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The Magic Memories (56)

Hi everyone!

These are The Magic Memories 56, gone online Sunday, January 23rd, 2022, at 0:07h sharp.

Thoughts on Righting a Wrong, Royal Road to Card Magic, the Pass and the Table Faro Shuffle
Several wrote in to ask about my opinion on “Righting a Wrong”, the card trick from Royal Road to Card Magic that I mentioned last week. CLICK HERE for a quick reminder (see Curiosity 6: Curious Card Trick).
I’ll do this in two or three installments in order not to make the posts too long. My first thought refers to the control used at the beginning to bring the card to eighth position from the top, I quote:

1. Have the pack shuffled, take it back, and have any card removed and noted.

2. Have the card replaced and pass it to the top.

3. Shuffle overhand, running seven cards above the chosen card, which becomes the eighth card from the top.

End of quote.

I said it before, and I’ll repeat it here: Royal Road to Card Magic was one of the most important books of its time, and nobody and nothing can take away its status as a “Classic”, in the sense that it belongs into the history of the magical literature as a landmark book, the very first to have systematically rendered the card magic of its time in a didactically attractive form.

Nonetheless, time and many creators have changed the landscape of magic and brought a lot of innovation, some useless, some visionary and beneficial. This concerns not only the techniques and their handling, but also the construction and of course the presentation of the tricks, as well as the challenge of teaching all of that to a modern audience. This is a highly complicated thing to do – there are few who know this better than I, believe me.

The control above shows that in this sense Royal Road to Card Magic ist dated. I know that this is a delicate thing to say as this is a book still recommended by many who can justly be called “experts”. The reason, however, they do, is that they grew up with the book, as I did, they learned from it, and there is no reason for them to relearn what they already can do, so they have no reason to look around for more recent developments. Their recommendation can be looked at as a statement about their own biography, not as a contemporary recommendation.

Let’s stick to the facts and look at the control above.

The first step contains a fundamental idea that should be identified and defined as it contains a timeless concept, namely that before a card is selected the deck should be shuffled and cut, ideally by a spectator, but at least by the performer.

Simply ask a friend to offer you a card for selection from the unshuffled deck, and then do the same thing, but this time you shuffle and cut the deck before you select a card. What did you notice? Yes, it feels much “better” to take a card from a shuffled and cut deck than otherwise. In my essay “Thoughts on Controls” in Confidences (pp. 43) I call this the “Preliminary Phase”, and every technique, not just Controls, has such a phase. Identify and define it, and you’ll have a better technique. So, this is something to be remembered and implemented.

Then, in step 2, a Classic Pass is executed, followed by a False Shuffle retaining the selection on top. You can find this technical procedure in almost the whole of the magic literature of the first part of the 20th century and before: The Pass was THE recognized way of controlling a card. Today, most will agree that this is nonsense, especially if followed by a shuffle. First, there are only about a dozen persons in the known universe, if at all, who can do an invisible Classic Pass. And even if they do, it has bad angles. I have nothing to add to what Erdnase said already in 1902 in his The Expert at the Card Table:

The shift has yet to be invented that can be executed by a movement appearing as coincident card table routine; or that can be executed with the hands held stationary and not show that some manœuvre (sic) has taken place, however cleverly it may be performed. (p. 98, lines 18-12 in the CARC Bible Edition).

Second, if you follow the Pass with a False Shuffle, regardless of what type, why do a Pass in the first place?

Either do the Pass and then do not handle the deck anymore, or forget the Pass, and then do just a shuffle & cut: Simply shuffle to the break and thus control the selection to the required position.

My assumption is that since even the old-timers knew that a Classic Pass won’t go unnoticed if done by 99% of the performers, a False Shuffle would at least confuse the issue and (hopefully) still convince the alerted spectator that the card was lost. For let’s never forget what the most important thing of a Control is: It is not the technique, not the handling, not the presentation, but the fact that the spectators are convinced the card is lost, and that’s a purely psychological thing.

Doing the Pass and then shuffling is like doing a Double Lift and then a Second Deal instead of simply dealing the top card.

In the case of “Righting a Wrong” a simple, convincing and safe way of getting the selection to 8th from top could be to start an Overhand Shuffle and ask the spectator to call ‘stop’. Have her replace her selection on top of the shuffled-off cards, then continue the shuffle by running seven cards, injogging the next (or injogging a small block), and then shuffling off. Let the deck slide in Dealing Position, obtain a break with the little finger under the Injog, cut about half the cards above the break to the table, cut at the break, finally drop the remaining cards on top, leaving the cards unsquared (see “Waiter’s Theory & Actions of Recall” in Sharing Secrets, p. 118).

A moment later square the cards and pick them up.

This is what Ascanio would have called an “Intelligent Technique” (s. “Intelligent Movements”, Sharing Secrets, p. 54), i.e., you have really shuffled the cards, you have really cut the deck, nonetheless, the selection has been controlled to the 8th position from the top. All are “Active Techniques” ((see “Active/Passive Techniques”, Sharing Secrets, p. 18), all has an innocent handling Gestalt.

Another method could be to crimp the bottom card as your key card, then shuffle seven cards to the bottom,making the crimped key card 8th card from the bottom. Now do the “Key Card in a Ribbon Spread” from Card College 1, p. 138, to have a card selected, and then replaced under the key block. Now shuffle and cut to the crimp to bring the selection to 8th from the top. I would use my “Accidental Pass” (it is not a Pass 🙂 from  Secret Agenda, where it is titled “Bridge Control” – see the screenshot below for your convenience (and note the comment in red).


