Monday, March 14, 2005

The Last Game
This poker routine was originally published in The New Talon. It began as an attempt to simplify Karl Fulves’ According to Hoyle, which was published in his The Magic Book, an excellent book now reprinted by Dover as the Big Book of Magic Tricks.

It’s a poker deal with a psychological flavour in which the spectators get the opportunity to switch hands with you during the game yet you always win. Fulves’ effect was great for someone who played poker but the stack was not easily remembered. The following stack is much simpler and you always win with a four-of-a-kind, a hand easily recognised even by non-players. I’ve also added the repeat deal and final blow-off, proving that the spectator just can’t win.

Remove the Ten of Clubs, Ten of Hearts and Ten of Diamonds from the deck and place them in the card case, wallet or anywhere else that you can produce them from later in the routine. The rest of the deck is stacked as follows, from the top:


The “X” can be any card.

A quick glace will reveal that you are merely stacking the Royal Flushes minus the missing Ten spots. The flushes can be in any order as long as the Spades are on top and the other values follow the order of the Spades. For now use the above stack until you become familiar with the principle.

Phase One: Bring out the deck and give it your best False Shuffle, retaining the stack. Tell the spectators that you will show them a very unusual game of poker. Nominate four spectators to help as you finish your shuffles and cuts. Announce that you will deal a five handed game, five cards each, but each person at the table will get a chance to swap his cards with yours as the game proceeds.

Deal out the first five cards, from left to right, dealing to yourself last. Point out that you each have one cards and that one of the spectators can now swap with you, “Who will it be?” Let them choose the lucky person and then openly exchange your card with his. No one looks at their cards while this happens.

Deal a second round of cards so that you now have two cards each. Invite another spectator to swap his two cards with both of yours. It can be anyone except the person who swapped cards in the first round.

The cards are exchanged and you deal a third round. Again one of the spectators exchanges his hand of cards with yours. This leaves only one spectator who has not swapped. It also tells you which four of a kind you will end up with at the end of this phase. As you deal the cards are being dealt out Ace, King, Queen, Jack, Ten (or indifferent card). So, let’s say the second spectator from the left is the only one who has not swapped. You now know that you will end up with four Kings at the finish. Two rounds of cards have yet to be dealt but you could, if you wished, mention that you are trying to force the spectators to part with the four Kings.

Deal the fourth round of cards and ask the spectator, the one who has not yet exchanged cards) whether he would like to swap cards now or wait until the last round of cards is dealt. It makes no difference what he decides. Swap cards if he chooses and then deal a fifth round. Alternatively deal and then swap.

At this stage you have the winning hand but you play up the impossibility angle by offering them another choice. Tell them that only one spectator may play against you. Without looking at their cards they choose who it should be. Pick up the discarded hands and place them on top of the deck. Don’t shuffle each hand, just drop them one atop the other and then onto the deck because you are setting up Phase Two.

Finally, the nominated spectator turns over his hand as you turn over yours. You win with four of a kind. Don’t disturb the order of either hand as you pick them up and drop them on top of the deck. It doesn’t matter which hand goes on top of which.

Phase Two: False Shuffle and Cut as you tell the spectators that you had, of course, psychologically forced them to give up their best cards. This time you’ll give them a straight deal, no swaps.

Deal out five hands of poker from the top of the deck, dealing yourself last. Ask the spectators to choose one of their number to play against you. They choose and you now surprise them by saying that maybe, you’ve already forced a choice so you give him a chance to pick any one of the hands, bar yours, on the table.

The situation is, reading left to right, the first hand contains only spot cars, hands two to four contain Royal Flushes minus the Ten spots, your hand contains a Royal Flush in Spades. If the spectator chooses hands two, three or four then just return the discarded hands to the deck. If he chooses hand number one let him take it, then say that you’re feeling lucky tonight and you’ll let another spectator play against you. He chooses one of the remaining hands.

If you now have two spectators playing against you, get number 1to look at his hand (the spot cards) and offer him the opportunity to discard some of his cards and take replacements from the deck as is usual. Make sure he shows his hand to everyone who is watching so that they can feel part of the game. He exchanges cards and then you ask number 2 (holding what is almost a Royal Flush) to do the same. Of course he will discard only one card in the hope of filling his Royal Flush with the missing Ten.

If you’re only playing against one spectator, then it will be the one trying for the Royal Flush. In these circumstances I offer him the opportunity of discarding a card (or cards?) and choosing the replacement from anywhere in the deck which I spread face down across the table. Nothing could be fairer.

The spectators turn over their hands, one at a time, and you reveal yours to show an unbeatable Royal Flush. Finally, look at the spectator who was trying to fill a Royal Flush and ask him, naively, which card he was looking for. He will reply, “Ten of Diamonds,” or whatever, and you say, “I never take chances” and produce the missing Ten Spot from your card case or wallet. Be sure not to let the spectators see the other two cards that are in there. This should get a great response if you’ve been able to get the spectators involved with the win or lose situation.

If you are going to use this, you might like to produce the missing Ten spot from up your sleeve in classical card cheat fashion. This routine is particularly adaptable to a pseudo mental presentation because you know the type of hand you are going to win with and how the spectator will lose in the final phase. Judicious use of some alternative predictions could produce a very strong mental effect. Give some thought to the presentation and you may have something you’ll use for a long time.

One final point. If you are performing this routine for people who know a little more about poker than you do, you may find that in the second phase they will not want to exchange any cards. This will be because they possess a flush (five cards of the same suit) and will not risk swapping one of their cards in order to obtain the Ten spot. In order to prevent this just ensure that all the indifferent cards in the set-up are of the Spades suit. This way they’ll never end up with a flush following the deal in the second phase of the routine.
Zennerism Postscript
Following the previous post on Zennerism and The Zenner Effect, Patrick Converso has contacted me and I'm pleased to say that the original effect and its history will now be detailed in a new edition of The Zenner Effect published by

Anyone that has a copy of Ted Lesley's Working Performer's Marked Deck Manual will find a full deck handling for Zennerism on page 39.

I edited the manual for Martin Breese back in 1987 and it wasn't until I dug a copy out the other day that I remembered I'd included a couple of other effects as well as Zennerism. They are applications of the Ted Lesley marking system to a Peek Pack and they're not bad. Worth a look if you're one of those folks who keeps buying one-trick decks from the dealers at $20 a pop!