BY MIKE CLOSE, MUM REVIEW, APRIL 2015
Michael Close here. Observant readers may have noticed that there has not been an El Roberto Enigmatico column in a while; I sent an email to R.D. Michaels to find out what the problem was. He explained: “It has impossible to get any coherent communications from Bob Farmer. Every letter he sends me consists of sequences of cards that make no sense, huge charts, references to magic books I don’t own, and vitriolic rants against the Canadian postal system.
“Through some Internet searching, I discovered that Bob has been working on an encyclopedic reference book on one particular card plot. Although he has been researching this project for more than two decades, for the past several months he has been consumed in a writing frenzy – a process that is made more time-consuming by the fact that Bob distrusts computers and writes everything longhand using a falcon-feather quill and homemade, gooseberry ink. I hope he finishes this soon; I’m worried about him.”
I’m very pleased to announce that Bob Farmer has survived his creative ordeal and has released an eagerly awaited and extraordinary book, The Bammo Ten Card Deal Dossier. This book deserves a detailed review, but our space in the Informed Opinion column is tight this month, so I’ll present a review of it here.
Let’s start by talking about the trick that is the instigator of all this hubbub. Here’s the basic effect as Bob describes it: “The spectator shuffles ten cards; the spectator deals two poker hands; the spectator loses. Even when the spectator looks at the ten cards and takes the ones he wants, he loses. No matter how fair the shuffle, no matter how open the deal, and no matter how advantageous the circumstances, the spectator still loses. This happens without any apparent intervention by the magician, as if the cards all by themselves are out to prove to the spectator that everything he knows is wrong...” If you’ve never been on the receiving end of this trick (which I was as a kid, when Dick Stoner performed it for me using jumbo cards), you can’t imagine how baffling it is.
It is very possible that the principle that makes the Ten Card Deal work comes from an anonymous card cheat, who used it in a showdown situation. (“Let’s play one more hand for all the money – five cards to each of us, no draw, highest hand wins.”) Ed Marlo recalled learning the principle in 1941, and Dai Vernon may have learned it four years before that. Martin Gardner reported that Vernon had worked out a routine of repeated deals with it.
The principle first appeared in print in Arthur Buckley’s Card Control in 1946; unfortunately, there was an error in that write-up. Lewis Ganson had planned on including it in Dai Vernon’s Inner Secrets of Card Magic (where it eventually appeared), but Bruce Elliott jumped the gun and published a routine (with multiple deals) in The Phoenix #168 in 1949. Two issues later, Elliott published further ideas from Ed Marlo, Martin Gardner, Bert Allerton, and John Murray.
Bob Farmer presents the above information (and more) in the first section of The Bammo Ten Card Deal Dossier. He then moves on to a chapter titled, “Stratagems.” Here he offers information on which ten cards to use (including a set of ten based on a scientific study investigating which cards are best suited for various magical tasks), methods of getting the ten cards into play, false shuffles, methods for determining where the “critical” card is when the faces and backs are obscured, methods for forcing the critical card, how to fake poker knowledge, and possible different endings for the routine, including predictions and interesting presentations.
With that introductory information out of the way, Bob launches into an examination of various routines that use one “Jonah” card. “What’s a Jonah card?” I hear you ask. In the paragraph above, I made mention of a “critical” card. What makes the Ten Card Poker Deal such an extraordinary trick is that the performer need only control/track one card to determine who will lose the hand. This card is traditionally referred to as the “Jonah” card. One of the most popular of the “one-Jonah” routines (and the routine that inspired many magicians, myself included, to perform the Ten Card Deal) was Harry Lorayne’s routine, published in 1967 in Deck-sterity. Lorayne had chosen an optimal set of cards, had constructed a routine of increasing impossibility, and had tempered the sting of the spectator constantly losing (always a problem with this type of routine) with a great presentation.
Lorayne’s routine inspired many variations; the “One Jonah” chapter includes routines by John Mendoza, Basil Horwitz, J.K. Hartman, Brother John Hamman (whose routine features an astonishing kicker), Steve Mayhew, Nick Trost, Bob King, Robert Neale, Jim Swain, and Darwin Ortiz. In particular, the Ortiz routine, Mexican Poker, has become very popular and is in the repertoire of many card magicians. The details of Darwin’s handling are not included, but a summary of the various phases is offered.
In 1974, Paul Curry (creator of Out of This World) introduced a new angle: instead of using just one Jonah card, his routine (Cider!) used two. Bob writes, “The duality allowed the spectator to freely choose all the cards for himself and all the cards for the magician and he still lost.” The Curry routine inspired further developments; the chapter “Two Jonahs” contains routines from T.A. Waters, Nick Trost, Lewis Jones, Ernest Earick, Tom Frame, Paul Wilson, Peter Duffie, René Lavand, Tim Ellis, Bob Farmer, and Michael Weber. Earick’s routine, Double Damned, was a highlight of the book of his material, By Forces Unseen, and is well worth your attention.
