Dealing Seconds Two Hands

After Hours Magic: A Book of Al Thatcher Card Magic

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From the genesis of this chapter I must stress that I cannot and will not cover all the methods and variations of dealing, nor can I conceivably detail every subtlety or point of concern, for each individual is different and thus better suited to particular ideas and methods. It is up to you to develop and refine the method that works best for you, I am merely going to describe, in as much detail as I can, some of the methods I use and the theory behind the basic deals. While some may fault me for not providing a complete guide, I hope at least to provide the meager offering of a comprehensive guide in the concerning the subject matter I choose to address. Having personally all but abandoned the study of the methods of others, I am a zealous proponent of creativity and wish for you, my inquisitive reader, to discover and explore such creativity for yourself.

The concept of a second deal, is to hold back the top card and instead deal off the second card. It is perhaps a mistake of mine to begin my exploration of false dealing with the second deal as it is in my opinion more difficult than the bottom deal, but the organized concept of working, at least to some degree from the top of the deck to the bottom appealed to me. There are three basic methods in my view of dealing seconds. The first is the push-off deal, in which you will push off two cards as one and deal off the bottom of the two. Second, is the strike deal, which involves moving the top card slightly out of position thereby exposing the second card and allowing it to be dealt in favor of the top card. Finally, there is the side strike method, which involves peeling up two cards and dealing off the bottom of the two. I need not mention that in each case the notion is to make the second deal appear to be a top deal.

This odd deal, has numerous uses, though personally, I use it somewhat rarely in gambling, favoring the bottom and Greek deals which will be explained in further detail later. In gambling, the basic use of a second deal is to use marked cards. As the marked cards become visible you will hold them back until you reach the player you are attempting to assist and then deal the card off to that player. Alternatively, you could cull an ace to the top of the deck and hold it back for the appropriate player giving that player an advantage in say a game of blackjack, or perhaps giving the player the high card and thereby allowing the player to make the game decisions, all depending on the game and the rules in effect. Additionally, in stacking, you could use the technique to simplify the stacking process as I will cover in detail towards the end of this final portion of the book. In magic, it can be used to perform a sort of color change, a force or a number of other effects. It is a great demonstration technique as well, but you may use it as you see fit.

You will notice in numerous cases as the descriptions progress that I offer various modifications and refinements that may not seem relevant at this tenure. The reason for these changes is that I always attempt to use the same grip for various deals and certain subtle changes are necessary in order to make those other deals possible.

Push-off Seconds

I have heard, though I can neither confirm nor deny that Dai Vernon considered push-off seconds to be a much more convincing and natural method than strike seconds and honestly, when I began learning to perform a second deal I began with this notion in mind. I have since discovered that a well-executed strike second is every bit as natural and effective as a push-off second, though there are certain appeals to each. I found, for myself, that it took me less time to learn and master the strike second than it did a push-off second, though I have also found that it depends on the handling, some methods being more difficult and deceptive than others. What follows are a few handlings and ideas for you to consider and adjust as you feel appropriate.

Method 1

This is the method I first learned and first began using. The deal is designed to look like the following top.

Begin with the deck in the mechanics grip. The most important point here is that bottom left corner of the deck is planted firmly at the base of the thumb, this will serve as your pivot point when pushing off the cards. The forefinger is wrapped around the front of the deck and the three last fingers are spaced evenly along the right side of the deck. (See figure 371.)

Now the left thumb is going to pull in a downward motion towards the base of the thumb where the lower left corner is resting securely. As the pressure of this action builds rather than allowing the card to buckle you will allow it to pivot to the right. The middle and ring fingers need to be positioned on the side of the deck low enough that they allow the card to pass over them, but high enough that they ensure it is a single card. The pinky on the other hand is positioned higher so that as the card pivots it presses against the pinky, which glides up the right side of the card. (See figure 372.)

Figure 372.

Now, when the card reaches its maximum pivot point the right hand moves across and takes hold of the card at the upper right corner, in such a manner that the right forefinger presses on the top edge near the corner. Simultaneously the right middle finger presses inward on the right side of the deck and slightly upward as it makes contact with the bottom of the card. The right ring finger presses inward along the right side of the card and the thumb comes from above in a downward and forward motion. (See figure 373.)

Figure 373.

At this point the left pinky descends slightly allowing the card to pass over it as the card is dealt slightly forward and to the side in a slightly downward motion. This downward motion is quite important in some regards though it may be substituted for a graceful sideways motion depending on what false deals you intend to attempt. (See figure 374 and figure 375.)

Figure 375.

The fingers now return to their initial positions within the process of the deal. In other words, by the time the card has left the deck completely the fingers of the left hand have returned to their initial positions. Caution should be drawn at this point to the motion of the thumb, which should not rise, but rather move smoothly back over the deck while remaining as close to its face as possible. (See the difference between the incorrect action in figure 376 and the correct action in figure 377.)

Figure 377.

This brings us to the second deal that mirrors this deal. Now, the most difficult aspect of a push-off second deal, at least initially, is in my opinion, learning to push off two cards together as one. Ultimately, and ideally you will learn to perform this action simply by applying the correct force on the top card of the deck. However, in the mean time I will suggest to you the method I used when learning. That is, you will slide the top card of the deck down slightly, less is better, and you should not go further down than the width of the border. How large you wish to make this edge is up to you, but over time you will find that you are able to decrease the size of this glide. The purpose of this is to allow your thumb to make contact with both the top and the second card in the deck and push the two off as one. (See figure 378.)

Figure 378.

