Unfortunately the world of magic lost one of its great cardmen recently.
I never had the opportunity to meet the man, and don’t have any unique or personal stories to share about the incredible Ricky Jay. But you cannot study gambling sleights and the various methods of cheating at cards without learning of his unmatched expertise and undeniable talents in the field.
He was an incredible magician and performer. He starred in multiple TV shows and movies and was often seen slicing into watermelons by throwing cards at them with the finest precision.
I will continue to enjoy learning all that is available to me through his legacy of video productions and book publications.
As my humble tribute, I will share some of Ricky’s work below. The following clip is one of many examples of his mastery with a deck of cards.
As things get busier out IRL, things do get quieter here on my website. This is not reflective of my card work and magic practice. My days have been filled with learning new tricks, new sleights and, most importantly, working on some great new ideas.
Over the the last few weeks, I have created and updated multiple new routines to add to my live set and to potentially sell. Whenever I get a wave of creative inspiration like this, I know not to waste it.
I have created so much in the last few months, it has been hard to find the time to note it all down. Some of my new tricks include a fun new torn card reveal, an ACAAN effect and an impossible card penetration illusion called “Beeline” that (even though I know how it works) still sometimes fools me!
I am cautious not to go into too much detail before releasing my creations so I can protect and properly copyright the ideas. For now, the goal is simply to test and fine tune everything as much as possible.
REFINING, REHEARSING, RECORDING
The time has come to produce demos and instructional videos for the stronger of my multiple new tricks.
This is always great fun, but very time consuming. I have tested my new 4k equipment regularly filming songs with my band Walker St and I now have a powerful new laptop capable of editing the UHD footage to professional standards.
My new illusion trick “Beeline” will be produced and released first as it is a routine that requires very little spectator interaction to demonstrate. The other routines are much more interactive so I will need to wrangle friends and family to be involved to film them effectively.
SO HERE’S THE PLAN
The time has come for me to structure a solid 30-45 minute routine that I can perform regularly and reliably to build up the match practice I need to move forward in this craft.
In the coming months, I plan to visit as many people as I can (as many as will have me!) to practice my brand new (and first ever!) live card magic / gambling demonstration show. I look forward to finally demonstrating what I have been working on and hearing everyone’s feedback.
During the performances I will take the opportunity to video some demos of my original work and catch people’s reactions. The videos will have much more effect when filmed in front of spectators and will better demonstrate the routines to those who may wish to purchase and perform the tricks themselves.
So … who’s in?
HERE’S ONE I PREPARED EARLIER
Meanwhile, as you wait for my new videos you can check out all of my previous video releases on Penguin Magic.
There isn’t any rule that specifies the sorting of cards when packaged by card companies. A single series of card decks will remain sorted the same way within a single release, but each new brand or version of a deck may alter its order without limitation.
It is up to the card designers as to what that order is for each new deck they release. These days some decks even come ordered in magic memorised “stacks” to enable miracles to occur right out of a brand new box.
Standard USPCC Bicycle Decks come arranged in the suits Spades, Diamonds, Clubs and Hearts. The Spades and the Hearts are ordered Ace to King – Ace, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, Jack, Queen, King. Then the Clubs and Hearts are the reverse – King, Queen, Jack, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, Ace.
Arranging the Cards in the A-K then K-A order places two kings in the centre of the deck in positions 26 & 27. These are commonly known as “Kissing Kings”. If fact, when you split the whole deck arrangement in the middle (between the kings) you get a mirror of each card on the opposite side. The Ace of Spades is opposite the Ace of Hearts and so forth.
Shuffling the Deck
If you perfectly shuffle a deck of cards (splitting the deck into equal 26 card halves and accurately interlacing every single card one after the other) 8 times in a row, the deck will return to its original order. If you imperfectly (randomly) shuffle a deck of cards, they can be arranged in one of more combinations than there are atoms on earth.
That’s 80,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (67 zeros) ways to arrange a deck of 52 cards!! So any time you pick up a well shuffled deck, you are almost certainly holding an arrangement of cards that has never before existed and might not exist again.
Back into order
It is documented that the fastest way to return a deck into order is to deal out the cards into four piles (one pile for each suit) and then arrange each pile before reassembling the deck. The internet is littered with record claims and videos of people demonstrating their fastest deck resorting efforts. You will no doubt find them amongst those solving Rubik’s cubes and stacking cups.
