reasonable hand to cull since it has the advantage of being high enough to generally be a winning head, while common enough not to arose suspicion; it is also extremely easy to cull and stack.

To clarify this notion of culling a straight, though it may be tempting at times to do otherwise, you should look only for cards with the value of one above and one below. For example, if the bottom card of the deck was a three spot you would work your way through the deck as described looking for either a four-spot, or a two-spot. Though it may be tempting should you see a five-spot or six-spot or an ace, do not cull these cards as it will decrease the number of possibilities later on.

Now, if you wished to cull a double duke the process becomes a little more complicated since ordering will be necessary at some point. Generally, there are three options to consider. The first is simply to cull all the cards (say three of a kind and a straight for a total of eight cards) in the order they come up (it would be advisable to give the three of a kind priority over the straight as the odds that the cards will turn up are lower) and then reorder them in a shuffle or two as needed once the culling is complete. To simplify this process, you may wish to perform slight grouping by grouping together say the five cards of the straight on the bottom while grouping the three of a kind just above those five. The reason I recommend the five be placed on the bottom is that it becomes a simple matter to cut those five to the top and since there are more cards in the straight it is desirable to shuffle them from the top rather than undercutting them, thereby decreasing the risk of the undercut being detected.

In order to cull the cards in this manner we will assume someone hands you a random deck whose bottom card is a six. You will then wish to form your three of a kind using sixes due again to the probability involved. Since this is the case you can choose whichever straight you desire, however, for the sake of probabilities you want to pick a straight that is impossible to interfere with the sixes. In order to ensure this is the case, pick either one number above six and add five for a roughly ideal value. Naturally, you could choose one number below and subtract five, but the idea is to get the highest possible straight. Now notice, if the value is six, then one above is seven and to add one gives you twelve, which would be a queen. You could in theory use as low as a jack since using a jack would offer a worst case scenario of forming a straight of seven, eight, nine, ten, jack, but again, using a queen offers a better straight. Using this method it is impossible no matter which direction you form the straight, for the straight to make use of a six.

So now, you will begin performing undercuts looking for either a queen, or another six. Assuming you located a six first, you would shuffle it to the top of the deck and then start again with your undercuts moving the top card of the deck and the bottom card (both sixes) to the bottom of the deck. Now, perhaps you will locate a queen and shuffle it to the top of the deck. You will then start the next shuffle off by peeling off the queen first, then perform a multiple undercut in order to maintain the position of the two sixes at the bottom of the deck. Again, you will return to performing undercuts, this time looking for either another six, a jack, or a king. Next, you may locate your third six, which you will shuffle as before to the top of the deck. In this case, you will now perform an undercut, maintaining the position of the queen on the bottom of the deck while adding the six from the top and follow it up with a multiple undercut to add the two other sixes on top of those cards. Perhaps, the next card you locate is a jack. The process of ordering now becomes slightly more difficult and the primary consideration is this, you want to minimize the size of the multiple undercut you will perform. With this in mind, you will begin with an undercut that will leave the queen on the bottom with the jack above it and the three sixes at the bottom of the right hand packet. The next movement must then be to perform a multiple undercut of all three sixes under the cover of a few cards being peeled from the top of the deck. You may now resume the process looking for either a ten or a king. Regardless of what card you locate this process is going to remain roughly the same. As the subsequent cards in the straight are located they will be shuffled to the top of the deck, you will perform a single undercut followed by a multiple undercut that retains all the previously culled cards.

Once you have completed this process leaving you with the straight on the bottom of the deck and the three sixes above it, you will use your desired method to obtain a break below the bottom five cards and your preferred method to cut them to the top of the deck. From this point it is a simple matter to interlace them with the sixes as desired using undercuts and once interlaced they can be effectively stacked and brought into play.

