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B E N J

A M I N

E A R L
Less is More
Benjamin Earl
Dedicated to:
Mum, Dad, Kathryn, Sebastian,
Darcey, Neil, Anna & Freya.
“One day I will find the right
words, and they will he”
—Jack Kerouac
Special thanks to:
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, John Scarne, Steve Forte,
Ricky Jay, Michael Moschen, Henri Cartier-Bresson,
Carl Andre, Simon Henderson, Mike, Chris Power,
Justin Higham, Danny Buckler & Andi Gladwin.

VANISHINGINC.
Designed by Andi Gladwin with Benjamin Earl
Proofread by Andi Gladwin, Justin Higham, Erik Jansson, Joshua Jay,
George Luck & Mike Vance.
Photographed by Benjamin Earl

First Edition 2017.


Copyright © 2017 by Benjamin Earl and Vanishing Inc. Magic
All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Con­
ventions. Published in the United States of America by Vanishing Inc. Magic.
Printed in the United States of America.
Contents
Foreword by Andi Gladwin ............................................. xiii
Introduction.......................................................................xvii

Evolving with Simplicity


Thanks to Henry............................................................... 7
Henry in Isolation............................................................. 15
Instant Isolation ............................................................... 19
Henry Topped...................................................................22
Chapter One Summary..................................................... 25

Technical Simplicity
The Sting Cut....................................................................29
The Any Card Game Control........................................... 36
The Real Optical Shuffle .................................................41
Finessed Frank Thompson Cut......................................... 47
The Bounce Cut................................................................51
Spectator Shuffle Holdout................................................ 56
Half & Half Control..........................................................59
Shuffled Ose Control........................................................60
Deep Slug Control............................................................ 63
Chapter Two Summary.....................................................66

Versatile Simplicity
Blinded by the Hand.........................................................69
Wide Awake Scream........................................................ 71
The Back Room Demo..................................................... 75
Clean Cutter .....................................................................80
Clean Cutter 2 .................................................................. 87
Flow Productions .............................................................93
Chapter Three Summary...................................................99
Classic Simplicity
Stem Cell...........................................................................103
The Resourceful Professional........................................... 110
No-Motion Four Aces....................................................... 114
Chapter Four Summary.....................................................126

Real Ace Cutting


Real Ace Cutting...............................................................129
Chapter Five Summary..................................................... 140

In Closing..........................................................................142
Foreword & Introduction
Foreword by Andi Gladwin
I positioned myself so that I could give the deck my best false
shuffle. I then proceeded to produce the four Aces one by one
using a series of complicated shuffles and stock controls.

“It's good, "Ben said, “but it doesn't feel authentic. I think I can
help you change that." By 'authentic' he meant it was clear that I
was controlling the Aces instead of actually trying to locate them.

Ben asked me to shuffle the cards. I handed the deck back to


him and he Immediately cut to an Ace. A legitimate riffle shuffle,
and to my utter shock, another Ace gently propelled from the
deck. How was he doing this? As I would later discover, there were
no crimps or shavings. The only plausible explanation was that
he had somehow developed such dexterity that he really was
locating the Aces. I was not only fooled, but I was brought into
Ben's world; a place of superhuman feats with playing cards.

Later that night, Ben taught me that he wasn't actually locating


the Aces from a shuffled deck — even though it seemed exactly
like he was. Actually, the technique he used was called “Real Ace

xiii
Cutting,” which was far easier than the complex monstrosity
I had shown him—but somehow his looked real. Ben hadn't
just fooled me with sleights, he had used something even more
potent: simplicity. By stripping away everything I would expect
to see, he had managed to rebuild the effect into something that
actually looked and felt real.

The routine that Ben showed me is our final destination in Less


is More. Our starting point is Henry Christ's "Fabulous Ace
Routine”; a construction that I think most card magicians fall in
love with because the Aces are under our control, yet they deem
lost, even to the performer. We then follow the path through
several other versions of that effect, before taking a detour
through some fascinating sleights and simple routines, ending
at "Real Ace Cutting,” where even your most astute magician
colleagues will believe in your apparent newfound skill.

This kind of simplicity does not come as the default. Ben has
been obsessing with this plot for at least the eight years that
I have known him and his experimentations have guided him
across the entire spectrum of this effect. In fact, there is an
interesting dichotomy at play: Ben can actually find four Aces
from a truly shuffled deck! I have seen him do it many times,
including in the stressful environment of an edit-as-live TV
shoot. It's perhaps the most difficult sequence (for your hands
and mind) that I have ever seen a magician do. I think going as
far as learning how to do it for real was the only way he could
provide authentic-feeling, pseudo demonstrations of this effect.
Only then could he understand what it felt like to have that
extraordinary skill. It's a framework that could be applied to
many other skill-based tricks; learn to do it for real and then
strip it back so that it becomes achievable and fascinating, even
in the harshest of performance environments.

xiv
Even though most of the effects and moves in this book aren't at
all difficult, it is important to understand that simplicity doesn't
mean easy. Simplicity is a design model; an understanding that
by considering how a trick is structured and stripping away the
fat, we can create a more interesting performance. As Apple
designer Jony Ive said in an interview, "There is a profound
and enduring beauty in simplicity; in clarity, in efficiency. True
simplicity is derived from so much more than just the absence
of clutter and ornamentation. It's about bringing order to
complexity." That goal shines through in Ben's writing.

The ideas applied in "Real Ace Cutting" aren't limited to Ace


production effects. We see Ben thrive with moves like the Real
Optical Shuffle and the Sting Cut where he applies the same
psychology, timing and improvisation while controlling the
deck as he does to find the four Aces. By analysing what he is
doing, I think we can apply this thinking to all of the magic that
we perform. As Rune Klan once observed to me about Ben: his
magic looks so good because he knows the perfect move to use
at the perfect time.

The legendary high-wire artist Philippe Petit wrote, "What the


audience will see is a man or woman who is a prisoner of his or
her passion, and this is the most inspiring performance in the
world." To see Ben Earl perform "Real Ace Cutting" is to see that
prisoner, trapped in his own mind as he calculates the positions
of the Aces and tries to find the most efficient shuffle sequence
to effortlessly produce them from the deck—it's astonishing
to behold. Ben might not be carefully balancing on a rope tied
between the Twin Towers, but at that very moment, it seems that
accurately locating the Aces is just as important to him. It is that
tension and concentration that create an authentic performance.

Andi Gladwin
Gloucester, December 2016

XV
“What’s really important is to simplify. The
work of most photographers would be improved
immensely if they could do one thing: get rid of
the extraneous. If you strive for simplicity, you
are more likely to reach the viewer. ”
William Albert Allard

Introduction
Magic performances have three major channels of expression:
the technical act itself, the verbal presentation, and the
physicality of the performer. I believe that all three channels are
given maximum opportunity to flourish if an effect is reduced
to its most simple technical components. There is real beauty in
stripping away clutter to leave clarity and efficiency.

Less is More begins by deconstructing — and then rebuilding — a


classic Ace routine, openly showing how simplicity can improve
the effect. I will share three versions of the same effect; each
will get progressively simpler and progressively better. I'll then
explore simplicity within sleights, techniques and several other

xvii
Ace routines; all of which demonstrate the true practicality and
versatility of simple design. The final chapter brings everything
together within one powerful routine ('Real Ace Cutting’),
which will hopefully recalibrate your appreciation of how truly
deceptive and sophisticated a simple magic method can become.

Why have I chosen to focus on Ace effects? They can efficiently


speak to a performer’s skill, symbolise the gritty world of the
cardsharp or become mystifying magic effects with relative ease.
Their ability to connect to a wide range of ideas, their aesthetic
appeal, and the fact that they are instantly recognisable symbols
is why they have become a classic area of interest for magicians
throughout history. Therefore, I'll be using Ace effects as a
convenient framework to present my thoughts on simplicity.

Simplicity doesn’t mean easy; it means you have fewer places


to hide, you are more exposed. It forces you to become better.
Therefore, your technique and methodology must become
more efficient. Finding the most efficient path requires many
stages of ruthlessly objective development; a relentless attempt
to understand exactly what you are doing and what an audience
thinks you are doing.

The material in Less is More was originally released over several


years within four self-published manuscripts. However, I
always wanted to collect the material together into one volume
so that the reader had a less fragmented and more cohesive
reading experience. This book has not only given me that
opportunity, but it has allowed me to update all the material
and include lots of extra techniques, touches and routines ...
the irony is not lost on me.

Benjamin Earl
Surrey, December 2016

xviii
1.
Evolving with simplicity; a
process of improvement
Evolving with simplicity; a process of
improvement
Our starting point is Henry Christ's ‘Fabulous Ace Routine'. In
effect, the four Aces are openly lost in separate areas of the deck.
The performer now manages to find each one in a dramatically
different fashion. It is a classic. I want to demonstrate that
by introducing increasingly simple means of tackling the
methodology we can drastically improve a magic effect.

Henry Christ's ‘Fabulous Ace Routine' doesn't physically exist;


it's just an idea, a concept, a piece of philosophy concerning the
methodological structure of a card trick. This fifty-year-old idea
has influenced many performers —including myself—and it is
my starting point in this exploration. Like any idea it can be
challenged, corrupted, refined and developed until it reaches
a point beyond recognition. It doesn't really matter which
Ace routine I used as my starting point. You will see as we
progress that any Ace routine would have led me to the same
inevitable conclusion. However, it seemed sensible to start with
a recognisable classic.

3
Henry Christ was originally inspired to create his classic Ace
routine after witnessing Dai Vernon perform 'Cutting the Aces'
from Stand of Magic. Christ's routine was also originally intended
for publication in the Stars of Magic but it failed to make an
appearance. It was eventually published in 1961 in Cliff Greens
Professional Card Magic under the title 'Henry Christ's Fabulous
Ace Routine'; however, this was reportedly not Christ's original
handling. Christ's original handling is apparently in both Karl
Fulves' Epilogue and The Vernon Chronicles, Volume 2; however,
both of these descriptions differ from each other.

Christ's routine is usually purported to be a masterpiece, a


work of stunning economy and magical beauty. I disagree.
Although this classic routine is interesting and original, it is in
my opinion far from a masterpiece. In fact, I think it's a rather
dull trick lacking in punch or methodological beauty. I am
challenging myself to improve the original without the need to
add additional kickers or extra moments of magic. Instead I
want to focus on stripping away all unnecessary clutter and
making it simpler to show that less is more.

The interesting aspect of the original routine is the way in


which the Aces are apparently lost in separate parts of the
deck and the fact that each Ace is found in a different way. The
exact nature of the control and the style of the revelations aren 't
what make the Christ routine interesting (even if it does make
it identifiable), and therefore I have made changes to both the
control and the revelations. My first step was to analyse the
structure of the Christ effect and to make it more efficient,
logical and direct. I have attempted to clear out the cobwebs
and to inject a sense of minimalist clarity.

The laydown/control procedure has been improved so that


it feels more casual and natural. Most performers who have
changed the original have removed the double undercut

4
(probably because it is rightly felt to be incongruous and
perhaps even naively felt to be too simple), but left the insertion
of an Ace into a fanned packet, which is also incongruous. All
the packets should fed the same; the laydown sequence should
have a congruent feeling of intention, style and attitude. I feel
like the sequence offered here impressionistically achieves that.

The revelations have also been improved as each Ace is found


with a sense of immediacy; therefore, dealing quantities of cards
while spelling or counting has been eliminated. Each Ace is also
found with a completely distinct theatrical and conceptual tone
(which is even more distinct than in the original routine). The
revelations in Christ's original felt small, cute, mildly amusing,
mathematical, and ultimately disappointing. Therefore it was
important to me that these were improved.

In summary, below is full a list of structural and theatrical


developments:

• No set-up is required.
• The Aces are lost in a more congruent and natural way.
• The revelations build; each one is progressively stronger
and more distinctive.
• No tabled spreads are used.
• No estimation, glimpses or key cards are used.
• There are no anti-climactic moments.
• No kicker or surprise endings are used.
• It is very simple to perform and execute.

5
Thanks to Henry
Begin by removing the Aces and tossing them onto the
table, arranging them face up on the table in Spades, Hearts,
Diamonds, Clubs order from your left to right. The Aces don't
actually need to be in any particular order but I like this order
as they are discovered alternating in colour and the Ace of
Spades is discovered last.

You are now going to spread through the face-up pack to


separate it into individual sections and to demonstrate that
there are no additional Aces present. You will use this moment
to secretly count cards in two of the packets, which is a very
natural and efficient way to get the work done. With the face­
up Aces on the table, spread through the deck, saying, “I want
you to see that there are no extra Aces in the deck. ” Casually spread
over the first nine face-up cards, flip this packet face down and
allow it to hit the base of the left thumb so that it doesn't go
flush with the deck. Your right hand immediately squares the
packet before picking it up and setting it down onto the Ace of
Clubs (leaving three-quarters of the face-up Ace protruding as
in the original Christ handling).

7
When counting the nine cards, make sure it is done casually and
in groups of three or four rather than pushing over nine cards
individually. If done casually it is impossible for a spectator to
sense that you have removed a specific number of cards.

Spread just over a quarter of the remaining cards, showing


there are no extra Aces, and flip this packet over, setting it
down onto the Ace of Diamonds. Now spread over nine cards
and, in the same action, flip them over and set them onto the
Ace of Hearts in exactly the same way you did for the previous
packets. The remaining cards are flipped over in the hands and
set down behind the Ace of Spades (Photo 1).

You are now going to lose the Aces in a very convincing and
natural manner. Pick up the Ace of Clubs with your right hand
and lay it face down on your left hand. Immediately pick up the
packet that was on top of the Ace, and drop it face down on top
of the Ace. Pick up the Ace of Diamonds and drop it face down

8
onto the cards in your hand, and then pick up its packet and
drop it onto the cards in your hand, but secretly hold a break
between the Ace and this packet.

As if to subtly speed up the procedure, reach forward with


your right hand and remove the Ace of Hearts and allow it to
turn face down onto its packet, and do exactly the same thing
with the Ace of Spades. Now pick up the Ace of Hearts packet
and drop it onto the Ace of Spades packet, and in a continuing
action pick up this combined packet and drop it onto the cards
in your hand.

Casually cut the deck at the break and then begin a casual false
shuffle while you say, “If this were a real game you would have no
idea where any of the Aces would be and you would only have a small
window of opportunity to find out. You can also use the Any Card
Game Control (page 36) to further imply that the Aces are lost.

Riffle the ends of the cards toward yourself as if you are


memorising the cards. Continue, “I will find the Aces by using a
combination of memory and dexterous skill. ” Execute a series of
flowing false cuts (see Notes) before producing the Ace that
is currently on top. While you can use any revelation here, it
is important that this Ace is produced with a technical flourish
as it communicates skill and provides a nice visual contrast to
both the process so far and the revelations to come.

“The second Ace will be found by yourself [indicate a spectator] using


psychological control. ” You will now find the Ace of Clubs, at the
tenth position, using the psychological stop force. Silently deal-
drop seven cards one by one before looking up and saying,
“Just say stop whenever you like. ” Continue to drop cards until
the participant stops you on the tenth card, and turn it face
up to reveal the second Ace. Much has been written about
the psychological stop force and I won't go into it now, but as

9
long as you thoroughly understand the technique and all its
permutations, you will always find the Ace.1 It is important not
to deal the cards per se, but to casually drop them onto the table,
as it looks more casual and more interesting than a deal.

