Sunday, August 22, 2010

Raynaly's Any Card At Any Number

Despite its recent popularity Any Card At Any Number (ACAAN) is not a new plot. The version described here is that of Edouard Raynaly who described it in the January 1908 edition of L’illusionniste magazine. I found it on the Ask Alexander database among Jean Hugard’s files.

Hugard translated a lot of Raynaly’s work and some made its way into his magazine. Indeed there is a description of this particular Raynaly effect under the title of Coincidence in Hugard’s Magic Monthly for October 1955. I offer it here purely as a reminder than many a good trick remains hidden in print. I think it’s a real gem.

EFFECT: Two decks of cards are shown, both in their cases. A spectator is asked to choose one, drop it in the envelope and seal it.

He is asked to choose a number from 1 to 52 and write it on an envelope without showing anyone.

The performer approaches a second spectator, leans close and whispers something to her. ‘Did you hear me? Good. Keep it a secret for now. I’ll ask you about it later.’

The performer takes the remaining deck from the case, shows it, shuffles it and then has two cards chosen by a third spectator.’

‘You have two cards. But the lady here only has one secret. Give me one of the cards.’

The spectator chooses one of the cards and hands it to the performer.

‘What was the secret?’ says the performer.

‘The Five of Diamonds,’ answers the lady. The magician turns the chosen card over; it is the Five of Diamonds.

‘Before any of this happened you chose a number. What was it?’

The first spectator turns the envelope around. It has 23 written on it. He opens the envelope, takes out the cards and deals down to the 23rd card. It too is the Five of Diamonds.

METHOD: The method is very simple and also allows for a lot of variation in the way you play the routine and how you handle the revelation of the two secrets. The two decks of cards are stacked in an identical manner. And you know the position of every card in the stack. You can use a memorised stack like that of Nikola or Tamariz. Or you can use Si Stebbins and calculate the position of the card. You can even have a cue card hidden in the stack of envelopes you are using. It’s up to you. Here are the basic mechanics of the routine.

1: Pick up the envelope, open it and have one of the decks dropped inside. Seal the envelope and then take out a marker pen and hand it to a spectator.

Keep hold of the sealed envelope as you ask the spectator to choose a number between 1 and 52. You want him to choose a number worth counting to. So guide him a little with your instructions, saying, ‘Don’t make it too simple, don’t make it too high. Write it here, but don’t show it to the others just yet.’

This means you get a look at the number but no one else does. Later they might not remember that you saw the number at all. ‘Keep the number a secret for now,’ you say as you hand him the sealed envelope. Let’s assume the number is 23.

2: Pick a female volunteer and quietly whisper to her the name of the card that you know to be at the chosen number, for example the Five of Diamonds. Make sure she has heard what you’ve said. Tell her to keep the information a secret.

3: Take the second deck, open it and as you display the cards face-up to show them ordinary secretly cut the Five of Diamonds to the top of the deck. Turn the deck face-down, cut the Five of Diamonds to the middle and hold a break above it in preparation for a fan force.

4: As the spectator will be asked to choose two cards, this gives you two opportunities to fan force the Five of Diamonds. Any force will do, the fairest looking one in your repertoire. As long as the spectator ends up with two cards and you know which one of them is the Five of Diamonds.

5: Remind the spectator about the secret you whispered to the lady, saying, ‘She only has one secret but you have two cards. Hand me one of the cards please.’

If the spectator hands you the Five of Diamonds, refer to it as the chosen card and then have the lady reveal her secret.

If the spectator keeps the Five of Diamonds, call it the chosen the card and put the one she handed to you back into the deck.

Either way you finish by showing that the chosen card matches the card you whispered to the lady earlier.

6: To finish have the envelope turned around and the number revealed. The spectator opens the envelope, takes out the deck and counts down to the 23rd card to reveal a matching Five of Diamonds. An amazing coincidence.

NOTES: Raynaly didn’t use a force. He palmed two cards from the deck (one of them the force card) and then had two cards freely chosen. He then switched the two chosen cards for the cards he had stolen earlier. Old school skills that contemporary magicians might have trouble with.

What I like about this trick is that there are so many different ways to play it. It reminds me of the work of David Berglas. As long as different objectives are achieved (finding out the number, forcing a card) you can reach your goals in any order and reveal the coincidence in any number of ways.

Al Koran had a good way of sneaking a look at a number in his Headline Countdown (Al Koran’s Legacy). Don’t even look at the envelope while the spectator is writing down the number. But when it’s done, casually hold out your hand and take the envelope back, saying, ‘Sign your initials here.’ You draw a big circle across the flap of the envelope, getting a glance at the number in the process. Leave him signing his initials as you find a lady to tell your secret to. It’s bold but it works.

