Wednesday, May 30, 2012



Two decks of cards are shown and the spectator asked to choose one.

He then names any one of the fifty-two cards. It’s an absolutely free choice. He is asked to open the deck of cards, which has been on view throughout, and remove his chosen card. To his amazement, it isn’t there. In fact when he counts the cards he discovers that there are only 51. His chosen card is missing.

The second deck is now opened. All the cards are blue backed, except for one. One card is a stranger card and has a red back. Believe it or not this is the missing card. The same card that the spectator names right at the beginning of the routine.


In 1949 Eddie Joseph released his now famous effect Premonition. Shortly after, George Armstrong released his version of the trick. He said he had devised it some years earlier, inspired by Bill McCaffrey’s Prize Winner routine from Greater Magic (1938), but it was only when he read advertisements for Eddie Joseph’s routine that he decided he had better publish his method if he wanted to receive credit for his handling.

The effect, in all cases, is that a freely named card is shown to be missing from the pack. The named card is then reproduced from the pocket or, in McCaffrey’s case, a hat.

There are two disadvantages to most Premonition routines. The first is that the pack of cards is not on view from the beginning of the trick. The second is that the missing card is usually produced using a card index, a device that is not very popular with magicians.

Double Impact solves both problems and yet manages to keep the routine virtually self-working.


Before proceeding to a full description of the method it is best to give a simplified description of the working, which is the same principle that McCaffrey employed.

Imagine a deck of cards that is made up of two sets of twenty-six different cards. In fact the pack consists only of odd red cards and even black cards. Throw one of the cards away so that you have only 51 cards in the deck. Now arrange the deck so that no duplicates are together.

If you asked someone to name a card and they named, say, an odd black card, you could count through the cards and show it to be missing. What’s more there are only fifty-one cards in the deck. No one notices that some cards are duplicates.

That’s the basic principle of Prize Winner and Premonition and the same principle is used in Double Impact. The difference is that the decks are not only used to show a card missing, but can be used to reproduce a missing card, an idea that came to me after reading McCaffrey’s original routine.



This deck is in a RED CASE.

The deck is made up of 25 red-backed cards and 26 blue backed cards.

The red-backed cards are shorter than the blue-backed cards.

The red-backed cards consist of:
Odd Diamonds
Odd Hearts
Even Clubs
Even Spades

So that the deck consists of only 51 cards, the red-backed Ace of Hearts is not used.

The red and blue back cards alternate through the deck. The top card is a red-back card. Because there are less red-backed cards than blue-backed cards, you will have two blue-backed cards at the face of the deck. The card on the face of the deck should be the blue-backed Ace of Hearts.

Think of this deck as the Odd Red Deck. That shouldn’t be difficult as it is in a red case.


This deck is in a BLUE CASE.

The deck is made up of 25 blue-backed cards and 26 red backed cards.

The blue backed cards are shorter than the red-backed cards.

The red-backed cards consist of:
Odd Clubs
Odd Spades
Even Hearts
Even Diamonds

So that the deck consists of only 51 cards, the blue-backed Ace of Spades is not used.

The blue and red back cards alternate through the deck. The top card is a blue-back card. Because there are less blue-backed cards than red-backed cards, you will have two red-back cards at the face of the deck. The face card of the deck is the red-backed Ace of Spades.

Think of this deck as the Odd Black Deck. Again, not difficult because it is in a blue (almost black) case.


One final point: Before performing the trick you should ensure that the decks are arranged so that no duplicate cards are near each other. That goes for values too.

That seems to be a lot to think about but if you have the cards in front of you, you’ll find that it is actually quite simple and logical. The two decks mirror each other. Once the cards are set up (and that is just a matter of commonsense) all you are remembering are two phrases: Odd Red Deck and Odd Black Deck.



Toss the two decks onto the table and ask for the assistance of a volunteer. Say, “I’d like to try some with these two decks of cards. Do you play cards? Well, it doesn’t really matter as long as you know the different values. It’s not really a card trick. What I want you to do is just think of a card. Don’t tell me what it is yet, but just imagine it. Imagine the colour, the suit, the value. Have you got one in mind? Good, because this morning I had a card in mind too. It’s in one of those two decks on the table. By the way, which card are you thinking of?”

