Daley Dilemma (Part 3)

In this post I’m going to discuss clarity of effect and how this applies to the Doctor’s impossible two-card transposition. It is very easy for a person to forget which Aces are on the table, and which are still in your hand. If this happens, no effect will be perceived and the trick will fail to impress your audience. Therefore, you need to find a way to emphasise the relative location of the Aces before the transposition takes place. However, this must be done in a subtle manner, otherwise people might wonder why you’re pointing out the obvious and anticipate the outcome of the trick. Such a realisation would make the trick a lot less surprising, and might even make the method easier to reverse engineer. So, how do we make the magic clear without spoiling the surprise ending?

The simplest way to do this is to introduce some kind of visual reminder, a black casino chip would work well. Give the chip to a member of your audience and instruct him to place it in on top of the card that he believes to be the Ace of Spades. The idea here is that the black chip acts as a subtle memory cue that the black Aces are on the table. This prop also makes the trick more compelling because the cash value of a black chip is one-hundred dollars, a big bet by most people’s standards!

You can also use verbal memory cues to help your audience remember which Aces are where. If there is a chair nearby, try dealing the two “black Aces” (?) to the chair and get a member of your audience to sit on the cards. Tell them that, “the black cards are under your bottom.” As you deliver this line, emphasise the alliteration (the repetition of the “b” sound in the words black and bottom). This should help clarify the relative location of the Aces. In fact, I think this is a fun way to stage the trick as the situation has built in humour, and makes the transposition much more impossible. The only reservation I have with this idea is that we might be back in “too-perfect” territory.

Another solution is to use different cards, ones that are easier to remember. Bill Duncan has an excellent idea along these lines in his book Tubthumping, which involves presenting Dr. Daley’s Last Trick as a demonstration of mucking (you can read a excerpt from his book on the Genii forum). I think this is a great idea because not only does it add clarity, it also justifies the use of four cards. This greatly improves the internal logic of the trick.

You may have noticed that I’m three posts into this series on Daley’s Last Trick and I haven’t mentioned changing the method much. This was done on purpose to demonstrate what is possible when you start thinking more carefully about how you present this trick. If your presentation is interesting, your audience is more likely to pay attention to proceedings, and less likely to forget which cards are in your hand and which are on the table.

2 thoughts on “Daley Dilemma (Part 3)

  1. Steve

    Marty:
    The entire plot of DLT is solid, yet it lacks a reason to care, other than to say, “Holy cow!” By contrast, George McBride’s “Transmutation” leverages DLT but takes it much further. Yes, the black aces in your hands miraculously become red aces…but when they turn what they believe to be the now-black aces on the table face up, they have changed into two black Jacks.

    This gets into the entire theory that good magic should not be linear, but (while clear) should take the spectator into a direction that they could not have possibly anticipated. Think about it: DLT’s climax has the black aces changing into red, and vice versa. That’s linear…and there’s no way around it. “Transmutation” takes that premise and moves far beyond.

    “Red Hot Mama/Chicago Opener” is another effect that succeeds in trashing the spectator’s expectations. When the deck is spread a second time, it’s expected that the spectator will see another card has miraculously turned red. When it doesn’t, only then does the effect really transcend the usual “aha” moment we get from most card tricks…and that’s because it completely defeats the spectator’s presumptions of a logical conclusion.

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  2. Marty Jacobs Post author

    Hi Steve, I’m familiar with “Transmutation” and I agree it is a clever version of the plot with a great kicker ending. It also adds a nice ambitious card phase if I remember correctly too.

    I’ll be talking about ways to extend Dr. Daley’s Last Trick in the final part of this series of articles.

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