Billy the Scotsman and Improvisational Magic

I was in the pub last week and one of the men playing on the local darts team saw me playing with a pack of cards. It didn’t take long for him to approach me and ask me if I’d like to see a trick. I said that I’d love to and he began to shuffle the cards. Next, he placed the cards on the table and asked me to name any card. “The six of clubs” I said. He cut the deck and turned the cards over…..the four of hearts. “If that’d have been right you’d have S**t yourself!” he said. I admit that the whole time I was expecting this real miracle but it was still really funny that he gave it a try.

I spent a little time with him and it turned out that he’d never studied card magic at all but had come up with a few ideas himself which he performs for people. He could do an alright false overhand shuffle (not using injogs but by kind of keeping track of a block) and he knew to remember and retain the bottom card just in case someone named that when doing the trick he showed me. Sometimes he’d have hit it and the spectators would have been baffled, when he didn’t, it was still funny. It was well worth trying.

He then showed me that he sometimes arranges prominent court cards and the ace of spade on top of the deck and asks someone to name any card – more often than not he can then produce it almost instantly. These ideas aren’t groundbreaking or even original but it’s great that he had thought about them and was prepared to try them out without ever reading a book on card magic.

He ended by asking me to thoroughly shuffle the cards, which I did and select two cards. I turned them over and they were a 7 and a 9. He asked me what was next in the sequence to which I said 11 (a jack). “Would you be impressed if I could produce three jacks from the pack you just shuffled?” I said that I would and handed him the pack – which he shuffled once and turned over the top three cards…..three jacks.

The method? – He secretly removed them (which I didn’t see!) and added them on when I handed him the pack. It wasn’t invisible but I think he would have gotten away with it when doing it for laymen. What’s amazing about this is the ingenuity – he had never studied card magic yet had come up with these ideas himself. Even the selection of two cards and me naming the next in sequence was completely improvised and brilliant.

The point of this post really wasn’t just for me to share a really cool experience but also to highlight how its good to sometimes take risks and improvise now and again. Even just remembering the top and bottom cards and having a known card reversed in the center can become a real miracle. As for Billy – he’s a Scot so it must be in his blood.


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