Methods for Peeking at the Top Card
Below you will find a valuable collection of secret methods a card magician can use to peek at the deck’s top card.
1. The Palm
Pass the card to the top, palm it in the right hand and give the pack to a spectator to shuffle. In so doing the card is brought directly into view.
Care must be exercised in choosing the person to shuffle the deck, to avoid exposing the palmed card.
The best palm to use for this method is the One Hand Palm. As the pack is placed on the spectator’s hand the outer index of the palmed card will be visible to you just above the tip of the little finger. Fig. 1.
2. The Ruffle
Hold the deck upright, facing outwards, between the second, third and fourth fingers of the left hand and the first finger which is doubled back, the thumb resting on the top corner of the deck.
Execute the one hand ruffle by bending the corners of the cards back and releasing them rapidly one by one, holding back the top card.
Do not look at the cards as the ruffle is made but note the exposed index as you take the pack in your right hand. The ruffle may be accompanied by some such remark as this, “Your card is in the pack somewhere. Impossible for me to know just where.” Fig. 2.
3. The Push Down
Hold the pack in the left hand, face down, the bottom card facing the front, the left forefinger doubled back on the bottom card. With the ball of the left thumb push the top card down a little and then outwards, holding the other side of the card flush with the rest of the pack.
This action will bend the middle of the card upwards and enable you to glimpse the top index easily. The sleight may be performed under cover of a wave of the hand or in tapping the lower end of the deck on the table to even it up. It is imperceptible if the bottom card faces the front squarely. Fig. 3.
Method No. 3 can be used to ascertain secretly the name of a card at any number from the top. Holding the pack in exactly the same way, thumb count the cards to the desired number, press the ball of the thumb on the corner of the packet so separated and it will be found that the index can be sighted just as with one card. Obvious as this development of No. 3 appears, it has never before been described, or even used, so far as I can ascertain.
4. Left Thumb & Lower Index
Hold the pack upright in the left hand, face down, forefinger bent over the top and the other three fingers on the back, thumb at the side of the deck but taking no part in supporting it.
Tap the lower end of the pack on the table at the same moment bending up the lower left corner of the top card with the tip of the thumb. It is quite natural for one to look at the deck as it is being tapped on the table and, since the action of the thumb is covered by the pack, the sleight is imperceptible to the onlookers. Fig. 4.
5. The Double Lift
This is a very subtle method. A card having been chosen, replaced and maneuvered to the top, make a double lift and show the second card, calling its name, suppose it to be the two of dubs. Replace the two cards face down, turn the pack face up and show the bottom card, naming it also.
Turn the pack face down again and pick up the top card, holding it so that you alone can see its face, and say, “You are sure this two of clubs (or whatever the card was that was shown by the double lift) is not your card?” Take a mental note of what the card is and replace it. Turn the pack face up and repeat the question as to the bottom card. The method is a bold one, but done without hesitation, it never creates any suspicion. This principle of miscalling a card is useful in many other effects.
6. By the Riffle Shuffle
In executing the riffle shuffle hold the top card of the left hand packet back a moment, so getting a glimpse of it. This is a very easy method but is also easy to detect. A much better way (Fig. 5) is to push the top card of the left hand packet over the side of the deck, that is, injogging it at its index corner, then as you raise the corners of the packets to begin the shuffle, you note the index. Make the riffle shuffle without looking at the cards, it being a simple matter to drop the top card of the left hand packet last of all. Fig. 5.
7. The Gambler’s Method
Hold the pack face down between the thumb on one side and second, third and fourth fingers on the other, first finger on the outer end. Place your right hand squarely over the cards, tips of the fingers at the outer end and the base of the thumb at the inner index corner of the top card. Turn the hands, so bringing the deck upright on its side and, with the fleshy part of the base of the thumb bend the index corner of the top card upward and note it. The action is completely under cover.
8. Hindu Shuffle
In the course of the Hindu Shuffle, after the card to be sighted has been picked up under the right hand packet, let the cards fall on the left hand irregularly, turn a little to the left and tilt the packet in your right hand upwards, so that its bottom card faces you, and with it tap the inner ends of the cards on the left hand as if merely to square them. The card to be sighted is thus brought into view without arousing any suspicion since it is natural to look at the cards as you tap them square. Fig. 6.
It is, of course, necessary to pick up the chosen card only with the right hand. Any slight hesitation in securing it may be covered by remarking, “You will remember your card?”
9. Placing Deck on Table
Take the pack in the left hand face down then, as you turn to put it on your table, turn the hand over, bringing the deck face up and letting the ball of the thumb rest on the middle of the inner side of the deck. With the tips of the fingers push the top card to the right so that the lower index is visible for a moment just before the deck is put face down on the table. Fig. 7.
This sleight can also be done in simply passing the pack from one hand to the other.
10. Overhand Shuffle
In making the first movement of the regular overhand shuffle, push the top card forward with the left thumb and sight the index, and at once pull out all the cards but the top and the bottom, thus bringing the sighted card on top of the bottom one. Shuffle off freely on these two cards. You can now show both the top and bottom cards and bring the sighted card back to the top by simply retaining the bottom card with the left fingers and shuffling off in the usual way.
Some tricks will require you to peek at the bottom or middle card:
From Card Manipulations by Jean Hugard (1934)