Wednesday, January 30, 2008


You are probably wondering what the above has to do with ACAAN. Read on and all will be revealed.

This blog entry began when Steve Williams emailed me saying that it would be great if The Trick That Baffled Babbage could be done using only one deal. Fortunately it can.

The inspiration for this version lies in one of my favourite tricks from Harry Lorayne’s Close Up Card Magic. It is called Stop! and uses estimation of the kind described in The Trick That Baffled Babbage. Although uncredited in the Lorayne book Stop! probably owes much to Abbott’s Certain card trick, a routine marketed in 1934.

Abbott’s Certain was an impossible location using a shuffled deck. The magician asked one question and was able to produce the selected card. And the question he asked was, ‘Which pile is your card in?’

It is an amazing trick and if the advert reproduced above has you baffled you might want to dig out your copy of Encyclopedia of Card Tricks. The trick is described in Chapter One under the title of The Card Miracle – Certain. And it really is a miracle.

But back to The Trick That Baffled Babbage, and the following version which as you will gather employs estimation, one question and some blatant jiggery-pokery to achieve a yet another thought of card at any number trick. It seems we can never have too many. Let’s call it…


One spectator selects a card. Another selects a number. The selected card ends up at the selected number in a seemingly impossible manner. No gaffes, no fakes, no specially printed cards, no stacks, no stooges, no complicated memory work, no vember. *

I’ll ignore the patter and get straight to the handling but something along the lines of the previous item, The Trick That Baffled Babbage, should give you an excuse for all the dealing.

Step 1: The spectator chooses a card. This is done in the fairest possible manner. Either by him cutting the tabled deck and looking at the card cut to. Or by memorising one from a bunch as the cards are spread in front of him. Either way you are able to estimate the position of the card from the top of the deck. And he is utterly convinced that you have no idea which card he might be thinking of. This was the strength of Abbott’s Certain card trick.

For the sake of simplicity let’s assume that after he has looked at a card you estimate the card to be half-way down the 52 card deck i.e. it lies somewhere around position 26.

Step 2. Let’s backtrack a little. As the card is being selected ask a second spectator to name a number from 1 to 52. You want it to be an interesting number, something worthwhile dealing to when the finish comes, so tell him, ‘Make it difficult, make it high.’

Assume he says the number 36. Don’t make anything of it at the moment. Instead, direct your attention back to the spectator who is selecting the card, making sure he squares the deck on the table and is generally convinced that he had a free choice and can remember the name of the selected card.

Step 3: Take the deck back and give it a false shuffle before dealing it out into four face-up piles. The shuffle isn’t strictly necessary but I feel it enhances the impression that the selected card is truly lost. Tell the spectator to look for his card as you deal but not to give anything away.

If your estimation is not way off this will mean that the selected card will be around sixth from the bottom of the face up packet. To arrive at this figure you merely divide your estimate (26) by the number of piles (4) to arrive at 6. Since the division or your estimation might not always be so perfect the chosen card might be one card higher or lower but we’ll deal with that possibility in a moment.

Remember, you’re covering all this peculiar dealing with your patter story about the trick that baffled Babbage or some other MacGuffin. Always strive to make the presentation interesting.

Step 4: Make a guess as to which pile the spectator’s card is in, saying, ‘Is your card in this pile?’ If yes, great. It looks like you know something. And, of course, you now do.

If the answer is no, ask the spectator to tell you which pile the card is in but not to look at the card itself or give its identity away. When he indicates the chosen pile, act a little surprised, saying, ‘Really? Then I have no idea whether this will work. In fact that’s why the trick baffled Babbage. Because he couldn’t see how one question could result in what I’m about to show you.’

Memorise the values of the 5th, 6th and 7th cards from the bottom of the nominated face-up pile. This is one card either side of the card determined by your estimation. For reasons that will become obvious if all the values are different you need only memorise the values of the 5th and 6th cards.

Step 5: Pick up the deck and in doing so secretly place the chosen card at the chosen number. It’s easy to do, let me explain.

You know the chosen number is 36. And you know which pile the selected card is in. And you know that it is the 5th, 6th or 7th card in that pile.

As you gather the piles you pick up the chosen pile so that it is third from the top of the face-down deck. This means you have placed two piles on top of it i.e. a total of 26 cards from your 52 card deck.

The cards you have noted the values of now lie at 31st, 32nd and 33rd from the top of the deck. You need only move five more cards from the bottom to the top of the deck and you will be able to finish this trick successfully because the noted cards will lie 36th, 37th and 38th from the top of the deck.

You can either move the necessary cards during a shuffle or cut. Or you can simply slip five more cards to the top as you rather messily and casually gather up the piles from the table. Whichever suits your style of working.

Step 6: You're ready to finish. Ask the spectator for his chosen number. And act as if it’s the first time you’ve heard it properly when he tells you.