Drop the talon onto the dealt cards and pick up the deck.
Continue, “The third card can be found tiding misdirection. ” As you
say this, palm the top card of the deck in your right hand (the
Ace of Hearts) and allow the right hand to relax as all of your
attention and focus moves to the left hand. Silently and openly
pinky count or thumb count nine cards and establish a wide
break, and then openly execute a Charlier Cut at the break.
This is done in full view of the audience and only takes a few
seconds. Reach into a pocket and produce the palmed Ace of
Hearts as you say, “Without misdirection everyone would have seen
me steal it!” As this Ace is being placed onto the table, establish
a break under the top two cards with a pinky count or a double
push-off.

“Now, for the final Ace I thought I'd dhow you the type of thing that
you'd see in a Hollywood moviey where something impossible hap pend.
Normally it's done with a camera cut ... but those moments in movies
are based on real techniques . . . s o I’ll dhow you what one of those real
techniques might look like. ” As you say this, execute a double lift,
showing a face-up indifferent card, turn the double face down
and place the top card onto the table next to the other three
face-up Aces. Now say, “Ad I said, in the movies this is always done
with a camera cut, but in reality it looks like this. ” Place your hand
onto the face-down card before lifting the hand and carefully
and slowly turning the card face up to reveal the final Ace.

1. This technique dates back to at least the 19th century, with early
descriptions found in Ottokar Fischer's J. N. Hofzinser: Kartenkunste, Olms:
Zurich, 1910, p. 23. I would recommend reading ‘The Psychic Stop!' from
Expert Card Technique and Roberto Giobbi's description in Card College,
Volume 4.

10
Notes
As you can see, ‘Thanks to Henry' is a very efficient handling
of the Henry Christ trick. However, the notes below are useful
in understanding the choices I have made in constructing the
effect.

Removing the Aces


Why remove the Aces only to lose them again? Firstly, it stages
the effect and very efficiently sets up the premise. Secondly, the
banality of their removal only serves to strengthen the clarity of
their rediscovery. However, as we probe deeper into the effect
within the rest of the chapter, this exact point will undoubtedly
begin to haunt me.

Magicians often attempt to logically justify the ‘losing' of the


Aces by first producing them with a fancy production. This is
the worst thing you can do with a routine of this kind as it
completely misses the point. You are trying to demonstrate the
impossibility of what you are doing. Do not undermine your
efforts by beginning the performance by showing them not
only how easy this is, but that it can be done with a flourish!

And, an aside; To reproduce them again at the end or to end by


producing a royal flush is to further undermine the effect. All
of your efforts should be in making the production of four lost
cards impressive, technically, theatrically and psychologically.

The best way to begin is to remove the cards openly. This subtly
demonstrates to an audience what you would ‘have' to do to
find four Aces. This moment suggests that you actually need to
spread through the cards and to place them physically onto the
table—what other way is there?
Losing the Aces
As you can see from the procedure I have described, the losing
sequence feels impressionistically very similar: Cards are being
picked up and dropped onto your hand in a very casual and
open manner. It is very simple and easy to perform.

Here is a variation for handling the 'losing' procedure that is


very interesting, though after much consideration I decided to
use the one already described. However, I think it's valuable in
our understanding of how the procedure eventually evolved:

Start with the Aces on the table in Spades, Hearts, Diamonds,


Clubs order. Place a packet of nine cards behind the first Ace
of Clubs and then start spreading over the cards for the second
packet and catch a break under any card as you flip over the
cards in your right hand onto the rest of the deck. As the packet
is turned face down, the card above your little-finger break is
added to the bottom of this packet. To cover this moment, both of
your hands perform a simultaneous action: Your left hand turns
at the wrist and moves forward along with your right hand to
adjust/straighten the two center Aces. The left hand then moves
back to its previous position as the right hand sets its cards onto
the second Ace. As before, set nine face-down cards onto the
third Ace and the remainder face down onto the final Ace.

Pick up the Aces as follows: Pick up the Ace of Clubs and set it
face down onto your left hand, followed by dropping its packet
on top. Do the same thing for the second packet. Turn the third
Ace face down onto its packet before dropping the cards in
hand on top, and repeat this for the final Ace.

There is now a reversed card somewhere near the top of the


deck. Say, “I’ll show you several ways that the Aces can be found. They
each seem impossible, but card cheats, gamblers and hustlers have played
with all of these ideas. Before we do anything it's important that you

12
remember that the Aces are Lost in different areas of the deck. ” As you
deliver the last part of this script, casually spread the cards face
down between your hands, apparently accidentally revealing
the face-up card. Act surprised and cheekily say, “Whoops ...
now if that was an Ace I’d have taken credit for that!” Turn over the
face-up card and catch a break beneath it as you replace all the
cards above it and continue to hold the break. By cutting at the
break the cards are in the exact order you need to proceed.2

Finding the Aces


The revelations have been specifically constructed to create the
largest amount of contrast possible.

First Ace: cut-to with skill, while subtly communicating that


the rest of the deck is randomly mixed through shuffles and
cuts. Spectators will be impressed that you have found an Ace,
but they will also subconsciously believe that the rest of the
deck is mixed. This is an aesthetically pleasing sequence that
efficiently establishes the idea that the deck is in chaos while
establishing an impressive level of skill.

Second Ace: psychological control of the spectator. This is very


impressive because they believe the deck to be mixed and it
comes as a complete surprise. They are in control, not you, and
therefore the appearance is thoroughly baffling.

Third Ace: is impossibly removed from the pocket; totally


unexpected and completely impossible as the palm will not be
seen. This is in contrast to the other two Aces as it appears in a
different spatial area of the performing zone and with a lighter
theatrical tone.

2. Frank Garcia mentions the ‘Whoops’ concept to control cards in Super


Subtle Card Miracles (1973), although the concept is a lot older. It was first
published by U. F. Grant in 1943 as a method for eliminating the Pass.

13
Fourth Ace: magically transforms. This is a very strong moment
of magic to end on, that contrasts with all the other revelations
and appears exceptionally clean.

All of this is achieved without any spelling, coincidences or


complicated set-ups. The effect also seems to be generated
through the performer's skill and power rather than a trick
deck. This happens with the smallest amount of adjustment
possible to the deck, in order to give each of the revelations a
sense of immediacy. In short, all superfluous handling has been
removed, generating a very efficient sequence.

14
Henry in Isolation
By taking ‘Thanks to Henry ’and developing the methodological structure
of the routine even further, you will see that several distinct advantages
have presented themselves: the method is more deceptive, natural and
dimple. It still conforms to the four-packet structure of Christ's original,
but this new handling had also led to an additional visual handling.
Most importantly this procedure allows the performer to concentrate on
performance rather than the technical consideration of the effect.

It is important to remember that this routine is still based on Henry


Christ's ‘Fabulous Ace Routine’. But now it seems very different. It
achieves the exact same effect of locating the Aces in distinctively different
ways after they have been lost in different areas of the deck, but with this
handling, less structure and less technique have certainly produced more.

To perform, start with a bottom-cutting breather crimp in the


Ace of Spades (this is typically done by applying the crimp
with the card face up). Have the deck shuffled and then cleanly
remove the Aces. Lay the Aces into a face-up row on the table
and arrange them in Clubs, Hearts, Spades, Diamonds order
from left to right. Slowly turn each Ace face down.

15
Now dribble a quarter of the deck onto each Ace from a few
inches above the table. This looks incredibly random and
very casual. Say something along the lines of, “Each Ace to now
separated and in a different area of the deck, but to make it truly random
I should mix up these packets so that nobody knows the locations of the
Aces. ” Suiting actions to words, pick up the packet on the far
left and give it an overhand shuffle, retaining the Ace on the
bottom using the slip shuffle. Drop this packet in front of you
(Photo 1).

Pick up the next packet (with the Ace of Hearts on the bottom)
and give it an overhand shuffle, but run the Ace to the top.
Drop this packet onto the packet already in front of you. You
now have half the deck on the table with the Ace of Hearts on
the top and Ace of Clubs on the face.

Pick up the third packet (Ace of Spades) and give it an


overhand shuffle, again retaining the Ace on the bottom

16
with the slip shuffle technique, and drop this packet onto the
combined packet in front of you. Pick up the final packet, give
it an overhand shuffle, running the final Ace to the top of the
packet, and drop it onto the deck.

The sequence is very easy to remember: from left to right the


sequence is bottom, top, bottom, top. This has placed an Ace
on the top of the deck, an Ace on the bottom and two Aces next
to each other in the middle of the deck (the Ace of Spades has
a breather crimp in it). This entire sequence looks incredibly
casual, and because each packet is dropped onto the next,
even card men find it difficult to see how the Aces could be
controlled.3 I refer to this sequence as the Isolation Procedure.
Unfortunately you are reading the secret before seeing it, but
trust me, this procedure is extremely difficult to track, even for
magicians. Ill describe another production sequence using the
procedure after this trick.

Give the entire deck a casual false shuffle or some false cuts
as you mention that the Aces are each lost in separate areas of
the deck. As in 'Thanks to Henry', riffle the ends of the cards
toward yourself as if memorising the cards, and then continue
to find the Aces.

"I'll find the first Ace by using a combination of memory and dexterous
skill. ” Execute a series of flowing false cuts (see the Sting Cut,
page 29) before producing the Ace of Diamonds from the top
of the deck. It is important that this Ace is produced with a
technical flourish so that it communicates skill and provides a
nice visual contrast to the revelations to come.

3. Conceptually this sequence is the same as that used in The Inseparable


Four' from Harry Lorayne's Close-Up Card Magic (1962). The actual handling
used here is, however, different.

17
“I won’t find the next Ace, you will! [Indicate a spectator] Please
say stop at any moment as I deal through the cards. ” Establish a
break above the Ace of Spades (made possible by cutting to the
breather crimp and getting a break above it) and deal the cards
in small clumps onto the table using the classic psychological
timing force — sometimes known as the Psychological Stop
technique. When the spectator says stop, the two Aces are either
on the table or on top of the deck. Turn over the Ace of Spades
to reveal the second Ace and either bury the dealt cards in the
middle of the deck or drop them on top of the deck (depending
on where the Aces are when the spectator says stop); the Ace
of Hearts is now on top of the deck.

As your hands are squaring the deck, side steal the bottom
card into your right hand and say, “I can find the third Ace using
misdirection.” Say this as your right hand relaxes and the left
hand moves up and to the left so that it is in full view. Loudly
riffle down the side of the deck with your left little finger and
then reach into a pocket with your right hand and produce the
palmed Ace. As this Ace is being set down, establish a break
under the top two cards with the left hand.

“Now, for the final Ace I thought I’d show you the type of thing that you’d
see in a Hollywood movie where an impossible thing happens. Normally
it's done with a camera cut ... but those moments in movies are based
on real techniques ...so I’ll show you what one of those real techniques
might look like. ” As you say this, execute a double lift, showing a
face-up card, turn the double face down and place the top card
onto the table next to the other three face-up Aces. Now say,
“As I said, in the movies this is always done with a camera cut, but in
reality it looks like this. ” Place your hand onto the face-down card
before lifting the hand and then carefully and slowly turning
the card face up to reveal the final Ace.

18
Instant Isolation
Ad previously mentioned, the method used within 'Henry in Isolation'
had opened up an additional, visual option. You are about to execute
a series of coordinated flowing actions to produce all four Aces within
just a couple of seconds. This production is a very smooth sequence of
deliberate actions without hesitation or study. The spectator is left with
the impression that you have reached into multiple areas of the deck and
very skillfully plucked out each Ace.

Begin by using the Isolation Procedure (with the Aces in the


same order) to lose/control the Aces. The deck should be sitting
on the table in front of you with one Ace on the top, one Ace
on the bottom and two roughly in the middle of the deck (the
uppermost Ace has a bottom-cutting breather crimp in it). Now
reveal the cards in rapid succession as follows:

Place the deck onto the table as if you were about to execute
a riffle shuffle. Cut off all of the cards above the breather with
your right hand and remove the top card of the lower packet
with your left hand (Photo 1). Turn over this card to show that

19
1 2

3 4

5 6
it is the Ace of Hearts and place it face up in front of the deck
(Photo 2). As your right hand deals the Ace of Hearts, start to
turn your left hand palm up to display the Ace of Spades on the
face of that packet (Photo 3). Lay the Ace of Spades face up
onto the table as your left hand returns to pick up the tabled
packet (the original bottom portion of the deck).

Turn your left hand palm up to display the Ace of Clubs and
deal it onto the table. At exactly the same time, place the right-
hand packet back face down onto the table (Photo 4).

Start to remove the top card of the tabled half with your right
hand at the exact moment that the left hand returns to place
its half back on top (Photo 5). With the correct timing, the
Ace of Diamonds appears to be removed from between both
packets. Place it face down with the other Aces as the left hand
coalesces its half onto other tabled half (Photo 6). The hands
should work effortlessly, and in synergy, to produce the Aces.

21
Henry Topped
Now we come to the final exploration of Henry Christ's ‘Fabulous Ace
Routine’. The effect is essentially identical, but the introduction of afar
simpler method makes it much better. This entire effect had been achieved
without any complicated setup, packet counts, cards, crimps,
thumb counting, shuffle controls or memory. The had
also been eliminated and the entire effect had been generated from a
shuffled deck.

When compared to the previous routined, ‘Henry Topped’ is a huge


methodological improvement. By deriving for simple methodological
design, the original Henry Christ routine is now a distant cousin of what
I believe to be a far superior approach to this effect.

Have the deck shuffled by a spectator. Retrieve the deck and


spread through, showing that there are only four Aces in the
deck; use this moment to cull the four Aces to the top. Of
course, you could also add palmed Aces onto the deck after
the spectator has shuffled. Either way, casually shuffle the
deck, retaining the stock on top, as you draw attention to the

22
idea that you are going to try and find the Aces. Just as in the
previous two effects, riffle the ends of the cards toward yourself
as if memorising the cards.

“I’ll find the first Ace by using a combination of memory and dexterous
skill. ” Execute a false cut (the Finessed Frank Thompson Cut,
page 47, or Bounce Cut, page 51, work well here) until the final
packet remains in the left hand, or simply cut and hold a break,
and then cut all the cards above the break to the table in two or
three small cuts, leaving the cards below the break in the left
hand. Turn over the top card of the left-hand packet to reveal
an Ace. Place this Ace onto the table to your right as you pick
up the cards on the table and place them back onto your hand,
making sure to hold a break between the halves.

“I won’t find the next Ace, you will! [Indicate a spectator] Please
say stop at any moment ad I deal through the cards. ” You will now
use the psychological timing force that has been used in the
previous routines: drop small packets of cards onto the table,
timing your cut to the break at the exact moment your spectator
says stop. Reveal the second Ace and place it next to the first
Ace as you assemble the deck, making sure the portion with the
two Aces ends up on top of the deck.

“The third Ace can be found using middirection. ” As you say this,
palm the top card of the deck in your right hand and allow it
to relax as your left hand rises and riffles down the corner of
the deck with the little finger or thumb. You can now produce
this Ace by revealing it was hidden in the hand or producing it
from a pocket. As you place the Ace next to the other two on
the table, establish a break under the top two cards of the deck.

