Overhand Shuffling Controls

The next step in overhand shuffling is learning how to control a single card. The obvious point here lies in knowing what will happen to the card based on a conventional shuffle. For example, if you peel the cards off one at a time, then the top card will become the bottom card. If you peel every card off the deck one at a time then reversed the order of the deck. This can of course be repeated to return it to its original order. Likewise, if you were to peel the top two cards of the deck off together, the top card will end up second from the bottom. If you wanted it to be second from the top, you could at this point reverse the order once it is second from the bottom to make it second from the top. Naturally, you wouldn't want to concern yourself with peeling off each card individually if all you wanted to do was reverse the order of those last two cards. You could pull off larger packets to speed up the process and then at the end simply peel off the last few cards one at a time. In any event, you should practice being able to do this and many variations quite quickly.

Some things to practice are first, pulling cards off one at a time. Then pulling off cards two at a time, then three at a time and so on, up to four or five cards. Once you have reached a level of proficiency at doing this you can then start working with combinations. For example, you need to realize that if you peel three cards off the top this will leave you with the former top card of the deck, third from the bottom. So, if you wanted to group the first and fourth card together you could peel off the top three cards, followed by a single card and then proceed with the rest of the deck. This would leave the order of cards from the bottom up as two indifferent cards, the former top card that you wished to control, followed by the other card you wished to group it with. If you were now to shuffle all the cards of the deck off except the last four and drop the last four as a single packet this would leave you with the two cards you wanted to control on the top of the deck together. There are virtually infinite variations you can use and practice.

Jog Control

While what I have just described may form the absolute basics of keeping track of a card, but it remains a very unconvincing method in most cases of losing and controlling a card. In order to subject your audience to any manner of deception, you must create the appearance that the card is lost in the middle of the deck. To accomplish this we use what is called a jog control.

A jog control can be used in many ways so as such I am going to teach the basic technique in a couple of ways and you can allow your own creativity to work in manners pleasing to you. The basic concept goes as follows. Say there was a card on the top of the left hand packet held in the mechanics grip and you wish to control that card, or even a packet of cards that are grouped together. You would begin by peeling the next card or packet of cards (fewer is better in this case) on top of the card you wanted to control but jogged slightly downward maybe half an inch. See figure 7, using a face up card as the card to be controlled for ease of understanding.

Figure 7.

As you become increasingly effective at the move, you can minimize the size of the jog and make the process a bit more elegant. You will now shuffle the remainder of the deck down as normal, but in a slightly "cluttered" state so as to cover the fact that you have a jog marking the location of the card you are controlling. (See figure 8 for deck with cluttered shuffle vs. figure 9 for deck with ordered shuffle and observe how well it is covered in figure 8 compared with figure 9.)

Figure 8.

Figure 9.

At this point, once you have finished shuffling the remainder of the deck on top of the jogged card, you can reach under the jog and grab the packet with the controlled card on top of it. You will do this by reaching with your middle finger of your right hand in between the forefinger and middle finger of your left hand to grab the front of the packet and with the thumb of the right and just below the pinky of the left hand to grab the back of the packet. You will notice that the thumb can easily find where the packet ends by the jog and you will be able to pinch the packet between your middle finger and thumb to pull it out and toss it on top of the deck, bringing the controlled card to the top of the deck. (See figure 10 for grabbing the packet and figures 11 and 12 for removing the packet and placing it on top. Note, I have used a face up card for all of these in order for it to be easier for you to follow, in reality you would use a face down card).

Figure 12.

You should perform this entire action in a very casual manner as though you are merely completing the shuffle by tossing the last packet on top, when in fact you are bringing the lower portion of the deck to the top. Naturally, you could perform any number of variations, leaving the card second from the top, or perhaps on the bottom etc. but each will use this same concept.

Breaks

It is possible to use a jog in another manner as well, that is, to gain a break when you square the deck. Now the advantage of this is that ultimately using the previous method for one observing carefully you are in fact bringing the bottom of the deck to the top even though the cut location may seem random, it is suspicious to a trained eye. However, by obtaining a break you are able to shuffle off to that break and thus make the control that much more convincing at only a slight cost in terms of time and difficulty, both of which can be overcome with practice.