The volunteer names the card and upon hearing it you work out which one of the deck does NOT contain it. Remember, it will be missing from one of them. Now there’s a quick way of working out which deck it’s missing from. Let’s try a few examples. Let’s imagine that the volunteer names the Eight of Spades.

Now you know two things about the decks on the table. The one in the Red Case is known as Odd Red Deck. The one in the Blue Case is known as Odd Black Deck.

As soon as you know the colour of the chosen card think of the deck that matches it. In the case of the Eight of Spades you will think of the Odd Black Deck. Immediately you know that this case contains only BLACK cards that are ODD. And since the Eight of Spades is even, it is not in that deck. So right away you know that this is the deck you need to work with.

Let’s try another example, say, Queen of Hearts. It’s a red card so you think of the ODD RED DECK. Since that deck contains only ODD cards, once again you know that the chosen card is missing from it. This is the deck you will work with.

A third example; Three of Clubs. You immediately think of the ODD BLACK DECK. The Three of Clubs is an ODD card so you know that it is in that deck. Since you are looking for the deck that it is missing from, you know that it is the other deck, the red one, that you should be working with.

That’s it. It’s a very simple system and you’ll find it useful in other tricks which use similar set-ups. Far easier than trying to remember which decks contain which mixtures of cards.


So far the volunteer has named a card and you know which deck it is missing from. Let’s go back to our first example, the Eight of Spades. You know it is not in the blue deck, so this is the deck you want to work with. The next step is to bring that deck into play. So you say, “Would you choose one of the decks of cards on the table, any one it doesn’t matter…..”

You are about to work a Magician’s Choice. If the volunteer picks up the red deck, ask him to place it in his pocket. You then pick up the blue deck.

If, on the other hand, he picks up the blue deck, you move the red deck aside and work with the deck he has “chosen.”

That’s it.


Take the deck, open it and remove the cards face up from the case. Hand them to the volunteer face up.

“There are fifty-two cards in a deck. I want you to deal the cards face up onto the table. Count them aloud as you go and stop when you get to your Eight of Spades.”

When he does this you don’t want him to flash the backs of the cards. So either make sure he is holding the cards close to the table or that he is seated at the table when counting.

He will deal right through the deck, not find his Eight of Spade, and yet count only 51 cards. Now along the way he will have passed lots of duplicate cards but he won’t notice them because a: he is only looking for the Eight of Spades, b: he is also busy counting, c: you ensured that no duplicates were together. Having said that, see the End Notes for further thoughts on this.

It’s best that he deals the cards into a fairly tight pile so that duplicates are not noticed after they have been dealt to the table. Occasionally you might want to straighten the dealt cards. You can even pick up the cards and look though them as if checking that he hasn’t missed his Eight of Spades. Try to act as if you expect the Eight of Spades to turn up.

When it doesn’t. Ask the spectator to look inside the blue card box in case it got left inside. It didn’t.

Finish by saying, “That’s strange. The Eight of Spades, the card you thought of, is missing. Do you know why that is? I’ll tell you. I snuck the card out while you weren’t looking. Really! In fact to make sure you wouldn’t see me do it I took the Eight of Spades out of that deck this morning.”


Pick up the discarded red case, open it and remove the cards face up. Toss the case aside.

Spread the deck face up between your hands. Look for the Eight of Spades. There are two Eight of Spades in that deck, a short one and a long one. You want the long one. Now I find it easy to spot which is which by looking at the end of the card and noting whether it has been trimmed. But if you want to be extra sure you could just scratch a line through the indices of all the long cards in both decks. That would make it even easier.

Toss the long Eight of Spades face up onto the table.

“You see, I was so sure that you would name the Eight of Spades that I took it from that deck and placed it in this deck.”