Note the position of the thumb on the upper left square portion of the design on the card back; this will be relevant later when we discuss the punch deal.

Now, you may be concerned that this edge is visible and provides a tip off to the alert observer and this is true, however you are able to avoid this problem with two slight adjustments. The first is to tilt the deck slightly so that the face of the deck is not visible to the audience. Your tilt should be neither too great nor too little, but rather occur as a natural bend in the wrist. Second, you should keep the cards in motion, making a smooth and continuous deal, as the motion will cover this slight discrepancy very effectively. In this manner, you can actually perform the second deal easily and effectively using the slight glide to make the process easier.

The false deal itself is exactly the same as the real deal I just described, with the exception of the fact that you will now push off two cards instead of one. There are a few details you should notice as they have particular relevance as well as some additional points not relevant to the normal deal.

First, we have the downward pull of the thumb on the cards, which is designed to move them together as well as well as provide a slight squaring force. This is important since the cards must remain as closely squared as possible, should the bottom card fall behind the top card it will provide a sort of flash when the take occurs. Second, you have the use of the pinky, which helps to square the cards and control the push-off.

When it comes to the take, the forefinger applying pressure on the upper edge of the cards helps to square them further, while the thumb's forward motion squares the cards into the forefinger. The middle finger, which is the only finger to make contact with the bottom of the card will be the one to actually perform the take, while the ring finger provides additional squaring on the side of the card.

The reason for the downward take is to create the illusion that the thumb performed the take rather than the middle finger. The advantage of this process is that if the thumb were to perform the take then a second deal would be impossible as the thumb would naturally make contact with the top card rather than the second card. This is also going to be invaluable when it comes to addressing the concern of sound. If you prefer a graceful sideways take, it is possible to do so smoothly using the left thumb to lift just ever so slightly on the top card and make the deal soundless. The reason I do not personally use this method is that I find it natural to deal with some measure of sound and this is important on various other false deals where I am not able to perform a similar soundless deal. You should make the take in the form of a slightly forward action in order to conceal the pullback of the top card. (See the difference between the incorrect method in figure 379 and the correct method in figure 380.)

Figure 380.

Note that you do not want to make the take in an overly forward motion, but just enough to cover the pullback of the top card. It is important that the pinky adjusts itself correctly allowing the card to move freely from the deck and not to hook. (See figure 381 for the incorrect action and figure 382 for the correct action.)

Figure 382.

This leads us to the next point. The card is initially swiveled slightly due to the pivot, you want to avoid hooking it with the pinky partly to avoid swiveling it further. In this case you actually want to reverse the swivel in the process of the take by twisting the card slightly back into alignment with the deck. The reason for this, is that you want to diminish the length of time the take lasts and consequently the interval of potential detection. There are two factors that enter into the determination of that length of time, they are the speed at which the take is performed and the distance the card needs to move in order to clear the deck. Thus, we wish to reduce the distance as much as possible. Since the card is not as wide as it is taller and longer diagonally than both the height and width we want to ideally remove the card sideways in order to minimize the dealing distance. (See the difference between figure 383 (the correct handling) and figure 384 (the incorrect handling, for an illustration of the subtle differences.)

Figure 383.

There is another point of notice and interest here, one that is not always apparent, depending on the type of cards you are using, but one of which you should nevertheless be aware. This has to do with the borders of the cards. I should perhaps introduce to you a basic piece of information when it comes to noticing disparities visually. There are three areas of which one needs to be aware in any aspect of visual deception, from physical movement on a battlefield to gambling at the card table. These are, silhouette, shadow and shine, the concern in this case being silhouette. It is amazing how much more obvious a card becomes when the borders do not line up, highlighting further, why, in addition to economy of motion the card should not be pulled too far forward during the take. (Note, shadowing on the table can also be a concern and this method minimizes or eliminates that risk.) (See figure 385 for the correct method and 386 for the incorrect method; notice the difference in the borders.)

Figure 385.
Figure 386.

I mentioned economy of motion above, I would point out to you then that a sideways motion is more efficient (yes at this point we are talking about very tiny subtleties) than a more forward motion as the momentum and movement of the card are more directed at getting the card off the deck with the sideways motion.

This leaves us with one final area of concern in regard to the take and that is the lower right corner of the top card. I drew attention earlier to the flash that is often created at the upper right corner of the cover card and we addressed that. I personally find it is very difficult to perform the take just precisely enough that there is no silhouette or potential flash on the lower right corner at all, though you do naturally wish to eliminate that where possible. For myself, the greater concern is the upper corner since it is more visible to the audience and thus of greater focus, I therefore tend to over compensate on the upper corner at the risk of exposing of the lower corner rather than take the chance with the more obvious upper corner. There is another reason to give less concern to the lower corner, namely the fact that the covering card protrudes less and thus offers less in the way of silhouette and shadowing.

There is the question of how far you should pivot the card out before performing the take, in the initial description I mentioned that you perform the take when the card reaches the maximum pivot point or close to it depending on the length of your fingers. (It is possible to pivot too far depending on the length of your fingers and so generally I pivot to the point where the tip of my thumb is in line with the right edge of the deck, but again it will vary for each individual.) I would like to briefly examine the alternatives, the reasons for each and the reason I recommend pivoting out as far as possible. The advantage of minimizing the distance you pivot the card out, is that it decreases the distance you need to pull the card back. You could of course compromise and go halfway, however, due to the effects of collective velocity, I feel it is best to pivot out as far as possible. This is because you aren't going to pivot the card out more than half the width of the card anyway, and the ideal velocity, if you were performing the pull back at the same speed as the take, would be to push the card out halfway. This is because you want to minimize the period of time in which the second card is covered by the top card. Now assuming that at the highest speed at which you perform the pull back is the same as the highest speed you perform the take, then the push-off that would yield the ideal results would be a half card push-off. For those of you who really want to get into the science of it all, you may wish to perform experiments to see whether a larger or smaller pivot works better for you. The other advantage of a smaller pivot is of course that you have less risk of flashing the upper right corner during the pullback and have an easier time lining up the borders during the take.

