History And Bibliography Of The Trick

When, in 1931, Dai Vernon, «The Professor», chose 10 of his best effects, he included this one, calling it the Vernon Card Problem, in his legendary $20 Manuscript, which received its name because of its incredible (for the epoch) price, ¿though the real name was Ten Card Problems. A simplified version appeared in New Vernon Variations, see the magnificent book, published by Faucett Ross, Early Vernon (Magic Inc. Chicago, 1962; pp. 32-34 and 58-60). This second simplified version was published, with very slight variations in the text in L. Ganson's Further Inner Secrets, originally published by Harry Stanley in 1969 and currently published by Supreme Magic (pp. 54-56). Between these two publications, George Kaplan published his exceptional work, The Fine Art of Magic (Fleming Books, Pennsylvania, 1948), in which he describes Vernon's effect under the title The Royal Assembly (pp. 94-100)*.

Kaplan says, «The original routine is excellent, but it requires great skill to perform it, while in his version there are no palms, and once the piles or packets of the four suits are dealt, there is no manipulation. This is an important point given that any manipulation performed at such a critical moment is extremely difficult to execute indetectably...» and he continues, «Performed this way, I don't know of any other card effect that gives the audience a greater impression of the almost mythical skill of the magician who performs it».

Since then, several other versions have been described with the title «The Spades Rule». My friend, the learned magician Alberto Reyes, showed me several versions, among them, one of his own.

Now let's jump to 1960 when my master, Juan Ant6n, performed Kaplan's version for me and left me literally astonished and bewildered. Sixteen cards change places!!! A sort of «Four Aces» with sixteen cards.

* In truth, this is the same effect as the popular trick which I'm sure you know (it is well known even among non-magicians) called The Inn of the Four Kings, in which you place the court cards in four piles, by suits, and, after gathering them up, cutting and dealing them out again, they end up separated by numbers: the Kings with the Kings, the Queens with the Queens, etc. Although it seems silly, I didn't realize that they were the same effect until 1982... Funny! (or stupid!).

Incredible! (By the way, Juanito has to correct the method in the French version of Kaplan, which comes with several errors).

I fell in love with the routine and I learned it. I liked it and there were only a couple of weak points, or should I say «less strong» points, in Kaplan's version, that moved me to try and vary his method. Let me point out here, for your information, that in that early period of my magic interest/passion, I impulsively wanted to change and «improve(?)» everything I read and learned (naturally, even before assimilating and really learning what I had read or was shown). But when I ran into Kaplan, friends, that's another story...! I don't know of any book in which you must take the effects or leave them, but which are practically impossible to change without destroying them or making them weaker. I make this statement because I know what I'm talking about. In my current repertory, there are still, almost twenty years later, short-corner moves, glimpses, the card-clock, the «stop» in a fanned deck force, the first part of Follow the Leader (Kaplan's version), the switch for four double faced Aces, the ingenious Follow the Arrow, the Lie Detector (one of the tricks that I have performed most frequently in close-up, salon, theater and T.V.), the Chameleon Card, the surprising Mystery of Calcutta, The Yogi's Secret, the Slates and Magazines Test, the Three Paper Test, the Cut and Restored Rope (Ben Ali's Rope), the Crystal Ball, etc., etc.

And I do all of them with only very slight variations in the methods and presentations described by Kaplan, except for the changes I had to make to adapt these routines to my style. I mention all this for two reasons. First, to point out that Kaplan's book is one of the best magic books ever published, and for me, the most practical of all, and second, so that you realize that if I decided to vary his version of the «Royal Assembly», I did so after a great deal of thought, and only when I was truly convinced that I had really improved it substantially (so much for modesty).

So, anyone who compares Kaplan's version with this one will find here, aside from the advantages indicated by Kaplan: tremendous effect, no palming, no sleights performed at crucial moments. There are several more. Here the cards are shown in a logical order—Spades, Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds. And they are laid out in the same way (in Kaplan's version, after showing the Hearts and placing them on their pile, you have to show the Diamonds, and then return to the Clubs). Moreover, the «double placement» of the cards, first honestly, but without showing them clearly and then showing them clearly (but placing them falsely) makes the effect very clear, by adequately fulfilling Arturo (Ascanio)'s dictum: «Strongly emphasize the initial situation».

I spent about two years experimenting until I was satisfied with this version (I couldn't find a way, without losing clarity or adding difficulty, to make the actions logical and natural).

