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.