The Counts Dealing Grip

It would be difficult to understate my pride in this grip, in spite of it's imperfections, I am very pleased with it, it represents my successful attempt to perform all deals from the same grip and to do them well. This is definitely my preferred grip, particularly for centers, Greeks and bottoms and I suspect in many regards others will come to appreciate it as well. It is not without faults as I will discuss later, but it makes some of the most difficult sleights accessible and eliminates any real need to learn another grip save for dealing one-handed.

Ironically, I discovered this grip, at least an earlier conception of it, when I was first learning to bottom deal. I was sitting at a desk practicing bottom dealing from somewhere around a shifted or mechanic's grip and doing so somewhat slowly as I was still having problems. My brother who knew and still knows virtually nothing of cards asked what I was doing as it seemed tedious and monotonous to him. I explained that it was very difficult and that I would like to see him try, so he said ok and took the pack in his hand and began dealing. Naturally, this did not involve the elegant mechanic's grip I was using, rather it was something that seemed more clumsy, almost the grip you might use on a bat, with all four fingers on the one side of the deck wrapping around it slightly with the thumb across the top. He sat and dealt off cards, then said everyone once and a while I was pulling one from the middle, which he attempted to do and to his credit succeeded at through the disorderly nature of the pack. I mentioned that the cards were coming from the bottom and he needed to make it invisible, so it looked like he was dealing from the top. He pointed out that mine deals weren't invisible and so I stated that this was why I needed to practice more.

What interested me about his method, was he was dealing the cards from the front of the deck where no fingers would get in the way, his grip was, granted, unsophisticated and far from superb, but the idea was an interesting one to me. I took it and tried dealing in that manner a bit and then gradually began shifting it, moving my forefinger underneath, refining my handling, loosening up and shifting the fingers some more. I continued to refine this slightly for a period of some days and weeks, while still practicing my regular bottom deal. At the time I was not particularly adept at card handling, but I was familiar with the glide and I was aware of the Greek deal concept, so the concept of gliding the bottom card on the deck in order to perform a Greek deal likewise seemed appealing. I hadn't begun practicing a second deal at the time, but I figured I could also glide the top card with my thumb in order to perform a second deal, for the time being though, my efforts centered around a bottom deal.

I quickly came to love this grip for bottom dealing as I discovered I could snap my wrist out in order to perform the deal at great speed and so I continued my refinements. Gradually, I began practicing Greek dealing from this grip and to a very limited extent, seconds, while at the same time searching for a method of dealing centers.. .that search was less than successful. The more I worked with this deal however and the more I learned of the faults of other false deals the more this deal seemed appealing. I remember sitting in front of a mirror one night, exposing the view entirely and dealing both tops and bottoms, watching to see if I could see the top card come off of the deck and getting to the point where I couldn't, even when I was dealing tops. Thus was born the invisible deal that has only improved since then.

This deal is not perfect, but I found that if nothing else, it makes the very difficult Greek deal quite easy and that I think is appealing to a great many. It is actually quite recently that I finally came up with what I consider to be a satisfactory, dare I say, even a good center deal from this grip. Originally I had intended to explore all the variations on technique of this grip, of which I have numerous including probably five very different center deal handlings to go along with different incarnations of the Greek deal, double deal, bottom deal and second deal. However, unexpected time constraints have limited this exploration and so I shall only examine for you some of the better ideas, though perhaps at a later time I'll share the variations that developed during the search.

Perhaps then it is time to begin with an explanation of this most wonderful grip.

Naturally, you take the deck in your right hand. This grip is fairly high and primarily between your ring finger and middle finger and the flesh of the hand. This is much further forward than say a mechanic's grip but also oriented different. Your middle finger is just slightly more than halfway towards the front of the deck on the right side, while your ring finger is behind it and your pinky is at the lower right corner though still on the right side. It also wraps slightly around the back corner. The height of these three fingers is just enough that they barely crest the edge of the deck. Your forefinger is curled under the deck so that it bends sharply at the second joint from the tip. The fingertip itself rests around the middle of the card, perhaps a fraction of an inch forward. Finally, your thumb lies across the top of the deck directed towards the upper right corner with the tip resting perhaps half an inch down from the top and half an inch in from the right, perhaps a little less. (See figure 611 from the top and figure 612 from the bottom.)

