Monday, March 31, 2014

More on the Lucky Face Scam

Nearly ten years ago I wrote about the Lucky Face scam performed by Indian fortune tellers. You can check out the original blog post here.

I wondered how long it had been going on and the answer seems to be decades. At least back to the 1930s. This information comes from an article written by magician Eddie Joseph. It appears in The Linking Ring magazine for January 1932 (Vol 11, No 11). The article is entitled The Miracle Workers of India and part of it deals with the routine used by fortune tellers. It's the Lucky Face scam. Here is Eddie Joseph's account of the scam:


"Try your luck Sir. Very good Fortune Teller. I see by your face that you are a very lucky man. Two girls like you but you like only one. I can tell you everything". With these words the Fortune Teller will follow one on the main roads of the larger Cities. His stock in trade consists of three or four books, a board, two sets of dies, his business card and a bundle of credentials. His business cards bear the words "TRY YOUR LUCK" and then follows his name.

He will produce his credentials one by one to support his claim regarding his capabilities. He is a great student of Human Psychology. He moves about his business very slowly which tends to add impressiveness to the whole proceeding. He begins by handing the two sets of dies to his client. Each set comprises of four ordinary dies joined together with a pin pushed through the center. He now invites his client to roll the dies over the board. This done the Fortune Teller gets hold of his pencil and one of the books and starts what appears to be some calculation which only he can understand. When he concludes his calculation he exclaims "that very good!" That's all he says and his client now is made eager to learn what is in store for him but the wily one is too clever for him.

"Will the saheb please place some money on the board—anything you like" he continues and on the sight of the silver disc he asks the party to think quickly of a flower. "It must be a rose" says Mr. 'Know All' when his victim acknowledges it. I must admit that when this interlude was perpetrated on me for the first time I was surprised how he knew the name of the flower I had in mind but subsequently it was explained by another F. T. how this is done. When a person is asked to think of the first flower that enters his mind there is nine chances out of ten that he will think of a rose. When one is askedto think of a flower the F. T. is busy turning over the leaves of one of his books. He stops at a certain page and then remarks casually "to me it appears that you are thinking of arose".

It is only natural that most of my good readers will be laughing now within themselves and if I should have been within hearing distance I would hear the argument "What if the person thought of a lily or any other flower." WELL! WELL! WELL! there is a very small chance of this happening and when it does occur the F. T. is prepared to meet it. He will simply say something like this "Oh it was a Lily? I should have thought of that. I see that your good and bad stars are in conflict with one another and he will then turn over a few more pages of the book as if to impress on the party that his fate may be determined on another page.

In order to afford my kind reader an opportunity to satisfy himself as to the feasibility of this small mental test I request you kindly to break your reading here for a little while and try it on any person who happens to be near you. Just ask the person to concentrate on the first flower that enters her mind and there is nine chances out of ten she will think of a Rose. If however the person thinks of any other flower you can pass it off by saying that the concentration was not sufficiently strong in order to transmit a mental image to you.

The F. T. now proceeds to ask the over-anxious person if he has any relative in a foreign land. Whether the reply is in the affirmative or the negative he is told "Yes I know there is a distant relative whom you have not seen. This man has built up a great fortune the major portion of which will be inherited by you. You shall see with your own eyes the wealth that will come your way. If you will only give me a little more money I will show you. What is a few annas compared to what you will be worth in a short time?"

The fortune teller (F.T.) goes on to perform another intriguing trick, one in which writing appears on Eddie Joseph's palms. And then continues with the Lucky Face scam which Eddie Joseph continues to describe:

But the F. T. does not stop here. Having succeeded in startling his customer to a certain extent he has yet another surprise to spring. "Now what is the greatest ambition of your heart—write it down. Don't tell me" and when this is done the paper is rolled into a pellet and burnt down to ashes. From the ashes the original pellet is later reproduced and a prediction is found written thereon underneath the question.

Here too the Fortune Teller had to depend on the Conjurer's guile to attain his objective. You will of course understand that it was a dummy that was destroyed. Now it only remains for me to explain the appearance of the mysterious additional writing. This was done behind his bundle of books after he had gained possession of the pellet. The question of suspicion cannot arise here as in all appearances he is supposed to be noting on his pad the replies to his questions such as "What is your name?" "When were you born?" and so on.

The foregoing explanations do not by any means exhaust the fund of artifices that are at the disposal of the Mystery Mongers of this country. I have only cited those that are generally employed and hope that it was found to be of some interest by my readers. THANKS.

