Weave Shuffling Controls

After Hours Magic: A Book of Al Thatcher Card Magic

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Less than any of the other shuffles, weave shuffles use any controlling. On the one hand, you could state that if you are holding a break and cut to that break then riffle shuffle so that this card remains on the top at the end of the shuffle is a control. I tend not to consider it to be such, or at least, do not recommend using it in this manner very often. In point of fact however this would, I suppose constitute a control and thus I must resign myself to being mistaken on the subject. Nevertheless, whether you call them controls or not there are several important aspects of a weave shuffle to which I should introduce you.

Earlier when examining block shuffling methods we discussed the desire and ability to maintain either the top or bottom stock, in some cases both and noted that while it was possible to maintain one, it was difficult to maintain both using these methods. In the case of weave shuffles, that problem is eliminated, maintain both the top and bottom stock becomes quite simple, the trade off is however that it is not particularly deceptive. The method, is simply to, as you are riffling the cards off, to ensure that, if you wish to maintain the bottom stock, the bottom cards fall from the appropriate packet first, or if you wish to maintain the top stock that the top cards are held back until the end of the shuffle. Now in the case of the bottom stock this is relatively invisible, in the case of the top stock however it is painfully obvious. That is to say, anyone who is watching for it will see what that you have maintained top cards. To circumvent this problem you may wish to consider holding back all but one card and placing it on top of your top stock and then eliminating it with a slip cut and another shuffle, or simply moving it to the bottom via a series of simple cuts, all depending on your needs. Either way, I'm sure you can see how one might easily maintain the top and bottom stock using a weave shuffle.


The next important aspect of weave shuffling to understand is basic distribution. Although the exact distribution of the shuffle will typically be random, there are general principles that may be applied. For example, due to the cut, what was formerly the middle of the deck will become roughly, either the top or the bottom of the deck (this is of course dependent both on the cut and the manner in which the cards are riffled off). In addition to this, the point a quarter of the way down the deck or a quarter of the way up the deck will end up as roughly the middle of the deck. The reason this is important is because later when we discuss stacking we will examine the idea of moving cards within the deck in order to make the culling appear natural, as such there will be times during which you will need to move cards from the edges of the stack (top or bottom of the deck) towards the middle. You will want to familiarize yourself with the distribution of riffle shuffles so that you can become acquainted with how to control the shuffle in order to bring about your desired outcome. If you are truly ambitious you may wish to examine shuffle tracking and advantage play in order to predict the order of cards based on the shuffles, in regards to this subject I would refer you to Steve Forte who is an expert on the subject.

In addition to this basic distribution, there is faro distribution to consider. In other words, if you perform an in-faro, the card that was formerly on top will now be second from the top. If you were to perform a second in-faro that card will now be fourth from the top. Another shuffle will make it eighth from the top and so on remembering that each time the shuffle is performed the distance the card moves down in the stack will double (there is of course a "breaking point where the card will be brought back up due to the cutting process). We will examine the premise in more detail on the section related to stacking and using a faro shuffle to stack the deck.

The Gilbreath Principle

This brings us to another area of distribution riddled to many in mystery and one I would like to touch briefly upon. In reality, the applications are fewer than seem to exist in the minds of those uninitiated in the concept, but it can nevertheless offer a powerful tool for those who take the time to use it, that is, the Gilbreath principle. The Gilbreath principle is a simple mathematical concept, which suggests within a stack for one object to enter it must bump another upward. If you are confused at this point I do not blame you for the description is vague and somewhat misleading, I feel therefore that it is most easily explained through some simply demonstrations. Say you had four aces stacked together at the bottom of the deck and four kings stacked together in the middle of the deck. Suppose then that you were to cut the deck so that the kings were at the bottom of the second packet, the aces of course being at the bottom of the first packet. Now, if you were to shuffle these two packets of cards together the bottom four cards must be either aces or kings. Granted, they can be any combination of aces and kings from four kings, to four aces, to two aces and two kings in any particular order, to one ace and three kings in any particular order, to one king and three aces in any particular order. This is because in order to access any other cards you would need to first riffle off at least four cards and those cards can only be aces or kings. The premise works on the top of the deck as well, if the top of the one packet was four kings and the top of the other consisted of four aces then the top of the deck must consist of only aces, kings, or a combination of the two, at least for the first four cards. That is the basis of the Gilbreath principle in action.

Now at this point you may be saying to yourself "how exactly is that significant? Who cares?" Well, you may care, if not, those who use the concept in their card work certainly care. What is the significance? You can allow a spectator to shuffle the deck and retain a stack. A note of caution here, the spectator can shuffle the deck in a riffle shuffle manner once provided the cut location is correct. If the spectator were to shuffle the cards a second time, it would typically fail and ruin the process for you. Thus in presentation (particularly presentation as I use it) you could stack cards in the middle of the deck and perhaps the top and or bottom, then cut to the correct point and perform a series of false shuffles. As you go to perform the shuffle you would stop immediately after the cut and behaving as though it was an after thought ask a spectator to shuffle the two packets together in order for it to be fair. The advantage of this is that it gets the spectator involved, makes the audience more convinced since a spectator was in control, but due to the false shuffles does not require a series of additional shuffles to convince them that the deck is properly randomized. The disadvantage of this is of course that while you may maintain a rough stack it will be more disturbed than if you controlled it yourself, or at least that is the risk. Of course, anytime you offer any measure of control to the spectators you are also taking the risk that they might ruin the effect on you, however is generally avoidable with proper audience control or, when in doubt you can plan a series of outs based on the effect and what might occur.

