Monday, December 17, 2007


Over the years many magicians have tried to replicate The Berglas Effect, an impossible version of the card at any number. The dream effect is that someone thinks of a card. Another person thinks of a number. And when the number is dealt to, lo and behold, there is the thought of card. It sounds simple enough but as a card problem it is a hard one to crack, especially if you are looking for a routine you can use under everyday working conditions rather than, say, a one-off television show.

There are many versions of The Berglas Effect on the market, also known by the acronym ACAAN (Any Card At Any Number), all claiming to be miracles. But the hype for each new release is quickly followed by disappointment as buyers learn that the cleverest part of the trick was the advertising.

Which is why I prefer to call this family of tricks The Bogus Effect. Let’s imagine the advert for this particular version:


A spectator merely thinks of a card. He tells no one. He does not write it down.

Another spectator thinks of any number from 1 to 52. No force. Again nothing is written down. The deck is shuffled and placed on the table. The performer never touches the deck from this moment. For the very first time the number is revealed. The chosen number is counted down to. Only then is the thought of card named. And yes it is the very card at the thought of number. Totally self-working. Resets instantly. The thought of card is always at the called number. The rest of the cards can be freely shown. The spectator deals the cards. The performer doesn’t need to know the number until it is reached. Fifty bucks!


You’ve had the hype. Now for the disappointment. That’s because the trick depends on the use of a Svengali Deck. However, there are one or two things about the routine that not only make it effective but should throw off those who already know the Svengali. The first is that you actually use a Reverse Svengali. This is a deck in which all the force cards are long and the indifferent cards are short. I bought mine, in Bicycle Poker Size, from the Bond Agency.

If you’ve handled a Svengali deck before you’ll know that you can shuffle it, riffle it and spread it to demonstrate that it’s made up of different cards. Best of all because this is a Reverse Svengali you can riffle spread the deck face-up across the table to show all the cards are different. In short, there’s no reason for the spectators to imagine that this is anything but an ordinary deck. With that in mind, let’s assume that the spectators are convinced you are using a regular deck and get down to the handling.

Step 1: With the deck face-down in the left hand cut it so that an indifferent card is on the face. To do this as the right hand comes over the deck to make the cut, the right thumb presses down on the inner short end to break the deck open. Make the cut at the break. You should now have an indifferent card on the face of the deck.

Step 2: Tell one of the spectators that you want him to think of a card. Demonstrate how you want him to think of a card as follows. Cut the deck, again secretly pressing down on the inner short end with the right thumb. Lift the upper half of the deck towards you and look at the face card as you say, “I just want you to cut the deck and take a look at the card you’ve cut to. Remember it. That’s important.”

Replace the cut portion letting the spectators get a glimpse of the card you cut to. Now demonstrate the cut again. And again you secretly use the right thumb to open up the inner end of the deck so that you cut to another indifferent card. Show the card you have cut to, saying, “But don’t show to anyone else the card. You will be the only person that knows the name of the card you are thinking of. Got that?”

Replace the cut portion of the deck, square the cards, and hand the deck to the spectator. You could, if you feel it necessary, throw in another shuffle and cut here to apparently mix the cards.

Step 3: They’ve just seen you cut to two completely different cards. And now the spectator cuts the cards for himself. Supervise him so that he makes the cut in the proper manner, thumb at the inner end and fingers at the outer end. If he makes the cut normally (and not the way you did) he will be looking at a force card on the face of the upper packet. Keep an eye on him when he does this but at the same time try to appear indifferent to the process as you turn to a second spectator and ask him to think of a number between 1 and 52.

Then turn back to the first spectator and make sure he replaces the cards he has in hand. Take the deck from him and give it an overhand shuffle of the type that doesn’t alter the short/long distribution of the cards.

Step 4: As you shuffle the cards say, “Now not only does no one know the name of the card you are thinking of. But not even you know where it is.” Finish the shuffle so that there is an indifferent card on the face and place the deck face-down on the table. By the way, the only reason I advise you to keep an indifferent card on the face of the deck is to avoid showing a force card if you accidentally flash the face card.

Step 5: Appear to concentrate a little and then say, “Now I’m not really getting much of a sense of the card." Then turn to the spectator who is thinking of a number and add, "But am I right in saying that you’re thinking of an odd number?” This is a 50/50 shot. Either the spectator will say you are right or he will tell you that you’re wrong. But it sets you up for what you have to do next.

The situation is that the force cards are lying at every odd position in the deck. If he is thinking of an odd number you are all set to go. If not, quickly say, “Doesn’t matter. Keep the number to yourself for the moment because I’m not going to do this you are.”

“I don’t want you to think that what you are about to see has anything to do with the way I shuffled the cards. So will you please give the cards a cut.” You motion to him to make a single cut by lifting up the top half of the deck (fingers and thumb at the short ends), placing it aside and then putting the lower half on top of it. Because he will always cut a short card (indifferent card) to the top of the deck it means he has unwittingly placed all the force cards at an even number. Clever eh?