Eddie Joseph was born and raised in India, later moving to the UK. He repeated the description of the Lucky Face scam in his book Magic and Mysteries of India (Abbott's, 1941) along with many other Indian conjuring and psychic tricks that he was acquainted with.

Quite astonishing that this psychic con trick goes back so far in history and yet still continues today with the same patter, psychology and technique. It must be very profitable indeed.

Someone did catch the opening line on camera as he was accosted by a fortune teller in London. You can see it on YouTube here.

Friday, March 28, 2014

The Trick That Fooled Einstein

The Trick That Fooled Einstein is associated with magician and mentalist Al Koran.  He marketed it as Jackpot Coins. The basic effect is that the performer and spectator grab a handful of coins from a bowl of cash on the table. The magician then makes three statements about the number of coins they hold:

I will take the same number of coins as you

I will take 6 more than you

And I will have enough left over to make yours 15

Both parties count their coins and the magician’s statements are proved true. The trick can be repeated. The trick was originally performed with cards but Al Koran adapted it to use with coins and there have been lots of variations of it over the years. But to many it remains The Trick That Fooled Einstein because that’s the name given to it in Al Koran’s Lecture Notes (1972).  It was here that Koran said:

“While playing at the Savoy, I finished my act, and the manager said someone asked me to join them at their table. It was Albert Einstein, the mathematical genius. He leaned over to me, very personally, and asked: “Where in the world did you get those extra coins…did they come from your sleeve?”

I said, “No, it’s simple, a child can do it.” I did it at his table and fooled him again. I then told him “It’s not the numbers – it’s the words that fooled you.”

In 2005 Richard Wiseman emailed to ask if I knew where and when this trick was performed for Albert Einstein. It was the one hundredth anniversary of the year Einstein wrote three of his most notable papers on physics and seemed a good time to examine the story behind the trick that fooled such a brilliant man.

Richard had contacted the Albert Einstein Archives in Jerusalem but they could find no note of Einstein meeting Koran or being baffled by his trick. While Koran loved to bill himself as The Man Who Fooled Einstein perhaps Einstein wasn’t quite so keen to be known as The Man Who Was Fooled by Al Koran.

I thought that such a memorable occasion might be mentioned in Koran’s best-selling self-help book Bring Out The Magic In Your Mind (1964) and sure enough it is, on page 169. There is an extract from The Bulletin, presumably some kind of PR release, on which Koran makes a comment:

'…But if you’ve seen Al work on TV or the stage and been completely puzzled, don’t worry too much. No less a person than the late Professor Einstein failed to find out how it’s done.’

The professor was fascinated by a demonstration I gave him in London.

When Richard Wiseman checked out Einstein’s travels to England he discovered that he only visited twice: in 1931 and 1933. Both were trips to Oxford although it’s possible he passed through London. But Al Koran would have been nineteen years old and plain Edward Doe at that time, more likely to be cutting hair (he was a barber at the Ritz Hotel) than performing at The Savoy. The meeting with Einstein wasn’t Koran’s only extraordinary encounter with celebrity. In one publicity sheet from the 1970s he is described as being the son of the medium Helen Duncan.

I don’t know how long Koran had been performing Jackpot Coins but magicians saw it at the Annual Festival of Magic in 1956 (Magic Circular, Nov 1956).  That’s a year after Einstein died. The trick was later sold to magicians and first advertised in the March 1960 issue of The Gen.

Koran performed the routine on television several times. In The Gen (May 1960) Harry Stanley talks about a BBC Television performance on 20th April in which Koran introduced the trick as “trickery with words.” Interestingly enough that’s how Koran described it in his fictitious encounter with Einstein, saying, “It’s not the numbers that fooled you – it’s the words.”

This might be a point worth noting because the trick is not without suspicion. If you couch it as “trickery with words” you’re accepting that this is more of an interesting curiosity than straight piece of mind reading. Today, if you present it as the trick that Al Koran used to fool Einstein (much as Out of this World is the trick Harry Green fooled Winston Churchill with), then you have yourself a nice story for what is essentially a mathematical puzzle.


Jackpot Coins has its origins in an old card effect that will be familiar to many. In this trick the performer and spectator both cut packets of cards and count them. The performer then makes a statement along the lines of, ‘I have as many cards as you plus three more and enough to make yours up to fifteen.” It’s a mathematical sounding trick that makes a good bar bet.

It's a good trick to perform across a table. Both you and the spectator can count their cards below the table. This prevents you counting each other's cards but also facilitates some of the trickery I'll describe later.