Those are just some things for you to consider. Many people prefer a smaller push-off, in a sense it feels a bit better I find, but there are two additional reasons I tend to mention the larger push-off/pivot, actually, three. First, I feel it is more convincing as the whole point of a push off deal is in part that you can emphasize psychologically that you have in fact pushed off the top card and can decrease attention given to the deal by your audience. It is more convincing simply due to clarity, the push off is more obvious and thus possesses that clarity. The second is because it makes a clean take somewhat easier. Third, it allows better (yes, only a fraction better, but still better) hand cover, which factors into a later one-handed deal.

Since I just brought the point up I should mention that one must work with all his or her tools, in this case that means you have two hands to work with and should make use of both of those hands. Thus, you should use the hand performing the take (in my case the right hand) in order to obstruct the view of the ever curious spectator. This is achieved by twisting the wrist of the right hand so that it is facing palm down and performing the take overtop of the card rather than from the side of the card. (Note the difference between the correct method and a take from the side in figure 387 and figure 388.)

This is a minor subtlety, and not as applicable using this particular method of dealing, but it is a good thing to keep in mind and a principle that will apply to a much larger degree when we begin to examine other deals and variations. Naturally, you will want to vary the take in the legitimate deal to match that of the false deal.

I now find myself confronted with the pull back of the top card, something that does not occur mechanically as a part of the regular deal and which must thus be treated with caution and accuracy. Initially when I was teaching myself the deal I found I would encounter a problem where, as I pulled back the top card, it would slide slightly out of alignment with the rest of the cards. In particular, the lower right corner seemed to pose a problem. It is largely with this in mind that I mentioned the earlier use of the pinky as I discovered that one can effectively solve this problem and ensure the card comes square with the rest of the deck by pressing the lower right edge with the pinky in the motion of the pull back. (See figure 389 for a photo of the problem and figure 390 for the use of the pinky.)

Figure 389.
Figure 390.

Another potential problem is that in one's zeal to pull back the top card rapidly, he may on occasion allow the momentum of the left thumb, which is dragging the top card, to carry it beyond the edge of the deck at the top. Placing the forefinger around the front of the deck as I described before and thereby creating an automatic stop for the top card as you drag it back corrects this problem. (See figure 391 for an example of the problem and figure 392 for the correct method,)

Figure 392.

In addition to these points there is concern over the movement up the thumb during the pull back. I mentioned earlier that your action of pulling the thumb back to it's original position during a real deal should involve keeping the thumb as close to the deck as possible. The reason for this is because in order to move the top card back during the false deal the thumb will remain flat on the top of the deck. I find it is helpful to provide a bit of a "jump" with my thumb in the way I perform my pullback just very briefly and to an extremely minor degree lifting the thumb (the card should come with it, but you don't want it to rise too high for fear the edge of the card will flash). This helps to establish greater consistency with a legitimate deal.

Finally, in regard to the pull back, there is the question of the card itself flashing in the pull back movement. This is mostly a concern for if the spectators are able to see the top of the deck, but nevertheless an important concern to address and one whose solution provides numerous other advantages. There is a simple principle in sleight of hand and indeed in motion and perception, that a larger motion will cover a smaller motion, we are going to make use of it here. As the thumb pulls the top card back, the thumb should not be the only portion of your body to move, the entire arm should pull back as well (I tend to perform a rotation at the elbow in order to accomplish this feat). The act of pulling the entire hand back using the arm makes the fact that the thumb has moved at all nearly invisible due to the fact that the larger motion is the obvious motion and covers the subtle thumb movement. Naturally, the benefit to this aside from covering the smaller motion, is it increase the collective velocity of the move and thereby accomplishing one of two things. First, you could simply before the move faster and hence more invisibly or second, you could slow down the individual motions to make the move a bit more natural. The point is simply that moving both hands rather than just the hand performing the take makes for a much more deceptive deal.

There is sound to address, but I am going to cover that at the end of the section on push-off seconds, since it is universally applicable. With that in mind I return to the concept of gliding the card in order to allow you to perform a push-off with relatively little skill. Aside from the obvious aesthetic concerns and a distinct lack of elegance this tends to create a problem, namely, it is difficult to vary quickly and smoothly from a second to a top and back again since naturally you must be able to perform the slight glide in the course of the dealing motion. This is going to be a problem, that is just a reality and you will need to practice in order to help alleviate the concern, which becomes most apparent when you need to shift from dealing tops to dealing seconds. When you want to go from dealing seconds to dealing tops, the trick is merely to roll your thumb back slightly so it no longer makes contact with the second card of the deck. Demonstrating this with photographs is difficult so I hope you can understand the description. Now, ultimately you will progress to one of two levels, which one you prefer is up to you, though I recommend the later, which, incidentally is also the more difficult of the two. The first, is that you will learn to decrease the glide to the point where you no longer have one, instead, your thumb will engage the top edge of the deck and naturally pivot, one, two, three etc. cards together as one in the appropriate motion. The mechanics for this are the same as those I described, pulling towards the base of the thumb and rotating the card, it simply requires a sensitivity to be able to pivot whatever number of cards you desire. Alternatively, and more difficultly, but more desirably, you will learn to push on the back of the top card and thereby push-off one or two cards at will, making the shift from tops to seconds very easy. I can't really tell you how to do this, it's a knack thing, but it involves learning to dig in just right with a specific portion of the thumb (I find it to be a bony portion). You will have to discover for yourself what works for you.

