What is the name and history of this old trick that many laypeople know?

Discussion in 'Magic Forum' started by steven.m.choi, Dec 26, 2017.

  1. I see a lot of laymen and kids who know just one magic trick, and it's usually this one, which I'd categorize under "mathemagic":

    Deal 21 cards face up in 3 rows of 7. Ask the spectator to think of any of the 21 cards. Turn over the 3 rows into face-down piles. Ask the spectator which pile their card is in and put that pile between the other two. Deal separately into 3 rows again and repeat the process two more times. Then, deal down 10 cards. The spectator's card is the 11th card! Shock and wonder!

    Anyway, I wanted to look up this trick to see if other magicians have found ways to make this plot more interesting. I have kind of an idea for subverting the expectations to a trick that everyone seems to know (e.g.: at the end, the other 20 cards are all blank!). I've seen Mismag's versions with 5 piles and indicator cards, which is okay, but I'm looking for the origins and what else people have done with it.

    What do you guys think?
  2. I'm willing to bet it's a Martin Gardner trick, but don't quote me on that.

    If it's not, then it probably comes from a self worker, or a math principal from a long long time ago.

    Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but it's called the 21 Card Trick right? If so...
  3. It's called "The 21 Card Trick" (sometimes called "The Eleventh Card Trick"). I could be wrong, but I believe that it, or some similar effect, appears in Professor Hoffman's Modern Magic.

    Most interesting factoid of all about the trick: It is the trick that hooked Marlo on card magic. I saw a documentary about Marlo a few years back, and when the interviewer asked, "So what got you into magic?" Unhesitatingly Marlo replied: "Someone showed me The 21 Card Trick, and I was hooked. I never turned back."
  4. Sorry.... couldn't resist quoting you on this one. It actually predates Martin Gardner by more than a couple of years. The earliest known publication is in 1593 by Horatio Galasso under the title "How to Have Someone Think of a Card and Guess What it Is." The mathematical principle was developed by Joseph-Diez Gergonne in the early 1800s and is called the Gergonne p-Pile Problem.

    I remember a couple of years back when I was at the Conjuring Arts Research Center, Bill Kalush showed me a book from the 1500s that had a number of different pictures on each page. You identified the row the picture was in and turned to another page. After doing it three times, you turned to the page of your though of picture.

    @Maaz Hassan linked to a bunch of good versions. I'll have to look at the versions in The Jinx, Impuzzabilities, Totally Out of Control and 52 Memories. John Racherbaumer has a book titled "The 21 Card Trick, Reconstructed, Retro-fitted, Rigged,"

    I'm guessing that is not original... most likely the 25 card trick by Water Gibson. I refuse to watch YouTube channels that expose magic, so I can't tell you if that is Gibson's effect.

    Modern Magic is the first English publication. Marlo has several variations in Marlo without Tears.
    Antonio Diavolo and Maaz Hasan like this.
  5. Bill Malone has a good version of it. I'm not sure where you can find it but try typing Bill Malone 21 card trick on google. I was watching him on youtube and came across the preformance.
  6. Here is Bill's presentation of the trick:

    Maaz Hasan likes this.

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