Over the past few years I have been performing a couple of versions of the Berglas effect, aka "Any Card at Any Number." I also perform some other card routines that have certain elements in common with that effect, which allows me some useful leeway in various situations.
Monday night I performed at a corporate event where I had the opportunity to do an abbreviated version of the basic effect suitable for a strolling situation. Upon completing this minimalist version, one of the gentlemen watching me - an engineer with just enough alcohol to get a touch more assertive than usual - began peppering me with questions. He took the cards from my hand and began shuffling them. "Can you do it again?" he asked, with a challenge in his voice.
Being the unshakable professional that I am (?) I naturally told him to go ahead... while I mentally plotted a new course. As I said, I have enough approaches to the basic effect that I knew I could compensate for the unexpected change of plan and still create a fun and magical experience. Let him locate a wrong card, maybe do a transposition, a color change, etc. to rectify the situation. Something.
In this case, though, the spectator had his own procedure and his own very strict conditions in mind. He shuffled the pack himself, then named a card and a number. I had no choice but to let him continue with his own procedure. He named the 2 of Clubs, the number 26, and began to count.
I told him to set the 26th card aside, face down, isolating it from the rest of the pack. Now that he was focused on that card - which he was vigorously protecting - I was able to retake take the rest of the deck and get back into control of the moment. I immediately began scanning for the 2 of Clubs, ready to move it into position so that I could play off the experience as a joke, then create a subsequent magical climax.
I quickly scanned the deck. The 2 of Clubs was not in the pack.
I double-checked. It was not there.
It had happened.
I did not have to resort to culls, passes or top changes. I did not have to palm a card to my pocket. I did not have to do anything. I was in a position to savor a truly wonderful moment.
I reiterated the conditions that had just happened... snapped my finger over the card under his finger, and told him to turn it over. There was the 2 of Clubs, a mental selection which he had shuffled into a mentally chosen position and then dealt to himself.
His face was a perfect vision of shock and awe. The former assertiveness was gone; the slack-jawed engineer and the other guy were speechless. After a moment, the guy said, "Okay, that was good. I have no idea."
They have no idea what a great trick they actually witnessed!
Joe M. Turner