Al Koran’s Lecture Notes talked in terms of the number of coins but in his performances he actually talked about the amount of money. A spectator did not hold 15 pennies. She held one shilling and three pence (old English money). If you used cents and the spectator held 120 of them you would say she had one dollar and twenty cents. Not realising how Al Koran originally performed Jackpot Coins Jon Racherbaumer unknowingly reinvented it when he described his Correct Change routine in At The Card Table (1984).

Koran’s Lecture Notes credit the idea to a card routine called A Matter of Debit and Credit (Greater Magic, 1938). No originator is named there in connection with the trick. Later Jack Avis contributed a note to Martin Breese’s The Magic of Al Koran (1983) tracing the trick to Paul Stadelmen’s booklet Sandu Writes Again (1934). But again Stadelmen doesn’t claim the trick as his. He simply says that it’s an old trick.

I’ve found an earlier reference in The Magic World (November 1920). It contains a trick contributed by Howard L. Grant (Howard the Great) called A Novel Card Effect. Here it says, “While it is by no means new, it has never appeared in print.” As to who Howard L Grant was, well, that seems to be another mystery. Here is Howard L Grant’s original description of the effect as published in The Magic World magazine:

A neat little conception, notable for its simplicity, is the following. While it is by no means new, it has never appeared in print; and as it completely bewilders the unsophisticated observer, I know it will be appreciated.

A spectator is requested to take a number of cards from the pack. The magician also removes a bunch of cards, making sure that he has more than the spectator. The spectator is told to secretly count his cards, the magician doing  the same with his. Then, for example, the performer says: " I have as many cards as you, three more, and enough to make you twenty-four." The spectator says that he has fifteen cards. "Very well," remarks the performer, and he counts off fifteen cards from his heap, three more, and then counts the remaining cards, which prove to be nine, making the total twenty-four.

The secret is absurdly simple. When the performer counts his pile, he disregards a small number of cards, being sure however, that those remaining are still more than those held by spectator. Then we will suppose, as In the aforementioned example, he has twenty-four cards left, and he has disregarded three, making a total of twenty-seven cards. He then proceeds as above and the result is a completely baffled spectator.

This is a rather difficult feat to explain in print, but if the reader will experiment, following the above directions closely, he will find that it works identically as stated. In addition it is one of the few effects that will stand repetition, the magician being careful to change the number of cards in his discard each time.

As Howard Grant pointed out the trick can be repeated as long as you vary the numbers. When Paul Stadelman republished the trick, So Simple, in The Sphinx (Vol 48, No 5, July 1949), he mentioned an idea of Ralph Hull’s. This enables the performer to genuinely tell the spectator exactly how many cards he has in his packet. Here is the Hull repeat described by Paul Stadelman and entitled Still Simpler:

As a follow-up for “So Simple,” start off by offering to “explain” how it works. The apparent explanation seems so reasonable as you proceed with it, and casually mention that since you knew the number of cards they cut off (and mention the number), you simply took the difference between that number and the number you took and fifty-two and then knew the number of cards left on the table.

Someone is bound to ask how you knew how many cards were cut off before the spectator announced it. At this point tell him that you are gifted with “third sight,” and tell him to count his cards again to see if you were right.

Do “So Simple” again, as an example. This time the spectator cuts ten cards and you take fifteen. At the end of the trick, calculate mentally that ten plus fifteen equals twenty-five and throw them back on top of the deck, but note the bottom card of the packet of twenty-five, which we will assume is the ace of hearts.

Have the spectator cut off another bunch of cards, “To prove that I know how many you take,” let us say he takes seven. Now you cut off a bunch, but be sure you cut past the twenty-fifth card. For example, you took twenty-eight. As he counts his cards, you begin to count yours face up but what you actually do is pass them from hand to hand until you come to the ace of hearts. Call that card one mentally and count the cards from then on and you will find you have eighteen cards, which you subtract from twenty-five. This tells you he cut seven, as the ace was originally twenty-five cards deep.

Now for your explanation. “You see the way I do this trick is that I first count my cards. In this case I happen to have thirty. (You mention any number here, for you really do not know how many cards you have, due to the fact that you only counted part of them, just guess at what you think you have.) Since I know I have thirthy, and I know you have seven, then I know I have as many as you and twenty-three more.” Then make the remark about “third sight.”

Now proceed again with the original method of “So Simple” and you will have them believing you each time.

The idea for this second version was suggested by the late R. W. Hull, who was the inventor of many clever card tricks.


It requires considerable mental work but if you count the cards in your hands you can also know the number of cards not only in the spectator’s packet but also the packet left on the table. There are various ways of making this calculation. One is to take the position of the key card from the top of the deck and deduct it from 52 (the number of cards in play).

