Stray the Daisy


"I want to try something with you," you say, pulling a deck of cards and a small envelope from your pocket. "Oh, I have a valentine for you too. Don't let me forget to give it to you."

"When I was in fifth grade there was this little game that swept through the school. Well... not a game, but like a little fortune-telling match-making love-ritual type thing. I hadn't thought of in, like, 30 years and for some reason it popped in my mind out of the blue the other day. And it's one of those things where you wonder if it was just this weird thing that was localized to your school, or your part of the state, or if little kids all over the country were doing it. And if so, how did these things get passed around pre-internet?" 

"I want to play it with you and you tell me if you remember this, of if you're school had a version of it." 

You take the cards out of the box and hand the deck to your friend.

"Here's how it starts. Think of someone from your youth who you had a big crush on. But maybe someone you never told anyone else about. Then spell their name and deal a card for each letter into a pile as quietly as you can." You demonstrate by spelling B-O-B, with three cards into a pile on the table, then you put the cards back on the deck.

"I'm going to turn away, because I'm not supposed to have any clue about who the person you're thinking of might be. When you're done. Take the pile of cards you dealt and put it in your pocket or purse or under your butt or somewhere I can't see them."

You turn away while they do this and turn back when they're done and give them the rest of the instructions. 

"Now pick up the rest of the deck and hold it in your hands. Think of a trait that your ideal mate would have. Like maybe he's kind, or good with kids, or—knowing you and what you value—he's got a colossal swinging dangler between his legs. Just think of an important trait he would possess and then cut off some cards and put them on the table. Not too few, but not too many because we still need some more cards to work with."

"Now do the same thing again. Think of another trait your ideal mate would possess and cut off another group of cards and place it here."

Here's where things stand now. Your spectator has a group of cards that you haven't seen in her pocket. There are two cut off portions of cards on the table, and you genuinely don't know how many cards are in each. And there is a sealed envelope on the table with a valentine inside. You won't go near the envelope for the rest of the effect.

"Here's how the process works," you tell your friend. "We're going to create a card for you. How we do that is we take one of the packets and turn it into a flower. Then we pluck the petals off the 'flower' while saying, 'He loves me Red, He loves me Black,' until we get down to one petal which will tell us the color of your card."

You clarify what you mean here by twirling one of the piles she cut off into a little "flower."


Then you pick it up and hold it between your thumb and two fingers and have her take cards singly and toss them to the table or the ground. First card/petal, "He loves me red." Second card/petal, "He loves me black." And then back and forth like that. She eventually gets down to the final "petal" which coincides with "He loves me red."  (To be 100% clear, the actual values of the cards don't matter. The cards are just being used as the petals.)

"Okay, so we ended on red. So for this next pile you'll say, "He love me diamonds. He loves me hearts." Twirl the second pile and hold it up and let her pluck out the cards until she gets to the final one. We'll say it ends on "He loves me hearts."

"So we have a red card, and it's a heart card. Now for the final stage you need to pull out the secret packet of cards you made at the beginning based on your crush's first name. For this one we're going to determine a number. So you'll say, 'He loves me one, he loves me two, he loves me three," you say, and mime plucking away cards. 

For this one I let the other person make the flower herself and remove the cards. Let's say she ends on "He loves me six."

"Okay, so you got Red, Hearts, and Six. So the six of hearts is your personal love card. And the way it worked back in school is that all the girls performed this little ceremony, so they all had their own love cards and they would sort of coerce the boys into doing it. And the idea was that people who ended up with the same color would be good friends, if they had the same suit they might make a good relationship, and obviously if they had the same exact card then it was like they were your #1 perfect match, true love, blah blah blah. But that rarely happened. It was like a pre-pubescent matchmaking service based on total bullshit."

"I never had anyone with a matching card," you say. "Well... not until a few moments ago."

You gesture towards the envelope that has been on the table the whole time. Your friend opens it and removes what's inside. It's a playing card (of course). On the back is a little valentine's message. She turns it over and sees it's the six of hearts. Everything can be examined, including your colossal dangler.



I like this trick a lot. The ideas of secret crushes, valentines, "he loves me... he loves me not," and little matchmaking rituals are all very evocative of a very particular time. My late 30s. No, I'm kidding. I mean like 8-12 years old when young love was still pretty wholesome and not the nasty thoughts and endless boners of my teens.