I can still remember Juan Antón's encouragement as I showed him the changes I made, month by month...

Finally, I constructed a progressive routine with cards called, The Figures, which was my first routine for magicians' Conventions, and with which I even obtained a few prizes (Grenoble, 1971) and that since then I have performed hundreds of times for lay audiences and even for magicians. The last effect in this routine, the grand Final Climax, is this cherished and coddled effect, the Royal Assembly, which I offer now, for your enjoyment and delight.


The 16 court cards are removed and separated into four piles, corresponding to the four suits (Spades, Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds). You perform a few magic passes and the 16 cards change places and end up in four piles, but this time, according to value (A, K, Q and J).


1. Remove the four twos from the deck and place them face up, in a row, in this order: Spades, Hearts, Clubs, and Diamonds.

Separate the 16 court cards as well. Hold them slightly fanned, faces towards you.

Remove the 4 Aces, placing them face up on the table. Place the corresponding Ace in front of each 2. (Figure la, seen from the audience's point of view. I did the drawing, so don't blame anybody else.)

Pause so that this image is clearly recorded in the spectators' visual memory, and then turn the Aces face down (Fig. 16).





2. Place the King of Spades face down on top of the Ace of Spades, but without covering it completely. Place the Q of Spades on top of the King, and the Jack of Spades last (K, Q, J). The three cards are in a row, covering half the Ace (Fig. 2).

3. Place the King of Hearts on top of the Ace of Hearts, the Jack next, and finally the Queen of Hearts (K, J, Q).

4. Place the Q of Clubs on top of the Ace, followed by the Jack and the King (of clubs) (Q, J, K).

5. Finally, on top of the Ace of Diamonds place the King of Diamonds, then the Jack, and finally the Queen (K, J, Q).

6. You must perform these actions without letting the audience see the cards you place on the table, so hold them so that the top of the fan is tilted slightly above the spectators' eye level.

7. Without looking at the audience, point to the four cards that are sticking out from beneath the four piles (the Aces), saying, «1 have the four Aces here, with the court cards of the corresponding suit on top of each of them».

8. Now, look at the audience, waiting for them to agree, with an innocent look on your face.

Since they will look at you suspiciously, get ready to show them that this is the case. To do so, pick up the fan of three spades (J, Q, K), with your right thumb below, fingers on top, leaving the Ace on the table. Pass the fan over to your left hand, turning it face up to show the faces (Fig. 3).

9. Pick up the Ace of Spades from the table and turn it face up, placing it on top of the three court cards (Fig. 4).

10. Repeat steps 8 and 9 with each of the remaining suit piles, placing them on top of the cards in your left hand (Remember, first the three court cards together, without changing their order, and then the Ace).

11. When you finish, the cards will all be in one packet, face up in your left hand.

12. This is the most difficult moment in the trick. You must give the audience the impression that you are simply repeating the placement of the cards on the table, just as you did a moment ago. You must create an atmosphere of relaxation in the spectators' minds (they are seeing something that they have already seen), and confidence (the magician just showed us that he is telling the truth).

13. As you pass the cards from your left hand to your right, outjog each of the four Aces (each one a little more than the one before it) as in figure 5, until you reach the last Ace, the Ace of Spades.

14. When you reach the Ace of Spades, the other three Spades will remain behind it, in your left hand, and you must line them up with the Ace of Hearts, slightly above the other court card. (Remember, the Ace of Hearts.) (In Figure 5, the spades haven'i been shifted up to the Ace yet).

15. With your left hand, line up the four Aces, so they form a sort of staircase, with the other figures sticking out below the lower edge (Fig. 6).

16. Remove all the cards, as in figure 7, except the four Aces and the three hidden Spades, with your right fingers. (The spades are below the four Aces. They should be squared up with the stack, directly below the Ace of Hearts).

17. Turn your hand palm upwards, so that the cards end up face down (Fig. 8).

18. Push the Ace of Spades back towards yourself with the tip of your left index finger, until it lines up with the three Spades hidden beneath the Aces.

19. Tilt your left hand so that the rest of the Aces slide downwards and hit your index finger, leaving the seven cards squared up in your left palm (Fig. 9).

20. Turn the seven cards in your left hand face down onto the cards in your right hand (Fig. 10).

Fig. 10

Fig. 10

21. Pass the packet from your right hand to your left, and with your left thumb, push the top card of the packet to the right. Take it in your right hand (supposedly it's an Ace), and place it face down, on the right side of the table, in front of the Ace of Diamonds.