If the key card is 20th then 52 – 20 = 32. That’s the number of cards below the key card and you memorise this key number.

When you spread through the cards in your packet, mentally you count the number of cards that are above your key card starting at 32 (your new key number), counting backwards: 32, 32, 30, 29 etc. When you hit the key card the number you reach in your counting is the number of cards in the tabled packet.

Now continue counting, starting on your key card (20), and again counting backwards: 20, 19, 18, 17 etc. When you run out of cards you know the next number represents the number of cards the spectator holds. Sounds complicated on paper. Makes sense when you try it. But you still need to keep your wits about you to pull off.

One way to ease the task is to place your key card at an easy to remember and predetermined number like 20. You can do this just by moving a few cards from the top to bottom of the deck, or vice versa, while setting up your key. That way your key numbers are always the same, 20 and 32. The only new item you are memorising is the key card itself.


Ed Marlo had a wonderful bit of business that turned the tables on anyone who performed the  “I have as many cards as you” routine. He described it in Ibidem (No 17, July 1959). When someone says, “I have as many cards as you, four more, and enough to make your cards seventeen” you are able to immediately say, “I can do better than that. I can tell you exactly how many cards you have. You have twenty-one.” And you'll be right.

All you do is total the two numbers they give you. As Marlo says, it really takes people off guard.

Ed Marlo dated his note November 9, 1958, which is just a year or two after Martin Gardner’s Mathematics, Magic and Mystery was published. Gardner’s book describes the trick under the title The Estimated Cut. It’s possible Gardner’s book brought the trick back into popularity. As part of the book’s promotion Estimated Cut was reprinted in The Magic Wand (Vol 46, No 254).


John Bannon came up with an unexpected finale for the routine in his Einstein Overkill (Bullets After Dark DVD, 2009) in which four aces are produced. It’s an odd idea but an interesting one and it occurs to me that if you tell the story of the Trick That Fooled Einstein then you might add an equally fictitious finale in which the great Einstein fools Koran.

The version described here is different from Bannon’s original. Now the beauty of the original card trick is that it can be done impromptu and with a shuffled deck. However, to produce four aces you need to set the cards up.

As mentioned earlier the trick is performed across the table with the assisting spectator seated on the opposite side. The aces need to be positioned as follows: one on top of the deck. Two together somewhere in the middle. And one on the face of the deck. A smart culler could do this relatively quickly. But you could also do it quite more simply as you pick up the cards and talk to the spectators about how Einstein, having been baffled by Koran, examined the cards closely for marks.

Now you do have a couple of advantages. The first is that the deck is already in three packets. Yours, the spectator’s and what’s left. That gives you a lot of opportunities to pick up each packet separately, casually spread through them, secretly find the aces and put them into the right positions as you assemble the deck.

The other advantage is that you already had a chance to look through your cards when you counted them. You’ll know if it contains aces and you can arrange them accordingly.

With the aces in position tell the spectators that Einstein asked to try to the trick himself. Pick out someone else to play the part of Koran. Now repeat the first part of the trick. The spectator cuts some cards but don’t have him count them yet.

You now cut a packet of cards ensuring that you cut deeper than the two adjacent aces which are in the middle of the deck. Hold the cards face-up under the table and count them as before. You also spot the two aces and cut the packet, bringing one to the top and one to the face. Turn the packet face-down and bring it from under the table.

You know how many cards are in your packet and can now make your three statements about how many cards you have.

When you’ve done that ask the spectator to count his cards one at a time face-down onto the table. This will place an ace at the face of his packet.

As per the original routine you now count exactly the same number of cards into a separate packet on the table. “To Koran’s amazement Einstein was right. He had exactly the same number of cards.”

Three aces are already in position on the table. But there is one ace at the face of the packet in your hand. There are various ways of getting it into position for the finale.

A simple way is to pass the packet to the right hand and fan it. Now when you deal the “and three more,” or whatever number you named to the table, you take cards from the bottom of the spread not the top. It’s reasonably natural to do this. Deal these cards into a packet on the table. The ace is now the face card of that packet.

Alternatively do a bottom deal as you count the cards to the table. It’s not that difficult. No one is even looking for it.

Finish the last of your statements, “and enough to make your packet up to twelve” or whatever. And deal these cards onto the spectator’s packet.

You are now set for the finale. There are four packets of cards face-down on the table. And at the face of each packet is an ace.

“Koran was amazed. How did you do that?” Finish with a little misquote from Einstein. “I do not believe that God plays dice. But sometimes he gets lucky with cards.”

Turn over the packets to reveal the four aces.


