Christs Fabulous Ace Routine has long been one of my favorite
impromptu performance pieces for laymen. Indeed, over 20 years ago
in Sessions I wrote up my version of this routine, which simplifies
the original layout by eliminating all undercuts during the "Ace
burying" sequence. Ive now worked out a handling of this
great routine that captures all the benefits of Christs original
routine and my additions and yet starts and ends with the deck
in complete Aronson stack order.
you have a deck in Aronson stack order handy, you now can perform
the Christ Aces at any time and then continue with your favorite memorized
deck effects. Indeed, there are two ancillary benefits that come from
performing the Christ Aces with the stack. First, any secret counting
of piles is now unnecessary, because known key cards instantly tell
you where to divide the packets. Second, the haphazard handling throughout
the routine, with cards being continuously separated into various
piles, dealt, counted, spelled and reassembled, is a strong convincer
that the deck has been hopelessly mixed up.
four Aces are removed from the deck, and the rest of the deck is divided
into four piles. The Aces are each placed on a packet and the packets
are then reassembled, thus burying the Aces in four different parts
of the deck. The performer then reproduces each Ace in a different
magical way, in the same order in which they were initially lost in
with a deck in Aronson stack order. The original Christ routine, and
my Sessions version, does in fact disturb the order of the
deck in a number of places. In what follows, by changing just a few
minor procedures (that are inconsequential as far as the effect appears),
the entire stack order is preserved.
Hold the deck face up, and announce youll use the four Aces.
Begin spreading the cards from the left hand into the right; as soon
as you reach the 6D (near the face of the deck) secretly cull it under
the spread. Continue spreading casually, apparently looking for the
Aces and secretly re-insert the 6D back into the spread between the
3C and the 6H. This displacement of just this one card is the only
secret preparation needed, and fits naturally in the action of spreading
to look for the Aces. (In Christs original routine a 7 (or a
6) gets reversed, but that 7 gets displaced to a different part of
the deck at the end of the routine. Here, were going to use
the 6D as that reversed card, so Im simply presetting the 6D
out-of- place stackwise, so that at the end of the routine it will
actually return to its correct stack position.)
Continue spreading rapidly through the faces, until you reach the
first Ace, the AH. Separate the spread at that point, with the AH
at the face of the left hand cards, and thumb off the AH face up onto
the table at the left. (Youre going to form a row of the four
face-up Aces, depositing them onto the table in the exact order they
appear). Put your hands together, continue spreading until you reach
the AD, and deposit it to the right of the AH. Continue in the same
fashion to place the AC and finally the AS in the row. Once you deposit
the AS at the right end of the row, casually place the remaining five
cards that are in your left hand (JS through 9S) onto the face of
the right hand cards, and square up.
Youll now quickly spread through the deck again to divide it
into four piles. Try to make this look as casual and offhand as you
can, as if it doesnt matter how many cards are in each pile.
The stack helps tremendously in this regard, because you really dont
need to do any counting. The specific key cards will tell you instantly
where to separate the packets. Heres the detail.
spreading the cards face up rapidly, and split the spread between
the QS and the QC (just watch for the pair of Black Queens). Flip
the right hand cards bookwise so they fall face down onto the face
up left hand cards, but the left thumb prevents them from fully coalescing
with the deck. The right hand then changes grip to take this face-down
packet from above and deposits it below the AH. (There will be eight
cards in this pile). This flipping action is completely fair, but
the handling sets the stage for a similar action at step 4 below.
Continue spreading until you reach the pair of Red Sixes. Obtain a
left finger break under the spread between the Sixes, as your left
thumb above the spread lightly rests at the left edge of the 6D, just
to temporarily hold it in place. The right hand again flips all the
cards above the 6D face down bookwise, so they fall onto and coalesce
with the face-up 6D. As before, your right hand changes its grip to
take all the cards above the break, and deposits this pile below the
AD. This is the standard Vernon reversal technique. The similar looking
6H now showing at the face of the left hand cards helps minimize any
momentary visual discrepancy (which is why we loaded the 6D immediately
next to it). (This pile contains nine face-down cards, followed by
the 6D which is secretly face up on the bottom).