“Now, for the final Ace I thought I d dhow you the type of thing that
you’d normally dee in a Hollywood movie where an impossible thing
happens. Usually it’d done with a special effect ... but those moments

23
are based on real techniques. ” As you say this, execute a double lift,
showing a face-up indifferent card, turn the double face down
and place the top card next to the other Aces. Place your hand
onto the face-down card before carefully lifting the hand and
slowly turning the card face up to reveal the final Ace.

24
Chapter One Summary
By forcing yourself to look objectively at the effect — unburdened
by thoughts about method —you can understand an effect’s
essence. It is only then that you can try to express or reveal
that essence in the most direct way possible. By comparing
‘Thanks To Henry’, ‘Henry In Isolation’ and ‘Henry Topped’,
you will notice that I have slowly simplified and streamlined the
handlings until the true essence the effect has been exposed.

But ‘Henry Topped’ is not the end. Actually, it is just the


beginning. The same methodological position allows you to
perform virtually every other effect in this book! It has opened
up a huge range of performing possibilities, including the last
effect this book, ‘Real Ace Cutting’ (page 129), which rebuilds
the effect in new and truly realistic ways.

As we delve deeper into Less is More we will further investigate


the relationship between effect and method, between objectivity
and simplicity, between thinking and action. These relationships
all have important implications on the construction and
execution of magic.
2.
Technical Simplicity
The Sting Cut
I believe the Sting Cut4 to be the best tabled full-deck false cut
in existence. This may seem like a bold claim to make, but after
reading the entire description —and seeing how I've evolved
it—you'll hopefully reach the same conclusion: It's simple, it's
impossible to follow, it can be varied without concentration
to suit style or context, it's practical with any cards in any
condition and it is almost impossible to lose complete control.
It is also perfectly suited to the control of a small stock on either
top or bottom. However, it's the philosophy underpinning these
technical developments that makes the Sting Cut so interesting
to me.

Expert Card Technique states that the Up the Ladder Cut is the
best tabled false cut, other texts promote the Vernon Cold

4. I first saw this cut — in its most basic form — being executed by John
Scarne in the Universal film, The Sting (Henry Gondorf demonstrates the
cut by controlling the Ace of Spades through several cutting actions). The
earliest written description I can find is in Poker by Hardison (1914) under the
title of False Cuts (Third Method).

29
Deck Cut, cuts from Erdnase or some other fixed system cut
(by this I mean that the move is executed the same every time).
However, any fixed system cut has no room for flexibility; I use
the Sting Cut as an open system cut, giving me total flexibility,
allowing it to adapt itself to the moment.

You cannot possibly know what is right for the moment until
you're in the moment, and so the Sting Cut allows you to perform
the best and most convincing sequence at exactly the right time.
This cut will require a lot of practice so that you can let your
hands go' and essentially improvise the cut in the moment. This
is more difficult than one would imagine but it's intrinsically
very simple. The very fact that you may not know what your
hands are doing in the moment—yet you still have complete
control—is the most attractive element of this cut to me.

The cut is essentially a triple undercut on the table, in which a


break is used to maintain control. Broken down:

1. Undercut a portion from the bottom and hold a break


between this portion and the top of the deck.
2. Now undercut half of the cards below the break to the top.
3. Finally, cut the remaining cards below the break to the top.

This is the essence of the cut. However, there are many ways that
you can improve this cut without changing the simple nature of
its construction. Once you are completely familiar with the ideas
detailed below, it is a simple matter to combine these elements and
to change them depending on your environment. There should
be no physical or psychological tension displayed by you during
what appears to be a very unconsidered series of genuine cuts.

The ability to vary all the elements will subconsciously add to


the authentic feel of the cut. You can simply let your hands
execute the cut as they wish in the moment without paying the
least bit attention to what they are doing.

30
Varying tempo, rhythm & style
The Sting Cut is normally performed with three simple cuts,
all of which are performed with the same rhythm and tempo.
However, varying these elements can create an interesting and
very deceptive aesthetic. Here are some examples:

• The first packet can be cut to the top with a medium tempo,
the second packet with a fast tempo and the final packet
with a slow tempo.
• The first packet is slowly cut to the top and the deck is
squared while the break is maintained. Now the next two
packets are quickly cut to the top with a fast tempo and
rhythm.
• This is similar to the previous cut but there is a subtle
difference: The first packet is cut to the top slowly and the
next two packets are cut very quickly; however the final
packet is lifted higher and slapped on top with much more
vigor.
• When removing the last packet it is possible to let go of
the rest of the deck held in the left hand and to drop the
final packet on top from a distance of three or four inches.
It is also nice to pick up both packets (as the final is being
removed) and to drop the left-hand packet onto the table,
followed by dropping the right-hand packet on top.

Adding false strips


You can always throw in one or two bottom strips of the final
packet before it is placed/dropped/slapped on top. This adds
more packets to the gestalt of the cut, gives a more casual
appearance, and will naturally alter the tempo and rhythm of
the final packet.

Ending with a straight cut


By stripping two or three marginally thinner packets and
leaving a portion under the break you are able to square up the

31
deck and to cut the portion above the break forward onto the
table (like a standard table cut). With this technique you can
perfectly simulate Dai Vernons Cold Deck Cut. I believe that
this procedure really adds to Vernon's cut.

Performing the cut twice


It is an easy matter to perform the cut twice in a way where
it is not really obvious that two separate sequences have been
executed. Instead the two sequences will flow together and
look like one random sequence of cuts. If both sequences are
different it will be even more difficult to follow.

Stutter-Step Subtlety
This is a devious subtlety to use with the Sting Cut. It creates
the illusion of more packets being cut without actually cutting
more packets. It is a very simple idea but may sound more
complex in description.

32
Hold an area in the middle of the pack with the tips of the
third finger and thumb of the left hand, and keep pressure on
this portion as the right hand moves diagonally forward with
a portion from the top and the bottom. The right hand moves
diagonally forward until the top packet almost clears the middle
portion (Photo 1).

With the right hand keeping hold of its bottom portion, it moves
sharply inward to the left for a fraction of an inch and, in that
motion, allows inertia to carry the top portion back onto the
middle portion of the deck (Photo 2).

The right hand now moves back outward with its single packet
and places it on top, keeping a thumb break with the left hand
(Photo 3).

This technique is over in a flash, creating an almost subliminal


appearance of another packet. Of course, it is entirely possible
to remove the right hand completely and then to come back

33
3

to cut off the top packet before depositing the original bottom
portion on top; however, the Stutter-Step technique removes
all possibility of a card accidentally sliding out of place or the
performer accidentally dropping a break.

Additional subtle touches


• After getting a break under the first packet, the next packets
can be casually dropped/thrown onto the first packet as the
break is already established. This adds a touch of casualness,
which is very deceptive.
• Allow each packet to step slightly so that you can square
the entire deck at the end.
• Removing each packet without hesitation and having a
smooth flow will increase the deceptiveness and casualness
of the cut.

34
• By pausing before the final packet is removed, it is possible
to make the single sequence Look like two separate sequences.
Breaking or interrupting the rhythm can be used in many
ways and can create a genuine sense of casual, true mixing.
• If you are only controlling a small stock, it is possible, at
any point, to execute real strip-cuts or multiple cuts to the
table, of all the cards except the stack.
• Once the sequence is finished, instantly throw in a Scrape
Cut.5
• Improvise the entire sequence while talking and without
looking at your hands.

5. An old card table move, published in Stephen Minch's The Vernon


Chronicles Volume 1, 1987, under the title 'The Vernon Simple False Cut'.

35
The Any Card Came Control
This procedure adds contextual realism to any gambling
routine and makes it more interesting, less static and very
deceptive. It can be used with any stack or prearrangement and
communicates a feeling of unconsidered randomness without
moving a single card out of place. Unlike a false shuffle or cut,
this control implies that the deck is mixed by how you appear to
be casually throwing cards all over the place, while talking the
spectator through a ‘generic' card game procedure.

It is a useful way to introduce the concept of lay stacking, pick­


up stacking, card counting, location play or culling, etc.; the
positions of the cards and the casual way in which they are
handled appear to be completely authentic and congruent with
your presentation while allowing you to control a slug without
the slightest hint of suspicion.

36
The Any Card Game Control is not only an incredibly deceptive
technique, it has great utility. It is a perfectly casual, subtle and
practical way to control a stock of anything up to fifteen cards
or to add a specific number of cards above a stock.

Full Deck Control


With a deck in your left hand, spread off a bunch of at least
twelve cards and place them face down onto the table to your
right. But, as you put them down, use your fingers to twist
them around into a spiraled mess. Spread off around fifteen to
twenty cards and ribbon spread them face up across the table.
A third of the deck should remain in your left hand, which you
casually false shuffle as you mention that this is the general
situation in many card games: “These cards represent the deadwood,
or cards that have been played [A], these are the cards that are currently
in play [B] and these are yet to be played [C]. This is the standard
opportunity space to get useful information. ” (Photo 1)

37
Fan and look at the cards in your hand, and then scoop up the
face-up spread and place it onto the cards already in your hand.
Now place the spiraled mess on top, and square everything up.
Not a single card moves out of place, but it has subtly injected
a sense of authenticity and randomness into whatever gambling
routine you are about to perform.

The Any Card Game Control is an incredibly useful and


extremely simple way to subtly communicate randomness
without having to do very much; the layout does it all for you.
There are separate bunches of cards in different positions on
the table, some are in your hand, some are in a mess, some are
spread and some are squared, some are face up and others are
face down. This situation is observed by the spectator as you
talk about the typical situation in a card game (which implies
randomness). At this moment you may false shuffle the cards
in your hand (C) or you may set them down as you talk about
something else. The casualness and openness of this technique
are the secret to its deceptiveness.

It is also possible to break the face-up spread into three sections


(Photo 2) by either openly splitting the spread into three
sections or by simply laying down three small spreads from the
top of the cards in the left hand. This can look more authentic
and doesn't change the relative order of the cards. To make the
procedure feel more random, you can talk through hitting or
dealing a card face up onto the face-up spread on the right (so
that it lands on the Three of Clubs in the photo). This doesn't
change the relative positions of any cards in the deck (once
the cards are picked up in the correct order) and simulates the
dealer giving a card to one of the players.

38
2

Small Stock Control


When only needing to control a small stock, the following
handling is impossible for anyone to follow — I use this handling
when I just want to control the four Aces.

Start with four Aces on top of the deck. Casually contrive a


way to place the Aces into the middle of the deck and hold a
break above them (using a cut or jog shuffle). Now push off
three or four clumps of cards and lay them face up at various
spots on the table, stopping when you have a small portion of
cards remaining above the break. “When playing any card game
you will normally have several hands being played, of which you may see
some of them or all of them at the end."

39
Now drop all of the cards above the break onto the table to
your right, followed by another clump (which is big enough to
contain the stock) on top of it as you say, “And there will be a pile
of cards that has been discarded or folded. ”

You now say, “There will be some cards remaining in the dealer's hand
or perhaps a dealing shoe. These remaining cards may or may not be
played ... it depends on what the players decide in the game. ” As you
say this, casually shuffle the cards and flip a couple of cards
face up onto the tabled hands and add a couple of cards onto
the discard pile from the face-up hands.

The situation now is that your stock is in the discard pile, below
two indifferent cards. How many indifferent cards you decide
to casually add to the discard pile is up to you. I improvise
which hands I add cards to and how many I add onto the stock.

Because of the way you have casually handled this layout, it's
virtually impossible for anyone to have the faintest suspicion
that anything has been specifically controlled. Some cards are
face up, some face down, some have been shuffled and the
relative positions are all different. It just looks like a mess that
you are merely using to demonstrate a common situation in a
card game.

Now you have to assemble the deck. Unlike the Full Deck
Control, you have a large amount of freedom with how you
gather the cards. I don't rehearse this sequence, I improvise it in
the moment; this makes the pick-up look completely casual and
adds a tremendous amount to the technique's deceptiveness.
The key is to make the sequence look unconsidered—the best
way to do this is not to consider the way you pick up the cards.

40
The Real Optical Shuffle
This is my handling of the classic Optical Shuffle.6 While the
mechanics are the same as the original shuffle, I have changed
the way that the timing and rhythm of the shuffle is executed.
The mechanics are extremely simple but the psychology, timing
and attitude within this shuffle is what makes it look and feel so
good. Ill start by describing the basic mechanics and will then
look at the timing changes.

Hold the deck in the right hand, ready to execute an overhand


shuffle, and chop off a block of about eight to ten cards with
your left thumb (Photo 1). As the right hand pulls the remaining
cards upward (just as in a standard overhand shuffle), use your
left fingers to push on the face of the 'shuffled-off' packet,
tipping it leftward, onto the left thumb so that you can see the
face of the block (Photo 2). Drop another eight to ten cards
from the deck in front of the other packet in the left hand so the
packets form a V shape (Photo 3).

6. The basic idea can be traced back at least to C. Lang Neil's The Modern
Conjurer (1902), credited to Henri De Manche.

41
1

2
3

4
The left thumb now tips its packet onto the other packet (closing
the V shape) as the right hand is brought down on top of all
the cards in the left hand (Photo 4). The right hand lifts up
again as the left thumb swipes across the face of the right-hand
packet; the swiping action of the left thumb simulates taking a
packet when in fact no packet is taken or dropped. The illusion
is extremely convincing (I'11 refer to this move as the 'optical
chop' through the rest of this description). Photos 5-7 show
this swiping action.

After the optical chop is performed, the left fingers once again
tip the cards in the left hand over to the left and the right hand
drops another small bunch of cards in front of the other packet
(forming another V shape), and the entire process is continued
until the cards in the right hand are exhausted.

Throughout this shuffle, not a single card is moved out of place


as the cards in the right hand are simply being dropped behind
each packet in the left hand and never dropped on top. Thus
far, this is the standard Optical Shuffle and, when executed
properly, looks excellent. However, there are ways to make this
shuffle look even better with very little effort; you simply need
to interrupt its rhythmic nature. I do this with the following
techniques:

Change the tempo of the movements of both hands throughout


the shuffle: Sometimes drop cards quickly, sometimes drop
cards slowly; sometimes perform the optical chop quickly, other
times perform it slowly; sometimes close the 'V shape' quickly,
other times slowly.

Improvise dropping packets at the front and back. Sometimes


perform two or three optical chops in a row, sometimes
perform one. Don't think about what your hands are doing, just
improvise the sequence; as long as you never drop cards on top
of the left-hands cards, you'll never move a card out of place.

44
5

7
Hesitate and look at the audience, breaking the rhythm entirely;
gesture with the right hand while talking, which naturally
breaks or interrupts the rhythm of the shuffle and allows the
hands to randomly move apart from each other.

Improvise looking down at your hands and looking up at the


audience. Don't think about when and how to do this, just let
it happen naturally.

Perform all the above actions while subtly shifting your body
weight and trying to forget that you are shuffling for any
specific reason. Don't demonstrate that the cards are being mixed
or even think about the fact you are performing a false shuffle;
simply imagine the shuffle is real and then forget that you are
even shuffling.

By using all the above techniques together in an improvised,


fluid way, the Real Optical Shuffle is impossible to follow.
Even you will not know exactly what your hands are doing; the
shuffle will be different each time you perform it. This breaking
of rhythm and tempo, while forgetting what your hands are
doing, is what makes this shuffle look and feel legitimate while
allowing you to completely concentrate on your performance.
It's amazing to me how something so technically simple can be
so deceptive.