This grip really doesn't waste any part of the hand as each part performs a function or potential function, and again, that is one of its beauties. So now I believe, you are ready to begin dealing.

Dealing Seconds

I should perhaps first mention that I recently discovered there is a bottom deal called the "SF Bottom deal" that is similar in a sense to this deal, however, from what I am aware this deal is much more refined in spite of the fact that the two are visually somewhat similar. The two have no relation to one another, the "SF Bottom deal" dates to well before I became involved with cards and I was not aware of the deal until well after I had completed my work on the Count's grip and even today I remain ignorant of the details of this deal.

Now, as you go to perform your take, it will be a three finger action, though only two of those fingers really see any action. These are the middle finger and thumb, which approach the deck from the front and perform a strike on the upper left corner of the deck. (There is a beauty of working with the upper left corner of the cards since it allows you to perform a Benzais cop or snap deal if you approach the issue correctly.) The hand motion approaching the deck resembles a controlled snap or whip action as the wrist flick I generally employ is instrumental it adding considerable speed to the initial portion of the deal. The hand and wrist then coil inward from an extended position to the front and slightly to the right of the deck so that the forefinger ends up along the left edge of the deck (though it arrives there a fraction of a second after the middle finger and thumb. The middle finger for its part makes contact on the bottom of the deck in the upper left corner around where a pip would be if they placed pips in that corner of the card. The thumb strikes the upper left corner in the same spot on the top of the deck. (See figure 613 and figure 614 from the left side.)

Figure 613.

You should note the position of the right hand, which is twisted to a slightly unnaturally high angle. This is yet another beautiful aspect of this grip, most grips involve a slight amount of neck tying, in fact they almost require it, but the Count's grip does not, in fact generally the deck remains roughly level the whole time I'm dealing. However, as you move your hand in to perform the take, it completely covers a view of the deck and in particular the take from anyone looking from the front, or even as far over as the eleven o'clock position (perhaps even the ten o'clock?) and everyone to the right of this point (from your perspective, naturally being across the table from you this would be their left). Meaning that only a very small portion of the table (those between about the ten and seven o'clock positions are able to see the take. In order to increase this advantage further, I turn myself slightly so I'm facing about the ten or nine o'clock position in order to aid in dealing to those on my left, while I am still able to move my hand and toss the cards to those on my left without shifting my body. This is actually completely natural, since you are able to deal much more effectively to your right than you left, though granted one should remain aware of the situation and shift if the need arises. Finally, if you had the need, you could always tilt the deck slightly to the right and obscure a top view from your left, though I find this is generally unnecessary. The entire condition is beautiful as it seems wonderfully fair and the deal occurs so quickly that a strong retention of vision occurs on the part of the audience while in fact they saw nothing for a fraction of a second. (I would recommend you try this in front of a mirror in order to fully appreciate how brilliant it is.) Basically, it is like getting all the benefits of neck tying without actually neck tying. (I should note that whenever possible one needs to remain mindful of angles, particularly with this deal which although it does not require them, it benefits from them considerably. Often you'll find yourself in a situation where you are able to manipulate the situation, either by where you choose to sit or otherwise in order to better control the situation.

Now, if you're dealing a top, your thumb simply performs the take on the top card by both uncoiling your hand and moving your hand forward simultaneously, incidentally setting you up to toss the card if you so desire. The take action involves first drawing the card off slightly with your thumb, then taking hold of it from the bottom and positioning your forefinger along the edge at the same corner. (See figure 615 and figure 616,)

Figure 615.

This works quite well, though I should note, depending on the circumstances, you may not wish to flick your wrist but merely move your hand forward, you may also wish to position your forefinger under the card slightly, but more on that later.

It is important when you perform the take that you do so in a level manner and be mindful of this because there is a tendency to move the hand slightly downward, which is harmful later. I once had someone sit and listen to my deals in order to detect the false deals by sound and he did reasonably well, at which point I refined my handling considerably, level is the way to go. There is sound on this deal and you want there to be sound because you can't eliminate it from the second, center and Greek, but you want it to come from a level take. This level take will help to unify the sound of each of the deals and when in doubt you'll be able to cover the slight differences with other sounds.

