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THE OVERHAND SHUFFLE, I
IT IS our intention to show you the royal road to card magic, and the first stage of our journey is to instruct you in the use of the overhand shuffle and to explain the many purposes which it serves.
Anyone who plays cards has learned to execute the overhand shuffle. It is a simple operation, yet it is the first step—and a very important one—on the road to the mastery of card magic. It is essential that you master this first step before continuing on your journey, and for this reason we urge you to learn the various shuffles and perform the many fine tricks which they make possible before you pass on to the other sections.
Each succeeding chapter in this book, except the last, leads to the one which follows and supplements the one which preceded. By resisting the impulse to learn everything at once but by practicing each step as you go, you will, with a speed that will amaze you, soon have traveled the entire road; when finally in that way you have reached its end, you will be a far more competent card conjurer than will the more impatient reader.
With this final word of caution, we now start you on your pleasant journey.
POSITION OF THE PACK IN THE HANDS
It is essential that the cards be handled neatly and precisely, and the first requisite towards acquiring this neatness of execution is the position of the pack in the hands.
1. Hold your left hand half closed, palm upwards, and place the pack in it, face downwards, so that the third phalanx of the index finger is bent against the outer left corner. The middle and ring fingers, slightly bent, rest against the face of the bottom card; the little finger curls inwards so that its side rests against the inner end, and the thumb rests on the top card, its tip near the middle of the outer end.
The pack should slope downwards toward the left at an angle of about forty-five degrees, its lower side resting along the palm of the hand. In this position the pack can be gripped, as in a forceps, between the index and the little fingers by pressing them against the opposite ends (Fig. 1).
This position of the pack gives one perfect control of the cards and should be strictly adhered to. The grip should be firm but light; in fact, the lightest touch possible, consistent with security, must be cultivated from the outset.
EXECUTION OF THE OVERHAND SHUFFLE
1. Holding the pack as described above, seize the lower half with the right hand between the top phalanx of the thumb, at the middle of the inner end, and the top phalanges of the middle and ring fingers at the middle of the outer end. Bend the index finger lightly on the upper side of the deck, letting the little finger remain free.
2. Lift this lower packet upwards to clear the other portion of the pack, then bring it downwards over the other cards until its lower side touches the left palm. Press the left thumb against the top card of this packet and simultaneously lift the right hand so that the card, or cards, pulled off by the left thumb fall on top of the packet retained in the left hand.
3. Repeat this action until all the cards held by the right hand have been shuffled off onto those held by the left hand. Pat the upper side of the deck with the outstretched fingers of the right hand to square the cards. Since the overhand shuffle is generally repeated, this action is absolutely essential to a clean execution.
In making this shuffle do not look at your hands and the cards. Practice this from the outset and so form the habit, which is an essential factor in the maneuvers which follow and are done under cover of the action of this shuffle.
The speed at which the shuffle is executed should be about the same as that used by any card player, neither too fast nor too slow, and the tempo should be an even one throughout.
USING THE OVERHAND SHUFFLE
CONTROLLING THE TOP CARD
1. Holding the deck as explained, lift it with the right hand, and with the left thumb draw off the top card only in the first movement of the shuffle. Without the slightest pause or hesitation shuffle the other cards onto this one until the shuffle has been completed. The top card is now at the bottom of the pack.
2. Again lift the entire pack and repeat the shuffle you have just made down to the last card, which we know was the card originally at the top. Drop this card on top of all the others in the last movement of the shuffle. After a few trials you will find that this last card will cling to the thumb and fingers without any conscious effort on your part.
In this sleight, as well as in the others to follow, the action must become automatic so that you can look at, talk with, and give your whole attention to your audience. Only in this way can you convince the onlookers that the shuffle is genuine, and you should never forget that it is at this very starting point that illusion begins or is destroyed. If you stare fixedly at your hands while shuffling, suspicion will inevitably be aroused, and if a spectator suspects that you have "done something" the illusion of your magic is gone.
In practicing this shuffle and those that follow, it is a good plan to turn the top card face upwards so that at the finish you can see at a glance if you have made it correctly.
CONTROLLING THE BOTTOM CARD
1. Lift the lower half of the pack to begin the shuffle, and in so doing press lightly on the bottom card with the tips of the left middle and ring fingers, holding it back and thus adding it to the bottom of the packet remaining in the left hand.
2. Shuffle off the cards remaining in the right hand, and repeat the action if desired. Nothing could be simpler than this control, and the sleight is valuable because of its ease and naturalness.
RETAINING THE TOP AND BOTTOM CARDS IN POSITION
1. Grip the entire pack with the right hand to start the shuffle, at the same time pressing lightly on the top card with the left thumb and on the bottom card (Fig. 2), with the left middle and ring fingers holding them back so that all the cards except these two are lifted clear, the top card falling upon the bottom card. Continue the shuffle, without pause, until completed.