You don’t need to have two cards selected. One is enough but I think two give it that extra something that suggests freedom of choice on the part of the spectator. A relatively simple force is to cull the force card under the spread as you have a card pointed to. In apparently upjogging the pointed to card you switch it for the culled card. Continue spreading and have a second card pointed to. Genuinely upjog that card. Have the spectator remove both outjogged cards. It looks almost as clean as a fan force but is perhaps easier to do.

For the finale try first having the envelope opened and the card counted down to. Then with both cards face-down on the table have the lady reveal her secret. Turn over both tabled cards to show that they match. If you don’t like the idea of whispering to the lady, hand her a prediction in an envelope (from an index), write something on the palm of her hand or type something into her iPhone. There are many ways of dressing this routine up to suit yourself.

Finally, check out Al Baker’s A Card and a Number from Encyclopedia of Card Tricks (page 232). It’s a very similar method and well worth a try.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Essential Magic Conference

This blog has never been overtly commercial but it would be remiss of me if I did not mention the upcoming Essential Magic Conference, that I think has its heart in the right place. It is being organised by Luis de Matos, Marco Tempest and myself.

It is magic's first digital conference with live broadcasts, on-demand downloads, question and answer sessions and if you register now you'll even get a set of DVDs containing all the conference videos mailed to you when the event is over. It's a non-profit venture and the ticket price is a bargain. It takes place on 15th, 16th and 17th of July.

It's important to note that this is not a skype conference. All the speakers will be there in one location and all lectures broadcast in high quality video and shot on multiple cameras.

You can find out more at the Essential Magic Conference website. And check out the 60 second intro here.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Joe Berg Mystery

The following trick is from the March 1929 issue of The Sphinx. And the reason it is published here for several reasons. First because it presents something of a mystery. Second because it could be seen as an early version of the Premonition effect. And third because of its relationship to Ben Harris Crossroads effect, which I think is worth documenting.


EFFECT: Performer requests a spectator to choose either the red or the black cards, if red to choose Diamonds or Hearts, if black to choose Clubs or Spades. After the suit is selected the spectator is asked to call for any of the thirteen cards of that suit. Performer removes a pack of cards from a case and requests the spectator to shuffle them.

The performer now states that he will cause the selected or called card to vanish from the deck and appear in his pocket, immediately the performer reaches into his trouser pocket and removes the card called for. The pocket is shown to be empty.

THE MYSTERY: The description above is taken directly from The Sphinx. The mystery comes when you read the method because, unfortunately, not all the method is described. The text finishes abruptly leaving some details unrevealed. I presume some copy got lost in the edit. However, here is the method as described.

SECRET:  Remove thirteen cards of any suit you wish from a deck, arrange them in order from Ace to King and place them in your right trouser pocket. Now you may force the suit in the usual way, which I presume you are familiar with. Have spectator call for any card of the suit forced. As soon as the card is called remove remove the balance of the pack from the card case and hand it to be shuffled. While the spectator is shuffling the cards your 

COMMENTS: And there the explanation finishes. I presume that Berg located the card named and extracted it from the packet, perhaps putting it on top. This is done as the spectator shuffles the deck. He then palms the cards from his pocket, leaving the called card behind, and adds them to the deck. The result being that after a little more shuffling (to mix the forced suit into the other cards) he could show that the named card had vanished and then reproduce it from an otherwise empty pocket.

This is pure speculation but it seems to be the best way forward although it does leave some questions unanswered especially when it comes to giving the spectator a deck with thirteen cards missing

I checked a lot of Joe Berg material and found that he was fond of tricks in which several cards had been removed from the deck prior to the effect. And he has other tricks in which he palmed from a stack hidden in the pocket. At Ask Alexander there is an instruction sheet The Card Mysterious - Joe Berg. It is an any card at any number trick in which a spectator is invited to call out any Heart card. And then any number from 1 to 50. Berg already has duplicate suit of Hearts in his pocket. The spectator deals the chosen number of cards into Berg's hand and Berg merely palms out the named card from his pocket and drops it on top of the dealt heap to reveal the card at the chosen number. There are some similarities to Berg's Card Effect  i.e. working with a single suit and having thirteen cards in the pocket.

Berg's magic was usually very practical which is why I'm not inclined to dismiss this particular trick as an unworkable pipedream. Handling a spectator a 39 card deck does seem bold but given that only one person, the shuffler, would notice the discrepancy you might just get away with it. And the clever idea of forcing a suit to narrow down the selection possibilities is worth noting as an early nod in the direction of Ben Harris' Crossroads effect.