Obtaining a break begins once you have finished shuffling the remainder of the deck onto the jogged packet. In this case, you will start by squaring the sides of the deck slightly and then reach under the deck to the jogged card as you did previously, except this time rather than picking up the packet you push upwards on the out jogged card creating a break as you square the ends of the cards. See figures 13 & 14.

Figure 13.
Figure 14

Once you have squared the back of the deck, you will raise the deck to the initial overhand shuffling position while holding the break and square the sides. See figure 15.

Figure 15.

In the process, you should tilt the deck slightly backwards so the front end is pointing towards the eyes of the audience in front of you making it more difficult for them to see the break. You will now perform a standard overhand shuffle working your way from the top of the deck down until you reach the break at which point you will simply toss the remainder of the deck on the top of the left hand packet leaving the controlled card once again on the top of the deck. (Refer to figures 16-18 using a face up card for demonstration purposes).

Figure 18.

I need not remind you at this tenure of the fact that you should remain casual throughout this process as though you are merely and legitimately shuffling the deck. Ideally, you will learn to shuffle off to the break by feel rather than having to burn the deck and arouse the suspicions of wary spectators. As such, you will preferably look at them and talk while shuffling and controlling the card. Again, this will all come with minimal practice, but you should definitely invest the practice in gaining such proficiency.

Maintaining Top or Bottom Stock

Now, the previously described methods may suffice to control a card and fool the layman, but there are times when you may find it necessary to maintain a partial deck stack while apparently mixing the cards. For example if you had a hand ready for bottom dealing (a technique described in part three of this volume) on the bottom of the deck. Similarly, you may have a series of cards on the top of the deck with odd backs that you wish to keep there are cover cards for whatever reason, to accomplish this we can use a very simple method as follows.

The deck begins in the left hand in a rough mechanics grip, though perhaps not quite so deep in the hand. (Figure 19.)

Figure 19.

The hand now tilts and the fingers push the right side of the deck upwards so the right side is now roughly facing you. (Figure 20.)

Figure 20.

Now, the illusion will be that you pick-up the bottom half of the deck and shuffle it onto the top half of the deck, but this isn't what you are going to do. Instead, you are going to grab the middle of the deck, leaving both the top and bottom few cards (how many you will leave depends in large part on how much of the bottom stock you wish to maintain). (See figure 21.)

Figure 21.

Now you will simply deal this portion of the cards onto the left hand packet as normal, the process can of course be repeated as many times as you wish. This will of course preserve the bottom stock. In order to preserve the top stock, simply perform your shuffling face up instead of face down. It is, as I stated, a very simple process.

In addition to this, you can use a jog control to maintain the top card while at the same time preserving the bottom stock as described. Though I can't think of an application in which I would personally use it, I will nevertheless describe the method for the sake of completeness. It has been a continual source of annoyance to me that others leave incomplete that which could so easily be expanded and as such I find myself compelled to include even those aspects, which I consider myself to be quite self-explanatory.

Despite my rant above for which I apologize to those readers who found it to be distracting, I suppose this alternative method of obtaining a jog is worth noting and though perhaps more obvious than the other serves a valid application. You will begin with the standard method described for controlling the bottom stock and pull roughly half of the deck from the middle of the deck held in the left hand as previously described. However, just prior to shuffling the cards now held in the right hand onto those held in the left, the left hand thumb will contact the top card of the left hand packet (the card you are controlling) and glide it backwards into a jogged position. (Figure 22, note here that though I didn't include it in the picture, the card below the jogged card would be the queen of spades to correspond with figure 23.)

Figure 22.

You will then proceed with the shuffle as you would a normal jog controlled shuffle. Once you have finished you know where the card is, but you have still to bring it back to the top of the deck. To do this, you will combine a method similar to that used to gain a break and the method used to control the bottom stock. This is achieved by pushing up on the jogged card (controlled card) and grabbing a packet of cards from the middle of the deck with the jogged card at the bottom of this packet and removing it from the center of the deck. (See figure 23 using a face up card for the sake of demonstration.)