Now, in order to perform the second deal the key issue is timing. You're going to pivot the top card to the right, exposing the upper right corner of the deck. It is important for you to make use of the tips of your middle finger and ring finger to ensure only one card pivots over. (See figure 617 for an exaggerated view.)

Figure 617.

Now, I recently read a discussion on the subject of the second deal, whether you should perform a push-off or strike and perhaps most notably, brief size. I will probably write a long dissertation on the subject at some point but for now the question is the illusion of this particular deal. Originally, I used a small brief and this is still a good option, but one thing I discovered is if I used a larger brief there was a much better chance I would only get one card and thus have been using a larger brief for the most part. The issue here, and the issue that separates this from most other such deals, is the hand cover. If you time it correctly, you are able to pivot the card, perform your take, and pivot the card back while the deck is out of view. What's so great about this? It creates the illusion of a stationary thumb and I assure you, that illusion is very strong. Your hand moves in, the thumb is stationary, you perform the strike and the hand moves away, again, the thumb is stationary, completely so, which is a huge advantage when in the company of experienced card men. How I accomplish this, is to, when I'm performing the take, actually move my right hand in closer than it needs to come, by about an inch as though the momentum carried it and just as the hand provides cover, I pivot the top card. Then, in the start of a forward again, I perform the take and immediately pivot the top card back into position. Try this in front of a mirror; you'll it works very well. (See figure 618, figure 619, and figure 620 (third picture is slightly exposed).)

Figure 618.

Incidentally, another advantage of this hand cover is that the card you are dealing from the deck only becomes visible just as it is about to come off the deck. Meaning that, while the economy of motion is sacrificed by a forward take, you make up for it by reducing the window of version to an even smaller one than with a side take.

Now again, how exactly you decide to handle this depends largely on the environment, if someone is sitting right next to you or looking over your shoulder a very small brief is ideal, but if at all possible, making use of the angles and cover is much better. Another point for if someone is looking over your shoulder and you need to perform a small brief but also a clean take, you can apply pressure with your middle finger and ring finger in order to bevel the deck slightly to the left and help ensure you pivot only one card and that only one card is exposed. Finally, in the event of hangers (cards that jut out from the deck where you performed the false deal due to multiple cards coming rather than one), I do two things in order to hopefully stave off any potential disaster. First, I use my thumb to shift the top card slightly forward covering the hanger, in other words making it so there aren't any cards that extend farther out than the top card. (The secret here is that you will never get hangers on anything but a false deal because normally when you deal off the top card, while other cards may come, the one that will come the farthest is the second card, namely the new top card.) Second, as I bring my right hand back to perform the next take I do so in such a manner that the palm strikes the front edge of the deck, thereby aligning the cards and pushing in any hangers. (See figure 621.)

This is a good reason to perform a quick deal and hopefully a "tight" deal, in case you end up suddenly having to go back and correct a problem like this you'll hopefully be able to do so. Another little flourish you can do if this is a problem is to, immediately after performing the take, swing the card back inward, coiling for a toss and then tossing the card across the table to the given player. In this motion covering the deck, you can move your forefinger from beneath the deck up to the front where it can square the cards quickly before returning below the deck. You may even find you are able to use your right hand in the process of the flourish to square the cards. (See figure 622 and 622a for the flourish motion).

Figure 622.
Figure 622a.

On reflection, depending on the circumstances you may wish to make this flourish motion a standard part of your deal, first so it doesn't look out of place, second as a sort of casual flourish and third because it allow even more cover for thumb movement. Really though, once you become adept at the deal hangers are very rare. I find a delicate touch and a level take virtually assure this, though you may wish to try playing around slightly with your handling if you're having problems. Generally, the only reason for hangers may come with a particularly sticky deck, in which case you may wish to consider not false dealing depending on what is at stake and the awareness level of your audience. Ideally, your audience isn't alter and even if you have a hanger you are able to correct it before a problem develops.

