The final chapter on sleight-of-hand covers that most vexing of moves, the pass. We’ll dive into the technique explanations first and then talk more about the move itself later.

11.1 Two-Handed Shift

From Erdnase’s Expert at the Card Table ( When it comes to readability, I tend to side with Hugard and Braue, but when it comes to technique, I tend to rely on Erdnase. It’s not always easier (such as with the top palm) but it’s often better.

11.2 The Pass

From Royal Road to Card Magic, in case Erdnase’s approach is a bit too difficult.

11.3 The Riffle Pass

Also from Royal Road. Personally, I’m not a big fan of the Riffle Pass. The major advantage of the classic pass is that it’s an invisible control of a card, so why take a move that should be quiet and give it a noise? The answer is usually that it’s too difficult to do quietly, and the riffling action covers the transposition of the packets well. To answer this… Yeah, it does, but that still defeats the purpose. If you’re going to give off a tell that you did something, you might as well just shuffle the cards. It’d be like adding a snapping action to the top change.

That said, there are a couple of instances that it makes sense. If the riffle is going to be used as a magic gesture, then it makes some sense to do the riffle pass in a context where the magic apparently happens at that moment. A colour change might work, for instance, or else to vanish the Jacks from the top of the deck in a sandwich trick. The pass better be exquisite, though.

11.4 The Invisible Turnover Pass

From Expert Card Technique. Similar to the Riffle Pass, I’m not a big fan of doing something that draws attention when the move can be done secretly. That said, this is a pretty good covering action for the Herrmann/Hofzinser pass, and if you can motivate a reason to turn the deck over, you’re probably alright.

11.5 Change in Hand

From Paul Rosini’s Magical Gems ( This trick seems like it was making the rounds at the time, and it’s hard to know if Rosini or Annemann deserve credit, or if it should go to somebody else. Frequently this trick isn’t done with a pass, but I think that loses something. One of the big features of the pass is that the spectator has a sense of where the card is supposed to be. So, when you show the top card of the deck and ask them to stab it in, there’s an extra cognitive gap keeping that card from being associated with their selection. If you shuffle the deck, though, you lose that.

11.6 The Card and the Envelope

From Louis Christianer’s Effective Tricks ( Similar to Change in Hand, it’s possible to do this with just a false shuffle, but you’d lose something with it.

11.7 The Undercover Mystery

From Annemann’s Full Deck of Impromptu Tricks, this is another trick that benefits from a pass more than an open control. Not only does it better give you a chance to embed the memory of the cards being in the middle of the deck, but the control itself brings each of the cards into two different positions, making it really efficient.

11.8 An Easy Color Change

From They’re Off! from Grant and Lane ( I see this as a better training tool than an actual effect, although the text suggests that it’s an effective way to show a colour change. I’ll leave that up to you.

11.9 Conclusion

I suppose I should have written this earlier, but I’m lazy at the moment. When JACK was designed, the sleights were ordered to put controls with external reality first, sleights with no external reality but a reasonable covering action second, and then sleights with absolutely no external reality at all third. There’s some variance in how that turned out, but that was the major idea.

The thinking is this… If you false shuffle a deck of cards, it looks like you’re shuffling a deck of cards. You’ve got reasonable cover for your sleights. While of course we should practice what we do until we’re adept at the moves, it doesn’t take quite as much effort to get the sleight to a presentable level. If, on the other hand, you’re doing a glide, a force, or a double-lift, suddenly you’ve got less of a covering action to help you out. The secret is essentially at a greater risk of being figured out. With the top change, the palm and the pass, the risk is greatest, because the external reality needs to be that it looks like we did absolutely nothing. You can come up with reasons to actually turn a card over or take a card from the bottom of the deck, but we’ve got very little cover for the final three classes of sleight.

For this reason, a lot of magicians avoid these sleights. Daryl famously avoided doing a section on the pass in his 8-volume Encyclopedia of Card Sleights DVD set. He does teach the spread pass in there, and it’s not a bad method, but everything else was left out. Daryl actually showed up for a Q&A on a small magic forum once, and when the question was put to him on why he left out the pass from that set, he said it was because he didn’t feel like he was the guy to do it. Now, Daryl actually used the classic pass in an earlier DVD of his, and he did it well enough, so it seemed like a strange exclusion. In any case, I think there’s this feeling of intimidation when it comes to the move. As such, magicians introduce tells — riffling the deck, making a rocking action like they’re going fishing, mugging the deck so that it disappears momentarily from view under protection of the right hand. These things cover the move, sure, but they fail to do what’s required to get the most out of the pass, which is to make it seem like nothing happened.

Why is this important? Because if nothing happened, then in the context of a single card control, the spectator can be relied upon to know two things. First, they know where the card is — maybe not precisely, but they know it’s in the middle of the deck. Second, because they know where the card is, they also know where it isn’t. This is why the shuffle isn’t always a good substitute for the pass. It’s also why you don’t want to have a trick where the card is passed and then the deck is shuffled afterwards. That second issue is something that’s unfortunately in a lot of card magic books.

The fact is, though, we don’t really have a lot of applications for the pass that rely specifically on it. The only ones that really stand out are things like Cavorting Aces, Roy Walton’s “Pass at Red”, a sandwich trick that brings the sandwich cards to the center of the deck, or else as a phase in an Ambitious Card Routine. One could argue that “Change in Hand”, for instance, plays well enough if you substitute a shuffle for the pass, and it’s hard to argue against that. I think ultimately we come close to arguing over details that most spectators wouldn’t consciously notice anyway. However, for something like “Change in Hand”, if the spectator knows that their card is somewhere in the middle, then that can be kept as a point of focus for when they’re given the indifferent card to stab in there, and that’s an added layer of security against them prematurely turning over the card you give them.

It should be noted that there were some tricks that called for a pass that we pushed earlier in JACK. Something like “Card Through Handkerchief”, for instance, I don’t think suffers too much from having the card seeming to be lost rather than seeming to be somewhere in the middle. Yeah, the effect is arguably a bit stronger with the pass, but the real mystery I think lies in how it penetrates the handkerchief, something that I don’t think a shuffle control can explain.

Anyhow, that’s it for the sleight of hand portion of JACK. Up next? Self-workers!