There have been a few classic card plots or problems as they are sometimes called, that have held the magic communitys interest for a long period of time. Two immediately come to mind, primarily because the two foremost exponents of the effects have kept their methods private. Any Card at Any Number aka The Berglas Effect is one and the other is best known as 51 Faces North made famous by Stewart James. While David Berglas has performed his version of ACAAN for dozens of magicians, Stewart James, ironically, is on record as having performed 51 Faces North just twice for magicians.
The formers plot is in the title and the latter is a simple plot with a stunning effect. If you dont do it, you should. In the classic definition of the effect a prediction is written and, if desired, revealed. From a shuffled deck that can be borrowed (and even incomplete) a spectator is instructed to start dealing cards face up one at a time. At some point they may set one card aside, face down and unseen and then finish dealing through the rest of the deck looking for the predicted card. It is not seen. The tabled card is revealed and it matches the prediction. The magician touches nothing except writing the prediction which is held by a spectator. The effect is stunning, especially when done for magicians.
Stewart James, legendary creator of magic, devised a set of criteria that raises the effect to miracle class and claimed to have a method that satisfied all of his conditions. He published a number of solutions but never THE solution, apparently taking that method with him to the grave. Over the years some of magics cleverest minds have set themselves the task of solving the problem with varying degrees of success.
The latest entry into the scant literature on the subject comes from Thomas Baxter, a well-posted professional magician and mentalist who lives in Canada. (In the interest of full disclosure, Tom is a close friend, but our friendship does not color this report. Tom did not ask me to write this review. I like the product and as such, others should know about it before it becomes unavailable.)
Tom wanted to research and publish a history of this fascinating effect but decided to do more. He invited people to send him their solutions, but rather than give a free ebook for every submission (which might prompt less than quality creations to get a free book) Tom chose to reward those he selected for inclusion by conducting a contest. Nearly 100 creations were submitted from all over the world. Appropriately, 51 were chosen.
The premise is simple: the ones that were chosen are entries in a contest where the winner will receive $1,000, the winner being chosen by the buyers of the book. Each buyer gets one vote. Only buyers of the book can vote and all votes will be checked for legitimacy. It is a clever premise that has proven its value as it has attracted a wide variety of quality ideas with contributors ranging from amateurs only in magic a few years to well-known and highly successful professionals with decades of experience. Tom includes three of his own ideas, but as editor and publisher, he is NOT eligible to win.
The 51 solutions range from an out-of-the-box thought experiment by an amateur who conceived, but did not actually build, what might be the most expensive trick deck in the world to more practical ideas and routines from the likes of Michael Weber, Marc Paul, and Barrie Richardson. All the solutions are clever and all have varying degrees of practicality and appeal. Some are marvelously complicated and others quite direct.
The entire 200-page book makes an interesting read, both for the history of the effect and the performing material. There are stage versions and impromptu versions of the effect as well as self-working versions. Literally, theres something for everyone in this collection.
As editor Tom also resolved a pet peeve of mine: the clear explanation of unfamiliar sleights. Tom includes descriptions of the needed work when it is something out of the ordinary.
Besides a detailed bibliography of previously published solutions Tom closes the book with his thoughts on the publication of what is claimed to be Stewart James real solution. Toms take is interesting and he makes a strong case for his opinion.
Like his previous offerings this ebook will have a limited availability. If you have any interest in this effect you would be wise to buy it now before it becomes unavailable. Its only $35 by PayPal and you can only get it from Tom. Full details on how to vote are included with the purchase.