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.