2. Pat the upper side of the deck square and repeat the moves exactly as before by lifting out all but the top and bottom cards, then shuffle off to the last card of those held in the right hand, the card originally at the top, and drop it back again on the top.
Be careful not to pull the cards away sharply in the first movement of the shuffle, making the top and bottom cards come together with a "click." Use a light touch. Note that by placing two known cards at the bottom and a third at the top, all three cards can be controlled by this valuable artifice. Practice the sleight in this way until you can do it with ease and certainty.
TOP CARD TO NEXT TO BOTTOM AND BACK TO THE TOP
1. Lift the pack for the shuffle, retaining the top and bottom cards in the left hand as in the preceding sleight. Shuffle the cards in the right hand onto the two cards in the left hand without hesitation. The card originally on the top is now next to the bottom card.
2. Again lift the pack, retaining the top and bottom cards in the left hand. Shuffle off the cards in the right hand upon the two in the left, allowing the bottom card to fall last, thus returning the top card to its original position.
Later you will find that this sleight is useful for showing that a chosen card which you are controlling is neither at the top nor at the bottom of the pack.
In magical parlance, this term means the pulling off of cards one by one from the right hand packet with the aid of the left thumb in the course of the shuffle. To make the run, press the left thumb lightly on the back of the top card of the right hand packet while holding this latter packet just tightly enough to allow one card only to escape. It is very important that the single cards be drawn off at the same tempo as the rest of the shuffle, so that there will be no hesitation at the start of the shuffle or its end.
A few minutes' practice with cards that are in good condition will prove how easy the sleight is, yet it is one of the most useful in the card man's arsenal.
This term is applied to the subterfuge of causing a card to project about one quarter of an inch from the inner end of the deck. It is one of the oldest stratagems in magic, having been in use for three and a half centuries. It was first mentioned in Scott's Discouverie of Witchcraft, published in 1584.
The action of jogging a card is a simple one. In the eourse of the shuffle, when a card is to be jogged, move the right hand slightly towards the body, draw off one card with the left thumb, then move the hand back to its former position and continue the shuffle in the usual way. The card thus jogged should rest on the little finger tip, which enables you to know, by sense of touch alone, that the card is in the proper position (Fig. 3).
It is advisable at the start to make the card protrude about half an inch and, in shuffling off the remaining cards from the right hand, to make them lie irregularly so that the protruding card is covered and concealed. With practice the jogging of the card can be reduced to approximately a quarter of an inch. Here again it is most important that there shall be no alteration in the tempo. The card must be jogged and the shuffle continued without the least hesitation.
This sleight is used to bring the cards directly under a jogged card to the top of the pack, in the following manner:
A card having been jogged and the shuffle completed, bring the right hand upwards from a position a little below the left hand, so that the point of the thumb will strike against the face of the jogged card, lifting it and the cards above it slightly; then move the right hand outwards with the lower packet, the thumbnail scraping against the face of the jogged card while the middle and ring fingers close on the outer end of the packet. Lift the packet clear and throw it on the top of the deck. This action brings the jogged card to the bottom and the card directly below it to the top of the pack.
To undercut to a jogged card is a very simple action if the right thumb strikes upward, not inward (Fig. 4).
OVERHAND SHUFFLE CONTROL
A large proportion of card tricks consist of having a card selected, noted, and returned to the middle of the deck, which is then shuffled. The chosen card is revealed by the magician in some startling way. To do this the chosen card must be controlled, and one of the easiest, best, and most natural methods is by using the overhand shuffle. Here are the moves:
1. Let us suppose that a card has been freely chosen by a spectator. While he notes what it is, you begin an overhand shuffle and, when you have shuffled about half the cards into your left hand, move that hand toward the spectator, tacitly inviting him to replace his card. He puts it on the top of those in your left hand and you immediately resume your shuffle by running three cards flush on top of the chosen card, jogging the next card, and shuffling off the remainder freely.
2. Undercut below the jogged card, as explained in the preceding section, and throw the packet on top. The chosen card will then be the fourth card from the top of the pack and you can deal with it as you please.
For example, possibly in the course of the shuffle the chosen card may have arrived at the top or bottom of the pack; therefore you take off three cards from the top and spread them face outwards, asking the spectator if his card is among them. Never say, "You see your card is not there." You are not supposed to know whether it is or not. Throw the three cards casually on the table. Then show several cards at the bottom. Finally gather up the three cards by placing the pack on them and picking up all together.
