There’s a kid putting up videos over on the Magic Reddit, and it’s hard to know what to think about it. On the one hand, hey, good job kid, keep it up. On the other, he’s trying to put lipstick on the old “Red 8 and 9” pig of a trick. I went back and forth on trying to type up something for the kid, but since my advice was pretty much “Dump this trick, it’s a dead end” that would only serve to bring everybody down over there, I figured I’d just stay here and bring up something that was in the old Ye Olde, from Favourites Month, part of the 365 project… My personal favourite “easy” card trick, complete with runners up.

(Originally published February 20, 2011)

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Yes, the image is for my own amusement.

This one is complicated. Originally, I was going to go with self-working trick, but my initial first choice for the winner of that category brought some interesting baggage. First of all, the defining aspect of the trick is self-working, and yet, it can’t be done impromptu — not without becoming either difficult (getting a deck switch) or else seriously difficult (we’re talking Kostya Kimlat, here) before the trick starts. So, if we’re going to allow for tricks where you’re allowed to introduce your own variables, then heck, you might as well open the door for gaffes and gimmicks to be considered, correct?

And yet, if you’re allowed to put in a little bit of skill, just a teensy little bit, you open yourself up to some great effects that aren’t at all knuckle-busting.

So, I compromised on the following. No gimmicks or gaffes. Prearrangements are ok. Card sleights are limited to the glide, the jog shuffle, placing the key card, a simple tabled false cut (eg: the Jay Ose Triple cut), and self-working forces. That’s it. Arbitrary, possibly, but there you go.

Even that still gives us some fantastic tricks, though. The things you can do with the cross-cut force and a little showmanship are insane. The Xeroxed Deck and the Insurance Policy are both easy as hell all-presentation pieces, and if you’re able to put in the extra work, then the Sketchpad Rise has become a modern classic (I might have even chosen it if the revelation wasn’t so much effort). Heck, if you can effectively sell a self-working force, you can give the impression that you never touched the cards, and that’s nothing to slouch at. And, of course, you can throw a jog shuffle on top of it to add more deception with just a bit more effort.

Some disqualifications were painful for me. Chad Long’s Shuffling Lesson is a wonderful trick, but in this case it requires just enough audience management whilst doing some sleight-work yourself that I had to let it go. Rosini’s Card Stab is a great trick as well, but requires a double-lift (simply slotting in a glide gives it just too much suspicion, in my view). The Slop Shuffle Triumph might seem to be a natural fit here, but I already honoured a Slop Shuffle variant this month so I decided to skip it here. Daryl’s Untouched is also a neat trick, but I find the fact that you have to interpret the spectator’s result for them to be somewhat problematic. Do As I Do is another time-honoured classic, but between the fact that it’s a near ubiquitous beginner’s trick (meaning, a few too many people are out there capable of doing it), and the need for a second deck, makes it too much of a stretch for today’s award. Scarne’s Triple Coincidence, for similar reasons, was also discarded (sorry). There’s also a neat effect (can’t remember the creator’s name or the name of the trick, unfortunately — maybe somebody out there can help?) where you’ve got a grid of 4×4 cards with some face-up and some face-down, and you fold the rows and columns upon each other, so that when you spread, three cards are left over, and they match a prediction you made ahead of time — it might not have won overall, but it would have gotten a mention below if I could have just remembered the damn name.

Anyways, the finalists…

Gemini Twins. Great trick, super easy to do. With a bit more effort you can also do Ackerman’s Gemini Money. If the requirements included being impromptu this one could conceivably win out. Eugene Burger does that trick on his Magical Voyages DVDs, and along with his approach to the Gray Speller and Double Reverse, you might want to look into his work if you like tricks that don’t involve too much effort but still play well.

Max Maven’s got some diabolical applications on the Gilbreath Principle that are worth checking out. That said, I’m wary of recommending any method where you’re highly unlikely to even understand the method, even when you’ve been taught it.

Straight card divination using a Si Stebbins. Lovely trick. They take a card, with no force, and you instantly know what it is. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — when talking about memdecks, Juan Tamariz lamented the fact that people might skip ahead of this simple effect in order to get to the supposed good stuff. Now, you might get more deception out of using a memdeck than you will with a Si Stebbins, but honestly, it’s still strong even SS. However, the degree of its power is going to rest almost entirely upon the ability of the magician to milk it for all its worth. A variable like that is too wild to give it the win.