46
Finessed Frank Thompson Cut
Frank Thompson's F.T. Cut7 is an excellent false cut that has become
somewhat of a classic. However, I’ve always felt that there was a slight
problem with the move: It looks like two separate sequences; the first
sequence cuts the cards into the hands and the second sequence cuts them
to the table (or back into the hands). Therefore it can easily Look as if
you are cutting and then 'un-cutting’ the deck (placing back in order),
which is exactly what you are doing! So, my approach was to blend
these separate sequences into one flowing sequence without changing the
technique or construction of the cut in any way. By making a couple
of subtle adjustments to the timing and start position, this cut can be
improved greatly.

Starting with the deck in your left hand, your right hand comes
over and holds the deck from above as the forefinger pivots/
swings the top half to the left so that the left thumb crotch can
grasp the top portion (Photo 1). The right hand now moves
away with the bottom half and the fingertips of the right hand
lightly make contact with the table in the exact spot that you
will be returning to in a moment (Photo 2).

7. Frank Garcias Super Subtle Card Miracles, 1973.

47
1

2
3

4
Without hesitation the right hand returns to the left hand and
en route begins to swing/separate another portion with the
right forefinger (Photo 3). This separated portion is taken on
top of the cards in the left hand and a break is held between
them. As this happens, the right hand returns to the exact spot
on the table where the fingertips previously made contact and
deposits its cards (Photo 4).

In exactly the same rhythm and tempo of the previous two


movements, the right hand now takes all the cards above the
break in the left hand and puts them on top of the already
tabled cards before finally taking the remaining cards from the
left hand and placing them onto the tabled cards.

By starting with the deck in the left hand, faking the table
placement of the initial packet and using exactly the same
rhythm, tempo and flow with each movement, the cut looks
like a single cutting sequence. The only potential problem is
the initial vanishing packet, however, this discrepancy goes
unnoticed as it blends into the flow of the sequence. Well look
at how to fix this discrepancy in the Bounce Cut.

50
The Bounce Cut
This is an incredibly deceptive false cut that I have been doing for many
years. It was originally an attempt to improve my Finessed Frank
Thompson Cut by addressing the discrepancy of the vanishing packet. It
appears as if you simply cut the deck four times to the table. Its value is
in its simplicity and directness as there are no breaks, or complex packet
movements. This cut is about timing, rhythm and simplicity.

Start with the deck in the left hand. Execute a Swing Cut,
carrying the lower half to the table as you relax the left hand by
lowering it a couple of inches.

With the right hand still positioned on its half, it now grips a
portion of those cards from the top and begins to carry them
back to the left. As soon as the packet touches the table, a
portion is already heading back to the left. It is an instantaneous
move. To me it feels like a kind of bouncing action, as if some
of the downward force exerted in putting down the packet has
rebounded and caused a portion to bounce off the top.

57
As this happens, the left hand rises to meet the carried packet
and the left thumb goes on top (Photo 1). Now both hands
reverse their actions, but the left thumb retains the top card of
the right-hand packet due to friction (Photo 2). The left hand
relaxes back to its position as the right hand goes back to the
portion on the table and deposits its cards (Photo 3).

The empty right hand comes and meets the left hand (with
exactly the same movements as before), takes the single card
and slaps it onto the tabled cards (Photos 4 and 5).

Finally, the right hand comes and takes the final packet from
the left hand and deposits it onto the tabled cards (Photo 6).

An important point to remember is that the stolen packet sort


of bounces off the tabled packet. This thought should help in
attaining the correct rhythm and tempo. The success of this cut
lies in the relaxation and mirrored movements of both hands.
Both hands mirror each other perfectly as they move, the hands
kind of breathing backward and forward.

Notes
It is possible to do a bold three-packet version of this cut by
removing the single card-slip phase. It is also possible to do both
of these versions with the deck on the table in a longitudinal
position for card table demonstrations.

Furthermore, it is possible to effect a slip cut with both the


Finessed Frank Thompson Cut and the Bounce Cut: As you
take the final packet with the right hand —at the end of either
sequence —you can drag a single card off the top packet with
the left thumb; the right hand then returns, grabs the single
card and slap it down onto the rest of the deck. The single card
blends into the rhythm of the other packets and looks perfectly
natural.

52
1

2
3

4
5

6
Spectator Shuffle Holdout
The Spectator Shuffle Holdout, Shuffled Ose Control, Half & Half
Control and the Deep Slug Control are all simple techniques that allow
a spectator to shuffle a deck of cards while unknowingly controlling a
small stock on top of the deck. They are very disarming and give the
impression of a thoroughly shuffled deck. The Spectator Shuffle Holdout
was the first of these I ever published.8

Begin with the four Aces on top of the deck and give the cards
a simple shuffle, adding one card on top of the Aces. Hand
the deck to the spectator while saying, 'Please cut off about one-
quarter of the deck and put it face up onto the table. Now shuffle the
rest. ” At this point, the spectator has simply cut a portion of
cards off the deck, turned it face up onto the table and shuffled
the remaining cards. This has kept your stock completely intact
on the bottom of the tabled portion.

8. First printed in Gambit Issue Two, p. 15, in an effect called Even The Burn
Card’.

56
As they are shuffling, say, “And cut off another packet ... put it on
top of the others... and shuffle again. ” Repeat this procedure two
or three more times, each time having the spectator cut off a
portion the deck and then drop it face up onto the previously
tabled cards. This entire sequence is deeply deceptive as the
spectator will never remember that the first packet wasn't
shuffled; they will just remember shuffling and cutting the
entire deck multiple times.

I normally use this technique while asking them to see if they


can cut to a pair. This gives a reason for them to be cutting the
cards face up and directs their attention away from the fact that
the first packet wasn't shuffled. Each time they cut a portion
face up, I comment on the cards they've cut to, look for any
patterns or coincidences I can expand upon and comment on
their shuffling style.

At the end of this process the entire deck will be face up on


the table. Ask the spectator to pick up the deck and to hold
it face down as if they were about to deal. You will now use a
very disarming psychological throw-off9 that not only disarms
laymen but does the same to magicians. Say, “Before we start,
I saw the bottom card so just take it out and bury it somewhere in the
middle of the deck ... and do the same with the top card ... just in case. "
This simply removes the card that you added above the Aces,

9. Even though I created this technique independently, I've recently traced its
roots back to The Discoverie of Witchcraft, 1584, Booke XIII, Chapter XXVII,
'How to deliver out foure aces, and to convert them into foure knaves', pp.
188-189. However, this technique was a methodological necessity disguised
as a casual action, but it's definitely similar. I believe Bruce Elliott may
have been one of the first people to use this concept of losing the top and
bottom cards (purely as a ‘psychological throw-off); Trio', Encyclopedia of
Card Tricks, 1936/37, p. 20. However, this technique appears several other
times in the book under different names, meaning it was a known technique
in 1936.

57
but adds a sense of additional fairness and thoroughness to the
procedure.

To use these controls as a 'self-force', once the spectator has


buried the top and bottom cards, say to them, “Take a peek at
the top card and shuffle the deck.” That's it! They have shuffled
the deck, peeked at a card and shuffled again, and you already
know what the card is!

58
Half & Half Control
Like the Spectator Shuffle Holdout, begin with the four Aces
already on top of the deck and give the deck a simple shuffle,
adding one card on top of the Aces. Now hand the deck to the
spectator while saying, “Ok, please cut off about one-quarter of the
deck and put it face up onto the table. Now shuffle the rest. ”

Once they have shuffled the cards, ask them to cut off another
portion and to place it face down next to the other face-up cards
and to shuffle the remaining cards. At this point there is a face­
up portion on the table with a face-down portion next to it and
the rest of the cards in their hands.

Now ask the spectator to shuffle the cards and to continue to


cut portions off the top, adding them to either the face-up or
face-down pile (shuffling each time between the cuts). This is
repeated until all the cards in their hands are exhausted.

Now ask them to pick up either half, to turn it over and to add
it to the other cards. Once this is done they hold the deck face
down and bury the bottom and top cards into the middle of the
deck. All four Aces are now on top.

59
Shuffled Ose Control
I have always loved the Ose Cut10 and I have need it in many ways over
the years, but this is without doubt one of my most devious.11 It is a
way of allowing a spectator to apparently shuffle and cut the deck while
maintaining a small stock on top.

Start with a stock of one to eight cards on top of the deck. Hand
the deck to the spectator, and ask them to cut a third of the cards
to the table (Photo 1) and then to shuffle the rest of the cards
in her hands (Photo 2). Then ask that she cut another third
to the table (to the right of the tabled packet) and shuffle the
remaining cards (Photo 3) before placing the final packet down
onto the table (Photo 4). Now ask the participant to collect the
packets from left to right (Photos 5 and 6); I often just point at
the packets in the correct order as I say, “And collect them up, one
on top of the other. "This procedure leaves the top stock intact and

10. Ose's Cut, Close-Up Card Magic Harry Lorayne, p. 93. The idea of a
spectator executing the cut comes from Chad Longs ‘Shuffling Lesson'
from Paul Harris' The Art of Astonishment, Vol. 3, 1996.

60
1 2

3 4

5 6
positions it back on top of the deck. This is a subtle variation of
the Ose Cut and works because the spectator won't remember
that she didn't shuffle the first packet.

A touch that I always use with this control is to have an


indifferent card on top of the stock so that when they have
assembled the deck I say to them, “Ok, just take the top card and
bury it into the middle of the deck and do the same with the bottom card,
just in case someone accidentally daw one of them. ”

The concept of shuffling the packets and using a burn card as


a psychological throw-off specifically to control a small stock
or as a self-force (see below), is something that not only fools
laymen but has completely baffled every magician I have shown
it to.

Also, as with the Spectator Shuffle Holdout, I have also used


this control as a self-force in which the spectator shuffles,
cuts and selects a card themselves (without your touching the
deck), and yet you already know the card! The technique is as
follows: Position the force card second from the top of the deck.
Have the spectator execute the Shuffled Ose Control exactly as
described above, and once they have buried the top and bottom
cards, say to them, “Take a peek at the top card and shuffle the deck. ”
That's it, but boy is it a fooler!

62
Deep Slug Control
While it is part of the same family as the other shuffle controls, this one
is slightly different from the other techniques. Instead of controlling a
stock/slug on top, it controls it near the top so that you can get a break
above it. You'll see it put to use in 'Clean Cutter ’ (page 80).

63
Begin with the Aces on top of the deck and casually shuffle
the cards (keeping the stock on top) before handing the deck
to a spectator. Ask the spectator to cut off a portion of cards
from the top, to place them face down onto the table and to
shuffle the rest of the cards that they hold. Have them repeat
this procedure several times, each time cutting off a portion,
placing it onto the previously tabled cards and shuffling the
cards in hand until all the cards are exhausted.

The entire deck is now sitting face down on the table. Ask the
spectator to give the deck a complete cut. Explain to the spectator
that this is a thorough shuffle—they have shuffled multiple times
and given the deck an honest cut. The Aces are now sitting
together, somewhere near the top third of the deck.

Pick up the deck and riffle the backs of the cards toward yourself
(Photo 1) in an apparent attempt to memorise the cards, as
already detailed in the first chapter. In this process, obtain a
break above the last Ace as you continue to riffle the rest of the

64
cards (Photo 2). You can now locate the Aces in any way that
you wish.

If you don't want to obtain a break above the Aces, it is a simple


matter to use a breather crimp either above or below the Aces,
or to have a breather crimp in one of the Aces, and then you can
simply cut at the breather crimp.

65
Chapter Two Summary
When creating a simple routine, I am not just attempting to
simplify its overall construction, but also the techniques that I
use.

When simplicity forms the foundation of technique, timing,


execution and psychology become even more fundamental to
its deceptiveness; the technique must feel right. It is perhaps
surprising that the techniques in this chapter are not difficult to
perform, but they are festooned with subtle touches regarding
movement, timing, rhythm and psychology; these touches form
the core of their deceptive ability.

The techniques were designed to be extremely efficient and


contain an economy of motion that should result in a lack of
physical and psychological tension in your performance. Simple
techniques often look and feel better in a live environment than
they read in a book, whereas complex technique is often the
exact opposite.

As we reach our final destination ( Real Ace Cutting’, page


129), it will become clear why I use techniques such as the Sting
Cut, Real Optical Shuffle and the Any Card Game Control. At
the core of these techniques there is a level of improvisation
that creates an important sense of realness. By stripping away
complexity, tension and studied actions, we can instead create
technique that looks and feels far more natural. Well explore
that exact idea in Real Ace Cutting’ as a way of producing the
four Aces from a shuffled deck.
3.
Versatile Simplicity
Blinded by the Hand
The performer locates all four Aces in a few seeonds with just one
hand. This is probably the most methodologically dimple effect in this
publication, but it's a stunner: ‘Blinded by the Hand’ was my attempt
to create a virtuosic effect that felt modern and flashy but yet was
underpinned by the simplest mechanical I could possibly imagine. The
style of this effect is similar to Jack Carpenter's ‘Blind Lemon Aces'.12

With all four Aces on top, give the deck a few shuffles and say
that you will try to find an Ace. Square up the deck and palm
off all four Aces in the right hand. The right hand relaxes as
your left hand extends outward and you say, “But I'll do it with
one hand!” Look at your left hand as you execute a few one-
handed cuts, and then stop and say, ‘ This hand!” as your right
hand raises, palm outward, to show an Ace.

Your right fingers now straddle the block and your thumb
moves behind so that your thumb and fingers can grip the
block at the fingertips and hold it in a more natural way (as if it

12. Jack Carpenter, Pasteboard Palette, 2006.

69
was one card). If the right hand rotates palm up as it does this,
the movement will help to disguise the thickness of the block.

At almost exactly the moment you have repositioned the block,


look back at your left hand and say, “I'll try to find the other three. ”
Once again direct your attention to the left hand as it executes
another couple of one-handed cuts. As you do this the right
hand turns slightly inward (to obscure its cards) and fans the
Aces. Now direct attention back to the right hand as it displays
all four Aces in a wide fan.

Notes
This effect has a psychological misdirection 'feel; to it. Even
though it's quick and has an incredibly simple construction, in
the right context it can be great. This effect is all about beat,
tempo and misdirection, so a few trials will soon allow you to
understand how to choreograph the movements.

70
Wide Awake Scream
Four Aces are lost in the deck and then discovered in an amazing way:
Two Aces instantly travel to the performer's pockets, one Ace appears in
the spectator hands and finally the deck vanishes to leave nothing but
the last Ace!

Show the Aces and apparently lose them in the deck while
controlling them to the top (using a multiple shift or any other
convincing procedure). Casually shuffle the deck as you state
you will find them without looking through the cards. Riffle
down the edge of the deck with your left thumb until you reach
the middle, dip your thumb into the gap and lever out a random
card so that it flips face up onto the top of the deck. Say, “I
know this isn't an Ace, but you are going to help me find it. Please hold
out your hand and grip this card at your fingertips. ” In this moment
execute a top change for an Ace and hand it to the spectator.

Execute a slip cut13 and then palm the top card in the right hand
as you ask them to hold the card completely still. Your right

13. See Notes for a method to avoid the use of a slip cut.

71
hand is still holding the deck from above (with a card palmed)
and the left hand is holding the deck from below.

