Paul Cummins – Stumped!

Paul Cummins

After I left AT&T back in 1998 to pursue a career writing books for magicians and doing some corporate performing I spent the next two years working most of my magic for magicians at lectures and convention appearances. Although the writing and publishing was proceeding nicely, I wanted to perform for layman more often. Resultantly, I took a job a couple of nights a week doing bar magic at a local restaurant, here in Jacksonville, when I was in town. Though I hadn’t tended bar in 15 years, both the drink recipes and the jazz-fusion thrill of doing bar magic came back to me quite quickly.

I took the early nights in the week when the place isn’t packed to the gills – I wanted time to ‘work’ the customers, get to know them, and, most importantly, to allow for a bit of magic. Some bar magicians, notably the great Doc Eason, do an actual show, or set, wherein the entire bar is focused on the magical performance, which may last fifteen minutes or a half an hour. My preference is to work a few patrons at a time and let their reactions create more interest from other patrons. Then I move around a bit to the others, and usually culminate with a multiple selection routine involving everyone. It’s great fun.

The wonderful benefit of performing so often is that the opportunity presents itself to work out, and work on, new routines. During the course of the last several months, I’ve come up with and honed a couple of tricks that have really become workers for me. One is a repeat card under (and then into) the card box that is the oft-requested routine right now. The other is the following straightforward triple card revelation that is simply leaving people looking at me with that deer-caught-in-the-headlights look of incredulity.

This routine is sort of stark in effect and was designed in that very fashion for maximum impact in the littlest amount of time. Only one real sleight is necessary, a side steal (although I will offer two alternatives); and the routine includes two glimpses that are well shaded and that are actually the backbone of the method.

In effect, three spectators quickly peek at cards from a shuffled deck in use. The deck is straight and may be borrowed. The performer simply tables the deck and immediately reveals the names of each spectator’s selection. Like Paul LePaul said, “Simplicity is the keynote to magic,” and this effect is simple but hits ’em hard.

You’ll need three spectators. Since I’ll be referring to them frequently, I’ll use the following key names so you know which spectator is sitting where: Linda is sitting to your Left, Cindy is sitting Centered in front of you, and Rhonda is sitting to your Right.

Each card is selected using the standard spectator peek. Explain to Linda that you’d like her to use her left thumb (” which is way at the end of your left arm “) to push back part of the deck and peek at a card. Demonstrate this action with your own right fingers as you explain what she is to do. Turn your head and have Linda take her peek. Immediately lower the deck (” you got one already? Hmmm, I couldn’t even feel it “) and bring your right hand over it. Say, “The reason I have you look at a card that way is that I cannot see the front of the card because it faces you; and I can’t see the back of the card because of all the ones on top of it. So even if the cards were marked it would be of no use to me. Not to mention which, I turned my head away.”

During this patter, bring your right hand over the deck in biddle grip and push the spectator’s selection out of the right long side of the deck for about a half-inch with your left fingers. The back of your right hand covers the jogged card. Continue your explanatory patter, “So, although I may have a guess about how far down in the deck your card is, I could not have actually seen either side of it.” During this sentence pick the deck up with your right hand cock your wrist, bringing the inner, thumb-held end of the deck skyward and the outer, fingers-held end of the deck toward the table or bar top. Extend your left forefinger and slide it down the left long side of the deck as you say, ” how far down in the deck your card is” The position of the deck at this point allows you to glimpse the jogged card and your movements are so motivated by the sensible patter that the glimpse will go unnoticed. This is the same glimpse that I mentioned in my May, 1999 GeMiNi column within the routine, “Beating the Heat”.

Take the deck into left-hand dealing position, which will automatically square the jogged card, and continue the patter line, ” I could not have actually seen either side of it.” Dribble the deck from hand to hand, a silent gesture of fairness that is not lost on laymen, and square it up.

Have Cindy peek at a card, turning your head again as she does so. You must control Cindy’s card and I have used three methods, each one requiring a slightly different procedure. Since I have settled on the side steal as the control of choice in this situation, I’ll explain its use first. Afterwards, I’ll explain the alternative procedures. So, after gently admonishing Cindy to remember her card, direct your attention (and Linda and Cindy’s) to Rhonda and say, “I’m not leaving you out!” During these actions and patter pick up the cards above the break and dribble them back onto the lower half, starting the dribble slightly injogged so as to keep track of the selection. Then, since you have dribbled the cards from hand to hand, the deck-squaring movements required to accomplish a side steal are warranted, so go ahead with the side steal, bringing Cindy’s card to the top of the deck.

Have Rhonda peek at a card, turning your head again as she does so. Immediately repeat the physical set-up of the peek described above, jogging Rhonda’s card slightly out of the right long side of the deck. Remember, at this point the trick is just beginning for these three spectators, the third of them has only just looked at a card. For the purposes of this explanation, assume Linda peeked at the nine of clubs, Cindy peeked at the queen of diamonds, and Rhonda peeked at the seven of hearts. Look at Linda and point to her with the deck-held right hand as you cock the wrist of that hand and glimpse Rhonda’s card. “You had,” you say to Linda, “a black card.” Square the jogged card as you place the deck onto your left fingers, and flip the deck face up into your left hand. Immediately look at Rhonda (whose card you have just glimpsed) and say, “And yours was a seven.”

Since this is way too soon for you to have any information about their cards, the spectators will all look at each other. You will table the deck face down with your left hand at this time too, glimpsing Cindy’s card in the process. Her card is the bottom card of the face-up deck. Place the pad of your left forefinger against the outer right corner of that bottom card and as you rotate your left hand palm down to table the deck, give a little squeeze with your right forefinger. The index corner of Cindy’s card will bubble off the deck and give you a quick glimpse as the deck is tabled. This is a very fast and very imperceptible glimpse that I use all the time – especially as needed when working the multiple selection routine.