22. Place the following three cards, one by one, face down on the right side of the table, to the left of, but in line with the card that's there, in front of the Twos of Clubs, Hearts and Spades. For the audience, you have simply and obviously placed the four Aces on the table.

23. Lift and show the card on the left (the Ace of Spades) as you say: «On top of each Ace, I will place the three court cards of the same suit, so, on top of the Ace of Spades...»

24. Push the top three cards off the packet to the right, with your left thumb, and without showing them, place them on top of the Ace of Spades, without covering it completely.

Continue, saying almost to yourself, «These are the Spades...» Now raise your voice, to give more importance to the second half of the sentence, «So the remaining cards must be the Hearts, Clubs and Diamonds».

25. As you say this, perform the following actions. Push top three cards to the right with your left thumb, taking them in your right fingers, and show them to the audience. As you take them in your right hand, make sure the second card of the three card packet (J of H) ends up slightly in-jogged.

Then, with your left thumb, push off the next three cards, place them below the three cards in your right hand, and show their faces to the audience (they are the three Club court cards).

Finally, place the last three cards below the cards in your right hand, and show them (the Diamond Figures). You end up holding them between your two hands (Fig. 11).

26. Notice that you show the three Spades by «omission». That is, you never show their faces to the audience. But the fact that they are missing from the packet that you show afterwards, will make the audience believe that they have really seen the faces of the Spade court cards.

27. Close the spread and square up the cards in your left hand, maintaining the second card in an «injogged» position.

28. Get a break with your right thumb between the second and third cards from the top, and then pass it to your left pinky (the injogged card makes it easy to pick up the break).

29. Stick your right fingers into the break (holding and removing the two top cards as one). Notice in figure 12 the position of your right third finger, on the lower right hand corner of the double card.

30. With your left thumb, push off the next card and place it on top of the two in your right hand, as in figure 13. Try to place this card «carelessly», so that it doesn't seem that you are placing it «carefully», or in a controlled way.

31. Push off the next card with your left thumb, and place it as in figure 14, on top of the cards in your right hand.

32. Turn your right hand palm downwards to show the faces of the cards. Three court cards will be seen, but the suit of one of them will be hidden (Fig. 15).

Notice that in the drawing, three Heart pips can be seen (two of them belong to the J and one to the King), and this face, along with the logical conclusion that these three cards are Hearts, makes the spectator's mind really see the three court cards as three hearts!

Fig. 12

Fig. 13

Fig. 12

Fig. 15

Fig. 15

Fig. 16

Fig. 16

33. Turn the three cards in your right hand face down onto the cards in your left hand, placing the J of Hearts (and the card hidden beneath it) squared up, and level with the cards in you left hand. This way, the two top cards (two Kings) will end up outjogged, slightly forward of the rest of the packet (Fig. 16).

34. Lightly touch the supposed Ace of Hearts on the table with your right fingers. Then, move them over to group the outjogged cards in the left-hand packet as in figure 16.

35. As you slide these two cards forward, your right fingers secretly slip the bottom card of the packet (King of Diamonds) forward as well (Fig. 17). The hands have been twisted upwards, to show the move more clearly.

36. Place the three cards in your right hand (supposedly the three Hearts, but really the three Kings) face down on top of the Ace of Hearts-(really the King of Spades).

37. «Six cards left», you say, as you spread the packet in your left hand between your hands. The backs of six cards can be seen (Fig. 18). (For once you are telling the truth!).

38. Close the spread and square up the six cards in your left hand, getting a break with your left pinky between the third and fourth cards.

39. Introduce your right fingers into the break and take the top three cards as one, just as you did with two cards in step 29 (Fig. 12), but this time with all three cards.

40. One by one, place the next two cards in the left hand packet on top of the three cards in your right hand, just as you did in steps 30 and 31 (Figs. 13 and 14).

41. Turn your right hand palm downwards, showing the three figures, which look like three Clubs, though the suit of the third card can't really be seen (this move is identical to the one you performed in step 32 (Fig. 15), but this time they are Clubs and there is one more card hidden (Fig. 19).

42. Place the cards in your right hand face down onto the card in your left. Square up the cards in your left hand.

43. With the help of your left thumb, separate the three top cards (supposedly the three Clubs, but really the three Queens) and place them on top of the card that is supposedly the Ace of Clubs (really the Q of Spades), with your right hand.