This strategy of getting the spectator to adjust the deck is one I picked up from David Berglas and is described in The Mind and Magic of David Berglas. I call it The Berglas Cut because it is so very useful in effects of this type.

Step 6: You recap the situation. “No one knows the number you are thinking of. And no one knows the card you have in your mind. Let’s see if we’ve been lucky. What is your number?” Whatever number the second spectator calls out have him deal number of cards from the deck into a face-down pile on the table. As he deals stop him one card short of the chosen number.

You have to be careful that he doesn’t expose the faces of the cards as he deals. If he is standing and too far from the table, I suggest you do it yourself but make it as clean and open as possible.

When you get to the selected number slide that card face-down onto the table. Pick up the next card and throw it face-up onto the table, saying, ‘One more card and we’d have ended up here.’ It will be one of the indifferent cards. Take the previously dealt card from the face-down pile and throw it face-up onto the table too. ‘And one number less would land us here. Is either of them the card you are thinking of? No?’

Pick up the remainder of the deck and dealt cards, square them, turn them face-up and make a face-up Svengali style riffle spread across the table. Only indifferent cards will show.

Step 7: You speak to both of the assisting spectators. “You chose the number, you cut the cards. For the first time will you reveal the name of the card you are thinking of.” The first spectator reveals the name of his card. ‘What are the chances of that card ending up at your number?’ Turn the only face-down card face-up to reveal that it is the thought-of card.


Using a Svengali deck to produce a card at any number is not new. But I hope I’ve shown that we shouldn’t overlook some of the oldest tools of the magic trade. The Svengali Deck is one of the most versatile of gaffed decks and you might find it of value to go back and read The Encyclopedia of Card Tricks to get an insight into how effective it can be when handled expertly.

Regardless of the method used The Berglas Effect will only come across as a miracle if you present it as such. It should appear to be a spontaneous happening. If you perform any card at any number as part of your regular routine in which the audience have already seen you juggle and flourish with cards, then while it will certainly be a good trick it is unlikely to feel unique enough to be called a miracle.

One of the reasons that The Berglas Effect has the status of a miracle among magicians is that very few have ever seen it. That’s what miracles are, rare, spur of the moment, one of a kind events that the spectators feel privileged to have seen. Don’t forget that there is a certain kudos in saying, ‘I wish you’d been there.’ People like to have stories to tell. And The Berglas Effect is such a story, an event with cards presented in such a way that those who see it feel compelled to talk about it. If you are seeking miracles, then that’s your goal.

Saturday, November 17, 2007


Andrew Loh emailed me about his marketed effect Cardbox Meltdown. He'd heard that it might be similar to an effect of mine, Lunch Box, published in Equinox back in 1985, and wanted to include a credit in his instructions. Here is the write up from Equinox as sent to Andrew. I think it's still an interesting effect even after all these years.


A large ‘sandwich’ with very few calories!

This is a very easy effect and can be ideal for use at a restaurant table if you have been called upon to do some tricks. If it is an office outing then the table could be quite large and whilst the people near you can all see the tricks perfectly, the people at the other end of the table may have to resort to chatting among themselves, simply because the effects don’t involve them at all. Here is one trick that works best for a large group gathered around a lengthy table.

Have any card selected, noted, returned and then control it to the top of the deck. Execute a double lift and ask the spectators if you have accidentally cut their card to the top. They will answer ‘no’, unless of course you’ve made a mistake. With the deck in the left hand (a card apparently face up on top) pick up the card case and throw it to someone just to check that there is nothing inside, no elephants, trapdoors etc. Flip the double face down on the deck and remove the top card with the right hand. The left hand leaves the deck face up on the table and retrieves the card case from the spectator (who ideally should be seated to your left). Place the face down card in the card case and ask one of the ladies to seal it with a kiss. The case is in the right hand allowing the left to pick up the deck from the table so it can be held face down in dealing grip.

Take a left fourth-finger break under the top card of the deck and take the case back from the lady. You apparently examine the case for lipstick marks making some kind of comic remark e.g. ‘Nice shade of red… it goes with your eyes.’ If you are still unharmed you flip the case cover onto the top of the deck. The right hand picks up both case and the noted card (easy because of the break) from above allowing the left hand to turn palm down and drop approx. half of the deck face up onto the table. The right hand sets the case (and hidden card) on top of the tabled portion of the deck and the left hand drops the remainder of its cards face up on top of all. This sandwiches the case in the middle of the deck. make some remark about creating a ‘cardboard sandwich’ similar to that served in… (name of office canteen, restaurant of ill repute or whatever.).

Square everything up and then call for a clear pathway along the table to whoever is sitting across from you. Once the cutlery, glasses and bottles have been removed you ask that the spectator facing you from across the table holds out his/her hands as they are about to catch something… hopefully nothing nasty. With the spectator prepared you ask the selectee again as to whether they are sure that the ‘Three of Spades’ (or whatever card you apparently placed in the box) was not their card because otherwise this is a lot of trouble to go to just to find one card. Ask for the name of the selection and show doubt that it could in fact be that card.

Finally you place your hand alongside the sandwiched case and after an appropriate countdown you flick the case clear of the deck with your forefinger. See the diagram at the top of this post.