I think then that I have covered to a reasonable extent dealing tops and seconds from the Count's grip and we'll progress to doubles.

Dealing Doubles

While we're going to examine a strike double deal and therefore a deal that is often troublesome I have to say that of all the strike double deals in existence this one is one of the most favorable. As your right hand moves in to perform the take and under the cover of that hand, your thumb will glide the top card back slightly exposing the card beneath it. Then your thumb will strike on both of them and take both of them forward. Your forefinger will move in on the corner and to an extent the front edge providing a squaring force. At the same time, you'll use the three last fingers of the left hand as a squaring guide along the right side of the deck. This process offers a nearly universal guarantee that the cards are square as you deal them immediately to the table. (See figure 623, figure 624, and figure 625. (Figure 623 has the right hand removed in order to demonstrate the shifted nature of the top card.))

Figure 623.
Figure 624.
Figure 625.

The process is really that simple, don't toss the cards, deal them to the table.

Dealing Bottoms

Again, what can I say, this builds directly on the material I explained under the second deal. Instead of performing a take of the top card, your middle finger performs a take of the bottom card. The take location of the card regardless of the is universally the upper left corner around the missing pip so you are consistent in that manner and you make use of the angles as described before. I have used this deal many times, in both lay and fast company and not once have I been caught. It is a bottom deal involving no fingers in the way, no finger movement, no get ready, no knuckle flash, nothing, the card is simply dealt, you cannot get simpler than that. (See figure 626 for a view from the bottom.)

Figure 626.

My only real word of caution would be to please ensure your take is level. I've had numerous times when I'm practicing at a high table and been dealing off rounds of poker only to arrive at the bottom deal and hear a slap as the card strikes the edge of the table due to a pre-mature drop in its level. You also need to make sure the deal makes noise, it is very easy from this grip to perform a silent bottom deal, but you want noise so it is the same as the others, just remember, level take.

It is I suppose worth mentioning that in my experience dealing the cards off in a forward manner so they remain square with the right and left edges of the deck during the entire take is the best method. Sometimes during a bottom deal a portion of the card may slip to the left slights and become exposed. However brief, this is an unnecessary and undesirable tip-off, especially if someone is directly to your left.

Dealing Greeks

One of the greatest incentives for switching to the Count's grip in my opinion is the Greek deal; it is simply the easiest method of dealing Greeks anywhere, period. Really, this makes sense because an entire portion of the deal was specifically designed to facilitate the Greek deal, which is more than I can say for pretty much any other deal. The difference between a Greek deal and a bottom deal is simply this. With a Greek deal, you use your forefinger to apply a slightly backward pressure on the bottom card, gliding it back about half an inch and exposing the card beneath it. (See figure 627 for a view from the bottom.)

Figure 627.

From this point you'll find you are able to perform your conventional bottom deal take, or, if you chose not to glide the card quite so far, you could perform a double bottom deal simply by adding a squaring take. Now, the issue of exactly when and how to glide this card arises, I actually have two other methods I sometimes use, but I feel generally this one is the best. While the act of gliding the card is certainly subtle and thus one could easily perform it openly before each Greek deal, I don't recommend this as it creates unnecessary risk and difficult handling. If you wish to perform the glide for each deal, I recommend you do so under cover of the hand as you did with the second deal. However, personally, I generally simply glide the card once at the beginning of the shuffling sequence and leave it in the jogged position until I'm done dealing quite simply because it's easier and causes me less worry.

You may ask about the jog being discovered. In my experience, the chances of this happening are minimal (it has never happened to me), first of all because the jog is very small and thus not terribly obvious even if you're looking at it since you're generally not focused on looking for a jogged card in the back of the deck. Second, it's essentially invisible from all angles except over your shoulder as it is covered by the deck and your two arms. There is a small chance of it being seen from your right, but you'll notice that the pinky at the end of the deck helps to conceal it. (See figure 628.)

Figure 628.

The only real risk then is an over the shoulder view and most people won't be performing a false deal when someone whose fast company is staring over their shoulder anyway. Frankly, for most laymen you could perform a heinous false deal and get away with it and this is anything but. Really then, do as you please, but generally (not always) I prefer to simply jog the card once.