So cursed I am with continually sorting decks back into order (most likely for false shuffling) I have been crafting methods to make the process more interesting for years!
Below is one of my first attempts at making the card sorting process more entertaining. It is a video I created that turns sorting a deck of cards into a game. The idea is to use the method defined by the name “SOLVE” (flipped 37JDS) and try to complete it in the fastest time possible without dropping cards.
The main purpose of this article is to teach you my way to quickly sort a deck of cards without needing a table.
Quickly, Whenever, Wherever
The main movement for my way of sorting the cards is spreading them from one hand to the other while arranging them into simple, easy to manage categories. Reordering cards in your hands is much more versatile for anywhere you might need to prepare or perform.
This method will not only get you quicker at sorting your decks, it will strengthen your hands for other sleights as well.
– Step 1: The Colour & Suit Positions
Start by cutting to the Ace of Spaces (face up). This isn’t vital, but just makes things better no matter how the cards are shuffled.
In this first step you are going to align them according to their colour and suit as they move across.
Black cards are pulled to the front and their positions are:
Front/Top – Clubs
Front/Bottom – Spades
Red cards are pull behind and their positions are:
Back/Top – Hearts
Back/Bottom – Diamonds
– Step 2: Separate the halves.
Once you have sorted the cards into their colour and suit positions, align them so that both the sides are neat but the bottom half and top half remain separate.
By rotating the top half you can strip out that half of the deck and separate it from the bottom half. The half you stripped out contains the clubs and the hearts. They are grouped together but not yet in order.
Place the half that was stripped out from the top of the deck, behind the other half and straighten everything up.
– Step 3: Ordering the Suits
One by one spread through the cards again but this time paying attention to the values.
The first two suits should have the Ace to the right and count up to the King to the Left. Then the last two suits start with the King to the right and count down to the Ace on the Left. Once a suit is ordered, move it to the back of the deck.
There is no trick this. I simply look at each card one at a time and determine if it is in order. If not, I move it into position.
For example I’m holding a 3, I’m sliding across an 8, is that in order? Yes – it can slide into place. Even though there are cards missing still, one is greater than the other in the correct order.
Alternatively if I’m holding a Jack and I spread across a 9, I will have to shift the 9 into its correct position. At this stage it may be between a Jack and a 6, so long as it is in order, the other cards will be along shortly.
In my experience it is easier to concentrate on just moving one card at a time rather than shifting blocks of cards around as this can be harder to keep track of. Although this process seems quite manual, the one by one sorting actually becomes a lot faster once you get into a rhythm.
Grab your cards … get set … go!
From Sorting to Practice
Another method I use to sort a deck of cards is slower but more focused on practising some sleight of hand. There is an advanced card move known as a spread cull that is a very effective way to secretly locate and control cards. Sometimes instead of using my standard method above, I will use a spread cull to collect and move each card into a simple “Ace to King” order.
If you are familiar with the Spread Cull move and would like to try what I do, here is the order I run with to get my preferred Spades, Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds, Ace to King order:
Spread cull all of the 2s to the top.
Go back to the start and cull the 3s
Continue this with the 4s right up until you have culled the Kings (The Aces will be all that remains and will be in order by default)
Next spread cull all of the Hearts to the top.
Go back to the start and cull the Clubs
Lastly, cull the diamonds.(The Spades will be all that remains and will be in order by default)
After completing the above steps, the deck will be in order and you will have practised spread culling 15 times!
Sleight of hand is something that requires a lot of time and practice working on moves that are only really ever used in performance. On this blog I plan to do a series called “EUFM” (Everyday Uses for Magic) that will put those hard earned skills to use in day-to-day settings.
The dexterity and shade awareness achieved while working on magic tricks can not only be practiced everywhere, but can be used to get a slight edge in many other non-magical circumstances.
No Biscuit Tricks
Here in Australia, biscuits are what others might call “cookies”. Regardless of there name, its important to note that I am not referring to their use in magic tricks. Although if I were …
This article is aimed at highlighting where knowledge of magic and sleight of hand can give you a huge advantage at home, in the office, or any other biscuit sharing situation.