One additional idea, and maybe this was in the original text, is to palm the card from the trouser pocket and produce it from the jacket pocket. Or better still load it into a wallet. To prove the card missing from the deck he is asked to remove it. He can't and you produce it from your pocket.

Another idea is to reduce the number of cards that are missing from the deck. If you offer a choice between 1 and 10 when calling for the value of a card, you only need eight cards in the pocket. Add a couple of jokers to the deck and it won't feel quite so light as it did in the original trick.

In another effect Joe Berg had an interesting idea for arranging cards when in the pocket. Instead of stacking them in order, you stack them, with the odd cards on one side of the packet and the even cards on the other side. Both in numerical order. The idea is to make the named card easier to count to.

With only eight cards you might have, say, the 1, 2, 3, 4 of the suit from the top of the packet. And the 5, 6, 7, 8 in numerical order from the bottom of the packet. I think it's a touch worth knowing about.

NOTES: One source I have not checked is David Avadon's The Berg Book.  If anyone out there has a copy I'd be delighted to hear about similar material to Berg's Card Effect.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Chan Canasta Triple Card Coincidence


Dave Jones alerted me to another Chan Canasta video on You Tube uploaded by the discerning Gaafman. In this routine Canasta has three cards chosen by the first spectator. It's a free choice of any group of three cards from a stacked deck. In this case 9D, 5H and QS. By the way, this confirms that he is using the Eight Kings set up and a DHSC suit order as discussed in my book Chan Canasta A Remarkable Man. The spectator is invited to distribute the cards among three different pockets.

The idea of the trick is to have each spectator not only select the same three cards but also place them into the same pockets. As you can see it doesn't entirely work out. But the trick is not as risky as it first appears.

Canasta issues specific instructions to the first spectator: 'Don't look at them. Keep them flat on your hand like this. Now will you please take the first one and place it in your right hand pocket. Take one, any one, and put it into your left hand pocket.'  Although the spectator is given a choice here, Canasta still has an opportunity to spot whether he takes the top or bottom card of the two.

He then says, 'Take one, any one, and put it into your breast pocket.' There is actually only one card left. But by repeatedly using the phrase 'any one' it helps convince people that he really doesn't care where any of the cards are place. It gives an illusion of freedom of choice.

Canasta takes a second stacked deck, finds the same group of cards and forces them on to the second spectator. So far this is all standard Canasta strategy. Where it gets truly risky is when he asks the second spectator to mix up his cards and appears to give him complete freedom as to which pockets the cards are placed into.

However, consider these facts. Even if Canasta did nothing and gave the spectators complete freedom over where they placed the cards, the trick would still work one time out of six. There are only six possible combinations that three cards can be arranged in.

Better still, if Canasta can match one of those cards i.e. make the second spectator put the top card in the same pocket as the first spectator, then there is a one in two chance that the trick will work perfectly.

Unfortunately Canasta tells the second spectator to take 'any one you wish,' he does and it soon becomes impossible to follow which card is going into which pocket. I am not sure if, knowing that the top card is not in the right pocket, it is now better for Canasta to encourage the spectators to mix up all the cards. Maybe this reduces his one is six chance of a random miracle to one in four. Someone more mathematically minded might be able to answer this. Canasta certainly seems to realise that all is not well and asks them to mix the cards around, possibly hoping for a one in six miracle.

I think if Canasta had kept his head and clearly told the second spectator to put the top card (not 'any one you wish') into the right hand pocket, then he might have succeeded in bringing about the desired coincidence of identical cards being placed in matching pockets.

Canasta worked several different versions of the Cards and Pockets routine some of which I discussed in the Canasta book. It's a fascinating effect, capable of many variations, and one that I think could be very strong in the hands of the right performer.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Premonition Paradox

EFFECT: A spectator selects a card and then takes the deck. He gives it a couple of cuts and is invited to guess at what position his card lies. If he guesses correctly, a big prize is promised. The performer taps the wallet in his pocket, hinting at the reward.

'But first, just so that there is no cheating, what's the name of your card?' The spectator names the card, the Six of Spades. 'Okay. And what number do you think it lies in the deck.' The spectator is holding the deck face-up. He can see it's not the first card. So he guesses 27. 'Good. Now I'll give you an option. You can't change the number. You can't change your card. But you can cut the deck. Do you want to cut the deck or leave it the way it is?' It's a free choice. The spectator decides to cut the deck.

'So we're looking for the Six of Spades,' says the performer. 'Let's see if it is at position 27.' The spectator deals the cards face-up one at a time onto the table. Alas, the Six of Spades is not at the 27th position. The spectator continues counting and finds that the Six of Spades is not in the deck at all. And there are only 51 cards. The performer takes out his wallet and, of course, inside is the missing Six of Spades.