Since your previous patter line, informing Rhonda that her card was a seven, only a second has passed while you tabled the deck and glimpsed Cindy’s card. Do not hesitate. Begin giving each spectator a characteristic of her card, which will sound something like this: “You had a black card, and yours is a seven. Yours is a picture card and you have a nine while yours is a heart. You looked at the nine of clubs, you had the queen of diamonds, and you had a seven of hearts. You folks are easy!” The point here is to jump from spectator to spectator giving each one a true characteristic of the card they had peeked. This is far, far more effective than simply saying, “Linda, you looked at the nine of clubs. Cindy, you had the queen of diamonds. And Rhonda, you had the seven of hearts.” If you read the sample patter line, above, you’ll see that I usually jump from Linda to Rhonda to Cindy to Linda to Rhonda and then I name all three cards in order from left to right. By the time I’m done with the patter line, all three spectators are nodding their heads in assent to each statement I’ve made, which is a funny and satisfying sight to the performer!

Since Rhonda had only just peeked at her card, and since you have clearly (and believably) explained that you could not see the fronts or backs of the cards, and since your head was turned during each selection, and since virtually nothing else happened with the deck itself (no shuffling, no manipulation, cutting – nothing), and since the deck is tabled face down, the fact that you are able to name the characteristics of each selection instantly is dumbfounding to these spectators. When bartending, I usually walk away after saying, “You folks are easy!” leaving them to sort of simmer and stutter for a few minutes while I take care of another customer’s drink. This, because they will have questions (like, How the hell could you have known? Do you see a reflection in our eyes? Can we see that deck? and so forth). By walking away rather than standing in front of them smugly, the potential challenge aspect, and especially the “we must be idiots” aspect of the aftermath is dissipated. They usually spend a few seconds dismissing any notion of how I could have known their cards and then try to call me over to do more. This is good too, as the balance of the patrons will have heightened interest by virtue of these spectators’ reactions and questions.

If you are not a side-stealer, then you may use a classic shift or any spread cull technique in its place. Using either of these methods actually eliminates the third glimpse as the deck is tabled. Here are the differential details:

Using the Classic Shift

This is not my favored method as heat on the deck is very high at the point in the routine where the second selection has just been peeked and must be controlled. However, if your shift is fast and invisible, do this: after Cindy has peeked a card, turn to Rhonda and say, “I’m not leaving you out!” while you complete the shift. As Rhonda peeks her card, you must make sure that your left forefinger covers the index of the face card of the deck with your left forefinger, as it is Cindy’s card. After Rhonda has peeked her card, prepare to glimpse it by jogging it out of the right long side of the deck. Point to Linda and give her a characteristic of her card as you make the glimpse. In this instance, however, you must remember the names of both the jogged card (which is Rhonda’s selection) and the bottom card (which is Cindy’s selection). Table the deck and proceed with the characteristic-naming patter line to complete the effect.

Using a Spread Cull

This is my guerilla back up method when the spectator’s are applying a lot of heat or when even a side steal may be angle dependent. After Cindy peeks her card spread the deck between your hands as you say, “Every now and then two people actually peek at the same card but that won’t matter, as you’ll see.” During this casual patter line, you must cull the card above your pinky break (Cindy’s selection) to the bottom of the deck. Proceed as explained under “Using the Classic Shift”. This procedure, I would add, is probably the easiest, but I prefer to avoid that spreading of the deck unless angles or heat absolutely force me to use this method.

The title of this routine came from a regular patron at the bar who has seen the routine many times and frequently requests it. He always says, “That just completely stumps me!”

References, Credits, and Comments

  • A fine description of the spectator peek may be found on pages 72 – 74 of Roberto Giobbi’s Card College, Volume 1 (Hermetic Press, 1995). Although one would do well to read Mr. Giobbi’s entire article, for the purposes of the above routine, pay special attention to the portion of his description under “A Variation” on pages 73 and 74.

  • My personalization of Jerry Kogan’s great glimpse was first published in my lecture notes, from a shuffled deck in use (1996), within the routine, “Intuitive Poker”. Those interested in a mildly amusing story regarding this glimpse and Mr. Kogan might look at the May, 1999 GeMiNi column, “Beating the Heat”. Mr. Kogan’s glimpse was first published in Ed Marlo’s great little booklet, Marlo in Spades (The Ireland Magic Company, 1947) within the effect, “Jerry Kogan’s Indicator,” on page 42.

  • The side steal that I use is a personalized version of Ed Marlo’s Deliberate Side Steal, which may be found on page 5 of another of his great little booklets, Chapter 4 of his Revolutionary Card Technique series, The Side Steal (1957).

  • The second glimpse described is, for what it’s worth, original with me. I have no doubt whatsoever that other cardicians have come up with the identical process, but I have yet to find the glimpse in print. For titling purposes, I’ll call it the Bottom Bubble Glimpse until someone points out to me from where I have reinvented it!

  • Descriptions of the classic shift and spread cull abound in the literature. For the sake of referencing, see Giobbi’s Card College, Volume 2 (Hermetic Press, 1996), pages 297 – 299, for a description and discussion of the shift; and see his Card College, Volume 1 (Hermetic Press, 1995), pages 187 -188, for a description of the spread cull. I also teach the spread cull in depth on my videotape, Up In Smoke, within the description of the bonus card trick, “Another Sequestered Collectors”.
Paul W. Cummins
February, 2