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In the Works: The Multiple Card Control


Ever since I watched Ricky Jay perform a multiple card control and revelation on his television special, “Ricky Jay and His 52 Assistants,” I have always wanted to work up and perform a similar effect. It’s been decades since I first saw Jay’s performance, which was long before I began to seriously study magic, but his routine has long inspired me.

On his special, Jay allowed some ten or twelve people to each freely select and remember a playing card, which were all mixed back into the deck. Later, one-by-one, Jay revealed the cards in spectacular fashion. Jay’s routine was stunning and a real crowd pleaser.

More is Better
Of course, while many magicians perform a version of the card trick where a spectator freely selects a playing card and the magician later reveals or finds it, the challenge of the multiple card control is that the difficultly, in theory, is multiplied by the number of selected cards.

One live performance by a magician that I once witnessed stands in my mind as a warning to the effect. The magician had some five or six cards selected by audience members. However, when he revealed the first card, it was wrong. The performer looked confused, and this did not appear to be a part of the act. At that point, it was apparent that the performer had lost the cards as he had to ask each spectator to name his or her card, and then proceeded to, with each card, to spread through the face-up deck, and then reveal each card with some sleight of hand (changing one card to another, etc...). It was a disaster and perhaps the worst thing that can happen with the effect. (But I guess I saw how a pro could handle the worst case scenario.)

Early on when I was learning magic, I immediately began working on a “multiple card control.” Admittedly, at the time, such an effect was well beyond my beyond my presentation skills. During this era of my magic development, I was a petrified bunch of nerves performing for anyone and I was trying to control five playing cards. I recall that my early performances of this effect for friends and family were harrowing, but I pretty much pulled them off. But as I learned more magic to perform professionally, I lost interest in the effect.

Another consideration with this effect that I learned early on is that one has to be very confident that spectators will remember and recall their cards correctly. When a single card is selected by one person in most card tricks, several other members of the audience are recalling it as well. In my experience, it’s not unusual to have a spectator forget, or misname (either intentionally or unintentionally) his or her card.

In Control
While I have seen performers who controlled cards as they were returned to the deck, one by one, I was initially interested in a technique that controlled all of the cards at once. The deck could be fanned and the selected cards could be placed in different locations in the fan, and the cards would be controlled in a single move. The first technique that I learned from a friend was one attributed to Dai Vernon. While I could adequately employ the move (it was the basis for those early performances), I never really cared for it.

Trying more to emulate Ricky Jay, but never perfecting his technique, I experimented with moves that allowed the cards to be spread and selected, and controlled as the next cards were selected. Most notably, I experimented for a time with Aldo Columbini’s “Fireworks” control.

Recently, a couple of ideas came together. First was Wayne Dobson’s “Fourseen” (taught on his “A Life In Magic - From Then Until Now,” which you can read about here. In thr routine, multiple cards are selected and lost and revealed, one by one, but then, a prediction is shown that correctly foresees the selection of each card. It’s not only a multiple card control, but a clever force of four cards. An entire new level of the trick and a cool addition.

At this time, I also discovered the perfect control that came in the form of Matthew Wright’s “Unusual Suspect” (you can read my review here). In his routine called “The Big Finish,” Wright offers a stunning “multiple card control and revelation” - a demonstration of his sleight of hand mastery. What caught my eye was Wright’s own move for placing the individual cards into different places in a card fan and controlling them. This was the move that I was looking for, which I’ve learned and can now perform.

Where to Go From Here?
So where is my routine now? Following the idea of Dobson’s “Fourseen,” I force four playing cards and use Wright’s multiple card control to place the cards on the top of the deck. This is followed by four segments interspersed with false cuts where I reveal and produce the cards, one by one. Icing on the cake is that I employ the same general procedure to setup and perform a multiple card “sandwich” effect that is based on James Brown’s “ITHWICH” from his “Professional Opportunist” DVD (which you can read about here). But my sandwich routine is something for an entire new article.

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