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Topic: My Shameful Confession: I LOVE the three-pile mental force
Message: Posted by: lcwright1964 (Dec 31, 2013 08:38PM)
You all know the one--you deal out three piles face up (classically seven a piece), get someone to think of a card, tell you what pile its in, collect the piles in particular order, deal again, spectator names the pile with her card, deal again, name the pile, and by that time the perform knows the card and where it is.

I know that this force, especially in its best-known 21-card version, is hackneyed and probably known to just about anyone who has had even passing acquaintance with self-working card tricks. But I can't deny that it enchanted me when my grandfather showed it to me when I was about seven or so, and now as one coming back to magic after decades away nostalgia is inspiring me to revisit it.

I have since learned that one is limited only by the number of cards one has, and that the force works as long as number is divisible by three. I personally have enjoyed working with 3x13 or 3x15 versions, where the selected card ends up seventh or eighth respectively in the pile in question. I suppose that one could also "lose" a less noticeable card like 2c and deal out the entire deck as a 3x17 grid, giving the spectator the powerful impression he has the choice of the entire pack. At any rate, knowing where the card is makes it easy enough for even a duffer like me to control it with an overhand shuffle, to produce in any number of ways. (I have really been working of reverses of late--the Braue is undetectable though the required cutting strikes me as a bit fanciful, so I have been working on executing the flip during shuffling, as described in Expert Card Technique, pp 110-11.)

Apart from a newbie's rambling introduction, I actually do have some questions. Does anyone here still use the three-pile force or some version of it? Are there any modern refinements that make it less obvious, cumbersome, or hackneyed? What about other mental forces based on similar or different mathematical principles? And, since I brought it up, what sort of reverses work well in the novice's hands? I like the flip-while-shuffle move just mentioned, but I am interested to be pointed to other ones. Sometimes writers call for a reverse without describing how to do it--e.g., at p. 103 or Card Manipulations 4, Hugard instructs reversing the bottom two cards while closing up a ribbon spread, but no where in the work does he spell such a sleight out explicitly. I am just assuming a brute force approach--find the cards with the fingers and flip under cover of the spread in the hands.

Anyway, enough out of me. Thanks for reading!

Message: Posted by: Terrible Wizard (Jan 1, 2014 04:35AM)
I think this may need to be moved into the 50 posts plus category if it's going to discuss methods in detail. But I may be wrong about that.
Message: Posted by: lcwright1964 (Jan 1, 2014 05:03AM)
Thanks! I am pretty new and still don't know how much is too much--PLEASE if it is too much someone report it. It has been up too long for me to edit or delete it so we need a moderator to make the call.
Message: Posted by: Lee Stan (Jan 2, 2014 01:12AM)
I wouldn't call that a force. It's more a placement/control.
There's a similar version where the spectators only need to point to the pile containing their card just once.
I think it's called the Matrix principle. I've only performed it twice that way, each time with 7 spectators(7 piles of 7 cards).
Message: Posted by: lcwright1964 (Jan 2, 2014 01:18PM)
Thanks for correcting my nomenclature. I do agree--a force is where we want the spectator to choose our card. A control is where we locate a card the spectator has freely chosen.

A fellow named Higham has a web article that is a very nice review of the matrix/grid techniques you note. There are quite a few variations. The most tedious aspect of the three-pile trick is the need for multiple deals to pinpoint the exact card--three for 21 (or, as I like, 27) cards, and four for 30 cards or more. In the 21- and 27 card cases you really narrow things down after the second deal--in the latter case the subject's card is the 4th, 5th, or 6th card in the chosen pile, and I am sure there is a lot that could be done with that information. I was thinking of openly preparing the deck for a spelling effect under the guise of looking for and failing to find the thought-of card, but one has to think fast and remember the number of letters in the name of each card. Or one can steal the three options and produce the correct one from a pocket or wherever after it's named.

I've noticed that my post remains despite concerns about exposure, and that's after dozens of views. I note that the 21-card trick is so well known that it was Wikipedia that lead me to the Higham page. Also, based on my reading of many posts in this and other categories, a general reference to sleights and techniques seems fine. That said, if a moderator must take me to task, so be it. I promise to be careful in my posts.

Message: Posted by: djurmann (Jan 2, 2014 04:55PM)
I have a different question. Do your spectators love it as much as you do? Either way you are right to look for improvements.
Message: Posted by: Anatole (Jan 2, 2014 05:44PM)
There was a nice variation of the 21 Card trick by someone identified as "Shaman" in Bruce Elliot's _The Best in Magic_. The card is revealed as you spell out the sentence
As each word is spelled, one card is discarded (six words=six cards discarded) and you are left with one card, which by some cosmic coincidence happens to be the selected card.

