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gaming cards on hands

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There are Third World Problems, First World Problems, and then there are Conjurers’ World Problems. This is to address one of the latter.

From time to time, a magician needs a deck of cards to be arranged back in the original factory order after it’s been all shuffled up and disordered. Magicians call that original factory order New Deck Order or NDO. Surprisingly, there’s no industry standardized order. It varies according to card manufacturer and even varies from brand to brand manufactured by the same company. So, for example, Bicycle brand cards are ordered in a different arrangement from Bee brand cards, even though they are both manufactured by the United States Playing Card Company. Next time you open up a new pack of cards, check the order. You might find it interesting.

The most popular brand of cards, Bicycles, are arranged from top to bottom in the following order (take a guess first before you read on):



Ace to King of Hearts, Ace to King of Clubs, King to Ace of Diamonds, and King to Ace of Spades.

So suppose the cards are all mixed up, and you want to get them back into the original order—not that you are trying to do it secretly, you just want to do it quickly. What do you do? Well, yes, the logical thing to do is to make four piles on a table, one for each suit, and sort out the cards that way.

But often a performer doesn’t have a table available, so sometimes an in-the-hands-sort is useful. Here’s a method i came up with a few years ago of how to sort a deck of cards quickly into Bicycle NDO when no table is available. Later, I’ll talk about how to generalize the process to make it even more useful to magicians.

1) Hold the deck face up in the left hand, facing you. Spread through the deck without changing its order and, using your right hand,  as you come to each black card, upjog it about halfway. Then, with your right hand, swing out all the black cards to the face of deck.

2) Run through the deck again, upjogging all the Spades and Diamonds. Swing out this half to the face of deck.

3) Spread the bottom thirteen Spades and arrange them in order with the right hand as if arranging a bridge hand. That is, holding the deck facing you in the left hand, spread the thirteen Spades out in a fan so that you can see all the pips. Now with your right hand, fingers pointing down, palm facing you, thumb closest to your body, pick out the King of Spades from above; next scan the cards and pick out the Queen of Spades on top of that, then the Jack of Spades and so on until the Ace of Spades is on the face of that small packet. Then just cut those thirteen Spades to the top of the deck.

4) Repeat with the next three suits (remembering that for Clubs and Hearts., you will reverse that order, pulling out the Ace first, then the Two on top of that and so on up to the King). You are now in Bicycle NDO. You’ll see that after just a bit of practice you can arrange the whole deck quite quickly.

But here’s the part I’ve been saving for magicians. Getting into NDO is nice, but even more useful is to get into a memdeck arrangement like Aronson or Tamariz quickly in the hands. This can be done for any stack by generalizing the above:

To generalize for any stack:

1) Upjog all cards within the ranges of 14-26 and 40-52, and cut to the face of deck.

2) Upjog all cards within the ranges of 27-52 and cut to the face of the deck.

3) Spread thirteen cards at a time from the face and put them in ascending order, then cut them to the back of deck.

4) Repeat three more times.

The first step is the hardest to get down, but if you know your stack cold, you’ll soon get it. I find that by using this method, I can stack Aronson order in my hands as fast as on a table.

Done. Next job: Solving world hunger and the exploitation of workers by bosses.

Hint: threads, mirrors, and a good Double Lift.