Michael Weber published a very clever presentation for Jackpot Coins called Picking on Rainman. The trick uses cocktail sticks/toothpicks instead of coins which are more practical props for impromptu work. It further develops the “trickery with words” of the Koran routine too. You’ll find it in M.U.M magazine (Vol 98, No 8, January 2009).

Earlier Karl Fulves had used matchsticks in his version of the trick. See Matching Matches in Self-Working Table Magic (1981)

Al Koran’s Bring Out The Magic In Your Mind must be one of the most successful self-help books ever written perhaps in part due to the mystical sounding name of its author. You can find it all over the world. Far from getting rich on this it is more than likely that the book was ghost-written. There is a claim in the Review section of the Amazon site that the author was June Hope Kynaston, who also authored The Mind That Works Miracles, a book that seems as hard to find as Koran’s book is ubiquitous.


I've found a few more references that might be of interest. The first is Harry Franke's handling of The Trick That Fooled Einstein. See Bill Miesel's Precursor magazine (LV, August 1996).

The second is also in Precursor (LXXIX, August 2001). It is Al Thatcher's Climax Estimation which produces four of a kind at the end of the "as many as you" routine.

In Precursor editor Bill Miesel mentions that he learned the trick from Scarne on Card Tricks (1950). Scarne calls the trick The Quickie Card Trick. Given the 1950 publication date it is interesting to wonder whether Al Koran read this book and it inspired Jackpot Coins because not only is The Quickie Card Trick there but also a story about a magician and Einstein. See Einstein and the Magician in which the great scientist baffles a conjuror.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Think A Card Mystery

A couple of weeks ago Steve Tucker sent me a photo of a magician asking if I knew who it was. I didn’t. The photo had been sent to him by Don McCamley of the Mahatma Magic Circle in Liverpool, the society that Steve and I were once both members of.

Although I didn’t know the face in the photo it did remind me of a story I’d heard from the late Bob Ostin. Bob had told me that there used to be a photograph on the wall of The Wizard’s Den, the magic shop, in Liverpool. And the photo was of a magician holding up a fan of cards. The shop owner would invite you to think of one of the cards and then he’d reveal it. Sounded like a good version of a think-a-card effect. In fact I’d mentioned this story to Roger Crosthwaite many years ago when discussing think-a-card tricks. But I had never seen the photo. Until now.

Don had found this photo among Bob Ostin’s effects. It had never occurred to me before to try and trace this photo. So, playing detective, I consulted Ask Alexander and searched for anything to do with The Wizard’s Den magic shop in Liverpool. One of the owners proved promising, a cardician by the name of Wilf Bennett. I then searched for any reference to him. And that’s when I arrived at Wilfred Bennett on the cover The Magician magazine (March 1937). It was the same photo!

I don’t have any details about how Wilf Bennett might have revealed the thought of card. The arrangement of the cards in the photo is unusual. As if a new deck order has been very slightly altered. That might mean nothing at all. The closest think-a-card method using a new deck order is a note on A Color Force by Jean Hugard at Ask Alexander. Hugard said, “This is purely psychological but a wonder when it works.”

The note is not very clear. The deck begins in new-deck order. Let’s say the first bank of cards are diamonds and they are in numerical order.  Take a diamond card from near the end of that run and move it five or six cards further along so it sits in the next bank of cards which are black. This is the set-up for the trick.

During the performance the deck is taken from the case and handed to the spectator. “Ask them to fan the cards slowly through and to think of a card as they pass by. Then they are to shuffle the deck and hand it back.”

“The reaction of the person is easy to figure. They are running through a new deck symmetrically arranged and suddenly they notice one card out of line, and apparently packed that way.”

Hugard added a note: “Presumably the pack is to be steamed open and then resealed.”

Sounds unlikely to me but it does seem a little like the set up in Wilf Bennett’s photo. A simpler solution would be that it was just a photo taken spontaneously and the most likely cards to be thought of are the ones that are most exposed.

But I do like the idea of a photo on the wall of a magic shop. And you can always reveal a thought of card using a Brainwave or Invisible Deck. Which reminds me of an idea I read some years ago, possibly in The New Pentagram. You can construct an Invisible Deck using just one suit of cards, for example the Spades. Each Spade card is paired with an indifferent card and each pair roughed back to back. This block of 26 cards (13 roughed pairs) is in the centre of the deck.

To use as a mental effect ask everyone in your audience to think of a card. Now point vaguely to one section of it and say something like, “I’m getting a strong impression of a black card over here. A Spade.” And wait for someone to nod or indicate that they are indeed thinking of a Spade. Single that person out and have them name their thought of card. Now bring out the deck, spread through it and reveal that their card is the only one reversed (and has an odd back if you decide to create a Brainwave version).

