Newsletter 4 - Repeat Open Prediction

Ideas, Incubation & Returning to a Problem

Magicians stop thinking too soon. That sentiment was attributed to Al Baker by Dai Vernon and has a become something of a mantra for lecturers as they berate their audience for being quitters.

While I understand the idea that you might want to think beyond your first solution, I don’t subscribe to the general admonition that magicians stop thinking too soon. It isn’t practical advice. There is no definition of ‘soon.’ Tricks evolve over time as different performers bring their thinking to it. Tricks also change in accordance with tropes, fads and fashions that didn’t exist when the routine was originally conceived. It is possible we stop thinking when we have what tech folk call a minimum viable product. That moment comes when we have something that works in performance, share with friends, put in a book or sell in a lecture. After that, you can sure someone else will have something to add.


Research shows the benefits of sleeping on an idea. Richard Wiseman tells me that the term psychologists use for this is ‘incubation.’ It is an element of the creative process. You stop thinking about an idea and then return to it later. We sleep on it, as the saying goes.

How long we might sleep on an idea is difficult to say. The time frame can be a span of years rather than days. And I venture there is a very good reason why putting an idea into incubation for a long length of time can produce practical results. When you return to it, you have more experience and knowledge to apply to the problem.

When you return to one of your own ideas, you not only come to it with a fresh perspective but you already know the history of the problem. You’re not treading over old ground but building on a foundation of knowledge. The technique seems to work for me. Sometimes by confirming what a terrible idea the original was and sometimes by having me wonder, ‘How come I didn’t think of this the first time around?’

That’s what happened when I returned to a version of Paul Curry’s Open Prediction. The method for this routine goes back to Robert Parrish who published it in Pallbearers Review. I published a routine using the same idea in Psychomancy (1986). Thirty years later, I realised I’d missed a trick. With one tiny addition, the routine can be immediately repeated and a different card predicted. Here’s a run down of the effect:

The method is a simple solution to a complex problem and the price to pay is the compromised procedure of cutting and turning over cards, the Henry Christ Force. It also uses a couple of gimmicked cards. On the plus side, it is technically easy to do and with good audience management it can feel as if the trick takes place entirely in the spectator’s hands. Here is the working:

If you want to have the deck in the hands of the spectator from the beginning, then I recommend you add an extra regular card at the bottom of the deck. This will help avoid the double-facer being accidentally revealed as the spectator handles the cards. The set-up therefore will be double-back card on top. Regular card on bottom of deck. Double-face card second from bottom. And rest of deck in between. To get to this position you double-cut three cards to the bottom of the deck in preparation for the repeat instead of double-cutting two cards.

Why Repeat?

You might wonder why you would want to repeat the trick. But the repeat offers different presentation possibilities. For example, you could say, ‘You might wonder what would happen if you’d cut one card deeper…’ You offer to repeat the trick and you make another prediction ie the card on the other side of your double-facer.

This time when you deal down to the first face-down card (the double-backer) you make a double turnover and show the face of the card. It is different from your prediction. Turn the double down and deal the double-backer onto the face-up packet.

Turn the cards in your hands face-up and start dealing them onto the tabled packet. It looks like a repeat of the first time you did the trick except the stopped-at card doesn’t match your prediction. To speed things up for the audience, start spreading the cards off in batches to show the predicted card isn’t there and then drop them onto the tabled cards. As you drop the last batch, keep the rear card hidden because it has already been seen.

You have already shown the face-down card. It is not the predicted card. But when you spread the cards for the finale, the reversed card is the predicted card. A demonstration of inescapable fate.

Second Incubation

When I decided to include this trick in the newsletter, another idea presented itself. That’s incubation at work. Instead of using a red-backed card or written prediction, why not simply spread the deck face-up and push out a card to serve as your prediction? This prediction card will be the mate of the card that is left reversed in the deck. It’s the same trick as before and you can do the trick twice. The cards that match your double-facer have been removed from the deck so duplicates don’t show up in the deal. I like the naturalness of it. The prediction comes from somewhere as opposed to nowhere. It invites the audience into the process as they watch you apparently decide which card you will use.

Third Incubation

I used an odd-backed card in Repeat Open Prediction video because it’s easier to see. Usually the prediction is written on a slip of paper. Since there are two possible predictions, it got me thinking about using an ambigram. For example, when viewed one way up the prediction says Four of Spades and the other way up it says Nine of Hearts. There are ambigram generators online but they are quite crude and the fonts difficult to read. Maybe an artist can use one of them as a starting point and create something useable. I’ve leave that thought with you. Sleep on it.

Still Incubating

Newsletter 3 featured a trick called Lost & Found. It was a version of The Magic Thrust effect in which a spectator stabs a card into the deck to locate a selection. I wondered how to stage a more solid finale. The beats weren’t quite right. Sleeping on it led to the following version of the effect and old method worth exploring:

This almost impromptu version of Lost & Found is inspired by The Moving Pencil in Harry Lorayne’s Close-Up Card Magic. I always liked the premise of the spectator signing a card but not knowing what it was. There’s something interesting about finding a card that no one knows the identity of. The handling here includes a couple of extra touches that might confuse your fellow magicians who will wonder exactly how you kept track of that signed card through a series of very convincing shuffles. Using a short card as a key card does the trick. It’s very strong particularly if those riffle shuffles are open and loose and not like those you’d use in a gambling demonstration. We’ll be returning to this principle in a forthcoming trick. Incidentally the short card is marked on the back so that if it comes inconveniently to the top at any point you can arrange for one more cut to send it back to the centre.

I wouldn’t make a big thing out of naming your lucky card, Queen of Hearts, until after the spectator has stabbed it into the deck. They saw you place your lucky card aside at the beginning of the trick. After you’ve asked the spectator to push ‘the Queen’ into the deck is the time to start using its full name again, telling them to cut the deck several times to lose your ‘lucky Queen of Hearts.’ I don’t know if this helps facilitate the flashing of the face of the card or merely gives you more confidence to do it but it’s worth thinking about.

Frame the equivoque in such a way that it follows through on the main premise that spectator makes all the choices. It will make the effect stronger and keep the theme simple.

A Bet

When we made The Real Hustle TV series we got through an awful lot of bar bets. Recently I found one I hadn’t seen before as told by Rolland Fraser in a 1957 issue Magicana magazine:

“At the golf club the other day, a member was boasting about his strength when a puny fellow bet him £10 that he could wheel a load in a wheelbarrow from the Clubhouse to the street that the athlete couldn’t wheel back. “You’re on,” said the boaster. A wheelbarrow was brought up to the Clubhouse. '“Alright,” said the little guy, “Get in!”’


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