The basic method is that the color and suit are forced. The value is limited naturally. And then you ring in the correct "valentine" that matches the card they end up on. But you're able to do that almost at the very beginning of the routine. And the ringing in of the correct card is done when there is no heat on the envelope. You'll see.

The set-up is fairly extensive. But this is a once in a while trick. It's a perfect Valentine's Day trick.

Let's start backwards. You need 8 outs, the 3 thru 10 of hearts. You could use less. You could probably use the 3-8 and still be pretty safe. But if I'm going to have 6 outs, I might as well have 8. Each card should be in a small, card-sized envelope. You could create some sort of index for it. I just do the following. I put two envelopes in each of four pockets. (Some combination of my pants pocket, jacket/hoodie pocket, breast pocket, back pocket.) Most often it's the 3/4 in my left pants pocket, the 5/6 in my right pant's pocket, the 6/7 in my left hoodie pocket, the 7/8 in my right hoodie pocket. The larger numbered card is closer to my body.

Originally I was using a Bicycle deck that had the tiny middle circle filled in on the red cards. But that required me to handle the deck at one point in order to peek the value of the top card. So instead I use a marked deck which makes it very hands off at the times in the effect when it makes sense to be hands off. 

So, it's a marked deck. In addition to this, the top 11 cards in the face down deck are the Ace thru Jack (suits don't matter). Well... that's not entirely true. Suits do matter, because the entire deck is stacked so the cards alternate red and black. But after the first 11 cards the values don't matter. So your deck might look something like this.


Okay. So that's the set-up. 

To perform, I pull out the deck of cards and the envelope with the four of hearts in it (four being the most common number of letters (I think) for a guy's name, at least in its short form, so there's a good chance you won't have to switch it).

I set the deck on the table but keep the envelope in my hands (usually...see the notes at the end for an alternative). I refer to the envelope as a valentine (if it's near valentine's day, if it's not, then I'll say, "I have a card for you.")

The person spells out their childhood crush's name, one card per letter and hides that packet away. They do this with my back turned away. When I turn back I note the top card of the deck (remember, they're marked). And since the top 11 cards were A-J, then I know that whatever number of cards they have is one less than the card I see. Now, already, I know what envelope I need at this early stage in the effect. Before there's seemingly any information I could have. Before, in fact, they're even 100% sure this is a trick.

I now have them think of positive attributes they want in a mate and they cut off two groups of cards. I turn away from the action (as I did before) and during that time I pocket the envelope I have and pull out the right one.

Let's see where we are. Packet #1 is in their pocket. Packet #2 is on the table. Packet #3 is on the table. And the rest of the deck (packet #4) is in their hands. 

Have packet 4 set aside. We'll now use packet two to force the color and packet 3 to force the suit. You apparently can't know how many cards are in each packet, and you don't (other than in packet 1), but you can know if packets 2 and 3 contain an odd or even number of cards.

Look at the markings on the back of 2 and 3. If the top card of each packet is the same color (not suit, just color) then packet 2 has an even number of cards. If they're different, then there are an odd number of cards in packet 2.

If packet 2 has an odd number of cards, you say: "I'm going to make this packet into a little flower and we'll pluck the cards out like petals. And you'll say, 'He loves me red, he loves me black.'"

If packet 2 has an even number of cards, you say: "I'm going to make this packet into a little flower and we'll pluck the cards out like petals. And you'll say, 'He loves me black, he loves me red.'"

This will always make the final card your force color.

You do the same thing to force the suit. Except now you look at the top of packets 3 and 4. Same color even, different color odd. If odd you start the back and forth with the force color/suit. If even you start the back and forth with the opposite color/suit.

It's easier just to understand why this is than to memorize the rules. Let's say they cut off a pile that consisted of one card. One is an odd number, and obviously you'd want them to start with the force color/suit. If they cut off two cards you'd want them to start with the opposite, so they'd end on the force color. And that pattern holds true for any odd or even number.