Here are some ideas for you of what types of stacks you might use and some general applications of the Gilbreath principle. If you were to remove all the face cards and all the tens, then place eight on the top of the deck and eight on the top of the second packet, you could immediately deal off at least four blackjack hands with a value of 20 following the shuffle by the spectator. To enhance this, you could place an ace on the bottom of the deck and another on the bottom of the other packet ensuring an ace would be on the bottom of the deck and allow you to bottom deal the ace off to make one particular hand a perfect hand. (A detailed description of bottom dealing follows in the third part of this work). In other words the stack would go (from the bottom of the deck up), an ace, some random cards, eight cards with a value of ten, another ace, some other random cards and finally an additional eight cards with a value of ten. To enhance that you could use two aces in each place where you formerly had one and set up two hands instead of just one.

Another stack you could try would involve two four of a kind such as the aces and kings example where you would at worst end up with a full house or at best four of a kind. If one were to place these cards on the bottom of the deck, he could create a flush by including any five cards from a given suit at the top of the deck and any other five cards from that same suit at the top of the other packet. One could then deal off two poker hands, one being a flush and the other either a full house or four of a kind, by bottom dealing the one hand. For those who are truly ambitious this method could be used along with center deals to deal off as many hands as you like, say five, where three would be dealt from the center, one from the bottom and one from the top. Alternatively, one could use a double deal, then fourths (or centers) for the indifferent hands, a bottom deal for the second controlled hand, then either another double deal or a top, followed by thirds or centers if you dealt a top, seconds if you performed a double deal for the indifferent hands, then a bottom deal for the second controlled hand and so on in any particular variety you desire to control two hands and offer a specified number of hands to offset these. (Again, I describe the dealing techniques in the third part of this work).

For me, the most interesting application from a theoretical standpoint lies in controlling a straight using the Gilbreath principle. To do this the one packet (we will assume we are work with the bottom of the deck) must have the cards placed in ascending order while the other must have the cards placed in descending order. For example, we will assume you wish to create a straight of the highest value so ten to ace, the bottom of the first packet would go ten, jack, queen, king, ace, while the bottom of the second packet would go ace, king, queen, jack, ten. You will find if you do this that it leaves you with the bottom five cards forming a straight every time. Again, this is due to slightly more elaborate aspects of the Gilbreath principle on the level of mathematical theory, which I will not delve into at this point. For those of you who wish to examine and experiment with the idea extensively I'm sure there is probably a way to create some rather interesting effects, particularly if you are willing to use duplicate cards which would allow you to create hands such as straight flushes and royal flushes. For myself, I find it is simply too easy to palm off a packet of cards, let the spectators legitimately shuffle the deck, the palm them back into play and continue accordingly for me to concern myself too highly with the Gilbreath principle. (A description of the method I just described including palming and replacement will be included in a later work.)

Though some might ridicule me for downplaying what they consider to be a fascinating concept, I simply cannot recommend its use in most cases as I feel that better methods exist and thus it would be an affront to my integrity to claim otherwise.

Holding Breaks

With that we will move on for I fear I am losing my readers in tedium, to a subject I will mention only briefly as it is not as applicable as with other shuffles, yet is nevertheless important from time to time. As with block shuffles, it is possible to hold a break when weave shuffling, in particular, while riffle shuffling. There are numerous applications for this somewhat awkward and I might add somewhat obscene procedure, most catering to those learning to replace the technique with better ones. For example, it may be necessary to hold back a certain number of cards in order to successfully perform a stack (something we will cover in much more detail in the next part of this work). Alternatively, one may need to maintain a cut location for the next shuffle. Generally, the idea of holding a break while riffle shuffling is a primitive one and a process we aim to eliminate where possible, however, as it does facilitate some degree of refinement and control from time to time it is important to learn. For those of you who have moved beyond this point, perhaps to that of being able to work by feel, you may proceed to the next section as you are unlikely to miss anything here.

I would generally recommend to you that breaks be held while dovetail shuffling as they are fairly easy to conceal from most angles in this regard. Essentially, you will simply hold the break by holding your thumb in the position with the other fingers in their traditional positions for a dovetail shuffle. (See figure 165.)

Figure 165.

It is advantageous to hold this break with a fairly "high" portion of the thumb so as it offer maximum control with the thumb tip while riffling off the cards. You will notice that bending the cards upwards for the riffle helps to conceal the break by creating slight natural breaks between other cards (See figure 166.)

Figure 166.

Obviously, what you do with this break will depend on the aim you conspire to carry out. If for example the intent of holding the break was to cut to the location of that break later you may wish to control a large number of cards to that point creating a natural break to which you may return at the end of the shuffle. Such methods will be discussed more when we reach the section on stacking.

The question that remains then is how one obtains such a break. There are a series of possibilities, I will touch on a few here. First, if one needed to obtain a break below just a few of the top cards as in the case of a simple riffle stack, he might simply cut the deck, then riffle the top few cards casually counting off the number desired and holding the break accordingly. Alternatively, the count could be made by casually pushing off the cards prior to the cut and the break could be held during the process of cutting. If the break needed to be obtained, further down in the deck, one could quickly riffle through the cards, peeking while cutting and hold the break once the appropriate card was located. If sufficient foresight were exercised, a short card or crimp could be used and the break could be obtained just prior to the shuffle. (I would suggest that the break be obtained as close to the actual shuffle as possible so as to better avoid detection.) Those are of course merely some of the many ideas that might exist on the subject and we will examine them in greater depth as the need arises later on.

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