A more elegant approach would however eliminate the ordering shuffle or shuffles at the end by interlacing the cards during the cull. This process is slightly more difficult and you may accomplish it in at least two ways. The first, is to decide what order you would like to have the cards on the bottom and cull them in this order from the top down. For example, if the ultimate desired order was from the bottom up: a six, the first card of the straight, a second six, the next card of the straight, the third six and now the three remaining cards of the straight, then you would begin by culling the first three cards of the straight, then a six, then the next card in the straight, then the second six, then the final card in the straight and finally the last six. Now, you will notice that I formerly recommended that you begin by using the bottom card for the three of a kind. In order to do so while maintaining the previously described method you can simply undercut the six (if that is the card you are using) on each occasion thus maintaining its position on the bottom while performing a multiple undercut on the other cards. The second approach would be to cull the cards as you discover them but to use multiple undercuts as appropriate to position these cards in the desired order. The danger of this method is that in most cases it will eventually require performing multiple undercuts under the cover of only one card at some point and thus risk exposure, however, the decision is your own should you choose to employ an overhand method of culling such as this.

I would point out here that what I have provided is merely one example to demonstrate a principle with a wide-ranging application. There are naturally myriads of hands and myriads of slight variations to the technique that I will not cover, but allow you to examine and refine at your leisure.

Another possibility, which I do not deem worthy of examining in depth but I should offer for consideration, is the idea of using a multiple undercut instead of a single undercut in order to peek. The concept is basically that if you tilt the deck at the right angle you should be able to see the pips of the cards during a multiple undercut as they are revealed. In this manner, if you were to perform multiple undercuts involving three cards with two cards as cover you would be able to cycle through a higher percentage of the deck with each shuffle and potentially go much more quickly. Three is of course merely a hypothetical number, but it demonstrates how efficiency could increased by altering the ratio of cards being removed from the top of the deck with the number being removed from the bottom of the deck. This would serve merely as a more advanced method of peeking and the culling would remain the same.

Shift Peek, Tidal Cull & Hurdle Cull

A different approach and one that I would not particularly advise, though you may be able to adapt it to your particular style, involves peeking the top card of the deck just prior to peeling it off. The notion as I have explored it involves using the initial downward motion of the right hand to apparently accidentally cause the top card of the deck to be pushed upwards out of alignment with the rest of the cards and allow its value to be seen. (See figure 259.)

Figure 259.

As I'm sure you can see, this is a very suspicious method of peeking, though if performed quickly and in a casual manner you may be able to get away with it. Unfortunately, because it requires burning the deck (for those of you who are not familiar with the term it is the notion that you are constantly staring at the deck, keeping your gaze fixed on the cards), getting away with being extremely casual does not seem probable. Nevertheless, if the cull is performed quickly enough in the presence of the right audience, or merely as a false demonstration of sorts it is certainly workable, depending on your presentation style.

The culling takes a similar form to that of the bottom peeking method (retention cull). You will shuffle through the deck peeking at the cards until you locate one of the desired value, we shall assume in this case that it is an ace. You will then jog it and shuffle the rest of the deck on top. Using the jog you will get yourself a break just above the ace and shuffle down to it tossing the remaining cards, with the ace on top, onto the top of the deck when you reach the break. You can now start over, naturally because you will peel the ace off the top of the deck first it will become the new bottom card. When you arrive at the next ace, you will again jog it and shuffle off the rest of the deck on top. At this point, once you obtain your break, the first movement of the shuffle must involve an undercut in order to maintain the position of the first ace at the bottom of the deck. You will then proceed as normal shuffling the second ace to the top of the deck. You continue now with the peeking process shuffling the second ace off first so that it becomes the bottom card in the deck. When you locate the third ace you will again jog it and shuffle off the remaining cards, obtain a break above the ace and perform an undercut (the undercut will now leave both the first two aces on the bottom of the deck). You now simply shuffle off to the break at which point you can deposit the packet on the top of the deck completing the shuffle and positioning the third ace at the top of the deck. The same procedure is repeated for the final ace. Briefly, that will involve shuffling as normal while peeking, thus bringing the third ace to the bottom of the deck, locating then jogging the fourth ace and shuffling the rest of the deck onto the jog bringing the first two aces to the top of the deck. An undercut will maintain the position of the third ace and a regular shuffle will ensure that the first two remain with it as you shuffle off to the fourth ace and thus bring it to the top of the deck from which it can be used in conjunction with the cards at the bottom. (This method is called the Tidal cull).

