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.