As I say, this is not my effect but I like the idea of a partial Invisible/Brainwave Deck. And the point I’m getting to is that you can construct the same kind of deck to work with Wilf Bennett’s photo. I like the partial Invisible/Brainwave Deck. It handles really well and feels more like a real deck. Give it a try, you might come up with something interesting.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Another Walter Scott

Gazzo keeps a look out for the name Walter Scott, just in case anything emerges about his former friend and card cheat. Occasionally something does turn up in the news cuttings. Like the Walter Scott who was busted in 1911, along with Wyatt Earp, for running a rigged faro game.

Today Gazzo sent me a link to a very interesting story about another Walter Scott, prospector, performer and con man extraordinaire. You might also see similarities with Eddie McGuire when it comes to boasting about accomplishments he never possessed, like breaking the bank at Monte Carlo.

Just to be clear, this isn't the Walter Irving Scott in our book Phantoms of the Card Table. But it is certainly worth a read. Click on the link:

Death Valley Scotty

Monday, January 21, 2013

Chan Canasta Painting

One of the best things about having a blog is the interesting correspondence that finds its way to me. This week Avi Hassidoff sent me a photo of a painting that belongs to his father. The artist is none other than Chan Canasta. It's signed with a variant of his real name, Mifeleuv.

The painting is oil on cardboard, measures 30 inches x 26 inches (77cm x 66 cm) and is of the mosque in Jerusalem. Very few Canasta paintings ever come on to the market and this one is for sale. If you're interested in the painting or require any more information please do contact Avi at Meanwhile enjoy the photo that Avi kindly sent.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012



Two decks of cards are shown and the spectator asked to choose one.

He then names any one of the fifty-two cards. It’s an absolutely free choice. He is asked to open the deck of cards, which has been on view throughout, and remove his chosen card. To his amazement, it isn’t there. In fact when he counts the cards he discovers that there are only 51. His chosen card is missing.

The second deck is now opened. All the cards are blue backed, except for one. One card is a stranger card and has a red back. Believe it or not this is the missing card. The same card that the spectator names right at the beginning of the routine.


In 1949 Eddie Joseph released his now famous effect Premonition. Shortly after, George Armstrong released his version of the trick. He said he had devised it some years earlier, inspired by Bill McCaffrey’s Prize Winner routine from Greater Magic (1938), but it was only when he read advertisements for Eddie Joseph’s routine that he decided he had better publish his method if he wanted to receive credit for his handling.

The effect, in all cases, is that a freely named card is shown to be missing from the pack. The named card is then reproduced from the pocket or, in McCaffrey’s case, a hat.

There are two disadvantages to most Premonition routines. The first is that the pack of cards is not on view from the beginning of the trick. The second is that the missing card is usually produced using a card index, a device that is not very popular with magicians.

Double Impact solves both problems and yet manages to keep the routine virtually self-working.


Before proceeding to a full description of the method it is best to give a simplified description of the working, which is the same principle that McCaffrey employed.

Imagine a deck of cards that is made up of two sets of twenty-six different cards. In fact the pack consists only of odd red cards and even black cards. Throw one of the cards away so that you have only 51 cards in the deck. Now arrange the deck so that no duplicates are together.

If you asked someone to name a card and they named, say, an odd black card, you could count through the cards and show it to be missing. What’s more there are only fifty-one cards in the deck. No one notices that some cards are duplicates.

That’s the basic principle of Prize Winner and Premonition and the same principle is used in Double Impact. The difference is that the decks are not only used to show a card missing, but can be used to reproduce a missing card, an idea that came to me after reading McCaffrey’s original routine.



This deck is in a RED CASE.

The deck is made up of 25 red-backed cards and 26 blue backed cards.

The red-backed cards are shorter than the blue-backed cards.

The red-backed cards consist of:
Odd Diamonds
Odd Hearts
Even Clubs
Even Spades

So that the deck consists of only 51 cards, the red-backed Ace of Hearts is not used.

The red and blue back cards alternate through the deck. The top card is a red-back card. Because there are less red-backed cards than blue-backed cards, you will have two blue-backed cards at the face of the deck. The card on the face of the deck should be the blue-backed Ace of Hearts.

Think of this deck as the Odd Red Deck. That shouldn’t be difficult as it is in a red case.


This deck is in a BLUE CASE.

The deck is made up of 25 blue-backed cards and 26 red backed cards.

The blue backed cards are shorter than the red-backed cards.