You have the chosen card on the top, yet the onlookers will be convinced, if you have done your part simply and naturally, that the chosen card is lost in the pack and beyond your control. Thus you have succeeded in the most important part of the trick, for whenever a chosen card is controlled in some abnormal fashion your purpose is defeated. The real illusion of card magic begins with the conviction on the part of the spectator that his card is lost among the others. Without that conviction the trick has already failed.
RETAINING TOP STOCK
The overhand shuffle control is extremely useful in tricks where it is necessary to retain a card or cards at the top of the pack while giving the impression that you are shuffling the cards.
To do this, undercut the lower half with the right hand, and, in the first movement of the shuffle, injog the first card drawn off by the left thumb. Upon it shuffle the rest of the cards held in the right hand. Undercut below the injogged card and throw this packet on top. Although you have seemingly mixed the cards, you have retained the desired cards at the top.
OVERHAND FALSE SHUFFLE
Many fine card feats depend on the fact that the pack has been arranged in a certain order familiar to the magician. To retain that order while apparently mixing the cards thoroughly, proceed as follows:
1. Begin an overhand shuffle by undercutting half the deck.
2. Run five cards onto the original upper half of the deck. That is to say, pull off five cards singly with the left thumb, then throw the remaining packet on top making it protrude about half an inch beyond the outer end of the cards in the left hand (Fig. 5).
3. Press the tip of the left index finger against the face of this protruding packet and seize the cards below it by the ends, between the right thumb and middle finger. Lift them, again run five cards, and throw the remainder on top.
The whole pack will be in its original order.
The action consists simply of reversing the order of five cards in the middle of the deck and then, by reversing these same five cards again, bringing them back to their original order, the rest of the cards not having been disturbed. Done smoothly and rather rapidly, not looking at your hands and while addressing the spectators, the shuffle is completely deceptive.
OVERHAND SHUFFLE PRACTICE ROUTINE
The best method of practicing the various overhand shuffles is to go through them in sequence as follows:
1. Turn the top card face upward.
2. Shuffle it to the bottom and back to the top again.
3. Shuffle it to the bottom. Shuffle again, retaining it there, then shuffle it back to the top.
4. Reverse the card now at the bottom. Shuffle, retaining the top and bottom cards in position.
5. Shuffle the top card to the next to bottom and back to the top.
The two reversed cards should be at the top and bottom. Check your work.
6. Control the top reversed card only by means of the overhand shuffle control, which will give you facility in the run, the injog, and the undercut.
Again check your work. The original top card should now be the fourth from the top of the pack. If that is the case and you have made the shuffles smoothly, you have made excellent progress toward acquiring this most useful of all card sleights. Practice until you can make the shuffles without looking at your hands, and at the same time keep up an easy flow of conversation.
With the simple principles explained in the preceding sections, which can be learned in the course of a pleasant half-hour's toying with a pack of cards, you have a golden key which will unlock the door to many of the most entertaining card tricks it is possible to perform. Since the best way to learn to do magic is to do magic, in the next section several tricks are explained in which the principles you have already learned are put to use
TRICKS WITH THE OVERHAND SHUFFLE
Having acquired facility with the overhand shuffle and the various maneuvers accomplished by its use, the royal road to card magic with all its surprising twists and turns opens before you a vista of exciting adventures, of which you are the protagonist.
A good card trick—and by that we mean a card trick which entertains, surprises, amuses, and puzzles an audience—has certain attributes:
1. It has a simple plot. It must not be confusing to those who watch.
2. The modus operandi is simple.
3. It is interesting.
4. It has a surprising denouement.
The following tricks afford excellent practice in applying the different principles you have learned and will start your repertoire with some of the finest feats of card magic, the first of which is:
It is always a good rule to begin a series of card feats with a short, startling effect, one that will arouse the interest of the onlookers immediately and stimulate their interest in the marvels to follow. In this effect one half of the pack is placed face to face with the other half, yet, on the word of command, the cards right themselves so that all of them face the same way.
Whenever possible you should use a borrowed deck, and we shall suppose that one has been handed to you with the request: "Show us some card tricks."
Excerpted from The Royal Road to Card Magic by JEAN HUGARD, Frederick Braué. Copyright © 1999 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
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Posted March 26, 2000
Posted February 8, 2004
If you are a beginner card magician, buy this book! It contains extremely valuable information on many sleights with cards. What's great is that at the end of each chapter, you learn some tricks which incorporate the sleights you just mastered! Although dated, this book is essential to any cardician's library.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 21, 2001
After reading the first chapter I was able to do an overhand shuffle better then I have ever been able to. The book has great instructions on how to do the tricks and a great selection of tricks. Great book for all levels of magaciansWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 16, 2000
Posted September 22, 2011
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