With the right hand gripping the top card only, you say, “We
are now going to find all four Aces very quickly. " As you say this the
left hand secretly carries all the cards below the top card into
the left pocket (Photo 1), leaving the right hand holding on
to the top card and a palmed card, and it comes out with the
top card of the deck as you say, “One Ace in my left pocket. ” This
Ace is dropped onto the table or handed to another spectator.
There really isn't much to this secret ditch; it's the same as used
in David Williamson's '51 Cards to Pocket', and other similar
routines. Simply cop the deck and put it into your pocket as
you slightly turn your body.

The right hand now gently deposits its visible card in the left
hand (the single card masquerading as the entire deck as shown
in Photo 2) as it retreats to your right trouser/jacket pocket
with the palmed Ace and removes it from the pocket.

72
2

With the left hand casually holding on to a single card, snap


your right fingers over the card the spectator is holding and
say, “That should be the third Ace"; they turn over their card to
discover the third Ace.

You now bring your empty right hand over the single card in
your left hand (apparently covering 'the deck' completely) as
you say, “The final Ace is more difficult so I’ll make the whole deck
vanish ... leaving just one. ” Slowly squeeze your hands together
before opening them to reveal that the deck has vanished,
except the last Ace.

Notes
Larry Jennings' 'Deck to Pocket' from his Thoughts on Cards
DVD was the first effect I saw in which the deck was boldly
pocketed under the guise of removing a selection, while leaving

73
a single card in the hand. Jackie Mc Clements' effect ‘Shock
Treatment', from his 1994 lecture notes of the same name
(and later The Crimp No. 48), was the first effect of this style
I encountered that used the four Aces. I always preferred the
use of four Aces, however, I always wanted a handling that
had nothing ‘held out' at the start, had a change happening in
the spectator's hands, produced four separate revelations and
could be performed by starting with all four Aces on top.

I particularly like the fact that the revelation of the deck


vanishing doesn't happen immediately after it has been ditched;
instead, two revelations occur after the ditch has taken place.

It is possible to remove the need for a slip cut by simply


palming off two cards with the right hand, carrying both cards
to the right pocket before removing the Ace and leaving the
indifferent card behind. You can also remove the slip cut and
top change entirely by apparently cutting to the first Ace and
handing it to the spectator (face down) before proceeding as
previously described.

If I have the opportunity, I do something slightly different


with this routine that is even stronger. After the multiple shift,
I secretly load the top Ace under a glass (or any object) on
my right. Now I allow for a few moments of time misdirection
before proceeding almost exactly as described above; however,
I don't palm an Ace in my right hand and remove it from my
right pocket. Instead I hold on to the top card, reveal the first
Ace in the left pocket (as the rest of the deck is ditched), cleanly
show an Ace under the glass, reveal an Ace has appeared in
the spectator's hands and finally make the deck vanish in my
hands, showing the final Ace.

I prefer this handling as the four separate revelations now


seem completely, stylistically different and it expands the

74
spatial dynamics of the effect. I didn't describe this handling
immediately because it's not always possible to take advantage
of your environment in this way. The original handling can
be performed in every environment, however if I have the
opportunity to load an Ace under something on my right, I will.

75
The Back Room Demo
Don't underestimate the power of this routine because of its extremely
simple methodology. With the correct attitude and commitment, ‘The Back
Room Demo' appears to be a genuine demonstration of incredible skill.

Have the deck legitimately shuffled, retrieve it and then cull the
Aces to the top, under the pretense of memorising the order of
the cards. You could, of course, use a stock control here or palm
the Aces and add them on after the shuffle; all tha'ts important
is that the spectator shuffles the deck and the Aces are invisibly
controlled to the top.

“This isn't really a trick, it's an old training exercise that cardsharps
would practise before a card game. Don't ask me how I know about it...
I'll show you as it's a fascinating thing to demonstrate.

There are normally a maximum of ten players in a card game and my


aim is to deal an Ace to one of those players. So, if you name the third
player I'll shuffle an Ace to the third posit ion; if you name the ninth
player I’ll shuffle an Ace to the ninth player. I know I'm just showing

76
this to you as a demonstration ... but imagine how useful this would be
to an unethical Poker player or croupier!

aThis is more complicated than doing a Rubik d Cube, especially because


its being done through memory and a sense of touch rather than sight!”

All you have to do now is add the requisite number of cards


to the top of the deck. That's it! So, if they name the fourth
player just add three cards to the top. If they name the sixth
player, add five cards to the top. Do this through a variety
of cuts and shuffles and end with a deliberate cut. Make the
procedure look as genuine as possible. This routine inherently
allows you to improvise your handling and be flexible; by
improvising your methods for adding the requisite number of
cards to the top and adding whichever false cuts and shuffles
you want, you will have a routine that is virtually impossible to

77
follow (see 'Real Ace Cutting', page 129, for further thoughts
on this subject).

Once you have added the correct number of cards to the top,
pick up the deck and slowly deal the cards into a face-down
row on the table as you verbally count each one out loud, and
then when you reach the named position, pause before slowly
turning the first Ace face up (Photo 1). Now say, “But you may
think that placing one Ace at that position might be a bit too easy ...
so instead of just finding and positioning one Ace . . . I tried to find and
position all four!” Pause for a beat and then deal the other three
Aces face up onto the table (Photo 2).

Notes
I can't think of many routines that suggest such levels of
breathtaking skill, through such profoundly simple means—it
is the ultimate pseudo demonstration. However, this simplicity
demands a believable performance; you are supposedly locating

78
and organizing four of a kind from a shuffled deck, so how
you introduce and present the effect, convey skill and time the
revelations will all dramatically affect the resonance of this routine.

The Any Card Game Control (Small Stock Handling), page


129, is perfectly suited for use with this routine as it provides
a casual and unconsidered counterpoint to the simplicity and
directness of the effect.

79
Clean Cutter
This is an extremely clean in-the-hunds Ace-cutting routine. The interesting
feature of this routine is the fact that the Aces are all together, yet the
impression of them being cleanly cut from different areas is very strong.

With the Aces on top of the deck, start by giving the deck to a
spectator and take them through the process of the Deep Slug
Control (page 63). At the end of this control establish the little-
finger break above the Aces and remember the name of the
indifferent card that is directly above them. From this position
you are going to perform a series of baffling locations which
creates the impression of your finding the Aces in completely
different areas.

Say, “The first Ace is next to the ... [name the glimpsed card]. ”
Now cut all of the cards above the break to the table and then
cut another portion onto the cards already tabled, making sure
this packet contains at least five cards.

The moment this packet is placed down, pick up the top card
(the first Ace) and place it face up on the packet in your left

80
hand. The left hand now drops the Ace onto the table as the
right hand picks up the tabled packet (Photo 1). As soon as
the Ace hits the table, revolve your right hand palm up to flash
the previously named card. Openly drop the packet onto the
left-hand cards and lightly dribble the cards from hand to
hand to dispel the idea of a control. This sequence creates the
impression that the Ace has cleanly come from the left-hand
portion; therefore it s very disarming (especially to magicians)
when you flash the named card and cleanly drop the right
portion on top without holding a break. The other three Aces
are now on top of the deck.

Continue, “The second Ace is next to the ...” Swing cut the top
portion of the deck into the left hand and rotate the left hand
palm down to flash the face card of its portion. Name the card
you see at the exact moment it rotates into view; timing your
words correctly creates the impression that you knew ahead of
time which card you were attempting to cut to. Once this card
has been named, rotate the left hand palm up and at the same

81
time use your left forefinger to pull the top card over the front
of the packet until it revolves around the front end and appears
face up under the packet, next to the named card. This is a
standard revelation (Photo 2).14

Now place the cards in the right hand under those in the left
hand but stepped to the right (Photo 3), and then hold the
entire deck at the lower right corner as your left hand removes
the second Ace and places it onto the table with the other
previously tabled Ace. Once again, square up the deck and
casually dribble the deck from one hand to the other.

Perform an All Around Square Up, using that action as


motivation to glimpse the bottom card of the deck. This allows
you to use the same pattern of speech that you did before
saying, “The third Ace is next to the ... [name the glimpsed card]. ”

Execute a swing cut, cutting the top portion into the left hand,
but this time rotate the right hand palm up, displaying the card
you just named (Photo 4). At this same moment, use the left
thumb to push the top card of its portion over the right side and
use the third and fourth fingers of the right hand to clip the top
right edge of the protruding card in the left-hand packet (Photo
5). Now by moving the right fourth finger lightly outward
while keeping the right third finger stationary, this clipped Ace
will begin to revolve face up (Photo 6). When it is face up, the
left thumb temporarily holds it in place on top of the left-hand
portion and the right portion is then placed onto the left-hand
cards, slightly stepped to the right. The right hand once again
grasps the deck at its lower right corner as the left hand removes
the third Ace and places it onto the table with the others.

14. Bruce Elliotts Brrrrtttt! from issue 231 of The Phoenix (1951) and The
Chinese Deal from Dai Vernon s Inner Secrets of Card Magic (1959).

82
2

3
4

5
6

7
The right hand now places the deck into the left hand. As you
square up the cards, establish a break between the stepped
portions. Now say, “Previously I was trying to cut next to specific
cards ... this time I want to cut to an exact number. I think the last Ace
is twenty-eight cards down. ”

You now execute a riffle force on yourself! Simply riffle down


the outside of the deck with your left thumb to approximately
the point of your break, and then immediately lift off all the
cards above your break (Photo 7). Now thumb the top card of
the lower portion onto the tabled Aces (making sure it remains
face down). Assemble the deck and hold it in your right hand as
your left hand reaches forward to turn over the final Ace.

86
Clean Cutter 2
This version of'Clean Cutter' is performed in the hands. Simply
begin with the Aces on top of the deck and use any stock control
to create the impression of a shuffled deck.

Begin by dribbling a quarter of the deck into your left hand,


and before revolving the right hand palm up, you say, “The first
Ace is next to the ... [naming the visible card at the exact moment
it comes into view]. "Now rotate the right hand palm down and
use the left thumb to peel the top card of the deck to the left
(Photo 1) until the right-hand portion can flip the Ace face up
onto the cards in the left hand.

The Ace is left outjogged and slightly angled to the left as the
cards in the right hand are dropped on top and everything is
held in right-hand end grip. This is an extremely simple but
deceptive sequence if performed smoothly.

Continue, “The second Ace is next to the ...” Swing cut a large
portion of the deck (above the outjogged, face-up Ace) into

87
1

2
the left hand and rotate the left hand palm down to flash the
face card of its portion (Photo 2). Name the card you see at the
exact moment it rotates into view; timing your words correctly
creates the impression that you knew ahead of time which card
you were attempting to cut to.

Once this card has been named, rotate the left hand palm up
and at the same time use your left forefinger to pull the top
card over the front of the packet until it revolves around the
front end and appears face up under the packet, next to the
named card. Place this portion onto the cards in the right hand,
allowing both outjogged cards to roughly align. This entire
sequence is extremely similar to 'Clean Cutter', but the process
is being performed with outjogged Aces visible in the deck.

While holding the deck and the Aces in right-hand end grip,
display the position of the two Aces by rotating the right hand
clockwise and holding the deck slightly side-on to the spectator,
so they can see the Aces are in separate areas of the deck. In
this moment glimpse the bottom card of the deck. Alternatively,
you can forego this 'in-action' glimpse and simply glimpse the
bottom card of the deck before you begin cutting the Aces (it is
the same card).

Rotate the right hand back palm down and say, “The third Ace is next to the ... [name the g
cut, of a portion of cards above the Aces, into the left hand and
rotate the right hand palm up, bringing the named card into
view.
As described in 'Clean Cutter', push the top card of the left-

hand packet to the left and revolve it face up with the right little
and third fingers (Photo 3). The only difference is that you are
performing this move with two outjogged Aces in the right-
hand portion. Once the third Ace has been turned face up, drop

89
3

4
the cards in the right hand on top, displaying three outjogged
Aces in separate parts of the deck (Photo 4). I will normally
spread the deck in my hands at this point to really display the
fact that each Ace is in a separate section of the deck.

Close up the deck and strip out the outjogged Aces, but as you
do slightly lift up on the lowest Ace and obtain a break above
it. Now you can hand the three Aces to a spectator to hold,
or place them onto the table, as you execute a riffle force on
yourself (Photo 5) to find the final Ace. You can also execute
a one-handed cut at the break if you prefer something flashier.

Notes
Both sequences were designed to look like you are genuinely
cutting Aces from separate areas of the deck, when in fact
this is an illusion. It certainly doesn't feel as if the Aces are

5
all together; the Aces are subtly shifting positions as you are
apparently naming cards that are directly next to the Aces. This
approach is extremely deceptive and yet technically within
reach of everyone.

92
Flow Productions
The following two sequences create smooth, flowing, visual productions,
where the Aces appear to come from different areas of the deck. This is
done with all four Aces together on top (this is the simplest place to have
the Aces after a cull or a palm addition) and uses minimal technique.
Although they are very different, the idea of impressionistically cutting
four Aces from four packets has been used by Frank Thompson,15 Bob
Veeser,16 Al Smith,1 / Ian Baxter18 and more.

Both productions can be done with the deck tabled or with


the deck in the hands. Ill describe the handlings with the deck
in hand. For those of you who want to do it with the deck
tabled, you 'll have enough information here to experiment for
yourselves.

15. According to Max Maven and Harvey Rosenthal, an unpublished effect,


shown around to other magicians in the early 1970s.
16. In his book Faro Controlled /Miracles (1964), Ed Marlo credits Bob Veeser
for the idea within the ‘A Subtlety For The Spectator Cuts The Aces’.
17. See ‘Cross-Over Aces' from The Talon #2 (circa 1980).
18. The Commercial Magic of J.C. Wagner (1987) by Mike Maxwell within the
'J.C. 's Super Closer' routine.

93
Four-Packet Flow
Start with the four Aces on top of the deck. Execute a series
of false shuffles and cuts which retain the Aces on top. Now,
execute a Finessed Frank Thompson Cut (page 47) or a Bounce
Cut (page 51), but at the point where you are about to place the
final packet (original top portion) down onto the tabled cards,
push off a single card and drop that onto the tabled portion
(Photo 1). This happens in the flow and rhythm of the cut.

As soon as the single card has been placed onto the tabled
cards, the left thumb pushes off another card into the right
hand (Photo 2) and then both hands move forward. As the
hands move forward the left thumb pushes the top card over
the side of the deck (Photo 3).

The top card of the portion in the left hand and the single
card in the right hand are now levered over face up (Photo 4),
making sure that the Ace turned over by the left hand is in line
with the tabled packet (Photo 5).

Now the right hand takes the packet from the left hand and
drops it behind the other face-up Ace at the same time that
the left hand grasps the packet behind the other Ace (Photo
6). Both hands now simultaneously cut their packets outward
(Photo 7). Now each hand turns the top card of both packets
face up in line with the other Aces (Photo 8).

You can now collect the packets, one on top of the other,
returning the deck to its original order. If you are not preserving
the entire order of the deck in this sequence, simply contrive a
way to hold a break above the Aces in the middle of the deck
and cut packets to the table, instead of executing the false cut
at the start.