Variation 1

The first variation I will suggest to you on this technique and one I have actually spent a lot of time using myself involves changing the push-off I described above. I find it makes a very clean and even push-off much easier. The problem with it is that it doesn't allow for a punch deal like the one above allows. It is identical to the method above, except for the push-off and thus I will merely describe this variation rather than boring you with the specifics I have already mentioned.

In this case, when the deck is sitting in the left hand in the mechanics grip, the left thumb, rather than being positioned on across the face of the deck runs along the left edge. (See figure 393.)

Figure 393.

From this point the thumb pushes against the left edge of the cards pushing off however many it is that you desire. With practice you will learn to push off one, two, three etc. at will quickly and smoothly. In this case the pinky must provide a counter force pushing the base of the card into the base of the thumb. This makes for a very nice, square push-off and, relatively speaking, an easy manner to push-off two cards as one, though as with all such moves it will require practice. (See figure 394.)

You are likely to encounter a difficulty when it comes to the pullback. If you leave the thumb on the edge of the card you will find that you scrap the cards just below the card you are pulling back and cause them to pivot upwards out of position. In order to avoid this, it is necessary to roll your thumb right slightly onto the face of the top card as you execute the pull back in order to keep the thumb clear from interfering with the other cards. (See figure 395 for the potential problem and figure 396 for the correct method.)

Figure 395.
Figure 396.

I personally like this method quite a lot and find that if you are just dealing seconds it is quite effective and elegant.

Variation 2

The next variation involves a shift in the original grip, quite a significant and important one actually. In the conventional mechanics grip the deck is held in a loose but very controlled manner. The touch can be light and effective, yet elegant and professional, it is however far from the best when it comes to gaining access to the cards. In this case, the deck is held entirely between two points, the base of the thumb and the upper right corner with the forefinger. It is held in such a manner that you should be physically able to release all other points. When the other fingers return to their correct positions they should be spaced so that the middle finger is up near the forefinger, while the ring finger is positioned perhaps halfway or slightly more than halfway down the right side of the deck, leaving the pinky about a quarter from the bottom of the right side. (See figure 397 for a view of the support with only the forefinger and figure 398 for the view of the working grip.)

Figure 397

Figure 397

There are a few key points here, first of all there is the fact I mentioned earlier, that the deck is gripped between the forefinger and the base of the thumb. The second is the gap you should notice between the middle finger and the ring finger. Though this gap is not always necessary depending the on appropriate false deal I call your attention to it now before you form a habit that may be difficult to break. In this case the thumb wraps over the top of the deck from roughly the upper left corner of the square design to the top edge allowing for an easy push-off of multiple cards. There may be a tendency when gripping the cards in this manner for the bottom of the deck at the upper left corner of the deck to press into the forefinger just above the base. You should avoid this practice, it is a difficult thing to do, but you must learn to control the cards so that there is little or no pressure on the bottom of the deck, as I mentioned the cards are held entirely between the base of the thumb and the forefinger.

The whole point of this entire exercise and the reason for changing grips is to facilitate various other false deals later, particularly a bottom deal from the same grip as the second deal. There is a certain lightness that is difficult to express to you at this moment that is crucial to your understanding. The tendency is to squeeze hard on the deck with the forefinger in order to maintain stability, but this actually will ruin your stability later. Rather, your grip needs to be quite light and allow free movement of the cards while at the same time ensuring that only those cards you desire to move, slide as you perform your manipulations. I hesitate to recommend certain finger positions to you too heavily as which you prefer will depend later on whether you wish to perform a push-off or strike bottom deal. I will however offer you this piece of advice. It is easier to perform the second deal with the middle, ring finger and pinky pressed against the right side of the deck so you should probably use that method. However, ultimately you want to learn to perform the deal with those fingers slightly open and very relaxed. This is much more difficult technically, but offers some important possibilities later on related to strike dealing.

Again, the basic mechanics will be the same as in the original push-off second deal I described, this grip is merely a little more awkward and technically difficult. It is noteworthy that the forefinger no longer provides a stop for when you are pulling back the card and so you must learn to stop the pullback when the top card comes square with the deck, you can actually feel this somewhat effectively with the tip of the left thumb as well as operate by estimation. Later if you practice with the three last fingers of the left hand open you will need to control the card more closely still as the pinky will be unable to provide her former assistance.

Overall I do not recommend this method, it is certainly much more difficult for dealing seconds, but I wanted to introduce you, first of all to this very important grip and also to a grip that can be used for dealing other false deals besides just seconds.

Variation 3

This grip is similar and for similar reasons. In this case, the deck is held between the middle finger in the upper right hand corner and the base of the thumb. The forefinger is somewhat useless running along the top of the deck behind the middle finger, however it is able to provide the stop that was lacking in the previous deal. The pinky and ring fingers are relaxed on the right side of the deck, but the pinky is again able to close slightly to provide a squaring action when necessary. An important consideration with this grip is that the middle finger should apply pressure to the upper right corner via the front end of the deck rather than coming from below. This allows easy access to the bottom card later. (This is a rough and slightly modified Erdnase grip, more on this later.) (See figure 399 for top view and figure 400 for bottom view.)

