Whether a new or old hand to card magic, practicing the instructions set out below alongside reading my account will likely greatly enhance what you take away. As magic is an embodied, situated undertaking there is no substitute for trying it yourself; both to understand it as an activity and to appraise my account of it as an activity.

As noted in the Philosophy section, magicians are dissuaded from sharing the mechanisms for tricks with ‘non-magicians’ — not least because doing so would spoil the aura of magic for audiences. What such general prohibitions should mean in practice though is often characterized by uncertainty and disagreement. I am approaching the disclosure here as a compact: you are being invited into the world of magic in the spirit of a student, like me. And study requires practice.

Finally, attempts to describe in words forms of action can often prove dry in the abstract. By contrast undertaking magic can be great fun! This is an opportunity to make strange what is already familiar or to get a measure on what has been otherwise untried.

Be warned though! While enacting the instructions will open up new mysteries, you won’t look on a deck of cards in the same way.

The fourth entry in Self-Working Card Tricks (1), and another of the ‘Card Locations’ tricks, is given on pages 8-9 (follow link for the full text). Especially since my first attempt to try it resulted in a floundering, it is particularly worth you working through the instructions to compare experiences.

Asking the question that was asked previously of the ‘No-Clue Discovery’ trick, what work then is entailed in trying to align with the instruction set out in the box above?

Against the two-part organization of ‘No-Clue Discovery’, a notable feature of this account is the absence of a third person description of its performance. Rather than showing the trick to then reveal how it is done, after the background and qualifications in the first paragraph, the remainder of the description gives a step-by-step account of the actions to be undertaken. As a result, neither the sought effect nor the imagined overt behavior of the spectators beyond their compliance to the magician’s commands can provide reference points for initially gauging how to act in alignment with the instructions.

In terms of my experience, working through the trick was again done as a practical and not just an abstracted reading exercise. That entailed manipulating the cards through undertaking the actions of both the magician and the spectator.

During my first reading through the instructions, seeking to follow them provided fraught. In relation to the third paragraph (starting “Say that in this trick…”), when it came to remembering the chosen card’s ‘position of the card from the top of the packet’, I became uncertain about what ‘top’ denoted. It seemed possible to interpret it as both the top from the packet when faced down (i.e. the position as counted off from the left in Figure 8) as well as the top as the upper most card as when the packet was held in Figure 8 (i.e. the position as counted off from the right). Cross-checking my card with the specific example by Fulves in the third paragraphs did not help to resolve the meaning of this term as the 8H was the sixth card from both directions! Not knowing what to do, I switched my choice to the middle card in my unfolded packet.

In relation to the text in the fourth paragraph (starting “Tell him to square up the packet…”), my attempts to follow the rules at each stage here entailed paralleling the exchange of cards from spectator-magician-spectator by moving the packet between my right-left-right hands. Proceeding into the fifth paragraph, I then transferred the packet back to left hand. By the time I had read the statement “Then tell him to transfer as many cards from top to bottom as the original position of his card” I became flustered: I was unsure how to continue to manipulate the cards in relation to the text. A quick scan of the remaining instructions indicated a variety of this or that card manipulation, but without a sense of why and how. ‘Lost’ would be a fair gloss of my state at this point. I then undertook the remaining steps as best I could but, alas, the last card turned over was not my (re-)chosen card.

What became evident to me was the difference in how the instructions were read in comparison to ‘No-Clue Discovery’. In that trick, the revelation of the Key Card method provided a basis for tracking the progression of the movement of the cards; specifically how the Key Card would be positioned so as to enable the identification of chosen card. In contrast, in ‘The Lazy Magician’ there is no such marker. What also became evident to me was the analogy between the magicians’ commands-spectator’s actions and Fulves’ instructions-magician’s actions. For both pairings, the latter individual is meant to undertake an unfolding set of actions but without any pointers within the step-by-step instructions as to why or what for. ‘Mechanical’ would be one way to characterize both sets of steps to realize the instruction.

It is for this reason that the suggestion on final sentence of the instructions (“Congratulate him on being on outstanding magician.”) struck me as likely to ring as hollow for the spectator: it seems evident that they would regard the trick as in no way dependent on their promise as magicians. The cards get placed in the hands of the spectator who gets to manipulate them, but without discretion or insight. Furthermore, the more spectators choosing cards, the more likely hallow the congratulations because the ‘achievements’ of the others would not speak to the spectators’ skill, but that of the magician. Whether a tongue-in-cheek congratulation would be appropriate, therefore, seem to turn on what affects and effects were sought from the trick.

On a different note, and to be kind to myself, it is perhaps not surprising in such conditions that seeking to act in accordance with instructions can be demanding: without a wider sense of the reasons for doing this or that, it become problematic to co-ordinate, correspond, and undertake other work needed to put instructions into practice. Much comes to hang on the exact wording given, but it is wording that is necessarily other than the embodied action it meant to represent.

Before retrying the trick, I read the instructions again, moving back and forth between the different paragraphs in an attempt to discern the underlying principle for the manipulation of cards that could enable to grasp how the chosen card moved. The mathematical relation underlying way the manipulations necessarily resulted in the placement of the card in the middle of the packet was not apparent to me.

Physically practicing the trick again, rather than holding the packet face-down as stated in the fourth paragraph, I kept it face up and the undertook the remaining manipulations. Doing so enabled me to see how my chosen card would end up in the middle of the packet at the start of the elimination shuffle and therefore be the remaining card at the end of the shuffle. I could see how it worked without being able to state how. This lack of comprehension of the basis for tricks raised their own questions, such as whether or not a grasp of this is necessary in being a magician. Self-Working Card Tricks contains many mathematically-based tricks requiring this and that number of cards to be withdrawn here or counted up elsewhere, without any reference to why.

[1] Fulves, K. (1976) Self-Working Card Tricks. Dover publications, pp. 128. ISBN: 9780486233345.