Figure 23.

To aid in this process it can be helpful to use the left hand fingers (in particular the pinky) to hold the bottom stock in place as you lift the cards from the center of the deck. (See figure 24.)

Figure 24.

You can now simply shuffle the controlled card to the top of the deck in a standard overhand manner remembering that if you shuffle off the card on the bottom of the right hand packet last it will end up on the top of the deck. The risk here is the jog created using the thumb. In order to minimize this risk, the action should be performed as you begin bringing the right hand down for the shuffle and casually without paying attention to it more as though it is a slip up than anything conscious or that you are aware of. This method could perhaps be of use to magicians who have a bottom stock prepared for a particular trick but wish to perform another using a shuffling control first. As a more advanced option, rather than shuffling the given card off at the end, you could pick up a packet below the jogged card and toss it on the top completing the shuffle and retaining a top block rather than a single card.

The Undercut

As you most surely have surmised based on my previous description, the method is neither the most elegant, nor the most invisible to an attentive observer and it is with that in mind that I introduce a method that should appear, or rather not appear when performed correctly. This "move" has a wide range of applications from maintaining a bottom stock, to adding a covering card in magic, to extensive uses in overhand stacking (which I will cover in detail when we reach part two of our journey (part two of this volume)), to whatever else your creativity allows. For now, we will build on the premise

I established in the last section, namely using the fingers of the left hand to help hold back certain cards. It is also at this point that we notice the importance of the grip into which we shuffle. In my view this technique has not been given the attention and refinement it deserves and as such I will attempt to describe in detail the finer points that are so often overlooked.

The basic undercut consists of using the tips of the middle finger, ring finger and pinky to peel the bottom card off the right hand packet at the same time as the thumb peels cards from the top of that packet. The packet peeled from the top of the right hand packet is of course used to hide the fact that the card is peeled from the bottom as well, hence the beginning of the invisibility. However, that is only the beginning as ultimately any move used in gambling must be completely undetectable (or so they tell me, but it sounds dramatic so we'll go with it). An exposed view of from the bottom of the deck appears in figure 25.

Figure 25.

An exposed view from the front appears in figure 26.

Figure 26.

The first concern to address is the potential for sound, that is to say, since you perform this move quite quickly as a part of a natural shuffle, there is a tendency for the cards to snap together and thus reveal that something irregular has occurred. Fortunately, we can circumvent this potential pitfall rather easily. In order to do so it helps to understand why the cards tend to snap away in the first place, namely, the tendency to exert undo pressure on the cards as they are peeled off the deck. This is unnecessary and you will find that generally when handling cards having a light, deft touch emphasizing a certain grace and efficiency will generally increase the quality of your card work. The key then lies in altering the force used when peeling the cards off, make it light and direct it towards the hand instead of towards the deck, so that when the deck is removed the cards don't snap together. Unfortunately, this is not something I can demonstrate using pictures and so you will have to simply practice and get a feel for exactly what I am saying, I don't suspect you will find it terribly difficult.

At this point, you should find the technique to be very difficult to detect, and yet, after explaining to some people what I was doing when demonstrating overhand deck stacking I found them catching me using it on them. The concern was that they were able to see the card as I peeled it off the bottom when watching from the front, which I found was due to the overhand grip I mentioned at the beginning not to use. Thus, I changed my grip to the one I have described, which offered an important advantage, namely, the presence of the forefinger to offer cover for the card. The method then works as follows.

When you peel the card from the bottom of the deck, you want to position your forefinger in a manner such that it is running along the front end of the card. (Figure 27 shows an exposed view from the bottom with the middle finger, ring finger and pinky removed for the sake of clarity.)

Figure 27.