An advert could honestly claim that it's a free selection, there really are only 51 cards left at the finish, no palming is required to make the selected card disappear and yet the card in the wallet is the very same card that the spectator selected.

HISTORY: I've included this trick on the blog because it follows in the footsteps of the previously discussed The Problem With Premonition. And because I think the method is clever and has other applications. The main idea is Ed Marlo's. I've just tweaked it a bit and svengali-ised his concept. The original version was published, without a title, in Ibidem No 19 (1959). Marlo's idea enables any card to be named and then shown missing from the deck, leaving 51 cards and no duplicates (as found in variations of Premonition).

The trick uses a special deck made up of 51 double-face cards. On one side you have 51 different cards with no 10 of Diamonds. On the reverse side of every card is a 10 of Diamonds. You can see then that if any card is named all you have to do is secretly reverse it and the spectator can deal face-up through the deck and the named card would appear to be missing. Check out Ibidem for several interesting ideas that Marlo has with this deck.

The problem is that in 1959, when Marlo described this trick, a double-face deck made up in this way did not exist. However, since that time Piatnik Cards did put out just such a deck. And you can still get them. I got a deck just the other day from the Bond Agency. They are Piatnik Double Faces Special. Ref No 13061. You can buy matching decks.

Possibly unknown to Marlo is that the idea of a double-face deck constructed in this way is Hofzinser's and was part of his Thought routine described in Hofzinser's Card Conjuring. Maybe more on that in the future because it too is a very clever idea and uses the deck in a different way. But, for now, here is my version of Marlo's trick.

METHOD: The deck in this instance is made up of 26 ordinary cards and 25 of the special double-facers. The ordinary cards are all trimmed short, as with a Svengali Deck, and then alternated with the double-facers.

You now have a deck of 51 cards that on one side shows 51 different faces and no 10 of Diamonds. The other side of the deck alternates regular backs and 10 of Diamonds.

You also need a Le Paul or Kaps style wallet that you can secretly palm a card into. Here is the routine.

1: Spread the deck with the faces towards the spectators. It appears ordinary. Turn it face-down and dribble cards from the right hand into the left, as you would with a Svengali Deck, asking the spectator to call stop. Because of the Svengali Deck principle the cards fall in pairs, the backs of the regular cards hiding the upper sides of the double-facers.

2: When the spectator calls stop, halt the dribble and raise the right hand packet toward him so that he can see the face of the card. He remembers the card.

3: As you bring the hands together, to replace the upper half of the deck on the lower half, secretly reverse the selection. Marlo suggested you use the Buckley Reverse. But you can get away with a less sophisticated method as you patter. As the hands come together the left fingers can press against the face of the selection and slide it to the right. The outer right corner of the selection can now be clipped between the third and fourth finger of the right hand and quickly flipped over. With enough misdirection there are even simpler handlings you can use to turn the card over.

4: Turn the deck face-up and give it several cuts before handing it to the spectator. Make sure he sees that your hands are empty when you give him the deck. By now you have begun to explain your proposition and the reward for him correctly guessing the position of the card.

5: The spectator names his card, cuts the deck if he wishes, and then deals them face-up one at a time onto the table only to discover that the card has disappeared. That's the first part of the effect finished.

6: Pick up the deck and as you talk casually locate the only 10 of Diamonds that is showing. You noted roughly where it was as he dealt through the cards. Now all you have to do is palm out this card and sneak it into your Le Paul wallet. No one is looking for a palm at this point. The card has already cleanly disappeared. Bring out the wallet as if to show the reward he missed out on and then remove the double-facer with the correct side showing to finish. I like the paradox that the palm takes place long after the card has disappeared. It makes for a good dealer advert!

The original idea of Marlo's is great but I didn't like the thought of not showing the backs of the cards before the selection disappeared. Hence the addition of the Svengali Deck principle which I don't think takes away too much from the theoretically any-card-named selection that is part of the original.

NOTES: If you don't want to use Piatnik Cards you can make this trick up with regular double-facers. The deck will still have 51 different faces on one side. However, when the selection is reversed it will leave one duplicate card in the deck. Arrange the deck so that the duplicates are not near each other when the cards are dealt onto the table. Given that there are a couple of dozen duplicates in a regular Premonition, you shouldn't have much trouble getting away with just one.

Locating the selection for the palm after the disappearance will require a little more work. A simple card stack would be one way to go and enable you to pick out the correct duplicate card. Those who really want to baffle their peers might consider a version in which the selected card (a double-facer) is signed by the spectator. I think that would throw magicians off the scent.