The red-backed cards consist of:
Odd Clubs
Odd Spades
Even Hearts
Even Diamonds

So that the deck consists of only 51 cards, the blue-backed Ace of Spades is not used.

The blue and red back cards alternate through the deck. The top card is a blue-back card. Because there are less blue-backed cards than red-backed cards, you will have two red-back cards at the face of the deck. The face card of the deck is the red-backed Ace of Spades.

Think of this deck as the Odd Black Deck. Again, not difficult because it is in a blue (almost black) case.


One final point: Before performing the trick you should ensure that the decks are arranged so that no duplicate cards are near each other. That goes for values too.

That seems to be a lot to think about but if you have the cards in front of you, you’ll find that it is actually quite simple and logical. The two decks mirror each other. Once the cards are set up (and that is just a matter of commonsense) all you are remembering are two phrases: Odd Red Deck and Odd Black Deck.



Toss the two decks onto the table and ask for the assistance of a volunteer. Say, “I’d like to try some with these two decks of cards. Do you play cards? Well, it doesn’t really matter as long as you know the different values. It’s not really a card trick. What I want you to do is just think of a card. Don’t tell me what it is yet, but just imagine it. Imagine the colour, the suit, the value. Have you got one in mind? Good, because this morning I had a card in mind too. It’s in one of those two decks on the table. By the way, which card are you thinking of?”

The volunteer names the card and upon hearing it you work out which one of the deck does NOT contain it. Remember, it will be missing from one of them. Now there’s a quick way of working out which deck it’s missing from. Let’s try a few examples. Let’s imagine that the volunteer names the Eight of Spades.

Now you know two things about the decks on the table. The one in the Red Case is known as Odd Red Deck. The one in the Blue Case is known as Odd Black Deck.

As soon as you know the colour of the chosen card think of the deck that matches it. In the case of the Eight of Spades you will think of the Odd Black Deck. Immediately you know that this case contains only BLACK cards that are ODD. And since the Eight of Spades is even, it is not in that deck. So right away you know that this is the deck you need to work with.

Let’s try another example, say, Queen of Hearts. It’s a red card so you think of the ODD RED DECK. Since that deck contains only ODD cards, once again you know that the chosen card is missing from it. This is the deck you will work with.

A third example; Three of Clubs. You immediately think of the ODD BLACK DECK. The Three of Clubs is an ODD card so you know that it is in that deck. Since you are looking for the deck that it is missing from, you know that it is the other deck, the red one, that you should be working with.

That’s it. It’s a very simple system and you’ll find it useful in other tricks which use similar set-ups. Far easier than trying to remember which decks contain which mixtures of cards.


So far the volunteer has named a card and you know which deck it is missing from. Let’s go back to our first example, the Eight of Spades. You know it is not in the blue deck, so this is the deck you want to work with. The next step is to bring that deck into play. So you say, “Would you choose one of the decks of cards on the table, any one it doesn’t matter…..”

You are about to work a Magician’s Choice. If the volunteer picks up the red deck, ask him to place it in his pocket. You then pick up the blue deck.

If, on the other hand, he picks up the blue deck, you move the red deck aside and work with the deck he has “chosen.”

That’s it.


Take the deck, open it and remove the cards face up from the case. Hand them to the volunteer face up.

“There are fifty-two cards in a deck. I want you to deal the cards face up onto the table. Count them aloud as you go and stop when you get to your Eight of Spades.”

When he does this you don’t want him to flash the backs of the cards. So either make sure he is holding the cards close to the table or that he is seated at the table when counting.

He will deal right through the deck, not find his Eight of Spade, and yet count only 51 cards. Now along the way he will have passed lots of duplicate cards but he won’t notice them because a: he is only looking for the Eight of Spades, b: he is also busy counting, c: you ensured that no duplicates were together. Having said that, see the End Notes for further thoughts on this.

It’s best that he deals the cards into a fairly tight pile so that duplicates are not noticed after they have been dealt to the table. Occasionally you might want to straighten the dealt cards. You can even pick up the cards and look though them as if checking that he hasn’t missed his Eight of Spades. Try to act as if you expect the Eight of Spades to turn up.

When it doesn’t. Ask the spectator to look inside the blue card box in case it got left inside. It didn’t.

Finish by saying, “That’s strange. The Eight of Spades, the card you thought of, is missing. Do you know why that is? I’ll tell you. I snuck the card out while you weren’t looking. Really! In fact to make sure you wouldn’t see me do it I took the Eight of Spades out of that deck this morning.”


Pick up the discarded red case, open it and remove the cards face up. Toss the case aside.