94
1 2

3 4

5 6

7 8
Pure Flow
This is a very impressive and baffling demonstration of mastery
that is so simple it hurts to give it away! The initial inspiration
for the sequence came from watching a croupier friend of mine
toy with a stock control. The impression is that from a genuinely
shuffled deck the four Aces are instantly located in a smooth,
visual, flowing style.

Start with the four Aces on the top of the deck. Give the deck a
series of cuts that keeps the top stock intact and then execute a
couple of shuffles that again keep the four Aces on top (mixing
overhand shuffles, riffle shuffles and cuts is a very powerful
and convincing technique, especially if your attitude is casual).

Finally execute the Bounce Cut or Finessed Frank Thompson


Cut (or simply a swing cut), so that the bottom half is on the
table and the top half is in the left hand. In one smooth, flowing,
deliberate action execute the following moves:

Push the top card off the deck into the right hand by its right
edge (Photo 9). Allow this Ace to fall face up onto the table. By
the time the Ace lands face up, execute a stud deal of the second
Ace to the right of the face-up Ace already on the table (Photos
10, 11 & 12).

Now push the top card off the deck into the right hand and
carry it to the right of the tabled Aces. At the same time the left
thumb pushes the top card of the deck over the side of its half
(Photo 13).

Both hands simultaneously lever over their cards so they fall


face up onto the table (Photo 14). The half remaining in the
hands is now placed onto the rest of the tabled cards.

96
9 10

11 12

13 14

As soon as the last Aces turn face up, continue shuffling and
cutting with the same rhythm and style that you did at the
beginning. By doing this it appears as if the Aces just pop' out
of the shuffling process. There is no break or pause between
the initial shuffling, the production and the final sequence of

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shuffling. The written description of this technique may seem
like anon-deceptive, over-simplified production; however, when
done with the right tempo, fluidity and grace this production is
stunning and impossible to follow. It's one of my favourites.

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Chapter Three Summary
Good , simple design is versatile. With just four Aces on top of the
deck, you can perform a wide variety of routines, productions
and revelations that are efficient at exploiting the same simple
position. The aim of this chapter was to demonstrate how
versatile simple design can be; some pieces are extremely visual
and others more conceptual, some are virtuosic demonstrations
of skill and others are more interactive and subtle.

My favourite effect in this chapter is The Backroom Demo’


(page 75), as it expresses incredible skill through a method
so simple, that even a beginner in magic could execute it.
However, like all magic of this nature, the simplicity of its
method is proportionally counterbalanced by your abilities as a
performer. ‘Clean Cutter 2 is also a favourite of mine because
of its sneakiness in combining simple techniques, deceptive
psychology and an interesting visual display; a display that
serves to reinforce the authenticity of the effect.

Each of the effects in this chapter have different rhythms and


styles that suit different performing contexts, but remember,
they were all executed from the same position and they all rely
on relatively simple technical mechanics.
4.
Classic Simplicity
Stem Cell
Thu routine started as an experiment: I wanted to be able to do several
gambling-style effects that were all magical, interactive and had exactly
the same methodology. You can perform a baffling Monte routine,
Magician vd. Gambler routine or a magical sleight-of-hand sequence
without having to remember different setups; all you do is change
your predentation and you have three different effects! Therefore three
groups of people at different timed could dee exactly the same sequence of
moved and yet they will have different experienced. This is all about the
psychology of framing.19

Firstly, lets deal with the fundamental technical roots of


'Stem Cell', and then I will explain exactly how to generate
the different effects. Begin with four Aces on top of the deck
and execute an In Faro shuffle to position the Aces second,
fourth, sixth and eighth from the top. Overhand shuffle the

19. 'Framing' is a psychological effect dealing with cognitive bias that I am


quite interested in. An advanced, single-card exploration of the framing
effect can be found in my book This is Not a Box, 2016, 'A Choice Illusion',
p.11.

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deck, secretly performing a Lift Shuffle20 as follows: Chop off a
block of cards into your left hand—large enough to contain all
the Aces—and, as your right hand comes back to shuffle more
cards on top, your right fingers steal the first block behind the
rest of the deck.

Shuffle all the remaining cards from above the stolen block into
your left hand so that you are just left holding the stolen block.
Now run a single card from the stolen block onto the cards in
your left hand before finally dropping the block back on top.
This is a deceptive single-sequence shuffle that will be used to
remove the cards between the Aces.

At the exact moment that the final block is dropped back on


top, the left hand squares the cards and performs a push-off
double turnover to show an indifferent card. The double is
turned down and the left hand thumbs the face-down top card
(an Ace) onto the table. As soon as the card has been placed
onto the table, the left middle finger goes under the deck and
the left thumb moves to the middle of the top card. Now by
pressing upward with the left middle finger the deck pops up
into the exact position needed for another shuffle sequence. If
you repeat this sequence four times you will have shown four
random cards, when in fact there will be four Aces on the table.

This is a smooth, flowing sequence with no hesitation or


interruption. It looks absolutely casual and this is exactly the
technical sequence you will repeatedly use for 'Stem Cell’; the
only thing that changes is the way you frame each effect.

20. See Card College, Volume 2, Roberto Giobbi (1996).

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Stem Cell Monte
“Have you ever played Three Card Monte? Well you shouldn’t, you
cant win. Three cards are shown and you normally have to follow the
odd card. ” I normally remove three cards from the bottom of
the deck and just openly demonstrate what I mean and the
spectator will instantly understand or remember what you are
talking about.

Continue, “The major problem with that game is that I know which
card you are trying to follow, co I know which card to switch at which
point. Instead I'm going to show you something different; I'll show you
three cards and you just think of one of them ... but don’t tell me which
one. Then it is far more difficult for me to deceive you ac I don’t know
which card you are following.” This establishes the logic for the
technical sequences that follow. Simply execute the 'Stem Cell’
sequence three times, each time placing a face-down card onto
the table until you have three face-down cards in a row. At this
point, pause for a brief moment and then begin a final shuffle
sequence as you say, “In fact instead of three, why don 't I give you
four co that you have even more choices?”

Once this final card is placed down, place the deck away in the box
or in a pocket, leaving you with four face-down cards in a row on
the table. You will now use a piece of psychological misdirection
to create the impression that you know what they are thinking
while simultaneously reinforcing the notion that four random
cards are on the table. Say, “Even though this seems really fair, there are
several things I know: You won't have thought of the final card; you will have
already made up your mind at that point. You won’t have thought of the first
card because it will have seemed too obvious. Therefore, I can be pretty certain
you are thinking of one of the two middle cards. However, now that I've told
you this, there is nothing to stop you from changing your mind ... but...
you ’ve probably forgotten exactly what the other cards are! Anyway, don’t
cay anything, just try and follow the card you are thinking of. ”

105
Now start to switch the cards around on the table, sometimes
moving fast and then slow. Try to make it appear as if you
are possibly switching the cards or maybe you are trying to
misdirect them. Do not underestimate the power of this moment
so take your time. At some point stop and ask the spectator to
point at their card; once they have indicated the position ask
them to name their card. Now slowly reach forward and turn it
over to reveal an Ace; pause for a beat before turning over the
remaining cards to reveal four Aces!

The best part is that this effect has been created with words,
through framing. You are now about to learn a completely
different routine even though the exact same technical
procedure is observed.

Stem Cell Magician vs. Gambler


While I'm sure you have already guessed what is about to
happen, please read this closely as there is some interesting
psychology at work.

Say, “I want to show you something interesting. I want to dhow you the
difference between skill and magic. Trying to find specific cards while
shuffling is extremely skillful and extremely difficult. Hopefully I'll be
able to find a pair or three of a kind, but it's not easy. ” This is a very
simple way to set up the idea that you will be actively looking for
cards while shuffling. Perform the 'Stem Cell' shuffle sequence
and then the double lift. Name the face card of the double (well
use a Jack in the example presentation), and say, “A Jack. So,
I'll try and find another Jack. ” Turn down the double and drop the
top card onto the table. Now perform another shuffle sequence
and again name the face card of the double (in this example, a
Four), saying, “Ok, a Four. Well, I can still find three of a kind. I just
need the rest to be Fours or Jacks. ”

106
Turn down the double and drop the top card onto the table.
Now perform a third shuffle sequence and name the face card
of the double (in this case a Six), saying, “Hmm, a Six. Well if I
can find a Jack, a Four or a Six, then I will have a pair Which should
I find?” Whichever value the spectator names, turn down the
double and deal the top card next to the other cards. Perform a
final shuffle sequence and name the face card of the double (in
this example, a Nine). “See, I toLd you its difficult! Damn, a Nine.
However, what If I could invisibly change this into a Jack, Four or a
Six? That would be good, right? Which one?”

Deal this final card next to the other three face-down cards and
hover your hand slightly above it (as if attempting to change
it into the named card). Finally, say, “Skill doesn’t always work. I
will need something else!” Slowly turn over the card to reveal an
Ace, pause for a beat and then turn over the other three cards
to reveal all four Aces.

This routine is fun to perform because you have no idea what


cards will actually be named, and often there is a pair that
naturally appears, or some other pattern. This is great to exploit
and means you have to think on your feet while performing.
This increases the sense of realism necessary to contrast the
magical ending. It also pulls the spectator into the effect as they
are seeing that you are trying to find cards and failing; they can
also interact and try to define certain outcomes ... which also
fail!

I also love the fact that we go from confusing, messy cards to


Aces. This feels bigger and more impossible than the standard
approach to this effect. The standard approach is to interlace
Aces and say, Tens; you now show three Tens and the final Ace
is a mistake, and then all the cards change into Aces. I think
this is inferior for two reasons. Firstly it only feels like one
change (Tens become Aces); although it is the same procedure,

107
psychologically it feels like a binary change. However, several
random cards becoming Aces feels bigger than a binary change;
it feels like each card individually changes into an Ace. Secondly,
aesthetically I also like that chaos becomes order, which makes
the ending feel more magical and visually pleasing.

Stem Cell Sleight of Hand


This sequence is the most direct version of 'Stem Cell' and is
very magical. I would normally use it if someone specifically
asked me about sleight of hand.

Begin by saying, “I want to dhow you something very weird. I want


you to remember one of four cards, but dont tell me which one. ” Now
simply execute the 'Stem Cell’ shuffle sequence four times,
each time placing a face-down card onto the table until you end
up with a row of four face-down cards. Say, “Don’t tell me which
one you are thinking of. You might have changed your mind, it doesn't
matter ... just place your hand down onto the one you are thinking of
do that it’d completely covered. ” Once they have done this, subtly
shift your weight, adjust your sleeves or maybe stretch your
hands. All these actions are subtly communicating that you are
preparing to do something special or difficult, however, don't
overdo it.

Using as barebones patter as possible, slowly lay your hands


flat onto two of the cards, and keep them there for a few
seconds before slowly removing them and placing one of your
hands onto the remaining face-down card, as your other hand
hovers above their hand. When your hand is above their hand
you say, “The hardest card is yours. ” Slowly turn over the three
visible cards to reveal three Aces and invite them to turn over
the final card to discover the final Ace. This last sequence is a
very direct, magical change of the Aces; they are apparently
seeing the actual moment that the change happens, which will
create a very vivid memory of a magic moment.

108
Notes
With 'Stem Cell’, I always begin by palming the Aces and
having the deck shuffled. I then retrieve the deck, add the Aces
on top and execute a Faro Shuffle. Its only at this moment
that I decide what to do, depending on that particular audience/
spectator, that particular moment and simply what I feel like
doing.

You can now perform three baffling routines without ever


having to remember different methodological sequences.
Understand the psychology of the presentation and you have
three completely different effects to perform from the exact
same set-up and the exact same technical handling; you are
creating different effects through words rather than moves.
This is efficiency!

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The Resourceful Professional
This demonstration was my attempt to construct a complete
gambling routine which demonstrated advanced culling,
stacking, false dealing, mucking and more from the simplest
position possible. I wanted to create an impressionistic routine
which required very little work and yet was able to compete
with, or potentially surpass, traditional demonstrations of this
nature. I feel confident that this routine delivers on those levels.

Remember that the aim of this demonstration is to create the


greatest impression of skill and control through the simplest
technical means possible. I have given a brief technical
description of each element, however while demonstrating them
you should be casually talking about each concept in exactly
the way one would expect for this type of gambling expose.

110
Method
With the four Aces on top, bring up the subject of gambling,
card cheating, etc., and offer to demonstrate some fascinating
techniques. Each of the following elements is performed as if
that particular element occurred to you to demonstrate in the
moment:

1. Shuffle Location/Culling
Give the deck some shuffles and cuts, keeping the Aces on top.
Deal out three face-down cards, showing that the fourth card
(which is dealt to yourself) is an Ace. Leave the other face­
down cards on the table as you continue.

2. False Dealing
Place the Ace back onto the deck and demonstrate/expose a
number of face-up and face-down second deals. Stop when
you've dealt a known number of cards into a face-down pile
(let's imagine you dealt fifteen cards). I will deal the first five
with the Ace face down, then five with the Ace face up and a
final five with the Ace face down.

3. Stacking
Place the face-up Ace onto the fifteen dealt cards and place
this packet onto the deck and hold a break beneath it. Casually
mention that a useful skill is to be able to send the Ace to a
specific location, and turn the Ace face down and execute a slip
cut to the break, followed by some simple false shuffles and cuts.
Mention that you have placed the Ace at the sixteenth position
from the top; now cleanly deal the cards onto the table, showing
that the Ace is now at the sixteenth position. You can also ask
the spectator to name a number between ten and twenty. Once
they do, casually adjust your break accordingly before executing
the slip cut. Now you can proceed as previously mentioned, but
positioning the card at the position the spectator has named.

111
4 . Card Mucking/Switching
Assemble the cards and cleanly show the Ace on top of the
deck. Now use the technique for the Rub-a-Dub-Dub Vanish21
to simulate putting a card under your hand. Now lift your hand
and apparently shoot the Ace up your sleeve before revolving
your hand to show it empty. Execute a double lift with the
deck to show an indifferent card and deal this card (actually
the Ace) face down onto the table. Now apparently shake the
'sleeved Ace' back into your hand and then rapidly turn the
tabled card face up. This sequence perfectly simulates a card
switch without having to do anything complicated or anything
that can flash.

This sequence is incredibly deceptive and is a fantastic way


to demonstrate card mucking without having to learn any
complicated techniques. If you find yourself performing this
sequence without a sleeve, simply dart your hand below the
table or under your arm (as if depositing the Ace there), come
back out with an empty hand, execute a double lift, go below
the table or back under your arm again (to retrieve the 'Ace')
and now apparently switch it for the indifferent card with a
swift movement of the hand.

5. Shuffle Tracking
Explain that a useful skill is to be able to visually track the
locations of cards while the deck is being shuffled. Use a jog
shuffle to place the Ace about three-quarters of the way down
in the deck. Square the cards and get a break below the jogged
card. Now simply execute a riffle force on yourself and cut to
the break. This should look as if you cleanly cut to the exact
location where the Ace resides after a shuffle.

21. First published in Hugard and Braue's Expert Card Technique, 1940. The
move is said to be a Charlie Miller creation, although Miller is not credited
within the book.

112
6. Four-of-a-Kind Location
Mention that one of the most difficult techniques is to locate
and control four of a kind. Now make sure the Ace is face up on
the deck, slowly place the deck down onto the table and then
turn over the other three Aces—which have been on the table
from the beginning. This ending is extremely elegant and will
come as a complete surprise to any audience.