Dealing Centers

Now I did say every portion of the hand is used with this grip, but we really haven't employed the pinky yet, it is with the center deal where it will see its finest work. I must say, I had a very difficult time coming up with a working center deal from this grip. I suppose it shouldn't come as a surprise considering performing a center deal from virtually any grip is tough, but I did find this one particularly difficult to conceive and spent a long time considering it, everything from breaks to jogs, to glides and shifts to opening a break with the take hand and others. Finally, not too long ago, I came up with this method. Originally, I actually performed it in reverse, dealing off the top half of the bottom packet rather than the bottom half of the top packet, but I felt this was too obvious. Then I shifted, and use the middle finger to control the top packet while the pinky controlled the bottom packet though I found that technique quite difficult and ineffective. I've finally settled then on the method I'll describe. I think probably of all the center deals I've mentioned in this book, this is probably one of the best, though not necessarily one of the easiest. It's the best because there is no visible or obvious movement (visible being the key as a lot may occur under the cover of that hand though the movements that do occur are not huge or glaringly obvious) and because it lacks any huge tip offs such as a massive break. I remember the first day I came up with this method, I was toying with a deck of cards as I often do, my brother who is familiar with cards and sleights was sitting at the table with me. I performed the deal a couple times slowly for myself, then had him watch as I performed it quite slowly and asked him if he could tell it was false, he said no, he couldn't see anything. Now at the time I realized and mentioned that my angles were favorable, but it was also noteworthy that being my first time my technique was rough and my deal was slow, that was also the earlier rendition of the deal where the middle finger offered the control instead of the pinky. I offer you then, this deal, which, though not perfect has won my affections more than any other of its class.

You begin with a small pinky break at the back of the deck. (See figure 629 from the right and figure 630 from above.)

Figure 629.

Notice how little this break is visible from the right due in part to the three-finger cover offered. Notice also, the exact manner in which the pinky sits holding this break. It is a post fixed not on the right side of the deck, but wrapped around the back of the deck. This is important in two regards, the first being that it is able to apply a pivoting force on the deck. Second, it is wrapped around the back, not positioned behind, this allows you to job the bottom card as in a Greek shuffle without the pinky interfering, while always maintaining this position regardless of which deal you're performing.

At this point as you move in to perform the take and hopefully under the cover of the hand, your pinky applies a pivoting force to the top packet causing it to pivot slightly to the left much as you might pivot the top card in the opposite direction during a second deal. (See figure 631 for an exposed view.)

Figure 631.

This action exposes the bottom card of the top packet allowing your right middle finger to perform a take. (See figure 632 for a view from below.)

Figure 632.

I should remark that though I've not played around with the idea much, the idea of delaying the arrival of the right forefinger by sweeping it out wide may have an advantage here. As you perform the take, your left ring finger applies pressure to reverse the pivot. Your pinky moves out of the way in a sort of bowing motion here in order to maintain the break while allowing the packet to pivot back. It then immediately prepares for the next pivot. (See figure 633 and figure 634.)

Figure 634.

Both your middle finger and ring finger apply pressure in order to help properly square the side of the deck and, as the card is dealt from the deck, the deal is completed. The idea with the forefinger, if it is rendered functional, would be to strike the left side of the deck as the top half is pivoted back into place and to assist in squaring the packets.

If you must perform this deal openly (that is to say in such a manner that angles are not favorable), I recommend a slightly back and forth movement of the wrist with each regular deal in order to help better cover the pivot action of the center deal when it comes. Ideally, however, it is performed under the cover of the hand.

Stud dealing

I examined the concept of the stud deal after coming up with this grip and on reflection I decided the best option would be a regular deal combined with a wrist turning action at the end to turn the card over. (See figure 635.)

Figure 635.

This action is very easy and, I feel, totally satisfactory given the context.

That then concludes, I believe, my description of the Count's grip, which I hope you will employ to great success. It may feel awkward at first, that's because it's new and you'll find it quickly becomes comfortable, at which point you may just find yourself growing fond of it.

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