The third technique, the key card, is probably amongst the first most people learn when they start learning card magic that goes beyond the usual self-working stuff. However, hopefully it will be clear how having the basic skills in shuffling cards can aid in the deceptive use of the key card. This technique is actually taught in chapter 6 of Royal Road, but since it’s one of those open techniques that doesn’t rely on misdirection all that much, it can be learned a bit earlier.
3.1 The Hindu Shuffle
Why are we jumping ahead to chapter 15 of Royal Road? Well, in chapter 6 we run into one of the early weaknesses of the book, which is that the basic act of setting the key card is weak, and is kind of in the same ballpark of how regular people would do it. So, while you might want to read and practice the opening section of chapter 6 just for the sake of completeness, the first technique to set the key card that is actually solid is taught using the Hindu Shuffle. This flies and is reliable, and it basically looks like the spectator has control over where the card is returned to while the deck is being shuffled.
So, learn the shuffle as is taught. Now, imagine that you’ve caught a glimpse of the bottom card, and that the spectator has selected a card from a spread and looked at it. After squaring up the deck, begin the Hindu Shuffle and tell the spectator “Say stop whenever you want.” When they do, extend the left hand’s cards and say “Drop your card on top right here.” After they do, drop the right hand’s cards on top. At this point, your known card that was at the bottom of the deck is now right next to the spectator’s selection, and if you were to spread the cards face-up, it would be directly behind it.
This works. Now, imagine that instead of doing a hindu shuffle, you actually do a regular overhand shuffle as taught in part 1 of JACK. You should notice that you can similarly place your key card next to the selection.
Both of these techniques work great, and look much more deceptive than what’s taught at the beginning of Chapter 6.
3.2 The Key Undercut Shuffle
Now, while the Key Undercut technique is weak, this is actually pretty nice. It may be strong enough on its own to make up for the Key Undercut itself, but honestly, I think it’d be better to just use it after one of the more deceptive key card settings taught above.
3.3 The Sliding Key Card
Also from Chapter 6, this is dynamite. Learn to do it deceptively, and you’ll have at your disposal one of the great classes of technique that exists in card magic. More on this later on.
3.4 Reversed Card as Indicator
Taken from Card Manipulations #4 (available at lybrary.com’s TLPP section, this is a surprisingly effective way to both set a key card and to bring it under control. Unfortunately, since it’s based on an apparent goof-up by the magician, it’s not the sort of thing that you’ll want to do more than once, so don’t get too attached to it. However, it does fly. In fact, rather than trying to learn how to do it exactly as taught in the text (since it can be difficult to get the face-up card to fall out like that), one thing you can do is simply spread the cards to show that one card is face-up, say “Uh… that wasn’t you card, was it? Shoot. Sorry about that.” then remove the card at that point and also cut the deck, bringing the selection to the top. It seems bold, but it flies, so long as they think you really did screw up.
Finally, if you’re worried about trying to openly reverse a card at the bottom of the deck, you can always just start the trick with a known card reversed at the bottom, and then use the milk-shuffling technique taught in part 1 of JACK to keep it there and out of sight. Have a card selected from a spread (keeping that card hidden) and then go into whatever key card placement suits you.
3.5 “Gray’s Spelling Trick”
For whatever reason, Gray’s Spelling Trick never did much for me, but some talented performers (Eugene Burger and David Regal, to name two) swear by this trick when performing for regular folks. So, it’s included here. It’s from Chapter 5 of Royal Road.
3.6 “Do As I Do”
From Chapter 6 in Royal Road. This is a great trick using two decks where the magician and the spectator apparently do the exact same thing and end with a surprising coincidence. Usually, when people talk about “Do As I Do”, they mean this specific trick, but it’s actually a plot concept that can be applied outside of card magic. The important thing with this presentational approach is to ensure that it looks like the spectator and the magician are doing the exact same thing, so that there doesn’t appear to be any magician’s advantage. The strength of this specific iteration of that presentational ploy lies in how well that appears to be the case.
3.7 “The Circus Card Trick”
From Chapter 10 in Royal Road, this is essentially a bog-standard key card trick but with an interesting hook.
Annemann’s trick from volume 39 of the Jinx (available on AskAlexander.org) uses an interesting principle which allows you to set two key cards. The trick here is a bit involved, but it’s the earliest application of the principle I could find, although from Annemann’s writing it seems to be that the principle is well-known…? In any case, learn it to see the specific principle in play, and later on somewhere on the nu blogge I’ll make sure to include a handling of the trick that’s impromptu.
3.9 “The Non-Poker Voice”
Taken from chapter 6 of Royal Road, this really needed a better title, but regardless, it’s a good idea with a clever method that should be difficult for an audience to see through. An interesting twist on this comes from Henry Christ’s “Lies! Lies! Lies!” from the Jinx (Summer Extra, 1935 on the Ask Alexander link above), and it can be used with any regular key card approach.
There are some strong tricks here to choose from, and while the key card is one of those techniques that seems to lack the sexiness of other strategies, think about what it offers. With an examinable or even borrowed deck, they can take any card in the deck they want, they can put it back where they want, they can cut the deck as many times as they want so that nobody legitimately knows where in the deck there card might be, and the magician can still find it. Yeah, there are some tradeoffs (they can’t shuffle, and the cuts must be single cuts), but already this we’ve got a good strategy with some strong selling points. The usual difficulty with a key card trick is trying to find a compelling presentation that can be used in order to get to their card, and this part of JACK includes several tricks that offer exactly that.