‘The One After’ fiasco.

This is one of my pet hates, and something that really needs addressing.  Yes, it ‘works’, it ‘flies by’ and all those other terms that magicians use to justify not changing something that is pants because of the effort involved, but I’m calling a day on this one – and if I’m not going to do it anymore, you can give it up too.

Here’s the example.  Let’s say you have a Svengali deck.  A spectator ‘chooses’ a card from it, and you return it and shuffle the pack, and the spectator might even cut or whatever.

‘Name a number!’ you declare.  ‘Any number between 1 and 52′.

’37’ your kind spectator replies.

‘YES!  Deal down the cards to the table… and turn over the 37th one!’  SHAZAM!  Miracle.

That’s all fine.  What a great trick!  The Svengali deck makes the force seem utterly fair, there’s no control, and once the deck is on the table, you don’t need to touch it again.  A spectator can name the number then do the dealing themselves.  Splendid.

But what if they say…

‘I was thinking of the number 14’.

Well, then you’d have to go ‘Oh, OK, deal 14 cards down here, and turn over the next card.  Ta Da!’

Only it’s not ‘Ta Da’ is it?  Because that’s not the 14th card.  It’s the 15th.  And that’s not what was named.  This ruse turns a miracle into a ‘well, that’ll do’ card trick, and the ambiguity is not resolved.

I mean, who chooses anything like that in the world, outside of magic?  If you went to a Chinese restaurant and asked for a ‘number 37 egg fried rice’ and they replied with ‘the one after 37 is badger fried tofu’ you’d probably feel a little short-changed (and possibly that you aren’t being experimental enough with your food).

There are ways around it with a smaller packet.  Let’s say you had 10 cards, and were forcing a card at an odd position.  If they name the odd number, you count straight to it – all dandy.  If they name the even number, then you count that number, moving the top card to the BOTTOM of the packet, effectively losing and discarding it.  It’s natural then to turn over and look at the top card – it’s the only one ‘in play’.  It’s still not perfect, but I think it’s much better than saying ‘8?  Yeah sure, we’ll deal past the 8th one and give you this’.

Give the people what they want!


  1. Matt Smart

    Here’s an idea (not sure if it’s 100% original)

    “Name any number up to say 30, and you will have the card at that number. So if you named say… 3… (deal 3 cards face down) THIS would be your card (tap top face down card) So how many cards do YOU want?”

    If they name an odd number (above 3) continue dealing on the existing pile starting the count at 4 (odd cards will stay as force cards)

    If they name any even number deal them a pile (of their own) “You want 12 cards, OK” (this excludes 3 cards from the count, moving the force cards to the even positions)

    (In the event they name “3” you can hand them the card you dealt to originally, and if they name”1″ you can count the 3 dealt cards back onto the deck and give them the top card)

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