Tamariz actually has several effects that are worth considering simply because of their ease, and his ability to sell things through presentation. Neither Blind Nor Silly (it goes by several other names) and El Cochetito get a lot of show for near zero effort. In the end, though, both tricks just didn’t appeal to me the way the eventual winner did.

Dai Vernon’s Emotional Reaction. Lots of upside, more than I thought possible. If you get a chance to see Tyler Erickson do this effect, do it, because he’s got good work on the presentation (it’s also worth mentioning that Tyler’s got good work on Do As I Do and selling self-working forces, as well). I’m just a bit leery at the thought that the method is too well-known, and not quite as disguised as I’d like.

Marlo’s got what might be (to me, anyway), the best self-working Spectator Cuts to the Aces that I’ve seen. Actually, it’s a teensy bit of a deviation from the plot, but it’s still very direct, and I believe that with a false shuffle and a means to clean up, it’s wonderfully fooling. That said, it requires the false shuffle and a means to clean up, or else one hell of a deck switch. It’s on the Malone Meets Marlo DVDs somewhere.

Simon Aronson’s Prior Commitment. I go back and forth on this one. On the one hand, the trick fooled the ever-loving bejeezus out of me, because even though I had a sense of the method I couldn’t quite figure out how it all could be managed so well. Some people have said that the nature of the final reveal seems to indicate that it’s a self-working feat, though. I don’t really know what to think.

The Jim Steinmeyer Lie Speller principle is very good, and David Regal is convinced it’s an all-time classic. Favourable ratio of effort to reward, and its impromptu nature and intriguing premise are major selling points… just not enough to win today’s contest.

Out Of This World. In many of its forms, this probably comes closer to being in the miracle class than any other trick on this list besides the winner. Still, in the self-working forms, there’s that damned four packet situation that’s always bugged me, and it still does… just enough to knock it out of top spot. That said, many other lists would probably crown it winner.

The Lazy Magician’s Card Trick. Great presentation of a great effect from Jack Miller and/or Al Koran (depending upon whom you ask). That said, I can’t help but think that if you’re going to put in the effort to set up for that trick, you might as well open yourself up for a bigger miracle.

Speaking of which, we might as well just get to it. Ye Olde Magick Blogge’s Favourite Low-Skill Card Trick is…

Shuffle-bored!

God I love this trick. Love it! The previously-mentioned Simon Aronson is my hero simply for coming up with it. I’d let you know about it, but to me, that’d just be destroying the fun. Go hunt it down and watch it!

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Adding in comments from the time it was posted previously…

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Bottom Palm

The “folding” trick is an old one that goes back to… Rusduck, I think? Don’t remember off the top of my head, but I know Lennart Green, Martin Gardner, and mathematician Henry Dudeney all play a role in the principle. But I think the definitive version, and possibly the one you’re referencing, is Bannon’s “Degrees of Freedom” from Dear Mr Fantasy.

Speaking of which, in that same book he has a killer version of Gemini Twins, as well as a similarly killer rendition of Shuffle-Bored.

Great entry, sir.

TBK

BP-

Thanks a ton. Yeah, Degrees of Freedom is the one. I’d seen the various applications for this elsewhere but Bannon framed his the best (in my view).

Pix Smith

OK, the dangerous part of poking around the unread posts of a great blog that you like so much you don’t even want to tell people about it is that you wind up with something to say about something that might have happened well over a month ago.

I have to agree with you — Shuffle Bored is a great trick. I also would place “The Million-to-One Chance” (ha – hyphens) by Bro. John Hamman and Montgomery’s Ward (Stewart James) in the class of “miracle” with the right presentation and little effort. Montgomery’s Ward is possible, and even easier, if you aren’t even there — it makes a great phone trick.

Great topic, and thanks for intellectual magical reading. But what’s best, red or blue cards?

TBK

I’ll need to check out those two. I’m especially interested in anything that can be done over the phone, as so many of those are procedural nightmares.

As for red vs. blue… What a stupid question. OBVIOUSLY red cards are superior.

Actually, all kidding aside, I need red cards as they set up a gag that I use to cover a move.

Pix Smith

Montgomery’s Ward — a caveat. The final strong portion of the trick isn’t something I have ever found hard to do, even on the fly, but some might. The reason it’s easier on the phone is that you can actually write down anything that you might need to get you to the punch line, as it were. Definitely worth a look, I think. Hope you like it.

Red, eh. hm. Might have to rethink this admiration for the writing.