Thursday, August 31, 2006


A spectator selects five cards from the pack and is asked to imagine that it forms a perfect poker hand. Well, perfect except for one card. One card won’t help him win. Which card would he like to discard?

Without looking at any of them he discards one of the cards, say the two of hearts. He turns the remaining four face-up and discovers that he has the ten, jack, queen and king of clubs. Somehow he managed to get rid of the one that didn’t fit.

But can he find the card he needs to make a royal flush? He selects another card from the deck. Incredibly, it is the missing ace of clubs. What a guy!

This is a solution to a poker problem that Fulves wrote about in Pallbearers Review. Check Francis Haxton’s Gambler’s Last Chance (Vol 2, No 10) for a similar effect.

There are many ways to approach the effect but this has the benefit of being almost self-working. The disadvantage is that it uses a double-back card.

Have the double-backer on top of the deck and below it, in no particular order, the royal flush in clubs. These five cards should be face up.

Begin by giving the deck a false shuffle bringing the set-up back to the top. Then slowly dribble the cards from the right hand to the left as you ask a spectator to call stop.

He does and you halt the dribble and drop the right hand cards face-up onto the left hand packet as you say, “We’ll cut the pack where you said stop.” This is a handling of the Christ Force.

Spread the face up cards into the right hand. “You could have stopped anywhere.” And divide the pack so that all the face down cards are in the left. Deal the top five cards face down onto the table. “But you stopped here. Let’s take the next five cards.”

Replace the right hand cards face-down under the left hand packet.

“I want you to imagine that you have just been dealt a poker hand. Not only that but it is a very good poker hand except for one card. One card spoils the hand. Which do you think it is?”

Since the cards are all face-down, he can only guess. Get as much fun as you can out of him picking one of the five cards. Then pick it up and place it face-down on top of the deck. Immediately execute a triple lift and push the face-up card that shows off the deck.

By the way, you can get a break ready for the triple as the spectator is choosing one of the tabled cards.

Whatever card shows, refer to it in some meaningful way. You might find he appears to have discarded a low value card. On the other hand it might be an ace. Make the most of it, then replace it face-down under the deck.

Because of the triple lift a club card now lies face-up under the double backer.

“You’ve got rid of one card. Time to choose another.”

Repeat the Christ Force, this time pushing a single card onto the table. For the moment keep it separate from the other four tabled cards.

Time for the finale. Turn over the first four chosen cards and reveal them to be almost a royal flush. Then turn over the remaining chosen card to show that it completes the hand perfectly.

That’s it. It is actually quite an economical handling. The real skill lies in making the effect clear to the spectators. They choose a poker hand, discard the odd card and find its replacement. Try experimenting with different presentations to find the approach that works best for you.

From the point of view of method it’s quite cheeky in that as soon as they have discarded one of the original five cards you force it right back on them!

Sunday, August 20, 2006


I remember the moment very clearly. I was at the office of Martin Breese videotaping Basil Horwitz as he demonstrated some of his material for a forthcoming book. This would have been in the mid-eighties.

Basil had dealt some ESP cards onto a table and I was looking through the viewfinder on the video camera. Then I noticed something very odd. I stopped filming, went over to the table and took a good look at those cards. They appeared perfectly ordinary, it was a pack of ESP Cards manufactured by Haines House of Cards in America. So I went back to the camera and looked through the viewfinder again and it was like looking through a pair of magic spectacles because I could see marks on the backs of the cards. I stepped away from the camera and looked at the cards again. To my surprise I could still see the marks.

“Basil, pick up those cards and give them a shuffle,” I said. Basil did, he knew I was up to something but couldn’t figure out what. “Now deal them in a row.” Five cards went face down onto the table. “Now turn the one on the right face up. It’s the star.” He did. And it was. And all the time I’d been standing a dozen feet away from him.

What I’d discovered, quite by accident, is that the Haines’ pack of ESP cards is marked. I’m not referring to the tiny markings at the corners, those are quite well known, but two big broad strokes on the backs that can be read across a room. In fact, here’s the peculiar thing. They can only be read across the room. Go up to the pack, examine the backs of the cards and I promise you you’ll never find those markings unless you know where to look.

Some years later, I mentioned this to magician and mentalist Ray Hyman on the phone, saying only that the Haines cards were marked. It’s a one-way mark, which is how I knew where the Star was on that table. I’d noted that its back was the wrong way up compared to the others. Anyway, Ray was coming to England to appear in a television documentary, and I met him at the airport on his arrival. First thing he did was bring out a deck of Haines ESP cards and ask where the hell the marks where. He’d been examining them on his plane journey and just couldn’t find them. But that’s the beauty of it. Look at the cards up close and it’s impossible to spot them. Put the cards on a table across the room, and they are as clear as day.

Enough of the teasing. The marks are the result of a flaw in the spacing of the tiny stars on the back of the cards. It produces two broad strokes across one end. And you can only see the strokes at a distance. I’ve tried to illustrate the position of the strokes in the diagram (1). Both cards have the marks at the same end, but I’ve highlighted them on the second card. They are impossible to see in the first card because of the reproduction process but if you had the real cards in front of you, you would be able to pick them out. Dig out a pack and try it for yourself.

As soon as you get near the cards, the markings disappear from sight, which means you have to be careful when sorting them into a one-way arrangement. Reading the cards up close is an acquired skill. Reading them from a distance is much much easier.

As for applications, well like names of the Devil, they are legion. Set up a pack in the usual Circle, Cross, Lines, Square, Star order. Have every Star arranged the wrong way and you have a stacked deck you can read across the room. Someone can cut and cut and deal four cards onto the table. You immediately know their order (if no Star appears, obviously you have the other four cards). From here, miracles can be worked.

The best kind of effect is one in which you stand well away from the spectator and the cards. A hands-off routine, possibly working with two spectators sitting at different tables, as they would be if involved in an old Duke University telepathy test. It’s a scenario that gives you a good excuse to use the cards. Have the spectators sit back to back, so that they can’t see each other. You, of course, can see all the cards as they are cut and dealt and you’ll find it easy to bring about remarkable coincidences just by controlling their actions and introducing one or two instances of Magicians Choice. I’ll leave the rest to you.

NOTES: This item was originally contributed to Trevor McCrombie’s online magazine The Centre Tear. As several readers proved, the marking system can be used in a variety of ways. So have fun!