Spread the deck face up between your hands. Look for the Eight of Spades. There are two Eight of Spades in that deck, a short one and a long one. You want the long one. Now I find it easy to spot which is which by looking at the end of the card and noting whether it has been trimmed. But if you want to be extra sure you could just scratch a line through the indices of all the long cards in both decks. That would make it even easier.

Toss the long Eight of Spades face up onto the table.

“You see, I was so sure that you would name the Eight of Spades that I took it from that deck and placed it in this deck.”

Because the deck is made up of long and short cards, just like the Svengali deck, you can spread it face down across the table top to show that all the cards have red backs. It’s a simple move, you just hold the deck from above by the narrow ends. As you make the spread you let the cards riffle off the fingers and thumb and drop onto the table. They fall in pairs, the short red cards falling on top of the long blue ones.

Don’t spread the cards. Drop the cards. The hand is held several inches above the table as the spread is made. You can do it in one quick casual movement.

To finish, ask the volunteer to turn over the tabled Eight of Spades. He’ll be surprised to find that it has a blue back.

When gathering up the cards be sure to put the blue-backed Eight of Spades into the blue-backed deck. Putting it back into the red-backed deck will look a bit odd!


Another way of displaying the cards is to let them drop from one hand to the other. This is another handling associated with the Svengali deck. The deck is held vertically in the right hand, the thumb on top and fingers underneath. The right forefinger is curled behind the deck and applies a little pressure. The right thumb releases the cards and they fall, in pairs, face down into the waiting left hand.

The trick is even better if you use two volunteers. One person names a card while another looks through the deck for it. He can count the cards aloud as you ask the first person whether there was any particular reason for selecting the card he did. Doing the trick this way means that the rest of the audience don’t pay much attention to the cards as they are dealt. They only become interested in that deck when they discover that the thought of card isn’t there. And by then, it’s too late.

Finally, I should explain that Premonition is not necessarily a good trick. It has the same flaw as The Open Prediction in that the spectator has to deal through an entire deck to establish that the named card is missing. This can be very dull. If you wanted a more straightforward way to produce a named card, you’d probably just use a Brainwave Deck.

I think Premonition (and The Open Prediction) is a good card problem and solving problems is part of what interests us about magic. However, another potential hazard of solving card problems is to build upon sand instead of concrete. The use of a deck that has twenty-six duplicates is a possible cause for concern. Are we to believe that the spectator dealing through the deck wouldn’t notice a single one of them?

The truth is that we don’t know. And there are too many instances of tricks being based on older, unproven or little understood principles. Ignore the fact that this idea has been used extensively in published tricks. When did you ever see a great commercial performance of Premonition? The same applies to The Open Prediction and, another bête noir of mine, The Princess Card Trick. These are very common tricks in magic but finding examples that work in a professional show is difficult. There are probably good reasons for that.

Magicians never know what the spectators are thinking. One aim of any performance is to ensure that the assisting spectator doesn’t have the opportunity to give voice to any doubting thoughts. This means managing the assisting spectator. You are performing for the audience. The assisting spectator, though he doesn’t know it, is part of your cast. You cast him because you hope he will play his role well and be convincing when he deals through the deal and declares the card missing.

In creating a presentation for the trick you should think about how you want the assisting spectator to react, how that reaction is conveyed to the rest of the audience and why they might find it entertaining. The entertainment value of your interaction with the assisting spectator and audience, this magical tableau, will determine the success of the performance not whether a duplicate card is spotted, but never mentioned, during the deal.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Essential Magic Conference

The third Essential Magic Conference will take place on the 27th, 28th and 29th of July. This is the world's only digital conference for magic and magicians. It's organised by Luis de Matos, Marco Tempest and myself.

What does that mean? Well, 33 of the world's top magicians will be presenting lectures, presentations and performances from Studio 33 in Portugal. These are broadcast worldwide via the Internet and viewable on your computer, laptop, iPad or even iPhone. That's 3 days of magic.

If you are watching via your computer you can also interact with the Speakers and other members via our chat facility. Watch, comment and discuss. Ask anyone who has ever attended. It's great fun and offers opportunities that you won't even get at a real live be-there convention.

The broadcasts are archived online where you can view them on demand for a year. Before that year is up you will receive a DVD box set of all the conference content. That way it is yours forever. In fact the DVD box set sells for $150, that's more than the price of registration for the conference which, I think, a bargain at $99.

Between now and the conference dates free weekend screenings will show excerpts from past conferences. You can register or sign up for the free screenings at the Essential Magic Conference website.

That's the end of the plug. Thank you for reading!