Since my youth I was addicted to the ‘cutting the aces’ by Dai Vernon (see Stars of Magic). Especially when I learned of the theatrical presentation of PUNX, which is described in his book ‘Setzt euch zu meinen Füßen’. What a gem!
But then the method was too unsure for me, also I always felt it didn’t look ‘right’. So I went on to develop something to fix that.
Without the help of Mark Elsdon’s ‘Hidden Gems’ eBook this routine wouldn’t have been possible. In this book he points direction to a David Britland concept/trick, on which my routine is based. Thank you, Mark!
The solution was David Britland’s concept of the so-called ‘cyclic aces’, which he published on his blog CARDOPOLIS. This opened my eyes and finally turned out as the solution for my version of the PUNX trick.
These days, because the trick is done genuinely one-handed, I replaced the unknown gambler in PUNX’ story with René Lavand in my script.
The effect is an incredibly clean cutting to the aces, done to a lovely story about the great man. My main contribution is in making the method almost self-working and – most important for me – SAFE. If I had to do a trick in TV, then this would be high on my list of preferred items …
Here is a little video clip that I made for the GENII magazine with a demonstration of the basic routine:
What you need:
A ‘Baraja Lavandia’: It closely matches the decks Rene Lavand used to use. The cards are slightly bevelled and should have a used look. As if the master had given the deck to you as a souvenir. The condition helps to hide the gimmick.
The gimmick is a special card, which makes sleight of hand unnecessary. Take the two Jokers and glue them together to form a thick and broad card. The cards should overlap for about 1 mm. On the face of the Jokers put two tiny drops of UV-hardening glue (or use epoxy glue). I use the popular BLUEFIXX, which hardens in seconds.
This is similar to the ‘Koornwinder Card Control’ gimmick, only applied on the face of the card. It prevents a vacuum in between the cards during the cutting procedure and guarantees proper cuts.
A finger ring. Mine is made by Lolo from Sevilla, Spain. It is a Morgan Silver Dollar, which Lolo skillfully transformed into a finger ring. The ring has actually nothing to do with the trick, but is a lovely ring …
(from the back to the face) Ace, rest of deck, Ace, gimmick card, Ace, 4, 10, J, Q, K (all Spades), Ace of Spades, 8-10 indifferent cards.
This is a routine that closely emulates the style of Rene Lavand. The trick is performed with one hand only, as Lavand did. Because of this the routine appears as an impressive demonstration of sleight of hand, despite the fact that it is almost self working.
Take the cards out of the case and give them your best false shuffle and false cuts. Spread them face-up on the table. Be careful not to flash the top ace. Gather up the spread and put the deck face down in front of you onto the table. The gimmicked card is well hidden, due to the beaten up condition of the cards. You will now start the cutting procedure as conceived by David Britland.
Cut about a third from the top and place the packet in front of the deck . Then cut to the gimmick card, which is about another third from the remaining deck on the table. Put this packet on top of the first third. Finally, place the rest of the deck onto the other two thirds. This is the basic cutting procedure, which you will repeat with each other ace. Turn the top card of the deck face up and put it on the table in the front. You cut to the first Ace.
The second Ace is handled the same way: cut a third from the top, and put it besides the deck. Then again, cut to the gimmicked card and put this third on top of the first one. Put the last third on top and turn over the top card – another Ace.
Now the story changes and you are going to do the same thing, but with the cards face up. Turn the deck face up. The gimmicked card will be in the top third, so be careful when cutting. Cut off a few cards (about ten) and place them on the table. Cut to the gimmicked card as before and the third Ace will appear on the tabled packet. Place this on top of the cut off packets. Take the Ace from the face of the deck and place it onto to table.
Turn the deck face down again. The gimmicked card will be near the top. It took me awhile to figure out how to get out of this situation. I had the idea to include a challenge in the story: what if the spectator gives the deck a complete cut before the performer cuts to the last Ace? This is the perfect solution and will deceive the spectators, even magicians. The spectator gives the deck a complete cut in the middle. This sends the gimmicked card more or less back where it was in the beginning.
Now you go through the triple cutting and turn over the top card: it is a Four. Put it onto the table and deal the next four cards face down onto the table. The next card is the Ace of Spades.
For the finale, turn over the tabled cards to show the Royal Flush in Spades.
Here is a suggestion of the patter. Adapt it to your style or create your own.
«Rene Lavand was an Argentinian card master and I met him at a convention in Italy many years ago. He was famous for his skill with the cards and his poetic presentation of his marvels. This is astounding, because Mr. Lavand had lost his right arm as a child, and therefore was forced to do all these wonderful card miracles only with one hand.
Being young and sneaky, I thought I know it all and wanted to challenge the grandmaster. So I approached him and asked, if he could cut to the Aces in a shuffled deck [false shuffle and false cut the deck]. So I shuffled my cards and put them in front of him.
He said that this was very easy for him. He only needed three little cuts, and voila – the first Ace was on the top! [do the first cutting sequence]
Of course, I wanted to see it again, and without hesitation or any false moves, he cut the cards a second time and had the second Ace on the top [do the second cutting sequence].
I was speechless and thought of a way to beat the old master. I asked him whether he could do that also with the cards face-up! He said, he never tried it that way, but will do so [turn deck face-up and perform the cutting sequence]. After he cut the cards as before, the third Ace was staring in my face. And he did that using only his left hand!
I couldn’t believe it and really wanted to trouble him. So I asked whether he could still do it, after I had cut the cards [turn deck face down].
[address a spectator] Could you please cut the cards for me and complete the cut [spectator cuts the deck].
Mr. Lavand didn’t hesitate and proceeded to cut the cards as before. He turned over the top card, and it was a – Four. Ha! I thought I got him, but he said that the Four is only an indicator card. All he had to do was to count four cards off the deck and the next card would of course be the last Ace [count the four cards onto the table and turn the next card face-up].
And he gave me some useful advice and a warning: Never underestimate people you don’t know. It could happen, next time when you play cards, that you happen to meet someone who always has the better hand [reveal the Royal Flush to complete the routine].
And so ended my one and only meeting with the great Rene Lavand. Funny thing is that I don’t know till this day how the hell he did it …“
This article, along with some photographs, will be published in my column in GENII magazine.
[For the Spanish readers: As you can see, I am using Javi Benitez’ wonderful ‘tapete’ (means close-up mat) in a creative way. I use the other side of the tapete. Which distinguishes me from magicians like Tamariz, who use the black side…]