As you can see, this effectively covers the view that I was formerly offering of the card from the front. Although this solved my problem, I noticed during this analysis that there was another potential area of weakness, namely that the card had a tendency to hang, that is to say it was not pulled as deep into the hand as the cards from the top and thus be exposed. To circumvent this concern as well as to facilitate techniques we will discuss a little further on, I made two minor changes. The first, was to shift the point at which I took hold of the card to higher up, which is why I mentioned earlier on that ideally you should be able to wrap the tips of your fingers around the top side of the deck when it meets the hand. (Figures 28 and 29 demonstrate the difference with figure 29 showing the correct handling in a semi exposed view.)

Figure 28.
Figure 29.

The second change involved bending the fingers slightly once they had made contact with the card and drawing it deeper into the hand. This occurs to the point where after the first couple shuffles the fingers (particularly the pinky which remains out of sight) will actually "spider" along the card pushing it in so that it comes to rest on the deck before the top cards do. Though this process will be difficult to illustrate I will attempt to show the subtle differences in figures 30 and 31 (forefinger is moved to expose the difference).

Figure 30.
Figure 31.

Note here another advantage of the grip I described in that it allows you to reach up with the tips of the left hand fingers and continue to peel cards off the bottom even after numerous packets are already in the left hand, typical handling does not leave the finger tips exposed and thus prevents this.

I will leave the double and triple undercuts until the overhand deck stacking section (part two of the volume) where they find their application and progress instead to an enhanced undercut that can be used to maintain the bottom stock in a much more invisible manner than the one previously described. Here again we witness the importance of being able to wrap the fingers of your left hand on the upper side of the deck. (A quick note here, for those who have small hands and may encounter difficulty, if necessary and possible, use bridge sized cards instead of poker sized, as they are not nearly as wide.) Thus, continuing logically from the basic undercut, in order to maintain the bottom stock of the deck, rather than simply peeling one card from the bottom, you will extend the three last fingers of the left hand just a little further and wrap the tips around the bottom stock of the right hand packet as it descends. Now as the thumb peels off the top set of cards and the right hand moves back upward the tips of the left fingers will retain their grip and draw the bottom stock into the hand in a manner consistent with the undercut technique. (See figures 32 and 33.)

Figure 32.

Figure 33.

I hope that explanation serves. If not, I'm sure you will be able to figure out the method on your own based on the premises we have established thus far. For those who might have difficulty with reaching the upper side of the cards with their fingers, you will note that, though it is a less controlled release, it is possible to ease pressure on the bottom stock of the deck with the right hand fingers and release the cards in that manner as an alternative. It is of course up to you to determine what methods best address your needs.

Packet Pick-up

The next technique we will examine is, in my experience very rarely used, which is unfortunate because it really is quite a useful and effective one, then again, often it seems there is a move away from elegance and towards the less exotic simplicity. Now being somewhat of an eccentric with a passion for the exotic, such a range of solutions has an innate appeal to me and hence my examination of this particular method, which is at worst a little odd and at best quite useful.

As you may recall, the previous method I suggested for maintaining top stock involved shuffling face up, a rather unseemly process that was, to say the least, less than ideal. The method I am about to describe serves then as a more practical replacement, though it is somewhat more difficult technically, you will I believe find it comes quickly with a bit of practice.

You will begin as per a standard overhand shuffle shuffling down the top packet, which should be slightly larger than the number of cards you wish to retain on the top of the deck but at the same time fairly small, this is a balance you will have to determine for yourself according to your needs. This should leave you with around eight or so cards in your left hand after dropping the first packet. Now, as your right hand descends to drop the second packet it should move down as far as possible into the hand so that the first packet is behind the deck held in the right hand and in between the thumb and fingers of the right hand. (See figures 34 & 35 for different (slightly exposed) views of this.)

Figure 34.
Figure 35.

Now, as the left thumb peels off the next packet, the fingers of the right hand and thumb will pinch the first packet between them and hold it so that it comes up with the rest of the deck but remains angled and separate. Figures 36, 37 & 38 show three different partially exposed views to provide an idea of what this looks like.

Figure 38.

You will now continue to shuffle the rest of the deck into the left hand until you reach the angled packet, which you will toss onto the top of the deck at the end completing the shuffle. This process may seem a little awkward at first but you will find you get used to it quickly, it is in many respects similar to shuffling off to a break. Additionally, you can of course vary the point at which you drop the packet in order to provide say a covering card or two on the top of the deck among many other potential variations.

