Help me settle a debate: What is a "triumph"?

Which of these is a "triumph"?

  • Definiton 1

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Definiton 3 (both are essential)

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Other...

    Votes: 0 0.0%

  • Total voters
Jan 2, 2016
I was talking to one of my magician friends recently and he said that he thinks l the basic presentation for the Invisible Deck and Biddle trick fall under the category of "triumph plot". He said that a key part of a triumph plot is that one card is left inverted in the deck. I argued that the key piece of a triumph is that the deck is shuffled face up into face down and restored.

So if we boil down each of these sides to a very basic form we'd have two tricks:

Definition 1
1. A deck is spread out on a table and all the cards are shown to be face down
2. The deck is squared and isn't shuffled
3. A card is named by a spectator
4. The magician snaps and 5he deck is spread again and the only card face up is the spectator's named card.

Definition 2
1. A deck is spread to show all of the cards are face down
2. The cards are squared and cut into two halves
3. One half is inverted and the two halves are shuffled face up into face down.
4. The cards are spread to show they are indeed mixed and then are squared again
5. The magician snaps and spreads the cards to show that they are all face down again.

I brought this up with some other magicians and one said that a triumph needs both elements and both definitions on their own are not triumphs, but together they are.

Genii's magicpedia seems to imply that the act of shuffling the cards face up into face down and restoring them is what makes a triumph. I know they aren't the ultimate authority in magic definitions but I thought it was worth mentioning.

I've also heard some say that the up/down shuffle is simply a method used to achieve the effect of a lone card being inverted and thus the issue is more presentational than methodological and definiton 1 is the more accurate description of triumph, since it describes the presentation rather than a method. I'm not sure I agree though.

I'd also argue that if you showed someone a slop shuffle triumph without a card selection, then did Dai Vernon's triumph with a selection, and then did the basic presentation of the invisible deck (a card is named and shown to be the only one inverted) , the spectator would find more in common between the Vernon Triumph and the Slop Shuffle due to the up/down shuffle than they would between the Vernon Triumph and Invisible deck, despite both ending with a single inverted selection.

Anyway, what do you think? If you vote, I'd love to hear your reasoning in the replies as well.


Elite Member
Nov 1, 2009
New Jersey
Vernon's Triumph evolved from a variety of effects where cards are placed face up and face down and then "corrected" so they all face the same way. The original effects were dealing effects rather than shuffling effects. The shuffling and having a selected card remain reversed was then added while sleight of hand replaced gimmicked decks. So the first option is wrong because a selected card being reversed is a plot element of multiple effects and not definitive of any particular effect. The second option is correct from a broader view of how the classic effect evolved and from a sense of what is the primary "effect" that is being demonstrated. The third option is technically correct because it defines what Vernon's Triumph did (and I would include the cards being shuffled and the use of sleight of hand) but ignores the history and the primary effect demonstrated. #2 is the best answer.

So here is a bit of the history. The first effect using this plot is Theodore DeLand's "Inverto" that was marketed in August 1914 in the Sphinx. The copy for the effect read:

Deland’s Inverto Card Trick

Performer places each card in the deck consecutively back up and face up. The deck is then spread out and all the cards have righted themselves.

If you want something NEW that will startle an audience, in close range work, send for this outfit at once. PRICE COMPLETE $1.00. We pay postage.

The handling for the effect was simultaneously published in the Sphinx. However, the instructions for the deck and the explanation in the Sphinx are a bit different. Deland's Inverto used a gimmicked deck and no card was selected. Charles Jordan’s "Ultimo" was then marketed in 1919. That effect combined Deland’s Inverto with Ford Rogers “Every-Ready” Forcing Deck. See the Jinx Winter Extra 1938-39, p. 371. Jordan also had an effect around the same time called "Reversed Cards" which used a regular deck and that was subsequently published in Hugard's Encyclopedia of Card Tricks in 1937 (p. 355).

The first record of there being a selected card is an ad for an Art Altman marketed effect in the November 1928 Sphinx at page 440 for:


You remember the trick where one-half deck was placed face up against the other half tace down, and then deck is fanned with one card and deck is all one way again? WELL, GET THIS. Performer has spectator SHUFFLE CARDS. Then spectator puts finger in deck ANY PLACE. Has choice of either top or bottom card at cut. Card is noted and replaced. Now performer cuts deck and turns one-half around and shuffles it the WRONG WAY into other half. Spectator now cuts ONCE, and all cards are the same way except the card he selected. A HANDSOME EFFECT, and done with any deck. No sleights and no passes, no faked cards 50 cents.

There also is a reference to a selected card being used in The Lost Notebooks of John Northern Hilliard (notebooks from the 1930s and 1940s by the author of Greater Magic that were published in 2002) which details Steward Judah's use of a selected card from the mid-1930s. The first published trick to incorporate a selected card to the face-up/face-down mix was "The S. L. Reversed Card," by Sid Lorraine. It appeared in 1937 in Subtle Problems You Will Do and used Sid's Slop Shuffle. That effect was also published in 1948 in Royal Road to Card Magic as "A Tispy Trick."

Vernon's Triumph was published in Stars of Magic in 1946. An interesting note is that the shuffle in Stars of Magic was not the shuffle Vernon actually used when performing Triumph -- According to Johnny Thompson, Vernon used a push-through shuffle with a single card block transfer.

Following that publication in Stars of Magic, everyone seems to have developed their variations. In 1948, Ed Marlo came out with "Marlo's Triumph" in Marlo in Spades. Marlo would actually have more than two dozen variations (including one called "Bored With Triumph"). There was a subsequent gimmicked version called "Cheek to Cheek" marketed by U.F. Grant in 1948 which is a variation of DeLand's "Inverto." To get a sense of the number of variations you can click on the following links to Dennis Behr's Conjuring Archive for Versions of the Classic Plot and Variations. John Racherbaumer has a book Arch Triumphs that explains 20 different versions and has a bibliography listing 186 versions.
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