Ask the other spectator to reveal the name of the card he is thinking of. Bear in mind that this will be the first time he has named his card. And the deck is already face-down on the table set for the finale.

If the card he names is the same value as the card you noted to be fifth from the bottom of the nominated packet, it means it now lies exactly at the chosen number. Anyone can pick up the deck and deal down to the number and find the card there.

If the card he names is the same value as the card you noted to be sixth from the bottom of the nominated packet, have the named number of cards counted off and then reveal that the next card is the chosen one.

If card named isn’t either of the values you’ve memorised then you have a little adjusting to do. The chosen card is one card further down than you want it to be. In this case you pick up the cards and as you deal the chosen number of cards into a pile you deal two as one at any point during the procedure. This is an easy thing to get away with if you do the double deal around the half way mark. As you come to the chosen number you will naturally slow the deal for dramatic effect. The card after the number will be the chosen one.

The overall effect is the same. A thought of card arrived at a thought of number. And no one except the spectator even knew the name of the card until the very last moment. Not bad for a dealing trick of this type that involves minimal calculation or memorisation.

Do check out Abbott’s Certain card trick. You’ll also find it in Hugard and Braue’s Expert Card Technique in the chapter devoted to Self-Working Tricks although there is some interesting information about other estimation tricks in Encyclopedia of Card Tricks.

NOTES: It’s also an easy matter to deal three cards as one if you want to end with the selection exactly at the chosen number. You could even palm off the top card while handing the deck to the spectator to deal in order to set things right. The possibilities are only limited by your skill level and imagination.

* That ‘no vember’ gag is pure Paul Harris. It should be appended to the end of every dealer ad.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Often missing from a discussion of Any Card At Any Number is mention of a trick by Bertram Adams called Adamathica. He marketed it in 1921 as a set of instructions in hardbound form. He said he had 100 copies for sale and I would imagine it is quite rare. I found a set of instructions at Ask Alexander.

The effect is described as follows:

Spectator is asked to make a free mental selection of any card in a deck of 52. This selection is made purely mentally without reference to any deck, hence it is not forced in any way. The same spectator, or another if there be more than one, is now asked to name any number from 1 to 48. The spectator is then told that the card that he has mentally selected will be made to assume a position in the pack at the number mentioned. Through the entire experiment the performer does not see the face of the cards as they are handled face down.

Free selection of card. Free selection of number. And yet the mentally selected card ends up at the chosen number. Sounds impossible. Adams claimed it took him ten years to develop it.

Unfortunately Adamathica is not the Holy Grail ACAAN that many are seeking. It was a version of the 27 Card Trick, a dealing routine using a full deck in which the mentally selected card to could be manoeuvred to a chosen number. In later advertisements, perhaps sensing some resistance to his mathematical creation, Adams said: ‘You may think it the poorest excuse for a trick you ever saw but send me your dollar. I will send it by return mail then if you don’t like it say so, I will send your money back quick.’

It was a clever idea and if you’re interested in the mathematics of the 27 Card Trick you can find more in Martin Gardner’s invaluable Mathematics, Magic and Mystery where chapter three is given over to what is known rather amusingly as Gergonne’s Pile Problem.

The routine that follows uses the work of Bertram Adams combined with another old idea to produce what I think is a reasonably interesting mathematical version of any card at any number. It’s never going to make it into your table hopping repertoire but you might want to give it a run at your local magic club.


‘As is well known, Charles Babbage was the scientist who invented the Difference Engine, a form of early computer designed to make calculations quickly. This was back in the 1820s when the idea of calculating machines was pure science fiction. He was inspired by in his work by an exhibition he saw of a mysterious automaton known as Von Kempelen’s Chess Player. It took the form of a mechanical man dressed in Turkish garb and would sit at a table and take on all comers at games of chess. It usually won. But it wasn’t the chess games that interested Babbage. It was a card trick that the automaton performed. Babbage couldn’t figure out how it could possibly work without some form of calculating machine being employed. And that’s the card trick I’m about to show you.’

All of the above is pure fiction but it helps set the rest of the effect in context. And the effect is this. One spectator chooses four cards from the deck and places them in his pocket. It’s a free choice of cards and you never see them until the finale of the trick. A second spectator has a free choice of any card in the deck. Using a little of Bertram Adams’ thinking from Adamathica you are now able to bring the thought-of card to the exact position in the deck indicated by the total value of the four pocketed cards. So if the four cards add up to 29, the chosen card will be at the 29th position in the deck. The trick is entirely self-working and you don’t need to see or know any of the chosen cards to bring about the effect.

The method has two main elements. The first is forcing the total value of the four pocketed cards. The second is manoeuvring the selected card into the right position in the deck.