You could really mess with the mind of a layman who knows the 21 card trick if you use your favorite method to identify a selected card (or force it) and then lay out the three rows of seven with the selected card among them and then, instead of collecting and re-dealing, mix the rows together so that the card is really lost and then lay out the three rows and reveal the card. Maybe count the reds and blacks and say "Oh, the reds outumber the blacks, so it was probably a black card." Then count the spades and clubs and say, "Oh, there are more clubs than spades, so the mathematical odds would suggest that the card is a club. However, since today is a Thursday, clubs are automatically eliminated..."

I posted some info about the 21 card trick on the "IBM Ring 103 Norfolk" facebook page and referenced this wbesite:
where the trick is done with nine cards rather than 21. I think the trick can be done with any multiple of three for the total number of cards and I jokingly said "I suppose if you really wanted to, you could do the trick with 45 cards and use 3 rows of 15 cards each!"

You don't have to be crazy... but it helps.

----- Amado "Sonny" Narvaez
Message: Posted by: lcwright1964 (Jan 2, 2014 09:39PM)
You CAN do the trick with 45 cards, but you need 4 deals, not three, to pin point the card unless it is in the centre pile, where it is the eighth card. If in the left pile it is either the 8th or 9th or if in the right pile it is the 9th or 10th. I think that's pretty good for most purposes. Thanks for the link to that about.com page. A smaller version of the trick is great for kids--my little guy is five and just starting to be able to name cards and appreciate some things.
Message: Posted by: lcwright1964 (Jan 3, 2014 03:57AM)
On 2014-01-02 18:44, Anatole wrote:
There was a nice variation of the 21 Card trick by someone identified as "Shaman" in Bruce Elliot's _The Best in Magic_. The card is revealed as you spell out the sentence
As each word is spelled, one card is discarded (six words=six cards discarded) and you are left with one card, which by some cosmic coincidence happens to be the selected card.

That resolution of the 21 Card trick is number 135 in Scarne on Card Tricks and attributed to Martin Sunshine.

Message: Posted by: Aus (Jan 4, 2014 02:44AM)
Lcwright1964 the 21 card trick is a bit over used and suffers from things almost all Mathematical cards tricks usually do which are there not terribly entertaining, and it is often obvious that the method has something to do with mathematics. This in turn creates another problem of reducing the trick down to an intellectual problem. The challenge in fixing these problems is how justify aspects of the trick in your presentation well keeping things entertaining.

I wrote a guide on Presentation where I use the 21 card trick to highlight some points I was trying to make with presentation solving the above problems. If your interested you can find it here: http://www.themagiccafe.com/forums/viewtopic.php?topic=133685&forum=41

Just as an interesting side note once you have dealt the 21 cards into three piles of seven three times and gathered the cards in the required way for the final time positions the select card in the pile in the perfect spot for the down-under deal which when followed through leaves you with the selected card as the last one in your hand.


Message: Posted by: Waller (Jan 7, 2014 10:04AM)
I think a mathematical tricks are very interesting,but I agree with Aus. If there are hints of mathematical techniques you run the risk of reducing the magic to a math problem, or worse be boring. Additionally, I find a lot of the math card tricks to take to long to develop. However, if you can disguise and make brief any mathematical principal that helps you determine a card then it could be powerful.
Message: Posted by: lcwright1964 (Jan 7, 2014 01:58PM)
Thanks everyone! I am so glad I posted this--it led me to research variations of the trick and especially to learn much more about Ed Marlo. I have especially enjoyed checking out Marlo's refinements on Malone Meets Marlo 6, where Bill Malone performs and explains three variations back to back. In these the magician assumes much of the audience knows the classic self-working trick. In the first refinement (which I am working on at present) a simple false shuffle and a subtle question during the second deal helps the perform discern the remembered card from the seven possibilities. It is really quite the effect--and requires showmanship and report in addition to the basic math of it. Overall, I have to concur with the wiser advice I have been given--I am having much more fun achieving stronger effects with learning just some basic controls and sleights. Today I impressed my sceptical and sarcastic wife with a rough presentation of the Dunbury Aces and Red Hot Mama. Much more rewarding--and that's just after a few days of practice.
Message: Posted by: Jason Simonds (Jan 7, 2014 02:25PM)
I've seen one of Marlo's versions of the 21 card trick and it's my favorite version of that trick. I really need to pick up that Malone on Marlo DVD set.