Figure 399.
Figure 400.

If you wish to prepare for the bottom deal there is a variation to the take you should begin using. When you reach for the card with the right hand, the middle finger should initially move all the way under the deck before returning to perform the actual take. This will be discussed in more detail later in the section on bottom dealing.

Other than that, the mechanics should be essentially the same as those described originally, though again the grip is more awkward and difficult.

Variation 4

The variation here brings us back closer to the initial deal and merely alters the manner in which the take is performed. The reason for this change is in order to facilitate the use of a Benzais cop later on. The difference in this case, is rather than performing the take at the upper right corner, you will perform it, with the thumb at least, from the upper left corner. In order for this to be possible, when the right thumb reaches the upper left corner of the card, the left thumb will pull the top card down slightly exposing an edge for the right thumb to make contact with. Simultaneously, the right ring finger will apply an upward force on the bottom of the card in it's upper right corner, he middle finger next to it will assist in this action. When the upper left corner of the card clears the deck the right forefinger provides a squaring force on the upper left corner of the card and assists in dealing it to the table. (From above, see figure 400, figure 401 and figure 402.)

Figure 401.

Figure 401.

Figure 403.

(From below see figure 404 and figure 405.)

Figure 403.

Figure 405.

Note that when the ring finger makes contact with the card it draws the card up and out swiveling it slightly so it is not skewered as it reaches the table.

You will find this is an awkward deal, another that I don't particularly recommend, though the difficulty of the deal is saved by the cover your right hand will offer over the dealing action.

I need not point out to you that in all of the cases where I list variations on the primary technique that you should make these variations to the original top deal as well.

Method 2

The distinction at this point between methods and variations blurs quite substantially because fundamentally all push-off deals follow a similar method, that is to say, they involve pushing off the card or cards you intend to deal, a true difference in method then would be the strike or side strike concepts we will mention later. However, for the sake of some reasonable disparity, a thorough explanation and to impress on you various ideas I have divided these deals into methods and what I consider to be variations on those methods. We emerge then to the second actual method, though it shares many of the same variations with the first method and we could thus address this entire concept in terms of permutations of methods. Semantics aside however, this is I feel a fairly substantial departure from the original method, and though it is one I find to be quite deceptive and effective, it is nevertheless one I find to be more difficult, at least initially.

I will begin by describing the form the top deal should take, that is to say, the deal you will be emulating with the second deal.

You will begin by holding the deck in the mechanics grip, the forefinger runs along the top edge of the deck, almost to the upper right corner. The tip of the middle finger should be positioned on the right side of the deck just below the upper right corner, with the ring finger and pinky positioned slightly below that point, but not evenly spaced down the remainder of the side. The left lower corner of the deck rests comfortably at the base of the thumb. Your thumb should be curled slightly and resting on the upper left corner of the internal border design on a bordered card. For those of you who find yourself lacking such a border, I am referring to a point perhaps half an inch or a centimeter from both the left side of the card and top edge, the entire point will relate to the use of the punch deal later. From this point you will use your left thumb to push the card off to the right by about a third its width. Now you want to card to remain parallel with the deck on both the top and bottom edges as you perform this motion. Naturally, because your thumb is pushing from a point high on the card rather than the exact middle of the card, which would be quite awkward, the card will you have tendency to twist slightly. In order to circumvent this potential pitfall, you will cleverly push not merely to the left, but upwards and to the left, using the forefinger along the top edge of the deck as a guide for the card you are pushing off. (See figure 406 and figure 407 and take note of the incorrect method in figure 408.)

Figure 407.

Keep in mind, for most people; depending on the length of their fingers they could easily push the card well past the one-third mark on the card's width. You should avoid doing so. The reason I suggest one-third, is because in my testing I determined that I can perform the take of the second with the right hand at roughly twice the speed I perform the pullback. Therefore, if I push off the card by one-third its width and perform both the take and the pullback as quickly as possible, the top card will become square with the deck just as the second card (note I am still describing the top deal at this point but since the two are so closely related and dependent on one another...) leaves the deck completely, thereby maximizing the economy of motion and efficiency.

This brings us to the take itself which is performed virtually identically to the take in described in method one with the exception of the fact that the take should be performed in a sideways movement, rather than a slightly forward and sideways movement. The difference of course being that in this case there is no need to cover the upper right corner from flashing during the pullback. Again, the take should be performed in a downward motion of the thumb rather than a sideways pull. The forefinger should approach from the front making contact with the forward edge to provide a squaring force. Your middle finger should approach from the right side and make contact with the bottom of the card, while the ring finger offers a squaring force on the right side. In this case however the thumb comes downward and right rather than forward as in method one. Again, you should twist your wrist so the right hand is roughly palm down, the hand coming farther over the card and providing better cover.

You will find this is a relatively simple deal and mimics quite accurately the deal of a layperson. This situation is also ideal in that you are guaranteed to use the minimum width of the card and thus the maximum efficiency during the deal itself as described earlier.

So having addressed the basic deal, we shall proceed with the second deal. It may be expedient to remind you at this tenure that those specific pointers, which apply from the first method, are applicable to this method. For example, while, I never mentioned it, care should be shown in regards to elevation of the thumb on the pullback, it should barely rise on the normal deal in order to better emulate the pullback on the second deal, which by necessity involves little to no lift. Likewise, the pullback action of the entire left hand should exist with both methods.