Notes
If you look at the clarity of the ideas expressed in this routine
and the simplicity of the methodology used to achieve it, I think
you will see something rather pleasing. The only technically
difficult thing to perform is the second deal, however, you do
not need a great second deal as you are literally exposing the
technique for demonstration purposes.

I cannot express how happy I am with the structure of this


routine. To me it is a perfect example of how incredibly
simple means can generate powerful results. If I ever have to
demonstrate a card-cheating sequence, this is often the routine
I perform. It is quick, easy and expresses a wide range of
concepts while being entertaining and surprising.

113
No-Motion Four Aces
I have long suspected that most ungimmicked versions of the
Ace Assembly are in fact subtle testimonies of a magician's
desire to appear clever, creative or skillful amongst his peers.
Therefore, such routines often use more technique than one can
shake a stick at; a constant stream of double buckles, false
counts, displacements, steals, changes, palms, false deals, half
passes, secret transfers, and the occasional 'original' move. In
my opinion, this kaleidoscope of dexterity is born from ego and
naivety; it's a chance for the performer to preen his technical
feathers and to gratify his technical fetishism, rather than
genuinely focus on the experience of the uninformed/objective
observer.

This routine is my attempt to create the ultimate handling with


virtually 'no moves'; one focused on pure effect, psychology
and practicality. Its fundamental roots can be found in 'Slow-
Motion Four Aces' by Dai Vernon and the 'Exclusive Coterie'
by S. W. Erdnase, but it has evolved drastically and is now
virtually unrecognizable from its predecessors.

114
Effect
Four Aces are cut from a shuffled deck, three cards are placed
onto each Ace (to casually represent four hands of Poker) and
the Aces now invisibly travel to one packet.

Method
Begin by cutting four Aces from the deck and laying them out
in a face-up row across the table. This is an important phase
as it serves a very useful psychological function: It creates the
visual impression of the four Aces lying in a row on the table,
which considering the effect about to follow is an important
initial impression for the audience to have.

At an opportune moment after producing the four Aces, get


a break under the top three cards of the deck. Once the four
Aces have been on the table long enough to create a lasting
impression of them being there, allow both hands to work
together in collecting them up; the left hand acts as a stopper as

115
the right hand collects them up into an untidy face-up group.
The Aces are now turned face down onto the cards above the
break and the entire packet is lifted from the deck. As you do
this, move the packet forward a few inches, separating the
packet visually from the deck, while the left forefinger pushes
the deck deeper into the hand. This allows the Ace packet to
appear distinct and isolated (Photo 1). This sequence should be
executed smoothly and without the slightest hesitation.

You are now about to execute a sequence which I use in place


of the Braue Addition (as I have always felt that the Braue
Addition looks like a rather suspicious sequence of moves).
I much prefer the following sequence because it feels more
casual and incidental. It has taken me many years to develop
a sequence which is not only visually deceptive, but also
psychologically disarming and natural. This was my attempt to
create a sequence that looks like nothing; a casual, simple non­
moment. I call this technique the Unconsidered Switch:

Use the left thumb to draw off three cards by the inner left
corners (Photo 2), and replace them squarely on the bottom of
the packet before drawing off a final card and replacing this on
the bottom as you say, “It doesn ’t matter what order the Aces are in
. . . ” Drawing the cards off at their lower left corner keeps the
packet and the deck very obviously separated. Now turn the
packet face up (end for end) as you say, .. but I want them to
be mixed. "As you say this, draw off three face-up Aces with the
left thumb and replace them back onto the face of the packet.
Now draw off the top Ace with the left thumb and place it
on the bottom of the packet (leaving it casually misaligned).
Hold the packet against deck with the left thumb (Photo 3) as
the right fingers re-grip the packet by its sides and the hands
separate (Photo 4).

116
2

3
4

Casually turn the Ace packet face down onto the deck and
immediately thumb off the top four cards (with one hand) into
a row on the table as you say “This way in a moment you'll make
a genuinely random choice. ” As an apparent afterthought, switch
the Aces around on the table, ensuring that the only tabled Ace
ends up in the third position from the left.

Position check: The spectator believes that the Aces are on the
table; however, there are now three indifferent cards on the
table and an Ace in the third position from the left. The other
three Aces are on top of the deck in the left hand.

It is very difficult to convey in print the timing and flow of


this sequence. All I can say is that there is really no pausing
between your words and actions, and your actions merely seem
to be unconscious and unconsidered rather than deliberate or
rehearsed sequences. The nature of this sequence allows for

118
cards to move in a rough, natural but controlled way. There is
no tumbling, falling or revolving of the Aces during the switch.
They just seem to be openly displayed or casually moved on a
flat plane. There are, of course, more technically demanding
ways to switch out three Aces, but in my experience these
approaches often just introduce more psychological suspicion
and practical limitation. I cannot stress enough that if the
attitude and performance of this moment are correct, this
moment not only looks natural, a spectator will forget you even
lifted the cards off the table or touched them at all.

To continue, count off twelve cards (without reversing their


order) into the right hand and set the rest of the deck aside.
Turn the twelve cards you have just counted face up and push
off three cards into the right hand as you say, "It doesen't matter
what these cards are as we are not playing a real game of Poker." Now
place these three cards at the back of the packet as both hands
move to straighten up the apparent Aces on the table.

119
Casually spread off another five face-up cards (showing more
indifferent cards) before closing the spread and turning the
entire packet face down. This sequence casually displays a
packet of indifferent cards while hiding the Aces.

Push off the top three cards and square them at the fingertips
and place them behind and overlapping the card on the far
right. Now push off another three cards, square them at the
fingertips and place them behind the next card (which is a
genuine Ace). Repeat this for the remaining two packets (Photo
5). This position is very important as it serves as another visual
reminder that the Aces are on the bottom of each packet while
establishing that all packets are equal.

Now with your forefinger, very slowly push the top portion of
each packet flush with each of the protruding cards (Photo 6)
as you say, “I don't want you to think I’m moving or touching any of
the Aces. ” Once this procedure is complete there will now be
four packets in a row on the table. The third packet from the
left consists of all four Aces.

Now say, “Choose any packet for yourself It doesn’t matter which
one ad they are all the same. ” This is an important moment as it
does a few things. Firstly it reinforces the idea that the packets
are the same. Secondly it introduces a genuine free choice that
psychologically makes this moment feel free from deception.
Finally it sets up the climax of the effect, which because of their
genuine free choice will retrospectively deepen the mystery
and create the opportunity for a miracle. Hopefully they will
choose the third packet from the left for themselves, but if not,
it doesn't matter. After they have made their choice simply slide
the Ace packet toward yourself. Whatever happens, either the
spectator will have the Ace packet or you will. The other two
packets will be positioned on the left- and right-hand sides
(Photo 7).

120
6

7
(To 'help' the spectator select the third packet, I often touch the
second packet from the left again as an unconscious adjustment
after I have mixed the cards. This seems to push the spectator
to pick the target packet more often.)

Now you say “I am going to show you do me thing amazing! I’ll cause
aLL of the Aces to vanish from their packets and to appear in my/your
packet. ” (Substitute my/your depending on the location of the
Ace packet.) You will now execute a simple display sequence
designed to create a very magical effect. You will always start
with the packet on your right, then the packet on your left,
before ending with either the packet in front of yourself or the
spectator.

Pick up the packet on your right, spread it and separate the


cards so that each hand holds two cards. Lever the bottom card
of the right-hand packet face up onto the table, and then lever
the top card of the left-hand packet face up onto the table. Next,
flip the remaining card in the right hand face up onto the table,
and at this exact moment, perform a Through-the-Fist Flourish
with the remaining card, dropping it face down onto the rest of
the face-up cards. As this happens your left hand remains in
a closed position (as if holding something) and hovers above
the target packet as your right hand hovers above the tabled
face-down card. Both hands make a subtle movement (as if a
sleight-of-hand technique has been performed at that moment)
and now both hands lift up and are seen to be empty. At this
moment you say, “The firdt Ace has vanished. ”

What is interesting about this moment is that the spectator does


not think that the Ace has vanished; it seems to have simply
been turned face down! This sequence causes the spectator
to doubt your claim and to assume that the Ace is still in that

122
Now pick up the packet on the left and perform the same
sequence of moves, with one minor exception: After you have
performed the Through-the-Fist Flourish and dropped the
face-down card onto the face-up packet, mime a palm-to-palm
transfer (as if there is now something hidden in the right hand).
Now place the right hand over the target packet and the left
hand above the tabled face-down card as you once again appear
to execute a secret move to account for the moment of magic.

Finally, pick up the remaining packet and perform the same


sequence of moves (including the Through-the-Fist Flourish),
but this time instead of immediately dropping the face-down
card onto the tabled face-up cards, give it a quick spin/twirl
flourish as your left hand hovers above the target packet.

There are now three piles of face-up cards (with a face-down


card on top of each) and the target packet remains untouched
(Photo 8). Pause for a beat before turning over the face-down

123
cards one by one and then pushing all of the face-up cards
together into one messy pile (this creates a subtle potential
moment for the spectator to suspect that the Aces are hiding
in the mess of face-up cards). Now turn your attention to the
remaining face-down packet and slowly turn each card face up
one at a time, revealing that the Aces have all jumped to the
target packet.

Notes
This routine is a barrage of subtle psychological ploys designed
to create the illusion of Aces assembling into one packet (in
a quasi-one-at-a-time, slow-motion structure). It has taken
me many years to strip away all the superfluous technique
normally associated with this plot. This routine can look like
pure magic or expert sleight of hand, depending on what the
observer wants to see and what the performer wants to portray.

No bold misdirection is needed, there are no bad angles, nothing


can flash and the effect is incredibly clear. If you can hold a
break and perform some simple movements, you can perform
this routine. In fact, the hardest aspect of this routine is to
genuinely appreciate how such simple ideas have the power to
communicate so much powerful magic. With that in mind, here
is a reminder of the deceptive elements within this effect. I hope
you see cumulative power for creating a compelling illusion:

• The Ace-cutting sequence at the beginning is there solely to


create a visual/psychological impression of the Aces on the
table. This idea is incredibly important to the effect so do
not skip over this.
• The initial switch-out of the Aces is natural and casual; it is
performed with a nonchalant attitude and the movement of
the Aces is uncomplicated.
• The apparent Aces are moved around on the table, subtly
proving that any packet could have been chosen and the
same result would have occurred.

124
• The extra cards are placed on each apparent Ace in a way
which draws more attention to the existence of the Aces.
• The packets all remain in a row, making all the packets
psychologically equivalent from the beginning (removing
the traditional T-formation).
• The final phase appears to contain 'moves' which suggest
that something is happening.
• During the final phase, there are face-down cards remaining
in each packet. A spectator is curious to see the face-down
card and will intuitively question your assertion of the
apparent vanish (thereby creating the existence of the Ace
in their own minds).
• The final messy amalgamation of the face-up packets
provides a subtle suggestion that the Aces may be hiding
there.

It is important that the initial Ace productions and vanishes at


the end of the routine are executed with grace and finesse. In
contrast, the middle section is deliberately simple and clear. In
fact, it is so procedural that it is void of any observable beauty.
This is a very subtle but important psychological technique as
it reinforces the notion that things happen only in the moments
when this sense of grace or finesse is apparent. This very subtle
idea is very deceptive and can be useful in many routines.

A final important point to consider is that a spectator doesn't


register the full effect up until the final moment. Normally with
a one-at-a-time assembly, the audience registers the pattern
of the effect and leaps ahead (therefore there is no surprise).
This effect maintains the potential for surprise up until the final
moment (by keeping the audience sceptical) while creating the
impression of a one-at-a-time, slow-motion assembly.

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Chapter Four Summary
The effects in this chapter are about tackling classic magic
effects with simplicity —Three Card Monte, Gambler vs.
Magician, Ace Assembly and a gambling expose. However, we
have tackled these effects from the simplest position possible
while still using the Aces as a structural framework.

This chapter has demonstrated that we can change an effect


with just words, without needing to change method. We can
create an effect using multiple layers of psychology instead of
multiple physical techniques, and we can stack layers of simple
physical techniques to achieve an incredible overall effect that
seems much larger than the sum of its parts.

All of the technical demands within these routines are relatively


simple, but the philosophy and psychology behind the design of
each is sophisticated and fundamental to their deceptiveness. I
hope that these routines have inspired a few of you to consider
how the combination of simple design and psychology might
help impact your work.

We now move to the final goal: evolving a trick into something


real through nothing but objectivity, psychology and simplicity.
We will make the production of four Aces from a shuffled deck
look like a true, genuine skill.
5.
Real Ace Cutting
"Beauty of style and harmony and grace and
good rhythm depend on simplicity."
— Plato

Real Ace Cutting: exploring realism,


rhythm and nuance
'Real Ace Cutting'22 is an internally motivated method of
organic card manipulation designed to make your technique and
performances more believable, nuanced and entertaining. The
word 'real' is rather conveniently an anagram of my surname
but also fundamentally serves as the perfect way to think about
the attitude of this material. 'Real Ace Cutting' allows you to
reliably and authentically cut/locate/produce any four of a kind
from any deck of cards, in any environment.

If you were really able to produce Aces from a borrowed,


shuffled deck, what would it really look like? What would the
presentation be? How difficult would it be? How practical
would it be? I have genuine methods for producing four of a
kind from a borrowed, shuffled deck, so I know how it feels
and how technically demanding it is. I spent many years
working on this while dealing Blackjack, playing Poker and

22. I first presented these ideas at The Session 2009 convention in Gloucester,
England.

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performing magic. I invested a lot of time in many sophisticated
methods, both magic and genuine cheating methods, for culling
desirable cards from a shuffled deck. However, in my opinion
'Real Ace Cutting' is a far superior approach to anything else I
have experimented with; it is within the reach of any intelligent
performer, and unlike other approaches, it truly allows you
to concentrate on and connect with the performance itself
(without sacrificing any realism or reliability). For this reason
I consider it to be a superior approach.

Finding four Aces isn't good enough; it must be believable


and entertaining. Not limited by style or procedure, this is
a flexible approach with very few rules; it cannot be rivaled
for deceptiveness or realism and will fool the most educated
observer. I don't want to define this method as a divergence
from other methods but rather define it on its own terms. This
method is simultaneously all methods and no methods. It is not
separate from other routines or just another routine. It is much
more about the performer, his mindset and his awareness than
just a technical procedure.

Having the deck genuinely shuffled by a spectator is the most


important and potent factor in convincing your audience that all
is fair and aboveboard. This act alone is enough to immediately
send an audience to sleep and to give you the necessary
psychological cover to use one or all of the following ruses:

1. Cull the Aces to the top before the effect begins and false
shuffle.
2. Cull the Aces while apparently looking through the cards to
memorise them or to remove a Joker.
3. Cull the Aces to the top during a previous trick.
4. Add previously palmed Aces onto the deck after the
spectator has shuffled.

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In all the years I've been performing magic I have always found
an opportunity to use one of the above ruses. I have learned
and created many methods for culling cards, but ultimately
none of them are remotely as good as the four ruses above. For
this reason it is important to understand that by simply being
relaxed and nonchalant as you use one of the above ruses,
you render the control of the Aces completely invisible in all
performing situations. There are, of course, subtle touches with
all of the above ruses to make them more deceptive, but I don't
have time to go into the endless possible variations considering
the many contexts in which they may be used.