The deck is stacked so that if any four adjacent cards are removed their combined values will total 28 or 29. This is the familiar 14/15 stack. The arrangement is described in Annemann’s 202 Methods of Forcing and is as follows:

7 - 8 - 6 – 9 – 5 - 10 – 4 – J – 3 – Q – 2 – K – A – K – 2 – Q – 3 – J – 4 – 10 – 5 – 9 - 6 – 8 – 7 – 7 - 8 etc.

You’ll have two aces left over. Place these on the face of the deck.

This stacked deck is usually used to force either the number 14 or 15 when a pair of adjacent cards is removed and the values totalled. Jacks equal 11, Queens 12, Kings 13.

If four adjacent cards are taken they will total 28 or 29 or 30 which is I think a more suitable total for this trick.

Incidentally some time ago Peter Duffie asked me who originated this stack. Generally it is credited to Annemann but I found an earlier reference to it in The Sphinx (May 1924) where it is used by T Page Wright in his A Prophetic Card Discovery. He says the arrangement was inspired by one devised by William Larsen Jr. The more I find out about Wright and Larsen the more I admire their work.

Step 1: Tell your Charles Babbage story as you spread the deck face-up. The stack won’t be noticed. Then spread the deck face-down across the table and ask the first spectator to remove any four cards together. Except for the two aces on the face of the deck, he has a free choice. Ask him to put the four cards in his pocket for now.

Step 2: Hand the deck to the second spectator and ask him to shuffle the cards, which effectively destroys your stack. Have him place the deck on the table and then cut the cards and look at the card he has cut to and remember it. You need him to cut a card in the central third of the deck. Most people will do this naturally when asked to cut the deck. It’s a good idea to turn away as soon as he has cut the deck. It guarantees you can’t see his selected card and makes the whole process look incredibly fair. When he has remembered his card tell him to replace the cut portion and square the deck.

Step 3: If for some reason the spectator cut shallow or deep you can now adjust the deck so that his selection is in the middle. Pick up the deck and just shuffle a few cards around so that the selected card is positioned correctly. If it’s already in the centre third of the deck, give the cards a false shuffle that keeps the selection in that centre portion. Either way you appear to shuffle the deck which further convinces the spectator that his card is lost.

Step 4: Deal the cards out, from the top of the deck, into four face-up heaps, asking the spectator to look for his card so that he knows where it is. ‘But not to give anything away that would reveal which card you are thinking of. Don’t smile or grin or stare or blush.’

At the end of the deal say, ‘The automaton asked only one question at the end of the deal. Which pile is your card in?’ Let the spectator answer and then gather up the piles so that his pile is second from the top of the deck. Obviously do this as casually as you can as you talk about Charles Babbage watching this trick.

Step 5: Deal the cards out for a second time. Again the cards are dealt from the top of the face-down deck into four face-up piles. Once again ask the spectator to watch out for his card. As you deal, say, ‘And this was the part of the trick that intrigued Babbage because later he realised what the automaton must be doing. You see every card in the deck has a value. There are the numbers Ace to 10. And there is the Jack which equals 11. The Queen is 12. And the King is 13. And it seemed both obvious and yet impossible to Babbage that if you could add up all the totals of these values, as the cards were being dealt, you would be able to calculate the total value of the cards that were missing from the deck. Let me show you what I mean.’

Then, seemingly as an afterthought, ask the spectator which pile his chosen cards lies in. Gather up the four packets except this time pick up the pile containing the selected card so that it lies third from the top of the deck. You can if you wish give the cards a quick full deck false shuffle to further confuse the spectators.

The thought-of card is now in position for the finale. It lies 29th from the top of the deck. I think that’s remarkable given that you’ve only dealt the cards out twice.

Step 6: Ask the first spectator to take out the four pocketed cards and total the values. You’ve already told him that Jacks equal 11, Queens 12, Kings 13. The addition is done openly which means you’re free to help him arrive at the total which will be 28 or 29 or 30.

Step 7: Remind everyone that only the second spectator knows the name of the card he is thinking of. Ask him to name it. Repeat the name of the card and say, ‘And this is the part that baffled Babbage. Because he couldn’t figure out how anyone or anything could possibly make your (to second spectator) thought-of card arrive at your (to first spectator) chosen number. But that’s exactly what happened. Let’s see if we’ve got this right.’

Count down to the number. You will either find the chosen card at the number called in the case of 29 or it will be the following card in the case of 28. Either way it is an easy finish to make. The slightly more difficult outcome happens when the cards total 30. But all you need to do is deal 30 cards face-down into a pile then pick the pile up and double lift to reveal the chosen card.

NOTES: You’ll never disguise the fact that this is a mathematical card trick but that doesn’t stop it being an interesting card trick, hence the Babbage themed patter that takes it into the realms of pseudo memory and calculation. Your story gives the spectators a reasonable sounding explanation to hang onto, that somehow you were able to count the values of the face-up cards, deduce the value of the missing cards and find a way to position the thought-of card. Good luck on making that work!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

If you came here looking for The Bogus Effect and Not The Berglas Effect, you should check out the posts for 17th December 07 and 3rd January 08.