Of all the overhand shuffling controls I have described this is perhaps the most difficult to conceal with this is mind, in addition to the standard considerations, speed and smoothness, there are a few particulars to keep in mind. The first area of concern is the lower front corner of the deck where the packets meet. (See figure 39.)

Figure 41.

There are a number of ways to help keep this concealed or at least to let it go un-noticed. The first is simply to make the shuffle quick, as motion will cover the discrepancy. Second, because the angle can be a problem, you can tilt the deck back slightly so that the front end is pointing towards the eyes of your audience as you shuffle. The third, though I personally prefer not to use it, is to increase the angle at which you tilt the packet so it you offer some cover with the body of the hand. (See figure 42.)

Finally, you can extend the forefinger out at an angle to offer some additional visual shelter as per figure 44. (Observe the difference between the cover from the front without the forefinger, figure 43, as opposed to with the forefinger in figure 44.)

Figure 43.
Figure 44.

One additional disparity arises when performing this sleight, namely an inconsistency in packet size due to the fact that you remove the first packet. There is an additional danger that the audience will witness the absence of a packet as you peel the second packet from the deck. To eliminate this problem, we take two measures. The first is quite simply to minimize the packet size of the first packet in order to decrease the visible difference when you "add" the second packet. The second such counter-measure involves performing an undercut on the packet you are picking up. This process is quite simple. When you move in and perform the packet pick-up, your left hand fingers which are naturally behind the packet will lightly engage it in a standard undercut fashion and strip some of the cards down (or more accurately retain them) so as to create the illusion that the original packet remains unchanged. (See figure 45 slightly exposed.)

Figure 45.

I would intrude so much as to offer you a small tip on the undercut here. There is a tendency to retain some of the cards only partially, in other words to leave one or two hanging (see figure 46). In order to avoid this, you should squeeze the angled packet a little harder between the fingers and thumb of the right hand.

Overall, I am confident that with a little ingenuity and some practice you will be able to employ this control, either as a means of maintaining the top stock, or controlling a card or perhaps other methods to great effect.

Counting & Running Cards

There is one final method, which is, in my experience, almost never employed, and yet perhaps for this very reason, no method seems more effective for fooling magicians. It is neither one I can endow you with by simple means of articulation, nor demonstrate in terms of illustrations since it is entirely invisible, hence its appeal. I will therefore simply mention the theory and allow you to make use of the premise as best you can. The definite appeal lies in terms of the convincers that can be employed to successfully create the impression that the card is lost and certainly not controlled, for in fact it has not been.

At the most basic level, counting involves having a card returned to the deck and then shuffling off the rest of the deck on top in a legitimate and uncontrolled manner, but counting the number of cards you shuffle onto the card in question. At this point you can legitimately show the deck squared, prove the card is nowhere near the top, nor the bottom, show your hands empty etc. (Naturally, you would do much of this in a subtle manner rather than overtly saying, "my hands are empty and I have no breaks nor have I controlled your card".) At any given point, you will simply shuffle down to that card by counting how many cards you shuffle off and then tossing the rest of the deck on top. Now if you possess incredible abilities to cut down to any card you desire ala John Scarne then you can simply cut to the card and perform a pass or something similar, but for the mere mortals among us other methods must suffice. Traditionally, you would combine a series of shuffles like this adding to the complexity and perhaps passing the card in order to add further confusion to any who may possess the incredible ability to track the exact location of the card at a given point. In addition to this, you can naturally shuffle through the deck after you have noted the card's location and jogged it so that you can steal it out later etc. All of this makes for a very persuasive presentation to those who you might not normally fool by conventional methods.

The potential variations using counting methods and running cards, particularly if you can combine various types of shuffles as well as cuts are essentially infinite and really represent the height of card control and manipulation in my opinion. They are also completely wasted on laymen and rarely worth employing, but I mention them here in the name of completeness with which I have a sort of love affair, may you put these ideas to good use or at the least be inspired to develop ideas of your own which you may put to good use.

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