Introduced in this chapter is the idea of the “morphing Jonah,” a card that can turn a winning hand into a losing hand and vice versa. This is accomplished by using one or more gaffed cards. Nick Trost introduced this with his routine Showdown, which (back in 1994) made Bob Farmer’s list of the top six Ten Card Deal routines. You’ll find several routines in this chapter that use this idea, including Weber’s Ha, No Jonah. The details for this routine are not given in the book (only a description of the phases is given); but lately Weber has been making frequent convention appearances and usually has the effect for sale.
The next chapter considers the possibility of using eight Jonah cards. When combined with the other nine that are normally used in a Ten Card Deal routine, this produces a seventeen-card stock, which means that you (the magician) can play against two spectators. The routines in this chapter are by Farmer and Nick Trost. (Readers with good memories may recall that these eight-Jonahs routines were mentioned in the January 2014 M-U-M, where I explained my routine, The Topsy-Turvy Semi-Automatic Gambler.)
Chapter six explains the next big advance in Ten Card Deal methodology. It uses the idea of a morphing Jonah, but does not require any gaffed cards. In addition, the Jonah card changes with each round of dealing, making it impossible for the spectator to realize that he keeps receiving the one card that doesn’t improve his hand. Included in this chapter are two of the best Ten Card Deal routines out there: Bruce Bernstein’s Psych Out and Woody Aragon’s Blessed Poker.
At this point, the book branches off into routines, methods, and stratagems that do not strictly stick with the Jonah card idea. These include chapters on routines originally published in MAGIC magazine (where Bob had a long-running column on the Ten Card Deal), interesting approaches from Roy Walton and Paul Wilson, routines that cloak the Ten Card Deal with a Texas Hold ‘Em presentation, and routines that do not use real playing cards.
The chapter “Absolute Power Poker Deceives Absolutely” contains one of the best small-packet poker deals ever created, Mexican Poker by Dave Solomon, John Bannon, and Tomas Blomberg. This trick has its origin in a Bill Simon routine, The Four Queens. The Simon routine was varied by Harry Lorayne and appeared in Deck-sterity as Deal and Duck. (This is another trick I did all the time when I was a kid. It’s still a great trick.) Paul Wilson, J.K. Hartman, Harry Anderson, Jon Racherbaumer, Lewis Jones, and Joshua Jay offer variations on the Mexican Poker theme.
The next chapter features routines based on the Position Parity Principle, which first appeared in Mathematical Puzzles by Peter Winkler in 2003. My guess is that you (and almost every other magician, including me) didn’t pay any attention to this, even when it resurfaced in Jon Racherbaumer’s Jonah Play, New Winning Ways for the Wily in 2013. But when Ricky Jay performed his presentation of this for Jimmy Fallon on the Tonight Show, all the magicians in the world wanted to know where they could find that trick. Well, you can find it in Bob’s book, along with some great variations.
I’m running out of space, so I need to wrap things up. The book concludes with a large section of routines that adapt the Ten Card Deal approach to an apparent demonstration of the game of Blackjack. Included are some devilishly clever ideas from Farmer, Max Maven, and Harold Cataquet. Of particular interest is Dr. Cataquet’s Blackjack stack; remarkably, this stack can be given straight cuts by the spectator (after a magician false shuffle) and the magician will win most of the time in a head-to-head game.
Following the Blackjack information is a section on simple switches that can be used to ring in a kicker hand (like a royal flush) as the climax of the Ten Card Deal and an extraordinary seventeen pages of references. These references are not merely a listing of sources for the Ten Card Deal; almost every entry has commentary and further information by Farmer. The book concludes with Dealer Demo Easter Egg, a commercial routine by Bob that incorporates several of the procedures explained earlier.
“Let me explain...No there is too much. Let me sum up.” – Inigo Montoya
For those of you who are card magic enthusiasts, The Bammo Ten Card Deal Dossier is a no-brainer, must-have purchase. If you have an extensive library, you may already own some of the books that contain the routines Bob has included. But the beauty of this book is the organization of the material. It’s one thing to track down so many examples of the Ten Card Deal; it’s quite another thing to present that material in a logical and cohesive way, so that each chapter builds on the material presented in previous chapters. Bob is a master at this; it’s one of his gifts. (The other is his ability to spontaneously improvise perfect haiku on any subject.) If you want to develop your own, personalized version of the Ten Card Deal, you have at your disposal all the tools you need.
Even if you’re not a “card person,” let me offer two reasons why you might find this book useful. First, the Ten Card Deal is one of the two strongest, almost selfworking card tricks. (The other trick would be the aforementioned Out of This World.) It is one of the very few gambling-related card tricks that are technically simple. Many versions can be performed with a borrowed deck of cards, making this the perfect trick to have up your sleeve when a friend at a party hands you a deck and says, “Show us a trick.” It will bamboozle any audience and will leave a lasting impression. What’s that worth to you? My second reason is this: The Bammo Ten Card Deal Dossier is one of the very few books that shows you how a variety of ingenious creators tackle a common card problem. Contributors to this collection include some of the best magicians on the planet. Studying their solutions can be very enlightening and can aid you as you solve magical problems of your own.
Bottom line: The Bammo Ten Card Deal Dossier is a book that should be in your library. It has taken a very long time to get here, and I’m delighted that it is finally available.