Paul Cummins – May 16th Chat

Paul Cummins

Joe Stevens made a great suggestion regarding the chat I will be hosting on May 16th: why not post a routine in the Columns section and see if it generates some discussion during the chat!

Below you’ll find a routine that is not in my lecture notes, but is slated for inclusion in my upcoming book. Although it is a derivative routine, I believe I have changed the presentation from its precursor enough to warrant its inclusion.

My hope is that the routine may incite some discussion regarding impossible locations, bottom dealing, canceling techniques, outs, and/or those wonderful late night sessions that happen during magic conventions. If this all sounds a bit esoteric don’t forget that the chat is also an Open Forum, so any subject is legit fodder for chat!

I have had virtually no response or GMN discussion regarding any of the routines I’ve posted in the Columns section – I don’t know whether that’s a reflection of the material, my writing, or the interests of the GMN population. Certainly, I hope the chat on the 16th is a different story!


This is a personalized version of Peter Duffie’s “Thoughts on the Bottom” from his Card Compulsions, p. 232. In that routine, Duffie brilliantly employs a couple of bottom deals to an estimation method to locate a freely selected card and then adds a mindreading presentation. I immediately saw the potential for his routine as another in a string of impossible locations that I like to do for fellow magicians. All I have added to Duffie’s routine are a few red herrings and a method-cancellation theme to take magicians down the garden path… In keeping with accepted nomenclature, I will refer to the magician for whom you are performing as the “spectator.”

Have the deck thoroughly shuffled and then tabled. Patter, “Just to be sure that I haven’t somehow seen the bottom card, give the deck a couple of straight cuts.” Have your spectator do so. This is red herring #1, which cancels the key card method. Now take a few steps back and ask that the spectator cut off a group of cards, turn them toward himself and note the card that he cut to. Have him replace the packet and square the deck. Stepping away is a helpful ruse when using estimation – you appear to be standing too far away to get any glimpse of the card, but this line of sight actually makes it easier to see the side of the deck and facilitates your estimation! If your magician-spectator is hip to the wiles of estimation this should tip him off that estimation is in use. Of course, as he cuts to and notes his selection you must estimate his cut off portion. Make no bones about the fact that you are appearing to judge where his cut was – you’re about to cancel out estimation as a method! (By the way, if you step away far enough you will also cancel the marked deck method, although these location effects are best done with a borrowed deck.)

Step over to the deck and pick it up from above in your right hand. As you dribble the cards into your left hand say, “…I know that this smacks of estimation…” Use Marlo’s All Around Square Up motions to not only square the deck but also to peek the bottom card. Table the deck as you continue pattering, “…so why don’t you give the deck a straight cut [he does], and another straight cut at a different place [he does], and another…” This is a crucial moment in the routine. If the spectator doesn’t realize you have peeked the bottom card, then they will never be able to reconstruct the location. Also, make the spectator cut the deck four or five times, until it’s almost annoying (the “Lazy Man’s Card Trick” syndrome..). After the cutting I usually say, “…I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t have followed an estimate through all that cutting…” This is red herring #2 that cancels the estimation method.

Pick up the deck and spread its faces toward yourself looking for the key card you that you glimpsed saying, “…now if I could read your mind, I’d just run through here and place your card on the table…” Suiting actions to words, split the deck with the key card at the face of the left hand half and gesture with the right hand cards as if you were going to place one on to the table. “…but I’ll need a little help…” Replace the right hand cards at the back of the left hand cards, bringing the glimpsed key card to the bottom of the deck.

Give the deck a straight cut about 3 cards below where you estimate the spectator had cut when he looked at his selection. Be sure to cut below your estimated spot, as you want all of the target cards of your estimated group on the bottom of the deck.

Take the deck face down into your bottom-dealing grip and deal the top six cards face up onto the table in a right to left spread. “It may not seem like it but I’m actually going to speed things up by doing this… is your card in this group?” If the spectator responds affirmatively, then you have missed your estimation and you must fish for the card. If he responds negatively, then sweep up the spread cards and table them face down to your right. I always deal the first group all from the top, with no bottoms. This allows me to check that my estimation was okay. More on this in a moment.

Now deal another six cards into a face up spread on the table but deal a bottom on the fifth deal. The bottom-dealt card is from the target estimation group and may be the selection. Ask if the selection is in this group. If you get an affirmative response, then the selection is the bottom-dealt card. If you get a negative response, then sweep this spread up and discard it face down to the right with the first pile. Continue in this manner, dealing six card spreads onto the table (and always dealing a bottom on the fifth card) and asking if the selection is “in this group?” When your spectator responds affirmatively, then you know that the bottom-dealt card is the selection. This is Duffie’s brilliant use of the bottom deal to narrow down an estimated group to a single selection.

Now that you understand what part the bottom deal plays, you’ll understand why I don’t bottom deal the fifth card of the first packet. If you deal that bottom on the first packet, then you cannot be sure if the selection is the bottom dealt card or if you missed your estimation and the selection could be any of the cards in the spread. This is also why I cut about 3 cards below where I think the spectator cut – insurance!

Table the deck proper with the discards and pick up the six-card packet that contains the selection. Use this important patter: “So, you shuffled and cut the deck and we made sure that I didn’t know where a single card was in it. You cut to and remembered a card and then you buried it. There is no way for me to know anything about your card, in fact, it’s as if I just walked into the room! Finally, you helped me to narrow it down to this little pile of cards. I believe your card is…” Reveal the selection in any way that you wish.

I usually just remove the selection and table it face down, placing the balance of the packet with the discards as I use the above “walked into the room” patter line. Then I ask that the spectator name their card and I slowly turn it over. I use this presentation to reveal the card because this is one in a string of about 5 `impossible locations’ that I perform one after the other and almost all of the revelations are of this type.

Don’t let the bottom deal scare you. Yes, you’ll have to deal some bottoms, but remember that your spectator is looking for their own selection, so while you’re dealing the bottom, they’re brain is absorbing the face of the card you’ve just dealt. This is built in misdirection. I usually deal the cards forward and to my right and overlap them toward the middle of the working surface. This gives a sweeping motion to my deal, which helps to cover the bottoms. As usual with bottom (or any false) deals, rhythm and sound are far more important than perfect technique.

Hope to see you on the 16th!

Paul W. Cummins