The new mss on this topic will be sent out at the end of January and the offer kept open until that time.

Monday, January 07, 2008

From the feedback I've been getting it appears that quite a few of you are having Reversed Svengali decks made up to try out The Bogus Effect.

The ever curious Shiv Duggal asked why use a Reverse Svengali when a regular Svengali would do. There are several reasons why I think the Reverse Svengali is better. The first is that it allows the deck to be spread face-up and shown to be made up of different cards. There's no need to spread it face-down and flip it over, which is what you'd do with a regular Svengali deck. That's if you can find the appropriate surface on which to make this maneuver. And in any case to me the spread and turnover feels like a flourish and I don't think that slick moves have any part in ACAAN. You want it to look like a mental feat not a card trick.

The second reason is that I prefer that the spectator cut the deck, look at the card and replace the cut portion. It requires less handling on his part than cutting the deck, looking at the top card and then cutting the deck again to lose it. Using a Reverse Svengali makes the selection process look more impossible. The card remains exactly where he found it. And you can even afford to turn away from the spectator as he 'thinks' of his card.

Having persuaded you to get yourself a Reverse Svengali let me show you how its configuration can alter a trick. The trick in question is Max Maven's Sventalism which is described on page 316 of Jim Steinmeyer's The Conjuring Anthology. It's two-person telepathy effect but you could modify it for one person if you wished.

A spectator freely selects three cards from a deck. She gives one to the spectator on her right, another to the spectator on her left and keeps one for herself. All this is done under the fairest conditions and while the magician's assistant is out of the room. The deck is put away. The cards are hidden in the spectators' pockets.

The magician's assistant now enters the room. The magician says nothing and doesn't even need to be there. Nevertheless, under what appear to be impossible conditions, the assistant can correctly reveal the identity of each selected card.

This is a slight tweak of Max Maven's clever method but the use of a Reverse Svengali allows three cards to be selected as opposed to the two in Max's routine.

The secret is simple. On the back of each force card in the deck is marked the identities of the indifferent cards that are either side of it. The Ted Lesley marking material is ideal for this.

Begin the routine by giving the deck a false shuffle. This must be a full deck false shuffle. If that is not in your repertoire then just give it some regular cuts. Cutting the deck makes no difference to the arrangement.

With your assistant out of the room you hand the deck to a spectator and ask her to cut it several times. When she has finished ask her to give the top card to the person on her right and the next card to the person on her left. She takes the third card for herself and you take the deck from her and drop it straight in your pocket without even attempting to glance at it. Ask everyone to look at their cards and then either hide them behind their body or hide them in a pocket. At this point you can leave the room out of one door and your assistant can come in from the other, if that is possible. The idea being that you never meet.

The assistant goes along the row of spectators and pretends to pick up the vibes. The man that was to the left of the assisting spectator has the force card in his pocket. Your assistant psychically divines it and then asks the spectator to produce the card. On taking it back from him your assistant can now read the marks on the back and divine the names of the cards the other two spectators are holding. And that's pretty much that. You come back into room when you hear the applause. Alternatively leave your assistant to face the music if she's screwed up.

If all the indifferent short cards in your Reverse Svengali are arranged in a stack, for instance Eight Kings, then you only need mark the identity of one card on the back of the force cards. You can figure out the identity of the third card from the stack.

Thursday, January 03, 2008


Following on from The Bogus Effect here is another version of Any Card At Any Number. The dealer advert would run something like this:


A spectator thinks of a card. A second spectator thinks of a number. A deck of cards is placed on the table. The performer need not touch the deck from this point on. Only now is the thought of number revealed. The number is counted to and only then is the first spectator asked to disclose the name of his thought of card. You can guess what happens next….

No sleights. No switches. You do not need to touch the deck after the number is called or the card is named. The spectator does the dealing.

Only one deck used. No short cards. No specially printed cards. It will not be the same card or number every performance. Cards before and after the chosen card can be show to be different. Easy to reset. No stooges. Completely free!


The method while simple will take some time to explain. And that explanation is far too long to post here unfortunately. However, I'm now completing what I hope is the last draft of the manuscript describing the trick in some detail. If you would like a copy all you have to do is drop me an email and at the end of January I'll be sending out the pdf. See my Profile on this blog for the email address. And yes the manuscript really is completely free.

Finally a big thank you to those who took the trouble to make up The Bogus Effect and give it a try. I hope it worked out well for you.


The offer of the free pdf has been closed since January 08. A lot of people have suggested it should be marketed. A revised and expanded edition is being prepared and will be announced when ready on this blog.