Now, ideally, you will simply be able to push off two cards by pushing on the face of the top card, however, I realize this is more easily said than done, as such a I have a few recommendations. First of all, I find that digging in with the bone seems to help, as does digging in at a point on the card where you are away from the middle of the card and therefore exert a certain amount of leverage to facilitate the process. Should you find this difficult, or desire more immediate results, I find it works well to apply pressure on the left edge of the cards with the joint of the thumb, thereby performing a similar, but slightly more elegant version of the glide described in method one and expediting the learning process. Finally, if you find this to be too much trouble (note you should aim for the first approach through concerted practice), you could apply a slight variation of the technique described in variation one of method one and move your thumb to the side edge of the deck where you can push on the edge of the cards. Due to the manner of the push off, I personally find this to be quite awkward and don't use it, but then again, I am able to use the earlier methods. Note that if you resort to this final approach you will create some problems when it comes to punch dealing.

There is a point I failed to mention in my description of method one and it applies to both method one and the current method. One sometimes has the tendency to "strike" the bottom of the card with the right middle finger as the right hand moves in and performs the take. Avoid this at all costs! What happens is that you raise the card bending it upwards and revealing the presence of two cards in the process of the rapid take. The top card should never bend upwards; it should remain flat or bend downwards with the take and thereby avoid any flash. (See the difference between figure 409, the incorrect method and figure 410, the correct method.)

Figure 409.

Figure 410.

There really aren't as many details and subtleties to mention on this second method, in part because it is a fundamentally simpler deal and in part due to the fact that I covered them under method one and for the sake of brevity, will not repeat myself. For those of you who skipped ahead, you may benefit from going back and reading over method one for additional pointers and reasoning.

Variation 1

The first variation of method two is actually the same as the second variation of method one, with a few minor refinements. Please note that we are treading very close to the master's grip at this point and you may simply wish to refer to that grip, which Marlo describes in "Seconds, Centers & Bottoms". Again, finger positioning will vary depending on whether you intend to perform a strike bottom or push off bottom later. If you are going for a push-off bottom then I recommend keeping the three last fingers closer to the upper corner of the deck and curled under slightly so the tips are resting on the side, or even as low as the bottom edge. If you are going for a strike bottom then the middle finger should be positioned towards the upper right corner with the ring finger and pinky lower down the side, offering sufficient space for a finger to reach between the middle finger and ring finger. In addition to this, the fingers should have a more open and relaxed feel, but again, these points will be addressed later in the section concerning the bottom deal techniques.

The push-off becomes more difficult at this point because if you push-off from the left side of the deck as you did originally you will find that it creates some instability in the deck by altering the pressure on the base of the thumb. Thus, I adjust to perform the push-off from the equivalent location on the right side of the deck, that is to say the point one centimeter in from the right side and one centimeter down from the top. Naturally this means you need to be able to perform the push-off without any access to the edges of the cards and so that may require some practice.

Furthermore, the forefinger no longer offers as effective a guide and so you must be more careful in performing the push-off that you keep the card square with the front and back ends of the deck. I didn't mention before, but the pullback using the method two handling doesn't have the same concern of carrying too far as it should stop naturally due both to the limitations of the thumb and also to the natural wall formed by the base of the thumb. (See figure 411 and figure 412 for some examples of the grip as per push-off bottoms later.)

Figure 411.
Figure 412.

Variation 2

This particular variation is actually the grip from method one variation three, which involves holding the deck primarily between the middle finger in the upper right corner and the base of the thumb. I never mentioned it in the earlier description, but I believe this grip is roughly the Erdnase grip, though having never studied "Expert at the Card Table" (a classic that you should probably invest in if you haven't already), I can't say for sure what subtleties may differ between the two. Out of respect for Tom Stone's view that developments should be recorded I will mention how I myself reached this particular grip. I began learning to perform a strike second deal that will be described in the next section. It was performed from roughly the mechanics grip or the master's grip and worked quite well except that the finger placement only allowed for a second deal and not a bottom deal. This irritated me and so I altered the handling slightly to another variant that will be taught in the next section and involved the movement of the right middle finger under the deck in order to allow contact with the bottom card. The problem was that the fingers on the right side of the deck got in the way and made for a problematic take. In order to compensate for this problem I decided to hold the deck between the forefinger and base of the thumb, much like the grip I just finished describing in method one variation one. When I began testing with this grip I found the take on the seconds was a little messy due to the face that the tip of my forefinger lacked flesh to regulate how many cards I was removing at a time. Thus, I shifted from using the forefinger to control the deck, to using the fleshier middle finger, which helps to improve the takes and lessens the influence of fingers on the bottom deal.

My story of how one might evolve to this grip will hopefully give you some idea of the anatomy of the grip. In this case, the grip itself should be the same as the one I described earlier under method one variation three, the push-off is of course tailored to method two. Unlike in variation one, I find that a push-off from the left works fairly well with this particular grip. So for the purpose of clarification, using this Erdnase style grip I push off the cards from the point around half an inch down from the top edge and half an inch in from the left side of the card. In this case you do of course have access to the forefinger, which can serve you as a guide during the push-off. Other than that, the grip is essentially the same, depending of course on variations that might be introduced depending on the nature of the bottom deal involved. This is really not a very easy grip to use for this style of push-off, I know Erdnase was a big fan of his grip, but I find this grip lacks the stability that should be present in what one might term the ideal grip.

