Notes on Punch Dealing

I mentioned earlier that punch dealing was an Ed Marlo idea, that actually isn't accurate, I simply learned it from him in his Cardician DVD and he wrote a great deal of material on the subject. The concept itself apparently dates back much earlier, though who the exact originator is I can't say, it's also noteworthy that with many of these things, they are often discovered and used long before they are in print. Now the concept, as I mentioned earlier, is to mark cards by feel instead of by sight allowing you to avoid burning the deck. The application as I mentioned applies not only to dealing, but also to the likes of overhand shuffling as an effective means of locating and subsequently culling cards.

Now, there are all sorts of complex means of doing this and I must admit my ignorance in regards to many of them, which relate partly to whether you are marking the cards in the course of a game, or in advance. One thing I would not underestimate is switching real cards out for marked cards during the course of play if you're not comfortable with or able to mark them during play. Since I dislike crimps, I find this is an effective method for switching in dirty cards. Essentially, you start with say four marked aces, while a new deck is employed for the actual game. Then, as each ace turns up in your hand you switch the original card out for the dirty card. The same method is possible using punch marked cards or cards using any other marking system.

The basic method of punch marking then involves taking a needle and the desired cards, placing the cards face up on a hard surface and poking them with a needle in a fixed manner. You want to poke them so that the needle doesn't pass through the card, but causes an indentation on the backs. Marlo recommends using face cards and performing the "punch" on the upper right and lower left corner of the borders where the work is easily concealed. In all honesty, unless you're in the company of a savvy audience the work is highly unlikely to get noticed.

Now, Marlo's approach, while it works, is based on the no touch theory second deal, which I dislike greatly, there's an obvious tip off, so instead I'll give you some recommendations based on the handlings I've mentioned. First of all, in regard to punching, a needle works, but needlework is very fine and feeling it is often quite difficult. While this is good for fast company, in some company other simple methods often suffice. Personally, I find that something with a large surface area is often more effective, so rather than using a needle, you may wish to try a nail or screw. A few thoughts here, generally, a bigger punch is easier to feel, thus a small flat-ended screw works well. However, what you want in order to feel the punch is really penetration, and it is hard to mark with such a large device without making the work obvious, hence the appeal of a pointed screw or nail. Also, while Marlo mentions marking on a hard surface, I find if you use the correct object to mark, that it helps to put your thumb on the back of the card and perform the punch. Naturally, you have to be careful here, I've put needles through cards and into my finger this way, but the advantage is that you can feel the work while you making it and decide by feel when it is enough.

In terms of where to perform the punch, it partly depends on what cards you wish to control. I'd like to start by pointing out that the upper left and lower right pips (not the indexes) on the king, ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five and four on bicycle cards as well as others are in the same location. Also, the position of the pips on jacks and queens are in the same location, which is of course to same as the upper right and lower left pips on the ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five and four. The reason I mention this, is because you'll notice the thumb position on the strike second deals I mentioned tends to involve covering the former (upper left and lower right pips, or the reverse if viewed from the back of the card), while a number of the push-off handlings involved the later. Second, I find that placing the punch on this pip helps to hide the work, as it is more obvious on the white of the card (if you're working with black cards that changes things somewhat). The basic rule initially then, is to perform your punch work based on how you perform your second deals. In terms of overhand shuffling, I recommend the same punch positioning as for the strike second. Often what I like to do is cull flushes, in which case you may mark all the cards possible of a given suit. As an alternative you could for example mark all queens and jacks, or all kings and tens, for a possible full house or four of a kind etc. You'll notice that my recommended thumb position for the side strike deal is also the same as the strike second deal and thus allows for the same possibilities.

Naturally, it is possible to easily switch from one to the other using the Count's grip, as the position of the thumb isn't essential, though it is more visible when farther to the left. By using this method, you could easily mark say both queens and jacks and kings and tens, then alter your handling slightly between deals to produce different combinations of cards and thus offer a more convincing method.

Another idea I had and I suspect others have probably had the same idea, though I haven't studied any sources on the subject, is to do more than simply mark the cards universally. For example, if I want to cull flushes I don't simply mark one suit, I mark all the suits, but I mark each differently. For example, I may use a three point marking system on the clubs pip, a single mark on the spades pip, two marks on the hearts pip and four marks on the diamonds pip. In this manner I am able to shift continually between which flush I wish to cull or control and determine instantly by feel which suit I have. This also provides some other interesting advantages, for example in Texas Hold'em or Stud poker, using this method you are able to determine for the most part the suit of the pocket cards or hole card. While this is not definite and it does not assure victory, it offers an added advantage. For example, say you were playing stud poker and two fours are face up, you have two jacks in your own hand. While you wouldn't know the exact value of your opponent's hole card, you could determine that he doesn't have the missing four by knowing for example that he is holding a heart and the four of hearts is already face up. If you wish to become really sophisticated, you could mark the complete value of the card via some system of marking that works for you, however I feel recognizing the value of the card by touch quickly takes too much practice and a sufficient number of possibilities exist using merely suit marking and the like.

Something else you may wish to consider is a sort of double marking, though it would likely require an adjustment in handling. The concept is that you would mark the cards not only so you could feel from the top, but also the bottom. Then, as you were dealing, when you came to a punched card that you wished to hold back for yourself, rather than second dealing, you would begin bottom dealing. In the course of the bottom deal you would also feel for a punch and if you reached a punch you would begin second dealing. The reason for this is that in the course of experimentation I found I would often deal past relevant cards while second dealing since I couldn't tell what the value of the second card was. For example, say I've marked queens and jacks and I deal off until I come to a queen, if I begin second dealing, the card after the queen may be a jack and I'll then miss the jack and reduce my probability of obtaining a great hand. By using a bottom deal and feeling for bottom punches I reduce this problem as I am able to effectively feel two cards and hold back two cards rather than one. Naturally, this requires proficiency not only with the second deal and bottom deal, but also proficiency in switching back and forth between them.

Finally, an idea I had that combines the approach above with some other odd ideas and a different method of feeling. In other words, rather than feeling for the punch with your left hand, you do so with your right hand as a part of the take, essentially tracing your fingers across the area in question and performing the appropriate deal, false or otherwise. This method allows you to feel for a punch on the bottom card using many conventional handlings, though it requires slightly more skill and a sure trace process. Along these lines, it's possible to perform a push-off second deal, along with a two card top push-off, where you feel the value of the second card while taking the top card, or feel the value of the second card as you take the second card, giving you a similar edge to the stud poker hole card edge. This is an oddity at best, but I figured I'd include it for the sake of completeness. I'm sure if you check around you'll find a wealth of good information on the subject, I seem to recall seeing a large section in the "Marlo Magazine Volume 5" table of contents on the subject, though the manuscript is nearly impossible to find.

To conclude, I'd like to point out that it is possible to punch deal one-handed from the spin deal handling. Naturally, similar adaptations could be made for other one-handed deals.

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