Important thing: You tell them how the little chant is going to go before you spread the cards into a flower. You don't want to make it seem like you're changing your wording depending on how many cards are there (although you are). You want it to seem like this is just the wording that's used and you have no idea how many cards are there. Whatever chant you establish—"he loves me black, he loves me red" or "he loves me red, he loves me black"—is exactly how the spectator will take over once they start saying it. And it will sound right to them because there is no established precedent for this. It's not like you're asking them to start saying, "He loves me not, he loves me," which would be backwards to how that phrase is usual done.

With the final flower, they count and pluck the numbers themselves, and, of course, the card they've created will match what's been in the envelope on the table from the start. 


1. I'm putting this trick up now not just because it's a great Valentine's Day trick, but also because it's a good example of some of the differences between a social magic performance and a theatrical one (don't worry, I won't be harping on this forever). Social magic allows you to use different techniques. If you were presenting the same effect in a magic "show" you'd need a much more clever switch of the envelope. In a formal presentation when you bring out a sealed envelope there's a different expectation and it becomes a bigger object of scrutiny.

You might say, "Oh, Andy. Certainly if you bring out a deck of cards and a little envelope they're going to know there's a prediction in there." But they don't. And the reason they don't is they don't see everything I do as part of a magic trick. This is a luxury you have when doing social magic. Because what you're doing is enmeshed with a real social interaction, the boundaries get blurred. Pulling out a deck of cards and an envelope doesn't immediately suggest what the climax is. I say, "I want to show you something," put my hand in my pocket, pull out the deck and the envelope. "Oh, yeah. I have a valentine for you. Don't let me forget to give it to you." Then I move on from it. If I was doing this table-hopping, that action would be seen as me introducing the props for a trick to come. But ingrained in a genuine conversation, it just becomes me emptying my pockets. Maybe they think the envelope has something to do with what's about to happen, maybe they don't. Either way they're not certain of it and that's what makes it extra satisfying when it comes back around to it at the end.

2. You might think, "If you use a double envelope and double faced cards, then you could have four outs in one envelope and you'd only have to do a switch for the other envelope on the rare occasions when the name wasn't 4, 5, 6, or 7 letters long. True. But again, that's a consideration for a presentational magic piece where the envelope is suspect from the start. In this setting, performing for a friend or loved one, you want them to have the experience of taking the envelope off the table that has been there all along (apparently), opening it themselves, taking out the card and keeping it as a souvenir. That's the "magic." You wouldn't want to sacrifice that just so you don't have to do a switch.

3. Speaking of the switch, here's how I've been doing it most recently. I have all the other envelopes in one jacket or hoodie pocket in numerical order. Once I know the number of letters in the name I (with my hands casually in my pockets) flick through the envelopes and put the correct one at the front of the stack. Then, with them holding the deck, I say "Close your eyes and imagine a trait your ideal mate would have." Then, when they have their eyes closed, I just take the envelope off the table, put it in my pocket, and toss the other one out in it's place. That may seem bold, and yes, you couldn't get away with a switch like that in many circumstance, but in this scenario it works perfectly well (so long as you're not performing for multiple people).

4. For a long time I wanted to do a trick where card "flowers" were plucked petal by petal like real flowers. But all the ones I came across were done with a down/under deal and the Matsuyama Force. I really like the Matsuyama force, but when I tried it in the context of a "she loves me/she loves me not" type of presentation I was consistently busted. I think there were two reasons for this. The first is that the routines I was trying required me to do that force multiple times, which made it slightly more transparent. But more importantly, by trying to map this force procedure onto a concept they are aware of ("he loves me... he loves me not") I ended up emphasizing the discrepancy that makes the force work. The down under deal isn't really like plucking petals at all, because when you pluck petals you don't reattach every other one back to the flower. 

So that's where this version evolved from. It feels the same as actually taking petals from a flower, in a way the down-under deal doesn't. (Nobody deals flower petals.) It's very satisfying to toss the cards one by one and let them flutter to the ground. Pluck, pluck, pluck... down to one option.

5. "He loves me... he loves me not" is a game of French origin, where it's called, "Effeuiller la Marguerite," ("pluck the daisy"). But google translates it as "Stray the Daisy" which is a more appealing name just based on the way it sounds. It would be a good band name.

6. I've put up Valentine's day ideas each year so far. Here's the first. And here's the second.