44. You have three Jacks left in your left hand, and you have to show them as if they were the three diamond figures. To do so, you will use a subtle move to pseudo-show the three cards, and with it (and this is even more important) a tired, bored tone of voice, which communicates to the audience that «obviously, of course, what else could they be», the three cards that remain are the three Diamond court cards.

45. The move to pseudo-show the cards is as follows: Turn the cards in your left hand, squared up, face up, with the fingers of your right hand, leaving them face up, held by your left fingers, exactly as shown in figure 20.

46. You begin to name them, out loud, «And we still have a King...» Your right first and second fingers move under the outer right-hand corner of the cards, as you place your left thumb on top of the cards, above your fingertips.

47. Pivot the bottom card downward and to the right, with your right second finger. It should rotate around the outer right corner, while at the same time, your right hand turns palm downwards, so the bottom card turns perpendicular to the cards in your left hand (Figs. 21 and 22).

Notice in figure 21, that the face of this card is never seen by the audience, even though they feel that they have seen it *.

48. Finish turning the card face down as you separate it from the pack

* Magnificent Fred Kaps idea.

Fig. 17

Fig. 17

Fig. 18

Fig. 19

et and let it fall onto the supposed Ace of Diamonds (really the J of Hearts Figs. 22 and 23).

49. Repeat steps 46 to 48 with the next cards as you say, «The Queen...»

50. Now turn the J of Diamonds face down with your right hand and leave it next to the supposed K and Q of Diamonds. Say, «And the Jack of Diamonds». Emphasize the word «Diamonds».

51. At this point, the dirty work in the trick is done, but not the presentation of the effect, which in the spectator's mind, must begin now.

Everything you have done up until now should seem like the prologue or preparation for an effect that is going to begin now. Your attitude, your gestures, the tone of your voice must make it clear that the trick begins now! This is the way, and it is the only way, that you can make the effect appear mysterious, impossible, magical, and not simply an intriguing and peculiar puzzle...

52. Square up the four cards in the left hand packet, as you say, «The three Diamond court cards go on top of the Ace of Diamonds». You must emphasize the words «on top of», which makes the spectators suspect, because of the fact that you emphasize it, that perhaps it really isn't true that they cards go on top (the spectators are always «on the watch» suspicious of anything that the magician tries to make excessively «clear»).

As in judo you must use the spectator's mental attitude, his natural antagonism, to make him «fall» into the mental trap that you are preparing for him. So the fact that you emphasize that the figures go on top of the Ace is a sort of deadend street down which you send the spectator's logical mind.

53. Repeat these actions, squaring up the other three packets, emphasizing each time that the court cards go on top of the Aces. Nobody will doubt that in each pile you have three figures and an Ace of the same suit, they will only suspect that perhaps the three figures are not on top of the Ace.

54. Turn the four cards in the left-hand packet face up. The Ace of Spades will be seen. Say with a monotonous tone as you «repeat the obvious», «Here are the Spades... (point to the second packet)... the Hearts... (point to the third packet)... the Clubs... (point to the fourth packet)... and the Diamonds». The packet with the Ace of Spades is the only one that you turn over (Fig. 24).

Fig. 24

Fig. 24


Change your tone of voice, and your attitude: Now you are going to do something magical! Say, «The sixteen cards now move around the table...» (Hand gestures, as if one card were travelling from one packet to another. A card goes to the wrong packet, you pick it up and invisibly place it where you want it. Your eyes follow the paths travelled by the cards. Imagine ants crawling from one packet to another. Believe in your illusion!).

56. Look at the audience. Short dramatic pause. Stare at the face up packet on the left and say, «The four Aces have reunited here, magically and mysteriously». Your right fingers, cleanly and clearly, spread the four Aces, face up.

57. After showing your left palm empty, pick up the second packet with your left hand, turn it face up, and spread the four cards, showing their faces. They are the four Kings, «Here, the four Kings!»

58. With your right hand turn and show the four Queens, «Here, the four Queens!...»

59. Slight pause. Look at the audience. Then look at the last packet, «... and here, obviously...» (Turn the packet over with your right hand.

The Jack of Spades will show. Pause again, briefly. Spread...), «The four Jacks» (Fig. 25).





CLIMAX. Warm and enthusiastic ovation from the audience, for which you will thank, naturally, the person who taught you this trick— ME! and Kaplan and of course Vernon, «The Professor».

IMPORTANT: The presentation (steps 55-59) should be rapid and brief so as not to be too much of an interruption. («Avoid anti-contrasting parentheses». Ascanio).

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