Continue spreading rapidly until you see the 7C and 4H. Split the
spread between these two cards, and turn both hands, each holding
their respective cards, palm down. Simultaneously place the left hand
packet face down below the AC and the right hand packet face down
below the AS. This is a perfectly natural and efficient way of placing
the final two packets on the table. (What goes unnoticed is that this
handling has actually reversed the order of these last two packets
from the order in which they appeared in the spread. This is one of
those minor adjustments I mentioned that maintains the stack order
at the end of the routine.)
check: the top cards of four face down packets, from left to right,
should be the QC, 3C, 3H and 4H. There will be a total of 19 cards
in pile #3. You dont need to remember any of this, but the number
of cards comprising pile #3 is what controls the discovery of the
final Ace. Comment 2 explains this in detail, and offers some variant
Burying the Aces:
Youre now going to bury the Aces face down, as you reassemble
the deck. Explain that youre going to lose the Aces in different
parts of the deck. Ask the spectator to remember the order of the
Aces as you bury each one, because later youre going to magically
produce the Aces in that exact order. (Its not absolutely necessary
to emphasize this, but I find it adds an extra quantum of apparent
difficulty, that youre not just finding any Ace each time, but
a specific Ace.)
up pile #1 (below the AH) and fan it face down in your right hand.
With your left hand pick up the AH and insert it face down above the
third card from the bottom of the fan, for about half its length.
Lift up the fan to flash the faces, showing the AH clearly going into
the middle of the fan, close the fan, and push the AH flush into its
packet. Deposit this pile #1 back in its position on the table.
up the AD (reminding the spectators that "Diamonds are next")
and drop it face down onto pile #1. Pick up pile #2 and cleanly drop
it onto pile #1, burying the AD. (This secretly places the reversed
6D immediately above the AD).
up the AC and drop it face down onto pile #3. Pick up the combined
pile (#1&2) and cleanly drop it onto pile #3, burying the AC.
pick up the AS and drop it face down onto pile #4. Pick up the combined
pile (#1&2&3) and cleanly drop it onto pile #4, burying the
I now give the deck a table cut, cutting approximately 3/4 off the
top, and then completing the cut. As I do, I comment, "Just in
case anyone knew where the Aces are approximately, lets cut
the cards." The sole purpose of this cut is to centralize the
reversed 6D, which makes the revelations of the first two Aces more
aesthetic. I make it clear that nothing untoward is happening, and
sometimes Ill even let the spectator do the cut. (This step
7 is completely optional, so if you dont care about whether
the 6D appears centered, you can dispense with the cut.)
the deck at the left side of the table.
Announce that youll "try to magically locate each of the
Aces, in the order in which they were lost." Ask, "Which
was the first Ace?" Either the spectator will remind you "Hearts,"
or you can mention it yourself. Make a magical gesture and give the
deck a wide ribbon spread across the table from left to right. The
6D will appear face up in the center. Act surprised. With your left
hand start to scoop up the spread from the left end, until you reach
the 6D. Put your left thumb on the 6D, holding it as the top card
of those in the left hand, and use this left hand block of cards as
a lever to flip the balance of the ribbon spread face up on the table
in a pile. (The QS will be the face card of this the face-up tabled
pile). Square up the left-hand cards, secretly obtaining a left fourth
finger break beneath the second card (the AD).
your right hand, pick up the two cards above the break and deposit
these cards, as one, face up directly onto the QS. As you do this,
explain, "This six must be an indicator it indicates we
need to count six cards." Deal off the next six cards from the
left-hand portion, one at a time face up directly onto the 6D, counting
aloud. Pause before you count "Six" and then dramatically
reveal that the sixth card is in fact the desired AH. Deal it face
up in its original position toward the left side of the table.
the spectators attention is drawn toward the AH, turn your left
hand palm down, placing its cards directly onto the balance of the
tabled pack. Turn the entire deck face down and place it at the right
side of the table.
Remind your spectator that "the next Ace was the Ace of Diamonds."
Give the deck a wide ribbon spread across the table, this time from
right to left. The AD will appear face up in the center. With your
right hand scoop up the spread from the right end, until you reach
the AD. Split the spread at that point, holding the AD with your right
thumb on top of the right hand portion. Move your right hand forward
and thumb off the AD to table, to the right of the AH. