Presentation Week Part 4: Spectator Cuts to the Aces 3 Ways

Spectator Cuts to the Aces is definitely in my top 10 most performed tricks. I use John Bannon's Directed Verdict (or one of the variations) which is pretty much perfect. I almost always let the spectator shuffle first by holding out the aces and then palming them in. Actually, that's a lie. I don't "hold out" the aces and "palm them in." But there isn't really nomenclature that exists for a lot of the methods used in informal magic. The truth is the aces are in my hoodie pocket or behind a pillow on the couch, and then I just put them on the deck when they're not looking. 

Version 1 - The No Patter Version

Spectator Cuts to the Aces is one of those tricks that magicians haven't really found a way to mess up with bad patter. It's a pretty pure trick, and I'm happy to present it that way. I'm not always advocating for a deep, world-building presentation. I just think those are the most fun to perform, interesting for the spectator, and they stay with them the longest. But remember that part of my patter algorithm I talked about earlier in the week is that if the patter isn't strong enough to stand on its own, then I dump it. So I'm not against a bare bones presentation, they just don't have the same long-lasting impact and are more for transient enjoyment. And that's fine, in fact it's a good thing for the non-pro performer to not always hit the same notes in a performance. Look, sometimes you want a long slow seduction that lasts half the night, sometimes you want to flip her skirt up and bend her over the kitchen table, and sometimes you just want to make-out on the couch in your underpants. The reason your love-life is so stale isn't because you're a terrible fuck. You've just been in a tired routine, possibly for years. Change things up. Okay, the truth comes out, this isn't a magic blog. Your wife hired me to get this message to you, and this was the only way I could think to approach you with your guard down.

Where was I? Yes, mix your style up.

The truth is, even when I perform with "no" patter, there is kind of a meta-patter going on. I'm about to give you a gift and give you the line I often lead into these performances with. I'm not exaggerating when I say it's a gift. It's a line that will have your spectator significantly more engrossed in what you perform. But I only use it on someone who has seen me perform something grander and more involved sometime previously.

I don't say, "Want to see a trick?"

I say, "Can I get your opinion on something I'm working on?"


"I've got something new I'm trying to work the kinks out of. Can I show you? I think you'd be perfect for this."

Or any similar words that express:

1. This is a work in progress. 

2. I specifically want to perform this for you.

We seriously undervalue the inherent interest in giving people a behind the scenes look at this type of work. If someone has seen you perform something that blew their mind in the past, I guarantee you that they are so primed to see "something you're working on." What often prevents people from going down this route is -- as I've mentioned all week -- that it conflicts with their need to be seen as real. "I can't ask someone to see a 'rough draft' because that would imply I'm not really psychic." Okay. Keep shooting yourself in the foot.

I don't want to come off as in love with my ideas if they're really not that great, but I truly believe there is magic in this line. It flips a switch in people. It's intriguing, flattering, and best of all, it's true. All our effects are works in progress, and you should want to perform it for that specific person (or else why bother?) and value any opinions and insights they can give. 

If it's still not clear why this is powerful, imagine this scenario... You go to your friend's house and he says, "Do you want to see the windmill photos I took that they're going to display at the coffee shop?" You say, "Sure." Now, unless you have some particular interest in windmills, you're going to flip through those things quick as shit so you can get on with your night. But if he says, "I'm really glad you're here. I was hoping I could get your thoughts on which of these windmill photos I should give to the coffee shop to display." You still have no interest in windmills or photography but now you're giving each one a good look, comparing composition, really getting into it. All that has changed is your friend went from showing you something to making you a part, however small, of the process. That makes people feel valued. And that stays with them.

Version 2 - The Ocean's Eleven Version

Spectator Cuts to the Aces isn't really a gambling trick, but I sometimes make it one. Gambling tricks are notoriously bad as far as presentation goes. They're either just demonstrations of skill, or they're these passive, dull stories about some old poker game you were supposedly in. I'm going to give you a generic gambling presentation that you can use for most gambling routines. It's really just a set of rules I apply to the way I present gambling tricks.

  1. I make it active. (As in it takes place in the present tense. I'm not repeating some story about a game that didn't happen.)
  2. I make it urgent.
  3. It's not a demonstration or a trick. It's a rehearsal.

So for Spectator Cuts the Aces...

You [acting all coked up]:

Oh, dude, I'm so glad you're here. I need your help with something. Take a seat. Mix these up. Wait, wait. Not there. That's where the Brazilian will be sitting. I need you to sit here. Okay cool. Now I need to try something. Cut a small portion of cards off the deck. Actually... wait... put that back. He's left-handed. So I need you to do it with your left hand. Great. Okay, now another. And another. And one last one. Let's see what we've got.

[You turn over a 4 of hearts, 8 of hearts, King of clubs, and 7 of diamonds.]

Fuck! Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck. What the hell happened here? Goddammit. I just can't.... Hold on.