Because the deck is made up of long and short cards, just like the Svengali deck, you can spread it face down across the table top to show that all the cards have red backs. It’s a simple move, you just hold the deck from above by the narrow ends. As you make the spread you let the cards riffle off the fingers and thumb and drop onto the table. They fall in pairs, the short red cards falling on top of the long blue ones.

Don’t spread the cards. Drop the cards. The hand is held several inches above the table as the spread is made. You can do it in one quick casual movement.

To finish, ask the volunteer to turn over the tabled Eight of Spades. He’ll be surprised to find that it has a blue back.

When gathering up the cards be sure to put the blue-backed Eight of Spades into the blue-backed deck. Putting it back into the red-backed deck will look a bit odd!


Another way of displaying the cards is to let them drop from one hand to the other. This is another handling associated with the Svengali deck. The deck is held vertically in the right hand, the thumb on top and fingers underneath. The right forefinger is curled behind the deck and applies a little pressure. The right thumb releases the cards and they fall, in pairs, face down into the waiting left hand.

The trick is even better if you use two volunteers. One person names a card while another looks through the deck for it. He can count the cards aloud as you ask the first person whether there was any particular reason for selecting the card he did. Doing the trick this way means that the rest of the audience don’t pay much attention to the cards as they are dealt. They only become interested in that deck when they discover that the thought of card isn’t there. And by then, it’s too late.

Finally, I should explain that Premonition is not necessarily a good trick. It has the same flaw as The Open Prediction in that the spectator has to deal through an entire deck to establish that the named card is missing. This can be very dull. If you wanted a more straightforward way to produce a named card, you’d probably just use a Brainwave Deck.

I think Premonition (and The Open Prediction) is a good card problem and solving problems is part of what interests us about magic. However, another potential hazard of solving card problems is to build upon sand instead of concrete. The use of a deck that has twenty-six duplicates is a possible cause for concern. Are we to believe that the spectator dealing through the deck wouldn’t notice a single one of them?

The truth is that we don’t know. And there are too many instances of tricks being based on older, unproven or little understood principles. Ignore the fact that this idea has been used extensively in published tricks. When did you ever see a great commercial performance of Premonition? The same applies to The Open Prediction and, another bĂȘte noir of mine, The Princess Card Trick. These are very common tricks in magic but finding examples that work in a professional show is difficult. There are probably good reasons for that.

Magicians never know what the spectators are thinking. One aim of any performance is to ensure that the assisting spectator doesn’t have the opportunity to give voice to any doubting thoughts. This means managing the assisting spectator. You are performing for the audience. The assisting spectator, though he doesn’t know it, is part of your cast. You cast him because you hope he will play his role well and be convincing when he deals through the deal and declares the card missing.

In creating a presentation for the trick you should think about how you want the assisting spectator to react, how that reaction is conveyed to the rest of the audience and why they might find it entertaining. The entertainment value of your interaction with the assisting spectator and audience, this magical tableau, will determine the success of the performance not whether a duplicate card is spotted, but never mentioned, during the deal.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Essential Magic Conference

The third Essential Magic Conference will take place on the 27th, 28th and 29th of July. This is the world's only digital conference for magic and magicians. It's organised by Luis de Matos, Marco Tempest and myself.

What does that mean? Well, 33 of the world's top magicians will be presenting lectures, presentations and performances from Studio 33 in Portugal. These are broadcast worldwide via the Internet and viewable on your computer, laptop, iPad or even iPhone. That's 3 days of magic.

If you are watching via your computer you can also interact with the Speakers and other members via our chat facility. Watch, comment and discuss. Ask anyone who has ever attended. It's great fun and offers opportunities that you won't even get at a real live be-there convention.

The broadcasts are archived online where you can view them on demand for a year. Before that year is up you will receive a DVD box set of all the conference content. That way it is yours forever. In fact the DVD box set sells for $150, that's more than the price of registration for the conference which, I think, a bargain at $99.

Between now and the conference dates free weekend screenings will show excerpts from past conferences. You can register or sign up for the free screenings at the Essential Magic Conference website.

That's the end of the plug. Thank you for reading!