A Simplified Card Coding System

After last Thursday's post I received an email from friend of the site and GLOMM Elite member, Les Allen. He recommended a change to the card coding system I mentioned in that post. I think his change makes the system easier to execute on both ends (the sender and the receiver). It turns a two step process into a two or three step process, but those steps are all easy. As opposed to the original code where one of the steps could be a little iffy and might require a bit more scrutiny.

To start with, you need a point to build your coding system around. If you're performing on a close-up pad, a small table, a couch cushion, or some other easily defined space, your locus will just be the center of you're performing surface. If you're at a big table or on the floor or on some other undefined surface, then your midpoint is going to be some imperfection or some aspect of the design of the surface. Or you can create a point to work around by placing any small object on the table, like a coin.

For the purposes of this example we'll say that the point we're building our code around is the tip of the dark wood triangle on this coffee table. 

A vertical and horizontal axis go through the midpoint. When you place an object on the table relative to the midpoint, it will either be on one of the axes, or it will be between two. This is very easy to differentiate. 

You imagine a clock-face around your midpoint. This is how we will code (or start to code) the values.

If the card box is on your center point, it's a king. If the card box is on an axis, you know the value of the coded card. If it's between two axes you know it's one of two values. So, for example, if the card box was in the south-east quadrant, you'd know it was a 4 or 5.

We determine which of those two values by whether the card case is front-side up (in which case it's the even value) or back-side up (in which case it's the odd value). Remember, the back of the case is odd. An easy mnemonic for this is that, when you make love, you should see the front of your partner because sex should be had face-to-face, in the missionary position, for the purpose of making children. It would be very odd to see your partner's back when making love. Very odd indeed. (Now is probably a good time to mention this site is transitioning to a Christian/gospel magic site.)

So if we go back to the box in the south-east quadrant, if we can see the front of the box, we know it's a 4. 

The suit of the card is coded as in the previous version of this code.

The good thing about this version is there's nothing to interpret. Nothing is unclear or riding the line between a couple different options. What this means is you can glance at the box for just a moment and remember the details and then decode them in your mind. You don't need to intently stare to know if something is closer to being a three or a four or whatever.

With certain card cases, like the modern Bicycle case, it's pretty easy to discern the top and bottom of the back side. If you're using some other deck, you can untuck the flap to make it easier.

So the steps to determine the card (or determine where to place the card) are these:

Step 1 - Determine if the box is centered on an axis. If it is, you know the value, go to step 3. If not, you know it's one of two values, go to step 2.

Step 2 - If the box is front-side up it's the even value. If it's back-side up, it's the odd value.

Step 3 - Determine what direction the box is pointing to figure out the suit. (Suits are in CHaSeD order going clockwise.)

Let's Practice. Scroll over the picture and the name of the coded card will be revealed at the bottom of the pic. Remember, the top of the dark triangle is our midpoint.

 Queen of Clubs

Queen of Clubs

 Three of Diamonds

Three of Diamonds

 King of Spades

King of Spades

 Seven of Spades

Seven of Spades

 Nine of Diamonds

Nine of Diamonds

 Jack of Diamonds

Jack of Diamonds

 Five of Spades

Five of Spades

What makes this extra-versatile is you don't need a deck of cards. You just need any object you can identify the top and bottom and the front and back of. As I mentioned in my original write-up in X-Communication, your cell phone would be good for this. But maybe you don't want to be seen handling something electronic in the process of coding something. In that case, use whatever you want. 

Imagine you had a little stuffed reindeer. You ask your spectator to think of any card and you hold up the reindeer and ask them to tell that card to it. They do. You put the reindeer back on the table. Your friend comes in, picks the stuffed animal up, and starts talking to it like a psychopath. "What's that, Chip? Someone is thinking of a card? What is it? The two of clubs?"

Let's practice with a reindeer.

 Three of clubs

Three of clubs

 seven of spades

seven of spades

 Nine of clubs

Nine of clubs

 five of hearts

five of hearts

 two of clubs

two of clubs


Of course, the coding is only the set-up. There are countless ways you could proceed. 

It can be enjoyable to claim you've been practicing card cheating with you're friend and you've learned to code cards between the two of you. But come up with some ludicrous method as to how you're coding the information. I'm particular to this one, "We've codified 52 different locations along the length of my closed lips, so depending on where this toothpick sticks out of my mouth, it will let him know what card I need." Meanwhile you place the deck in the location that identifies a card your spectator has named or selected. When your friend turns around or comes back in the room he quickly gleans the coded card and then makes a show of calculating the exact location the toothpick is held between your lips.

Another thing that's fun to do, if you're with a large group, is to send your friend out of the room. One person freely chooses a card that only he knows (well, you have to find out what it is too, either directly or indirectly) and puts it in his breast pocket. He then whispers the name of that card to someone. That person, in turn, whispers it to someone else, but when he does, he changes either the suit or the value. And it goes around the entire group this way with everyone changing an element of the card that gets whispered to them and whispering it to someone else. It's a big game of telephone, and at the end you have a seemingly completely random card named by the last person. Your friend comes in the room and is told the name of this random card. He asks everyone to line up in the order they whispered from person to person in. Then he starts mumbling and pointing indistinctly at people, his head lowered, as he attempts to backtrack the decisions made along the way. This is "A Beautiful Mind" type stuff.

"Ok, six of clubs, six of clubs. So that means you said the six of something or the something of clubs, so if you changed that variable we'd have to go back and think what would that have come from... we have to step further back...a three probably or a seven... spades...spades, spades, spades... but then a heart is likely... you wouldn't jump too far from your input card... so a single standard deviation...."

He's just mumbling this type of stuff under his breath. He's not speaking it so much as buzzing it. As he carries on he's walking backwards along the line of people until he's getting closer to the person who took the card. 

He is still concentrating deeply, staring at the floor. "We follow the precepts of the decision tree... probably plus two... maybe shifting to a minor suit... taking it back three steps or forward one..." he drones on until finally he stops walking and raises his arm in the air, extending his index finger. Speaking clearly now: "And if all that is accurate," he says, then pauses. He is still staring at the floor, but he slowly lowers his arm to point directly at the pocket of the guy who choose the card. "The card in that pocket is the ten of diamonds."

Which, of course, he knew two minutes ago when he walked in the room and saw the card case you placed on the table while the game of telephone was going on.