But there is yet another implication, maybe even more interesting.

The authors of Royal Road to Card Magic (actually Jean Hugard wrote it, and Fred Braue was a contributing editor) had found a very good didactical form: a sleight was described in the first part of a chapter, then one or several tricks using that sleight would illustrate how to apply it in context. This formula is so good, that I took it over for the dicactical form of my own Card College books!

However, I also know about the weakness of this method: You have to come up with good tricks. And then you can’t use sleights that have not been taught, yet, because they will be discussed in some later chapter. So you end up at times having to distort a good trick just to fit in the sleight taught in the technical section of the chapter.

I think that this is what happened here: “Righting a Wrong” is a trick to illustrate the chapter on the Classic Pass. So the authors looked for a good trick that required a control, and because the Pass had to be used, it was used. You will have noticed that although the Pass appears in Card College Volume 2 (Chapter 19), it does not in Card College 1&2 – Personal Instruction, the video interpretation of the first two books.

This is because in my opinion the Classic Pass is one of the two most overrated sleights in the entire realm of card magic.

You do not need the Pass to become successful in magic, and I’m not talking about Siegfried & Roy, Copperfield, Silvan, Paul Daniels etc., I talk about high-caliber card experts such as Juan Tamariz, René Lavand, Ascanio, Pit Hartling etc. – I’ve never seen any of them use a Classic Pass. Yeah, not because it was invisible :-), no, because they never used one.

Virtually every problem where the Pass is used can be solved by other more deceptive and safer means. And the very few effects that require a Pass exclusively (I cannot think of a single one right now…), well, you can replace them with similar ones, or just leave them out, there are so many other good ones!

On the other hand – and that’s not a contradiction – in Volume 4 of Card College I have discussed several other kinds of Pass that I consider useful in certain situations (remember that there is no technique that will solve every problem in every situation – like tools of a tool box).

To conclude these ramblings, you might find it interesting to know that the so-called “Bluff Pass” (Card College 3, p. 555), created by the British Frederick Montague and published by Goldston in Westminster Wizardry (n 1928 !), was of course not a Pass. It was meant to substitute the Classic Pass, which as already mentioned was the established control method, and because of that the author added “Bluff”. It might very well have started the search for new control methods, and thus shook one of the prevailing beliefs of its time, creating what would nowadays be called a paradigm shift. As you can see, the small world of magic always reflects the large world of real life. A most relevant topic to ponder… but not today.

On the Table Faro Shuffle

BTW: If you wonder what I consider the other most overrated sleight today (2022), it is the Table Faro Shuffle.

I have to laugh when I see the ads for the “traditionally cut” cards, meaning they are cut from bottom up, thus facilitating the Table Faro or a Hand Faro done by starting from the bottom. However, no performer in his or her right mind, who works for a professional fee, would take the chance of doing a Table Faro, at least not a Perfect Table Faro, as the risk of missing is too big.

There might be just a handful of people on this planet who could, but neither I nor you belong to them, agree? We do the Faro in the hands where you can immediately see mistakes and correct them, but most of the time you’ll use a Partial Faro to create a set-up or shuttle a card to a certain position.

Knowing that a mistake will almost always occur at the end of the Faro, not at the beginning, and knowing that 90% of the set-ups are on top and not on bottom. If you want to avoid risks – and that’s what a professional does – you don’t do a Faro bottom up, but top down, as taught in Card College 3 Chapter 35  🙂 Therefore you use cards cut top down, and leave the “traditionally cut” cards to those who practice techniques as a Zen discipline, or who perform for YouTube or magician friends, where mistakes do not matter. Both activities are laudable, but differ from the real world of performing. There are exceptions, of course, but just a few, such as the brilliant Richard Turner.

On rereading this post I realize that what I wrote might sound controversial to some, more than usual in my posts. So, let me state: It is never my intention to be controversial, and in none of my writings, videos, lectures or similar do I pretend to know more or better than others. I simply express my opinion that is made up of now almost five decades (that’s FIFTY years!) of studying magic and performing it as an international professional performer. If you agree and I have maybe even told you something you didn’t know before, then that’s good. If you don’t agree, it might still be good, because it made you reconsider the problem under discussion, and confirm your opinion about it, or create a new one, different from mine. In all cases it is important to me to be respectful of each others experience and opinion, and we might simply agree to disagree.
To finish this week’s post on an amusing note, here are a few…
Paraprosdokian Sentences
  • I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening, but this wasn’t it. –Groucho Marx (to a lady)
  • He taught me housekeeping; when I divorce I keep the house. –Zsa Zsa Gabor
  • Standing in the park today, I was wondering why a frisbee looks larger the closer it gets…then it hit me. –Stewart Francis
  • There are three kinds of people in the world – those who can count, and those who can’t. –Unknown
  • The company accountant is shy and retiring. He’s shy a quarter of a million dollars. That’s why he’s retiring. –Milton Berle
  • I saw a bank that said “24 Hour Banking,’”but I don’t have that much time. –Stephen Wright
  • Always remember my grandfather’s last words: “A truck!” –Emo Phillips
  • Half of all marriages end in divorce—and then there are the really unhappy ones. –Joan Rivers
  • If I could say a few words, I would be a better public speaker. –from The Simpsons (1989)
More on this topic and how to relate it to magic in the next post. Meanwhile:

Receive my very best wishes for a good week!

Roberto Giobbi

1 thought on “The Magic Memories (56)

  1. Ein großartiger Beitrag, lieber Roberto! Vielen, vielen Dank und herzliche Grüße aus Andalusien!

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