Hey guys! This last week has been an epic experience for me and I have another story I would like to tell you.
A lot of people not very familiar with magicians and illusionists have a preconceived notion that most of what we do is play tricks with cards. But as you could probably surmise what I am about to say, that perception is a fallacy for most of the professionals in my field. That being said, the art of card manipulation is quite an exotic craft of skill and dexterity. In the mid 14th century card tricks were just starting to be presented and developed and it wasn’t until this last century that card magic became popular. But I digress.
To the story! When I was a budding magician, I of course had my bread and butter card tricks that I practiced every day and was always looking for new and exciting ways to manipulate playing cards. But as a young adult, I really didn’t understand or grasp the bigger picture of what I could do with them until I met one of my first mentors and very dear friend.
I met him in the most unexpected place. He was sitting quietly in a doughnut shop. He had a modest brown business suit on with a white tie, and a big red beard. It wasn’t long but it was bushy. He had a cup of coffee to his left and a crumpled napkin next to it.
He was sitting at a table with only one other chair opposite his own and intently picking up and dropping three bent cards on a table. Weaving them back and forth between one another as if it were a complex problem or equation. Being overly curious I walked over and asked what he was doing. He asked me if I ever heard of the five card Monte. I just looked at him and replied, do you mean three card Monte? He then looked up while still weaving the three cards on and off the table. He then with amusment commented that the three card Monte is a weak comparison to the five card Monte. For those of you that don’t know what a three card Monte is, it is a street hustle card trick.
He stopped what he was doing and slowly turned over the three cards. I saw two 5 of diamonds and one 5 of spades laid out before me. He explained to me that the five card Monte was an old gambler’s legend that most certainly was never possible. He then invited me to sit down across from him and to memorize where the 5 of spades was before he turned the cards over. Since I already knew what the three card Monte was, I figured this card trick was going to be the same.
It most definitely, was not.
He turned the cards over with a quick flick of his right finger and then started to slowly move and weave the three cards on the table so it was almost impossible for me not to follow the 5 of spades. Then he subtly dropped the five of spades card with his right hand off to the side a little farther than the other two cards. It was still turned over and he started scratching his big bushy beard as his left hand continued shuffling the two 5 of diamonds cards back and forth with his left, leaving the 5 of spades untouched. He took a deep breath as if he was exhausted and exhaled in a curious tone the most ridiculous question he could have asked me.
“So, did you loose where the 5 of spades was?”
I of course rebuked a snickering ‘no’ and pointed at the untouched card that I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt was the 5 of spades. By the way, his left hand was still moving the other two cards back and forth. He stopped and placed both his hands palms up in front of me. He spoke with a large smile, “All right Mr. Smarty pants. Pay attention to your card.” He turned his hands over palms down and placed his right hand fingers over my upside down 5 of spades and his left hand fingers over the outside 5 of diamonds which of course left the second 5 of diamonds in the center.
This is where it got weird.
Somehow he pulled off two more bent cards resting on top of the outside cards his fingers where grabbing. Leaving a total of five bent, upside down cards in front of me. He finally told me to point at my 5 of spades.
I just stared in shock while I slowly pointed at my card that I know he did not pick up.
He then gave a quick chuckle and said, “almost, but that is most certainly not your card. I’ll tell you what, before I turn the cards over why don’t you pick another card just to be sure.”
I then knew something was up. So I pointed at the card he just pulled off the top of mine. He chuckled again and smiled while he said, “not even close squirt.” He quickly turned over every single card with his right hand revealing all five cards as the five of diamonds. It looked impossible. But there it was. Well, actually there it wasn’t. I asked him where the 5 of spades went and he just looked at me with a confused look. He smiled as if I should have expected it and said, “Son, you’ve been sitting on it this entire time.”
When I stood up, my heart skipped a beat, all my blood seemed to leave my face making me look like a had seen a ghost. There was my bent five of spades, face up looking right at me.
What followed next was a conversation that must have lasted hours. We talked about magic, magicians, and most importantly, to me, his experience as a professional gambler. Years later, he past away but I have never forgotten the priceless friendship we had, and the lessons he taught me that you can’t ever find in a book.