[You go in the other room and can be heard making a phone call.]

Call it off man, we're done. It's not happening [Pause] Listen dude, I said it's DONE. It's not going to work. So what the fuck are we doing this for? To get ourselves arrested or killed? No, I'm out. Find someone else. [Pause] What do you mean? I just tried it again. [Pause] No. Not one. [Pause] I don't know. You tell me, dude, because I sure as shit don't know. [Pause] No. That won't work. [Pause] Because it won't, that's why. We can't... wait. Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. Hold up. Is there any way we'll have access to the lighting in the room? [Pause] And Johnny can do that, right? Hold on, I need to try something.

[You hang up and go back into the room with your friend.]

Look, I'm going to tell you something, but you have to promise not to tell anyone or I'll rip your throat out. I swear to god. We have a big score coming up. Potentially a life-changing one. I got into a poker game this weekend that could set me up real nice for a real long time. I've got a crew together. We were supposed to have another couple months to figure this out, but the sultan's daughter threw a fit and got her wedding moved up and now they're in town this weekend. So we're trying to rush this shit, but it's not working. We have a way to introduce our own decks into the game, but it's all going to fall apart unless we can get the sultan to cut exactly where we want him to when it comes around to him. I'm killing myself trying to figure this shit out. But I might be onto something.

[You lower the lights in the room just slightly.}

Here. Cut the cards into four piles again. Here, here, here, and here. Turn over the cards you cut to.

[They're all aces.]

Oh my god. This is going to work. This is going to work!

[You take your friend's face in your hands and kiss him square on the lips.]

You can end here, with your friend wondering how the hell he cut to the aces by you adjusting the lighting, but I would take it further.

[A couple days later, rent a bright yellow Lamborghini. Drive to your friends house and lay on the horn until he comes outside. Roll down your window.] 

Hey dude. We did it. We fucking did it. It didn't go exactly as planned but we got that fucking money. Oh, I have something for you.

[You unzip your jacket to reach into an inside pocket. It's at this point your friend notices that you shirt is covered in what appears to be blood. You pull out a (fake) Rolex from inside your jacket.]

I want you to have this. You keep your mouth shut, okay?

[There are specks of blood on the watch. You roll up the window and drive away. Never contact this friend again.]

Version 3 - The Creepy Child Version

The idea of using an ace cutting routine to cut to something other than the aces is a good one. This presentation uses that idea.

Your friend, Lisa comes over to have dinner and watch a movie. On the coffee table is a crayon drawing done by a young child of a jumbled bunch of cars. "What's this?" she asks.

"Oh," you say, "My niece came over a couple days ago. She loves to draw. I actually told her all about you. She loved hearing about your cat. Oh wait! Want to see something weird? Look at that picture again. Now look at the cover of today's paper. Doesn't her drawing look way similar to the photo of this accident in the paper? I mean, it's not identical, of course. But it's like the same number of cars and this tree is in the same position. But she drew this three days ago. And that accident just happened yesterday. I mean, I know it's just a coincidence but it still freaked me out a little. Her mom is always telling me she has these visions that come true but her mom is such a flake. She also claimed that her grandmother had these visions as well, but then her grandmother got hit by a bus. So much for seeing the future, right?"

"Hey, can I get your opinion on something I'm working on?"

You perform the effect.

"Wouldn't it be amazing if you cut to the four aces?"

You turn over the first card, it's the ace of diamonds. The next card is the ten of diamonds, followed by the four of clubs and the six of hearts.

"Well, that needs more work. I think maybe you shuffled too much. Eh, it was worth a shot. Where should we order dinner from? I had chinese last night so I'd rather..."

As you talk your eyes fall back onto the cards Lisa cut to and your voice fades off.

"No way," you say, getting off the couch. You grab Lisa's hand and pull her with you to the kitchen. Stuck with a magnet to the refrigerator is a child's drawing of the ace of diamonds, the ten of diamonds, the four of clubs, and the six of hearts.

You stare at it for a moment. "I thought she just drew it because she knew I like magic and playing cards. I never imagined..." You pull it off the refrigerator and bring it back to the other room to compare it to the actual cards, just to be sure. "This is just so weird..."

Later that evening as you're clearing the coffee table to get ready for dinner, you move a magazine and another drawing that was under it falls to the floor. Lisa picks it up. It's a stick figure drawing of a woman riding a man in bed, her head thrown back in ecstasy. In a child's scrawl it says, "Uncle Andy" with an arrow pointing to the man, and "Lisa" with an arrow pointing to the woman. You look at it with Lisa. "Ha, wow... that's just... I mean... I'm sure she didn't know what she was drawing... kids just.... well.... they just have the craziest imaginations... don't they?" you say, as your hand brushes some strands of hair off her forehead and behind her ear. 

If you can't parlay that into some action, you're hopeless.