USPCC NDO to Si Stebbins


If the title seems cryptic, that’s because this post is another one for the magic geeks. So if you’re not a magic fan, this post may not be that interesting to you.

One of the many pleasant contributions to magic of the esteemed card magician Darwin Ortiz  is his way of opening up a new deck of US Playing Card Company cards (Bicycles, Tallys) and rapidly shuffling them into Si Stebbins order. He described his method in a book that is long out of print and expensive to find, even on eBay.

So, some time ago, I tried to reverse engineer the Ortiz method. In so doing, I didn’t discover his method, but I did come up with my own. After finally finding out what the Ortiz method actually was, I realized just how inferior my own attempt was. But here it is, my own (clunky) method for free, just for fun. Perhaps someone can make use of it.

For USPCC NDO to Si Stebbins
1) Run 10 cards, throw deck on top.
2) Run 3 cards, throw deck on top.
3) Say “Oh I forgot about the jokers,” and turn deck face up. Cut the hearts to the top of the deck.
4) Take out the jokers. Say, “I don’t know if there are any more.” Spread the spades, cut at the 7 (that is, the 7 is now the card closest to your palm in the right hand), put the rest of the spades on top of these (without reversing them), then cut all the spades to the top of the deck.
5) Spread the diamonds, cut at the 4, put the rest of the diamonds on top of these, then cut all the diamonds to the top of the deck.
6) Reverse count the clubs into your right hand, stop at the 2 in your right hand, put the Ace under those cards, then cut all the clubs to the top of the deck.
7) Two out faros –keys are 5D and then 8S. You are now in Si Stebbins with the AC on top, JH on the bottom, in CoDfiSH order.

So now for the real value in this post. Last year I was at a magic convention where Gene Anderson slayed a large roomful of magicians with his Si Stebbins routine. He sells the manuscript describing the routine for a laughably small amount on his website.

Are Your Lessons Done?

I’m going to talk about something that I don’t think I am able to talk about directly. So let me tell some stories.

When I was in college, I had a very strange and seminal experience with my acting teacher.  During his office hours, I asked him an acting question. He told me to stop and try an exercise. He told me to focus my attention on exactly what I could sense with my senses, one by one, at that moment.  And as I did so, I sensed his aura grew stronger and stronger. My teacher was a short heavy African-American man. From the cloud of that aura, he transformed into a tall, thin, Russian man, who I recognized as Stanislavski.

I was not under the influence of any drugs at the time.

I was somewhat alarmed and told my teacher why; he was calm, and said, just remember what brought you to this place.

Sometime later, I performed a scene in his class, and as was his custom, after the scene was over, he said to me and my scene partner, “What were you working for, and how did it go?” I forget what the scene was, but it was always a little nerve-wracking to have to speak about my work, and I muttered something. Then he pointed to my foot which was jiggling up and down. “When,” he asked, “will we see that in your acting?”

From a different field: magicians have a way of shuffling a deck of cards that they call a faro shuffle. I’m not going to go into why magicians like to shuffle this way, but suffice it to say that there are certain properties of the shuffle that are inherently useful to a card magician.

Now the faro shuffle is not simple to acquire. For better or for worse, once you can faro shuffle, you generally are not considered a beginner at cards anymore. You can read a number of descriptions in the magic literature about learning this shuffle; how to place each finger, what the action of the left pinky and right forefinger are, how to adjust for the varying qualities of card stock and brands, and so on. But one thing almost all the books agree on is this: the way to learn how to do the faro is to find someone who already knows how to do it. Then you ask them to teach you.

American actors classify themselves into the Strasberg, Adler, Meisner, or Spolin camps. Magicians trace their lineage to Vernon or Marlo.

There is the written law, and there is the oral tradition. Furthermore, every religion has its exoteric and the esoteric traditions. Actors and magicians too.

Another time, I did a scene where I played a character who uses racist language. Afterwards, my teacher asked me to take a moment, and think back to when I–not the character–first saw my first Black person. My thoughts raced back to my childhood. He looked at me for a few seconds: “That.” My mind jumped at the indication. How did he know I was thinking that, then?

What book? What text? How is it preserved? What, exactly, is transmitted? Can the thread be lost? How far from me to you?