Although this method may seem tedious or obvious, it offers several advantages over the bottom peeking method. First, it requires only a single undercut on each occasion and no multiple undercuts. Second, it allows you to circulate through the entire deck and is thus a better method of locating and culling such hands as four of a kind or a royal flush. Unless you are concerned about exactly what hand you are culling, I would recommend beginning by using the top card of the deck whatever it may be so as to decrease the amount of time and number of shuffles necessary to complete the stacking and culling process.

Of course, there remains the issue of being casual, which, over a series of three or four shuffles and often burning the deck can become difficult, though perhaps the shuffles that do not require peeking will help to cover this process. It then seems to be a novel concept for one to cull the cards as quickly as possible, which the previous method does not achieve. In this case, there is then an alternative method that you may deem to be more or less appropriate at your discretion. This is to use the first method of culling involving a packet pick-up. Namely, when you arrive at a card you desire to cull, in the act of peeling that card from the top of the right hand packet you will perform a packet pick-up of all the cards you have shuffled off so far. You'll then release the packet immediately on top of the single card in the next downward motion. It's a simple matter continue with this process for each of the cards you locate and wish to cull. In this manner, each desired card will automatically be transferred to and retained upon the bottom of the deck. I call this, the Hurdle cull. There is only one point I wish to address in this regard as the process seem to me to be fairly self-explanatory, particularly when combined with the earlier descriptions. That note, is to advise you to make sure the lower side of the deck descends fully into the hand, and makes contact with the hand as the peeking action is performed. (See figure 260.)

Figure 260.

This allows you to pick up the packet cleanly and stands in opposition to what may become a lazy tendency of moving the right hand packet only halfway into the hand. (See figure 261 for an example of how not to perform the action.)

Figure 261.

Naturally, if you were to employ this particular method there is little benefit (besides decreasing the number of pick-ups by one) to making use of the top card of the deck. With some measure of luck, the fact that the cull of as many cards as desired can be performed within a single shuffle will facilitate a greater measure of deception that the previous method involving what may be considered an excessive number of shuffles.

Shuffle Peek

For reasons I consider to be fairly obvious, none of those methods of peeking was satisfactory to me and I thus considered another, potentially more deceptive and invisible method. While this peeking action comes in the form of a standard shuffle and allows one to rotate through the entire deck, it is not without flaws, but I shall come to those momentarily. The concept, is that if you again tilt the packets at the correct angle, you can view the lower innermost pips as you are peeling the cards off the right hand packet. Just exactly how this is performed is difficult to describe and so I would suggest that you experiment for yourself, but in order to clarify where the peeking is taking place I humbly submit to you a photograph of the process. (See figure 262.)

Figure 262.

In order to gain access to this view, the deck will need to be tilted forward slightly so that it is the upper forward corner of the deck that would be directed most clearly at the eyes of a spectator to the front, rather than the front end of the deck. With some practice and slight adjustment to your regular methods, you can learn to peek at flashes of the cards in a fairly casual, albeit focused, manner. The difficulty here arises in the culling process. Unfortunately, by the time you have glimpsed the value of the card it is already in the left hand packet. There is a difficult sleight (a variation of the packet pick-up) that you could perform, but I consider it to be very impractical so I will not describe it in detail. For those of you who are curious, the premise is that you will pick up only the top card off the left hand packet in the pick-up motion and then return it to the bottom of the left hand packet rather than the top. Culling then seems to return to the method originally described for shift peeking (the tidal cull). In other words, you will jog a card after the desired card and shuffle off the remainder of the deck. You then continue by creating a break below the jog and shuffling off to the break and bringing the desired card to the top of the deck. Now you will continue as previously described peeking and looking for the next card to cull.

The problem with this method, or rather, one of the problems, in my view, arises in terms of the culling, which requires an unacceptably high number of shuffles. Although it may work satisfactorily with three or four cards, any more becomes entirely unmanageable due to suspicion and thus, in my view not an effective option. It also requires an awkward angle for peeking. This leads us into a series of other ideas.

