Three Cards Across

This trick is one of the finest in all card magic. When neatly presented it never fails to entertain and mystify an audience. It was a favourite with the great English magician, David Devant, and with countless card conjurers since.

The plot is simple. A spectator counts off a number of cards and puts them in his pocket or holds them in his hands. A second spectator chooses a card, the value of which is used to indicate how many cards shall be caused to fly invisibly to the cards held by the first assistant. The magician takes the pack, snaps it sharply, and when the spectator again counts his cards he finds that the required number of cards have been added to those he holds!

This is one of the oldest plots in magic and, like all the old tricks which have survived the passage of time, it is a truly great classic.

Preparation. Beforehand place two of the three-spots on the top of the pack, the other two at the bottom.

Procedure. The steps are as follows:

1. If you are performing for an intimate group, seat yourself at a table and request one of those present to sit opposite you. If you have a larger audience, use a small table and stand your assistant on your left, with the table between you. In selecting a spectator to assist you, choose if you can a person who has shown that he enjoys your tricks, for he will be less likely to attempt to embarrass you and will follow your instructions implicitly.

Place the pack before your assistant and instruct him to cut it into three packets fairly equal in size. When he has done this, request him to select any one of the three and take it in his hands. Note which he takes, and in picking up the other two assemble them so that you will have two three-spots either on the top or on the bottom.

If you have two three-spots at the top of the pack, well and good. If not, shuffle one of those at the bottom to the top. Approach another spectator and force the three-spot on him, preferably using the classic force. Have him place the forced card in his pocket without looking at it.

2. Return to the table and address your assistant somewhat as follows: "I shall ask you, sir, to count your cards, but I want you to do so in a manner which will prove to all that you have counted them correctly. Kindly hold them about eighteen inches above the table and drop them one by one, thus." Illustrate by dropping three cards singly from those you hold. "We shall all be able then to count with you and you will be sure that none of the cards cling together."

The reasons given for counting the cards in this manner are logical, and you have a private purpose too. Thus counted, the cards will spread and not be dealt in a neat pile--an essential point as you will see in a moment.

Pick up the three cards you have dropped, replace them on the top of the cards you hold, and keep them separate by inserting the tip of your left little finger under them.

3. Count with the spectator as he drops the cards, and at the same time palm the three cards at the top of the pack in your right hand. There is no risk of detection, for all eyes will be watching the spectator deal the cards. When the count is completed, let us say sixteen cards, glance at the spectator and say, "You counted sixteen cards. That is correct?" Whatever the number may be, he will agree.

Reach forward with your right hand and with a careless offhand gesture push the cards toward him, releasing the three palmed cards on them. Your hand must rest on the cards for only a moment, and you must not look at them. The entire action should seem to be a gesture toward the cards to indicate what you want done. This is the crux of the trick, and when it is done properly no one later remembers that your hand was anywhere near the cards. It would seem that everyone should see what you do, but you must remember that you have not said what you are going to do and for this reason the spectators do not grasp the significance of your gesture.

At the moment you push the cards toward your assistant, catch his eye and say, "Kindly pick up the cards and place them in your pocket." If he is seated, have him hold them tightly between his hands.

4. Address the audience, saying, "My trick is this, ladies and gentlemen. My friend here has taken a given number of cards determined by himself. He counted them in such a manner that we are all assured that the count was correct." Turn to the assistant and say, "How many cards do you hold? Sixteen," he replies. Again address the audience, "I call your attention particularly to the fact that never once have I touched the cards."

This is not true--you did touch the cards and secretly added three more to them--but, if you have done this naturally and easily, no one will question the statement. The gesture will have passed unnoticed. Indeed, the authors many times have heard spectators afterwards affirm that not once had the performer touched the cards.

5. Turn to the second spectator, upon whom you forced the three-spot. "Will you, sir, now for the first time show the card you chose? The three of diamonds. Very well, I shall use the value of that card for my trick. I shall cause three cards to pass from the cards I hold in my hand to the packet of sixteen cards which are being held tightly by my friend at the table. Are you ready, sir? Ah, you needn't look so worried. The impact of the cards will be negligible, hardly more than a slight tickling sensation."

Hold the cards in your left hand, as for dealing, with the thumb pressing firmly on the back of the packet, and as you count "One!" bend the outer ends of the cards upwards with the right middle finger and riffle them sharply.

Repeat the riffle, counting "Two?--and once again, counting "Three!" This time, palm the top card, reach over and pretend to pull the card out of his sleeve, as you say, "Sorry, that one went only halfway. I'll try again." Replace the card on top of your packet, being careful that no one sees its face, riffle again, and call, "Go!"

6. Address the assistant, "A moment ago you had sixteen cards. You now hold nineteen. Please count them in the same way that you did before, so that we may all see the result of this truly inexplicable feat."

Count aloud with the spectator, and when he reaches "sixteen" raise your hand and your voice, emphasizing the last three numbers with crescendo effect.

This is the feat in its best form. The student cannot appreciate how fine a trick it is until he has himself witnessed the utter amazement it induces in an audience.

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