Thinking backwards

One of my favourite card effects is “The Smiling Mule” by Roy Walton, a spectator names any card in the deck and it instantly appears between two face up aces in the centre of the deck. I suggest you look it up for the method but it does involve the use of a gag/sucker situation at the start which enables you to find the named card.

Darwin Ortiz published a “variation” of this trick in Scams and Fantasies which he calls “The Last Laugh” and the thinking is all backwards. Let me explain. In Darwin’s variation he decides to eliminate the impromptu nature of the Walton original method and substitute a memorized deck instead! This seems ridiculous and is a classic example of variation for the sake of variation. Instead of improving on the routine he decides to make it more complicated (thereby also limiting it to an opening effect or in a set of effects also using such as setup). In the original the secret action takes place when the audience is laughing and think the trick is over, in Darwin’s version the gag element is reduced and you also have to pinky count to the position of the named card in the stack. Unnecessarily complex in my opinion.

He does defend his reasoning at the end of the effect –

“…The Walton effect is impromptu but requires that you spread through the deck face up to locate the named card. I feel that this could, in retrospect, provide a clue to the method”

I disagree. Performed properly the culling of the card is not noticed as the spectators are reacting to the gag part of the trick and believe the trick to be over. Here’s a clip of Darwin performing the trick. He gets lucky in this clip as the women names the top card of the deck. As for his performance in general – he’s hardly putting this theories from Strong Magic into practice.

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10 Responses to Thinking backwards

  1. Donald says:

    After reading this and several older posts, i am absolutely loving this blog.
    Please keep up the good work.

  2. magicwatcher says:

    I thought I was the only one to notice Ortiz NOT applying his Strong Magic principles in his Scams and Fantasies DVD.

    Good blog you have here sir!

  3. Anthony Brahams says:

    I agree 100% with the original poster. The Ortiz version is also stunning magically but does not have the entertainment value of the original so no changing for me.

  4. Steven Magicman Jamison says:

    I thought he was great but even more importantly, so did the audience.

  5. Charles Nigh says:

    I agree about using a stack. For such a quick trick it was complete overkill. I use Walton’s routine with slight variation.

  6. medifro says:

    This is an old post but well worth responding to. I dont think Ortiz’s variation is bad just because its using a stack or because it adds more complex sleights. You assume he thinks his version should replace the original, I highly doubt thats his claim ( even with his criticism of Walton’s method ).

    If you ALREADY open up a show with a mem deck, and ALREADY can pinkey\spread count, I think his method is very, very worthwhile.

    As for the gag, you can simply do it with a face down deck, or a face up deck utilizing the stack numbers of a mem deck to easily find the selection ( ala Michael Close ).

    I think you’re criticism of the trick is misplaced.

    • Bill H says:

      I strongly disagree. Any going through the deck looking at the faces obviously is a weaker method. Also, using a memorized deck is a SIMPLER method, not a more complicated one. The memorization is complicated at first, but after that is effortless.

      Also, this does not limit the effect to an opener. It’s possible to switch in a new deck covertly. There are numerous methods to do this in print that are very convincing that no deck switch took place.

      People aren’t stupid. If you look at the cards, they won’t forget that, particularly when you provide justification for looking that the cards! And, while they might not realize how that is part of the method, when trying to find one items in many, looking at the cards substantially weakens the effect.

  7. E Bingham says:

    I agree, it’s a terrible variation and the justification Darwin uses for it’s publication seems to be just that. Justification, not reason. If you think looking at the faces of the cards for, at most, 3 seconds, under strong misdirection gives away the method then you simply misunderstand Magic. The removal of the gag aspect to the overall effect simply weakens the impact of the trick and the inclusion of a memorized deck removes the impromptu nature. It’s simply devolution in the guise of evolution.

    • medifro says:

      I dont think Bill really disagrees with me since I clearly state that Ortiz’s variation is superior if a mem deck is already in play, counting with the deck is face down is a far better option.

      I do Walton’s original if I’m working with a shuffled deck, I do Darwin’s if I’m working with a memorised deck. Linear thinking of “which trick is better” is excatly that, actually working the tricks out isnt as simple, you’d fit it into the situation your working in, assuming you want to pull off the trick in the situation in question.

      It really is simple:
      – A face down spread is superior than doing it face up. I’d pursue that if possible ( i.e working with a mem deck, the trick maintains the stack so it IS worthwhile. If it didnt, ONLY THEN I’d say Ortiz’s version is a “devolution”.
      – Michael Close’s version uses a mem deck with a face up spread. I’d attempt suicide.
      – Walton’s original is greatest if with a shuffled deck.

      Darwin did NOT remove the gag aspect of the trick. Its how he justifies the spreading. The video above, the top card of the deck was named.

  8. Sebastian says:

    I agree with Kevin on this! By using the mem-deck you are missing the point of the routine. Mr Walton himself clearly states in Complete Walton that The smiling mule is: “a card trick in two parts, the first a humorous procedure and the second a surprise twist on this procedure which justifies the gag” (Walton 2012, page.304.). Another point that is important to remember is that the “secret action” should not be performed fast, Mr Walton clearly states on page 305 of Complete Walton: “Spread the cards between your hands until you…………….and exhibit the spread in this condition to the audience to prove your claim”. this implies – to my mind – that the gag is important to the structure of the routine, by taking the gag away you are taking away the inbuilt misdirection of the routine.

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