Variation 3

This grip is roughly what I believe is called the straddle grip, since the fingers straddle the deck and a grip that is quite suited for the method two style push-off, though quite unlike the other grips. You will begin by holding the deck almost as though you were going to perform a Charlier cut, with the forefinger on the front end of the deck, the pinky on the bottom end, but with the deck resting lower in the fingers so that the middle and ring fingers can slope out from the deck gracefully. The deck will sit on the lower portion of those fingers, depending on the lengths of your fingers. I believe the method I use here involves a slightly more open hand than that of most, though I could be mistaken there. This variation is actually almost a method of its own as there are many issues to discuss.

From the basic grip I push the card from roughly the middle with the thumb (note that I am no longer pushing on the upper portion and this will alter the application of the punch deal), close to or on the edge of the card itself. Again, the card is pushed out about a third its width at which point the right hand moves close to perform the take. (See figure 413 and figure 414.)

Figure 413.

Figure 413.

Now, in performing the take, the right hand will take hold of the card, not on the upper corner, but in the middle, pinched between the thumb and middle finger. The key is to accustom yourself to reaching past the card and under the deck with the middle finger before pulling the hand back and taking the card. This is because on some occasions you may wish to take hold of the bottom card and deal it off, though that will be covered later. Naturally this motion of over reaching should occur so quickly that it is not noticeable, especially since generally the thumb is taking hold of the card initially anyway. (See figure 415 for a view from the top and figure 416 and 417 for views from the bottom.)

Figure 415.
Figure 416.

Honestly, I don't like this grip, thus I tend not to practice it much and don't have a lot of tips for you, I'm sure that by applying principles found in other techniques though you could come up with methods of improving what I have described here. Some may ask, why does he describe it if he doesn't like it? Essentially I do so because some people find it to be an effective grip from which to deal bottoms and I like to encourage dealing all of your false deals from the same grip. As to reasons I don't like it, I find it uncomfortable, I don't think it looks at all natural and I find it to be too limited and uncontrolled.

Variation 4

At this point I would like to return to the idea of performing a deep take by making contact with the upper left corner of the card rather than the upper right corner of the card in order to facilitate the Benzais cop. This is quite difficult to do if you are performing the second deal and so essentially what you will need to do take hold of the card from the bottom with the right ring finger and pull it out, while apparently doing so with the thumb. Naturally the motion occurs quickly and so it should not be evident to the spectators that you have in fact performed the take with the ring finger rather than the thumb. (See figure 418 from the top and figure 419 from the bottom.)

Figure 419.

You probably aren't likely to use this variation often, but I wanted to include it for the sake of completeness.

Method 3

I almost hesitate to include this method because it is difficult, unrefined and unseemly. The reason I include it is because it mimics the mechanics of the cover used for the common Cigar bottom deal and thus I offer it to you as a means of performing a second deal from this standard mechanic.

You begin with the deck in mechanics grip, thumb in the same position, as you would place it to perform the method two push off. From this point you push forward and slightly to the right. The difficulty is learning to push off two cards together as one in this manner. When you perform the push off, the middle finger of the deck will shrink down below the edge to allow the card to pass over it, but the ring finger and pinky will hold their positions. This will allow the card to swivel slightly as it moves forward, pivoting around the ring finger. (See figure 420 and figure 421.)

Figure 420.

Figure 420.

The take is performed between the thumb and ring finger in a forward motion. You should again get into the habit of reaching under the deck between the forefinger and middle finger to later perform a bottom deal. When you perform the pull back on the second deal you should pull your entire arm back as a part of the motion in order to cover the smaller motion.

I do not recommend this as a second deal when you can avoid it, as I mentioned, I am including it here for the sake of completeness.

Count's Push-off Cover

The final point in regard to a push-off second deal is an idea that occurred to me one day, I can't recall exactly why. The thing is that often a dealer will flash that there are two cards or that he is pulling back a card and thus tip off that he is cheating. It is also sometimes difficult for amateurs to switch quickly and gracefully between tops and seconds. The notion then was to push off two cards for every single deal, regardless of whether the dealer was going to perform a second deal or not. The difference then would be, not in the push-off or pullback, but merely in the take, whether the top card or the second card was taken. Now at first this may seem to border on madness, after all, in a sense you could be tipping off your audience to something that was not in fact happening. The issue becomes one of consistency. Recall that earlier I mentioned that tip offs tend to come, not in the form of what happens, but rather, when something different happens. By using this push-off cover and pushing off two cards in all cases you are effectively attempting to eliminate some of the disparities that inevitably arise from performing a push-off second deal.

It also offers another interesting advantage, and that is the ability to verify and make use of the punch deal not during the push-off, but rather the take. In other words, as the thumb and middle finger make contact with the cards to make the take they can feel to determine if the card should be held back or dealt off. Note two advantages here. First, using the correct marking system it allows you to feel two cards at once. Second, it allows you to use a method of pushing off the cards (for example the one in method one variation one) while still using the punch deal.

It is a crazy idea, but one that you may wish to consider, though I don't expect it to be the standard in either the world of gambling or magic.


I have left the issue of sound till the end of the push-off deals because they all share a similar situation albeit in varying degrees. The issue here is that the sound on a second deal is virtually impossible to eliminate. I will then briefly discuss the specifics of sound. You must start by recognizing where the sound is coming from, in the case of dealing, it tends to be due to cards rubbing on something, though not always. As far as we are concerned in regard to a second deal however this is the case. Now most often cards rubbing on cards cause this sound. In the case of the second deals we described the sandwich effect of the second card contributes to this is a way that can not be eliminated particularly effectively, especially given the downwards take I have suggested. This take increases the sound by putting lever pressure on the top card of the deck. In order to eliminate this sound we can perform a perfectly level take and eliminate the pressure on the top card, but this is very difficult and removes some of the deception involved in the take itself.