The “Fair Share” palm
The idea behind this sleight is to clearly present to family members or coworkers (or anyone else you might be sharing a plate of communal biscuits with) that you are only taking a single biscuit in assurance that everyone gets their fair share. This is demonstrated in picture 1.
As you can see in picture 2, using your awareness of palming and angles, you can quite easily hold out 2 or 3 more unfair biscuits to enjoy later. I recommend ditching the extra load into a pocket or biscuit sized topit of some kind to lower your chances of flashing what you’re holding out and being outed as a greedy cheat.
The Bad Bikky Force
A common tool used in tricks is called “Magicians Choice”. This is also known as “equivoque”. This specially crafted method of social engineering can also be used to ensure you get the best of 2 available choices. For this example we will use the following 2 biscuits.
Let’s assume you are really in the mood for a cream filled double layer biscuit (pictured left) and have to get someone else to “choose” the other, non-creamy, single layer biscuit (pictured right). You simply ask them the following question:
“I want to eat one of these biscuits, which would you prefer?”.
Outcome 1: They respond “The creamy one”:
In this instance, you immediately pick up the creamy one, clarifying that the creamy one is the one they preferred you to eat.
Outcome 2: They respond “The non-creamy one”:
In this instance, you immediately pick up the creamy one, clarifying that they just said they preferred to eat the non-creamy biscuit.
The quicker you take a bite of your preferred biscuit, the less chance your loaded question will be challenged.
The One-Handed Multi-Hold
With all the props and flourishes used in tricks these days, magicians tend to get quite strong and flexible hands. This versatility and dexterity has previously only been used to shift card packets or sleeve coins. Using these same skills on your coffee break brings a whole new angle to the simple acts of lifting and holding.
One simple example is pictured below:
With one hand I am able to hold my biscuit (the creamy one I conned someone out of earlier), my coffee cup and a handy saucer to catch drips and crumbs. I invite all those practicing sleight of hand to hold items in non-standard ways like this – being careful of hot liquids or sharp edges.
This way of holding my cuppa and bikkie may seem a little over the top to some, but with my other hand now free, I am able to lift more delicious items. Theoretically, at any given time, I could have my coffee, saucer and current biscuit in my right hand, while palming multiple future biscuits (or other communal foods of choice) in my left.
The goal with this experiment is to utilise sleight of hand in common, non-magical and non-harmful ways. To make use of the unused skills earned by magicians and card sharps. Being creative with every part of your day can only help make you a stronger performer!
If only there were some real magic around that could make the extra weight gained from eating all the additional biscuits disappear!
Most of the card work I enjoy uses false dealing, blind shuffles and cheating sleights. This is much more easily achieved when using a “borderless” deck. Most if not all of the moves can still be done with a bordered deck, but the angles and shade are much more limited.
While practising the gambling moves, there was a time where I thought the use of a borderless deck was “cheating”. So … I was cheating at cheating! The expectation I put on myself was to be able to work with any deck of cards. Everything should be as hard as possible and the more margins the merrier!
Yes, it is good to be versatile and I encourage everyone who is interested in studying work such as false dealing or blind shuffles to get their hands on as many different deck types as they can. However, I have since come to the realisation that if I get to choose the deck, and I am in control of the environment (as I would be for a performance), there is no shame in using a deck that more effectively hides the dirty work behind its edges.
The classic borderless deck, and one of my favourites, is the trustworthy USPCC Bee deck. A standard among many casinos, the traditionally cut cards with their cambric finish always perform. They are often seen used by card masters such as Richard Turner and Ricky Jay for their own gambling demonstrations.
These cards are not readily available to purchase in Australia so I mostly have to import what I use. I especially enjoy the decks made in the OHIO factory 10 or more years ago (yes the same cards can feel different). So I keep my eye out for “New Old Stock”, often outcast from casinos.
There are also some more modern borderless decks that I enjoy working with:
Of course bordered decks do have their advantages. Double lifts and Triumph routines come to mind. So if you need to, or you simply enjoy working with bordered decks, there is a hybrid borderless-bordered option. All decks with a minimalist white back work really well in both scenarios. Daniel Madison has produced some excellent examples of this:
I have also seen some experimentation with partially bordered decks, where only some of the sides are bordered. I am sure these cards have some advantages in both ways but my experience using them is limited.