Marked Cards

I will now examine a series of ideas requiring modified cards or decks to help improve the culling and peeking process, hence the idea, in one form or another, of marked cards.

Although using marked cards obviously requires the presence of those cards to begin with and thus some form of setup, which is, in my view, less than ideal.. .less than preferable, it does nevertheless improve the situation considerably.. .to some extent. I will be honest, I prefer the packet pick-up method of culling (the hurdle cull) and thus, although any method of culling would be possible, I am going to assume the use of this method, which seems to me to be the most elegant and practical.

The idea then is quite simple, you have certain cards within the deck marked in one way or another. (There are many means of marking cards and I won't examine them here except that it could be as simple as having a deck with backs that can be "turned upside down" so to speak. Basically, you would align all the backs in a particular direction with the exception of those cards you wish to cull. The problem with this is that over the course of a game the alignment is likely to change and thus you would need to determine a method of either maintaining this alignment or resetting it. The easiest such method may be to make use of a dealer who handles the cards exclusively and can thus control how the cards are returned to the deck. An interesting addition to this concept would be to develop a pattern of which cards were aligned in what direction. For example, you could begin with a full house aligned as you desire but on the next hand, to switch to a straight that becomes aligned. In this manner one could increase the level of deception and help to negate detection. The drawback of this form of marking is that it is generally quite obvious. To supplement the idea one could take a pack of regular cards such as a bicycle or bee deck and mark them in some subtle manner, so long as the markings can easily to distinguished during the process of shuffling.) In order to cull those cards, you would shuffle through the cards one at a time and cull them using the packet pick-up method as they become visible. The fact that the cards would be marked on the backs offers the equivalent of a peek without having to peek thus offering a certain advantage. Just as with the shift peeking method you are aware of the presence of the desired card prior to peeling it off the deck and are thus able to perform the pick-up seamlessly.

Though perhaps not as great an option, something else to consider is the idea of using "locator cards". This would be something such as a short card. Prior to each shuffle you could quickly riffle down the deck to determine the location of the next card to be culled at which point you could obtain a break and shuffle to the card accordingly. This is not an option I particularly like, though if such a deck is already in use it can be an effective method. From the perspective of a magician, if for example corner short cards were used in an ace cutting demonstration those same corner shorts could be used in a stacking demonstration to follow. Of course simply having a marked deck to begin with is also an option. There is however, an advantage to locator cards over marked cards and again it is in terms of casualness. Marked cards require you to burn the deck, locator cards allow you not to burn the deck, however, there is another method I prefer to each of these.

Edward Marlo was as far as I know, the developer of what is called the punch deal concept, an idea we will examine more later in the part of this book dedicated to dealing, but for now it is merely the theory that concerns us. (This isn't accurate, though Marlo worked with the concept extensively; he was not the original creator of the punch deal, see comments later in the book). Marlo realized that burning the deck was undesirable, thus, he developed a method of marking the cards that could operate by feel rather than by sight. In a sense, the idea is to mark the cards in some manner similar to the concept of brail. As with marking the cards in a visual sense there are a number of ideas that could be brought into play (no pun intended) in the form of marking the cards for touch. On the very bright side of things from my perspective, is the fact that among these are the ability to use Marlo's punch deal marking system in shuffling. Essentially then, as you peel off the cards you will feel to see if they marked and if they are, then you will cull them. To add to this idea, I might suggest one small improvement since the application is slightly different to that of the punch deal, namely the idea of marking the cards not all universally, but in such a manner that you can determine by feel the value of the card. In other words, kings and queens may both be marked, but they would be marked differently so that you could feel the difference and cull them separately making for an easy and invisible double duke. This is a beautiful concept as it frees you up to look around and talk casually while shuffling and stacking, the entire process becomes very disarming. I would refer you to Marlo's work on the punch deal to obtain ideas in this regard.

Now, I am unfamiliar with any of the material written on the subject of overhand culling, peeking methods and methods of marking cards, but hopefully what I have offered you here will inspire you and introduce those unversed as I am in the concepts to various methods of thinking and applications of such thoughts.

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