There are then a few things to consider, first the attempt to decrease the sound in general. Second, the attempt to increase the sound of a top and alter both sounds so that they mimic each other. This can be done by establishing where the card is creating the pressure and consequently the sound in the second deal and attempting to simulate that same pressure in the top. For example, if there is pressure against the edge of the deck during a second deal due to a downward force on the second card and the resisting pressure above the card due to the top card, one can apply a similar downward force on the top card when dealing, then applying an artificial resisting force with the thumb.

Next, once we have created some continuity between the sound of a second deal and a real deal, we can look at providing some distortion to the sound. This is accomplished by providing a great deal of sound in a small period of time, essentially finding the point at which the second deal sounds the same as the top, heightening the sound at this point, and making the action leading up to this point extremely quick. What happens then is that the ear is unable to recognize the sound differences as clearly because the differences become fused with similarities. I tend to focus in this regard on the point after the card leaves the deck, particularly if you can snap it down onto the table creating quite a focused and distracting sound. This sound will be the same regardless of whether it is a top or a second and so it provides a very effective diversion.

Finally, you can create sound to cover the sound of the deal and in particular the disparity in sound. This could come in the form of something as simple as talking, playing music while you are dealing, or some odd quirk you may devise with a deck, the options are up to you.

Strike Seconds

In my opinion, the strike second is fundamentally easier to learn than a push-off second, however, I would suggest at the same time that it is equally difficult to master. Originally, I honestly didn't understand what a strike second was. I had read that there were two basic ways in which to deal seconds, these being push-off and strike seconds. Due to the push-off double lift, push-offs made sense, but I thought the strike second was a reference to the strike double lift. Having no learning materials before me I set out to begin examining ways in which to perform various second deals, it was then that I saw the obvious concept of a strike second, but at the time, due to my technique which was unrefined at best, I didn't feel it was a convincing or effective method. It happened at this time that I learned the true nature of a strike second, which happened to coincide with someone mentioning that Vernon, a legend in the world of card magic, had stated he considered the strike second to be very unconvincing.

Now, before I move on I should explain to you the exact nature of the strike second, for those who are not familiar with it, for those who are, I apologize for the unnecessary review. The basic concept is that you will move aside the top card and peel the card underneath off. To give you a general impression of how this might work, I would refer you to method one of the push-off second, that is to say, perform a pivot push-off with just the top card. You will notice that when the top card pivots off the upper right corner of the one below it becomes exposed. At this point your thumb would "strike" this upper right corner and peel that card from the deck. (See figure 422.)

Figure 422.

The difference then between a strike second and a push-off second mechanically lies in the fact that with a strike second the second card is exposed rather than pushed off and in terms of appearance, that the card is apparently dealt directly from the deck rather than pushed off and then dealt. This last point is critical to your understanding since it must impact how you handle your top deals and whether your strike second is convincing or not.

Now, using the mechanics illustrated I described in order to illustrate the nature of the deal, that is to say, the major push-off the strike second is not at all convincing. There is a huge problem due to the fact that you are pushing off a card but then never reaching for it, you are reaching in a noticeably different place. At the time of my introduction to the concept then, which was when I considered this to be the method, I felt Vernon couldn't help but being right, after all, this strike second seemed to me to be nothing but unconvincing when I performed it for myself in a mirror.

Needless to say, I later discovered that this was the concept and not the practice. I later read some discussion by professional card cheats mentioning that they had seen a well executed strike second and it was as good as a well executed push-off second (I will get into my thoughts on the subject at the end of this section). Having then seen some performances of the deal myself and having refined my push-off second to an acceptable level (I was using the pure method one I described earlier), I turned my gaze and my practice to the strike second, which I found developed considerably more quickly than the push-off second and with less details to concern me.

The refined concept of the strike second then for those who are unfamiliar with it, involves, yes, moving the top card in a sort of pivot action, but doing so to such a minute extent and covered sufficiently by larger motion that it appears as though the top card has not moved at all. The space created between the top card and the second card is what we call the brief. To give you an idea of what size we are talking about, my brief tends to vary between an eighth of an inch and a sixteenth of an inch, some people can get theirs as low as a thirty-second of an inch, which, while impressive, is in my opinion unnecessary. If you watch some individuals perform the deal slowly you will find yourself wondering where the second card came from, it's as though it came out of nowhere. I remember offering such a performance to my grandmother, first performing a magic trick that used the deal and then performing the deal before her eyes, first with a face down card and then with the card face up, her comment was "that is a magic trick in itself".

Method 1

Earlier I alluded to the fact that it is very important to understand the nature of the top deal, as it is easy to ruin the top and by consequence ruin the second. With that in mind, we begin again with a description of the top deal you are attempting to emulate as best you can.

You begin with the deck in mechanics grip, or perhaps more like master's grip if you prefer. The forefinger should run along the front edge of the deck, the three last fingers along the right side. The middle finger should be positioned up near the top right corner. You should bevel the deck forward slightly. If you sit the deck correctly in the crotch of your hand you will find that you can use the flesh at the base of your thumb to help create and maintain this bevel. In addition, the forefinger at the front of the deck can provide assistance in this regard. Special note should be given to the tips of the last three fingers, they should maintain their position on the edge of the deck just high enough that they are below the level of the top card, but above the level of the third card. Es

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  • jasper
    How to deal the second card from the deck?
    7 months ago

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