Once you have the deck back in your possession with the Aces
under control, you must give the deck two or three shuffles that
do not lose track of the Aces. This shuffling must be very casual,
unconsidered and executed without much apparent conscious
awareness of the action (see The Real Optical Shuffle, page 41
and The Any Card Game Control, page 36). It is the attitude
and body language of the performer that deeply convince an
audience that the deck has been genuinely shuffled. It can take
many hours of study and practice to false shuffle cards, not
only with visual deceptiveness but with the correct attitude to
allay any hint of suspicion. Attitude is do crucial, yet most card
experts don't truly commit to maximising the potential of it.
Give 'attitude' some serious thought as it's probably the most
psychologically pivotal part of your performance.

The finished card expert considers nothing too trivial that


in any way contributes to his success, whether avoiding
or allaying suspicion, or in the particular manner of
carrying out each detail; or in leading up to, or executing,
each artifice. Therefore the writer has expended much
time and care in illustrating many manoeuvres that at
first may seem unimportant, but all of which are essential
to the curriculum of artistic card handling.
— S. W. Erdnase, The Expert at the Card Table

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Only with an audience completely convinced that the deck
is legitimately shuffled can you begin. Pick up the deck and
riffle it in front of your eyes, and set the deck down again. With
the deck now isolated, subtly express the following or similar
sentiments through verbiage and body language:

• What you are about to see is very difficult.


• This may not work.
• This is something that you shouldn’t see as it is a secret skill.
• This idea is very valuable.
• This is not a trick.
• This is amazing.
• I am nervous/excited.

Subtly expressing the above ideas (without launching into a


contrived monologue) is a question of skilled showmanship; it is
often what is unsaid, withheld or suggested that an audience will
pick up on and where the fundamental power of a performance
resonates. Some performers will immediately understand this;
for others, this notion will seem illusive. With this in mind, a
basic description of what follows would be to produce the Aces
in any way you wish while concentrating on showmanship.
Although essentially true, it is much more sophisticated and
nuanced than that.

Every single action, reaction, technique, revelation, facial


expression, thought and feeling must be improvised or
discovered in the moment. However, I try to keep my words
to a minimum, or to not speak at all. This process is repeated
for each Ace, resulting in four independently created moments.
One must take on the role of someone who is doing this for real
(from a genuinely shuffled deck) so that in your mind it is real.
Forget that they are all together on the top. False shuffle the
deck and use the Sting Cut (page 29) to maintain control as you
think about how to find one Ace from the apparent randomness.
There are no rules as long as each revelation is committed to

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in the moment. The revelations do not even have to be that
methodologically, technically or stylistically distinct; the crucial
matter is the commitment to each individual revelation and the
blind dedication to the location of that card. Each time the
process may start again. This is not a mechanical sequence but
a collection of independent, although related, organic moments.

Remember, I am not suggesting that its preferable for the


revelations to be stylistically distinct—they could all be exactly
the same or in keeping with a particular gestalt — but they must be
individually conceived of and committed to, not a pre-rehearsed
or familiar sequence. The fact that the techniques, timing,
pacing, revelations and style are conceived of in the moment
dispels the notion of pre-rehearsal and therefore emphasizes
realism. Through this process you'll discover a freedom to
pause, connect and communicate with an audience in ways that
were previously invisible to you. You are specifically focusing
on a different way to perform, concentrating on the rhythm of
the performance and becoming sensitive to how you need to
create and release tension. You have an alternative paradigm,
not just finding Aces—that's the easy bit.

Having a rehearsed routine that you think is theatrically better


than others is the complete antithesis of 'Real Ace Cutting'.
Every single production is the product of a decision that you
make in that moment; you may also decide to false shuffle, false
cut, stock shuffle or use a flourish at any moment (this not
only has the potential to add deceptiveness but it also changes
the dynamic range of the performance and may also give you
time to think about your next move). The deck may be on the
table, in the hands or both. The style and technique of each
revelation can change; you may cut directly to one, change one,
deal to one or leave one face down — ready to turn it over when
the moment is right—the possibilities are, of course, endless.
The important point to remember is that these decisions are
being genuinely made in the moment, without fear of failure,

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and in complete response to the particular audience watching.
How you choose to let this inform your work is up to you, but
make sure you truly commit to this process while avoiding self-
indulgence or safety.

It is important to believe in the process. Imagine that you are


calculating positions, remembering cards, estimating, glimpsing
and using secret techniques that even you perhaps don't fully
understand. Once in this place, instead of thinking about how
to produce the top/bottom cards, think about which moves,
sleights or techniques may autonomously find an Ace. Even
though this is impossible, execute the technique (which just
happens to find one). Forget that the card is coming from the
top/bottom and just imagine that you are locating them from
random locations. This way of thinking will help keep your
body language congruent with the skillset you are apparently
using. At first this is much harder than you would imagine, but
with practice it can become as easy as breathing.

What you are trying to achieve is a living performance, so let


it live as much as possible. As soon as your performance lives
in this way it will start to develop a seductive and charismatic
quality that is almost impossible to create with any other
method. The more you know about card controls and card
revelations, the more willing you are to become sensitive to an
audience, the more you can trust yourself, the better you will
become at performing with this level of extreme simplicity.

One can apply any presentation one wants, convey any concept
and transmit any style with authenticity and power. It is my
method of choice because it has no predetermined form and
can therefore perfectly adapt itself to the moment. However,
this method isn't just about having freedom of choice, neither
is it simply an encouragement to 'jazz'. This method is about
realism, rhythm and nuance; having the opportunity to discover

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a different relationship with the audience and yourself as a
performer.

Technical Notes
Once you have the four Aces on top or bottom, hand the deck
to the spectator to shuffle (normally not thorough enough
to widely separate them). Take back the deck and give it a
pressure fan with the faces toward yourself; calculate where
all the Aces are and improvise a way to produce them. This
concept of injecting a little chaos or creating imperfection
within a system is one that I find fascinating, interesting and
ultimately stimulating in the context of performance.

Sometimes I will actually lose the Aces on purpose during a


shuffle so that I will have to improvise a way to find them. For
example, if the four Aces are on top and you have produced
two of them, perhaps execute a smooth riffle shuffle, placing
a few cards in between and on top of the Aces. Because you
know roughly where they are, you can improvise glimpses and
shuffle off any excess cards with relative ease.

Intentionally glimpsing an indifferent card and naming it before


locating it23 can be a very powerful or amusing technique to
inject. There are also many subtle techniques I can employ to
increase the belief that skillful memory techniques are being
used. Here are a couple of them:

1. Shuffle four cards onto the top Ace. Cut the deck, making
sure you hold a break. Cut the deck at the break and flash
the card above the break. Now say, “Ok ... the [name card]
...I think there's an Ace five cards away. ” Slowly flip over five
cards and reveal the Ace.

23. This ploy has been used previously by Daniel Rhod in an Ace-cutting
effect.

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2. With the Aces on top, glimpse the bottom card and cut
the deck about halfway (maintain break). Say, “I think an
Ace is at the 26th position. I’ll try and cut straight to it. ” Allow
the glimpsed card to riffle off the thumb as you cut the
deck and flash the bottom card of the top portion. Name
this card and say, “I’m two off. ... This is the 21th card ... the
25th card is the [name glimpsed card] and the 26th is the Ace. ”
Suiting actions to words, turn over the glimpsed card and
then the Ace.

By memorising the order of the four Aces (when culling or while


apparently memorising the entire deck) you can have someone
name an Ace before you cut to it. You will have to work out in
the moment how to reveal that Ace, without losing control of
the others. This is incredibly deceptive and will force you to
think on your feet. In my opinion, this approach to cutting any
named Ace is virtually perfect.

Skillful stock or slug controls can be developed to such an


extent that they can become an art in their own right. I have
baffled many magicians over the years with nothing more than
the exploitation of a stock control. Pay close attention to the
subtle technical and psychological factors that can make this
form of control truly convincing and you'll have a very powerful
weapon in your arsenal.

Performance Notes
Firstly, imagine that you are able to do this for real, and if this
was the case how did you come across this secret ability or
skill? Are there any other applications of this skill? Why did
you develop this skill? Why are you demonstrating it? Have
you met any other people who can do it? What is the history
behind this idea? I would suggest that you allow answers to
the above questions to create the foundation of a silent script,
which can subtly inform your demonstration rather than

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creating an uninformed, rehearsed monologue that cultivates
rigidity (ultimately destroying the potential for realism and a
genuine dialogue with your audience).

Your body language and attitude are incredibly important in


communicating a message. Therefore tension or suspense can be
created in many ways: using silence and concentration instead
of a verbal presentation, slowly turning a card to check if it is
correct before putting it back and producing it in a different
way, or maybe purposefully finding an incorrect card before
putting it back and continuing. These are simple examples of
ways to contrive a sense of tension and uncertainty, but they
work surprisingly well. Being hesitant, indecisive, conflicted or
cautious at any particular moment will also increase the realism
of your performance, so contrive a method to feel this way
without sacrificing an audience's confidence in your abilities or
the theatrical impact of your actions.

Often before beginning the effect I will remove my watch and


ring; not in an overly dramatic, cheesy fashion, but with just the
right amount of subtlety for the audience to notice. This helps
suggest that what you are about to perform is difficult and you
need to get ready for it. Other things such as taking a deep
breath, stretching your fingers or rubbing your hands together
can all help dramatically as long as they are used with care and
control. You must actually feet the need to use these strategies
in the moment rather than pre-rehearse or act.

I have many techniques and variations of those techniques at


my disposal when making a decision in the moment. However,
I regularly use about twenty different productions and twenty
different shuffle/cut controls. To each of these particular
techniques I have attached a memory/experience that I feel is
important or interesting. Sometimes these anchors are stories or
experiences to do with magic history or my own development

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with that particular technique. Sometimes these anchors will
be fictitious creations based on imaginary scenarios that are
congruent with the theme of cardsharp skill. Therefore, I am
making genuine decisions in the moment and experiencing an
authentic stream of interesting cognitive/emotional information.
My ability to manifest a believable character and interesting
performance is therefore greatly increased. That said, I make no
attempt to bias any particular set of techniques. I try to remain
as free as possible in the moment and try to allow all techniques
the opportunity of being used—a kind of move democracy!

It is possible to perform by transforming your mental process


into something physical; a form of 'physical thinking.' For
example, you may decide to perform the entire sequence with
the idea of smooth, fluid movements in mind; a continuous
sequence of flowing, unconscious movements and revelations
that blend with grace and without interruption, like water.
Alternatively you may want something that is mechanical,
hard-edged and deliberate, like a machine. If you improvise
in this way you can create 'style’ in the moment, which is
a fascinating idea to me. Remember, this shouldn’t be pre­
rehearsed but merely informed by a state of mind in the
moment. This is a simultaneous state of thinking, feeling
and action, which is hard to explain. It has what I can only
describe as a Zen-like feel to it. I have always referred to this
concept as 'physical thinking.’

After you have performed 'Real Ace Cutting’ spectators will ask
you many questions about the effect, your skills and you as a
person/magician/cardsharp. This is when the 'Real Ace Cutting’
method really helps you; you can freely talk about improvisation,
skill, uncertainty and risk, without lying! You can be honest—
an honesty which creates a very sneaky dual reality. What you
say and do in these moments is very often just as important as
the performance itself for creating lasting impressions.

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Chapter Five Summary
By understanding how to allay suspicion before the effect
begins, how to communicate fairness during a stock/slug
control and how to perform the effect in a way that seems real
is a simple but sophisticated approach. The starting point for
this book was Henry Christs ‘Fabulous Ace Routine’, and as
you can see, that routine has been challenged and developed
beyond all recognition until logic and objectivity have produced
a variety of intriguing possibilities.

The attitude toward improvisation in Real Ace Cutting’ is not


entirely free from restriction, as it exists within the boundaries
of an Ace-cutting effect. However, this method isn't limited
to Ace cutting. It can inform many aspects of magic such as
an Ambitious Card routine, multiple revelation routine and
entirely improvised effects (which may have single or multiple
phases). It is also important to remember that if improvisation
is ever discussed in magic literature it is normally done so
with the focus solely on creating a spontaneous method or
spontaneous effect. Although I am not ignoring this notion, the
improvisation method suggested in ‘Real Ace Cutting' has its
focus trained on the performer and performance; it is performer-
focused improvisation and not trick-focused improvisation
(even though a ‘trick’ is improvised).
Practice with ‘Real Ace Cutting' is crucial. It may be
methodologically simple, but to fully master this way of
performing is very, very difficult. You must nurture your
abilities to think in the moment and to create an open dialogue
between your hands, thoughts, technique and performing skills.
Once you are confident that you can live in the moment with
the effect and are not restricted by structure, you are liberated
to discover a new freedom within your performance. The
hardest aspect of this approach is simply having the confidence
to step away from a classical rigid structure and to discover a
new dialogue between yourself and your audience.

This approach encourages the performer to invest in the


performance itself, not simply to create a methodological
conclusion to a trick. ‘Real Ace Cutting' is about the moment,
nuance, realism and liberation from ‘fixed systems'. By using
this method you can do whatever you want, you can perform
something unique, something special ... something real.

I remember seeing an interview with the artist Francis Bacon


in which he was asked if he ever used preliminary sketches in
his work. He said, “Yes, I do. But after that chance and accident take
over, as consciously I don’t know what I’m doing. At that moment I'm
thinking of nothing but how hopeless and impossible this thing is to
achieve. Suddenly there cames dome thing which your instinct seizes on as
being for a moment the thing by which it could begin to develop. " This is
very similar to how I feel when performing ‘Real Ace Cutting'
and that is why I love performing it.
In Closing
With the four Aces on top of the deck, you are now able to
simulate the original Christ routine, and to perform eye­
popping visual magic and many amazing gambling effects. You
also have the ability to perform devastating sleight of hand, to
improvise and to go beyond the capability of a 'fixed system'
move or trick. By widening your perspective on the relationship
between effect and method, you can hopefully see the potential
that simplicity offers. The final routine, 'Real Ace Cutting',
brings all the ideas in this book together and demonstrates
how methodologically and psychologically sophisticated a
simple design can become. 'Real Ace Cutting' is undoubtedly
one of my favourite effects, not only because it's deceptive and
entertaining for an audience, but because it's physically and
psychologically an enjoyable experience to perform.

In my opinion, simplicity is the ideal; the most valuable concept


that can inform magic. It is about presenting a strong, clear
message that is free from disruption or dilution. I spent many
years learning some of the most complicated magic techniques

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and effects only to discover that when used correctly simple
techniques and effects are almost always superior. Simplicity
allows you to concentrate on performing; it allows you to pay
attention to what matters. The material in this book is not just
'simple' to compensate for a lack of ability or to indulge laziness,
it is an argument for the most elegant way of maximising your
connection with an audience. Simplicity is not a compromise, it
is the goal. The compromise is complexity.

Less is More has concentrated on Ace effects, however, the idea


of simple design goes far beyond the material in this book and
can serve as an analogue to all magic effects. Confrontation is
the only thing which brings life to thought, thus I hope this book
has made you confront aspects of your magic in new ways. If
so, I hope the process has been an enjoyable one.

World chess champion Emanuel Lasker said, "When you see a


good move, look for a better one. " If brevity is the soul of wit,
perhaps simplicity is the soul of magic.

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