The case should be struck hard enough to carry it across the table into the waiting hands of the spectator opposite you. One card will be face down in the face up deck. Ask again for the name of the selection. Flip over the card and say ‘No, sorry it’s the Three of Spades again.’ This should get a laugh. Pointing out that the Three was in the card case you ask the spectator to open up the box. Inside he will find the selected card.

Another idea on this is to actually have a comic pair of lips drawn on one side of the card case. This will provide you with added comedy when having the case ‘sealed with a kiss’. The routine is not designed for the table-hopper but for the amateur magician who frequently gets asked to show a trick or two on the office outing. Only they can get a table cleared for a trick without annoying all those trying to eat at it.

If you'd like more of the same you can order a copy of Equinox from the publisher Martin Breese. It contains more than a dozen similar effects and, if I do say so myself, I think it's pretty good.

Friday, August 10, 2007

This is a simplified handling of an effect I published in the original Talon magazine. There it was used as a version of the ‘Open Prediction’ but I’ve since found that it’s impressive enough without any of the trappings usually associated with the Paul Curry effect.

A deck of cards is shuffled by a spectator. The performer removes one card and asks the spectator to sign his name on the back. The performer writes a prediction under the spectator’s signature but does not show it as yet. “There is only one prediction,” says the performer, “If I try to change it, you’ll know it’s not the original because your signature won’t be on it. I’d like you to take the prediction, hold it face-up, and stab it somewhere into the middle of the deck. I won’t shuffle the cards. I’ll leave them exactly as you left them.” The spectator inserts the prediction face-up into the face-down deck. The deck is spread and the prediction, and the face-down card next to it, removed. On the back of the prediction the performer has written just three words, “Jack of Spades.” When the other card is turned over it is found to be the Jack of Spades.

The trick is virtually self-working depending on what I like to think is a clever subtlety. You’ll need two identical Jokers in the deck (or you could use a duplicate of any other card) and a quick drying indelible marker pen.

At the start both Jokers are in the deck when the spectator is asked to shuffle the cards. He can shuffle them to his heart’s content. When he’s finished you take the deck back and spread it face-up saying that you will use the Joker for the effect. Spread the cards from right to left, holding them so that the spectators cannot see their faces. When you come to the first Joker (from the face) remember the card that lies immediately behind it. This will be the card you predict. Let’s assume that it is the Jack of Spades. Keep your right fingers on the back of the Jack of Spades and continue spreading until you come to the second Joker. Upjog this Joker.

You will now remove the upjogged Joker and at the same time cut the Jack of Spades and the duplicate Joker to the top of the deck. To do this openly divide the deck in two, splitting it so that the Jack of Spades is at the rear of the right hand portion. The right hand then extracts the outjogged Joker and tosses it face-up to the table. The right hand cards are placed behind the left hand cards to bring the Jack of Spades to the top of the deck. The second card from the top will be the duplicate Joker.

Place the deck face-down on the table and take out the marker pen. Hand it to the spectator and ask him to sign his name or initials on one half of the back of the Joker. You then take the pen and card and write “Jack of Spades” below his signature. Cover the card as you write your prediction so as to hide it from the spectator. And as soon as you have finished turn the Joker face-up on the table.

Recap the events that have taken place. The spectator has shuffled the deck and written his name on the back of the Joker. You have written your prediction on the same card. There is no way you can alter your prediction. The spectator’s own signature is a safeguard against that possibility.

Pick up the deck and hold it face-down and spread slightly between your hands. Ask the spectator to pick up the face-up Joker and insert it, still face-up, somewhere into the middle portion of the deck. Now spread the cards wider so that everyone can clearly see the Joker face-up in the middle of the deck. Divide the spread in two so that the Joker is the top card of the left hand portion. The upper half of the deck is face-down in the right hand. Get a left little finger break under the face-up Joker in preparation for what happens next.

Point out that the spectator could have inserted the Joker anywhere and that the cards are, of course, all different. As you say this you flip the right hand cards face-up onto the left. The whole deck is temporarily squared but you immediately start to spread the cards between the hands again. Spread the cards one by one as you reach the centre of the deck. Keep the left hand cards squared until you spread them and as soon as you reach a Joker stop. Place the right hand cards face-up on the table.

Although you have apparently reached the prediction you have in fact only reached the duplicate Joker. Under this Joker is the face-up Jack of Spades, then the prediction Joker also face-up. You are also holding a break beneath these three cards.

Say, “I’ll take the Joker and the card next to it and place them on the table. No one could have known where you would have placed the Joker in the deck.” Immediately execute a Triple Lift turning the three cards as one onto the left hand packet. Deal off the prediction and the next card, face-down onto the table. Ask the spectator to read out what is written on the back of the Joker. Ask someone else to turn over the face-down card. It will be the Jack of Spades. Prediction fulfilled!

The duplicate Joker is left on top of the left hand packet. If you decided to use a duplicate of another card instead of a Joker then you can palm it off at this point leaving you with a full deck. If your Jokers are of a one-way design then make sure they both face in the same direction during the handling.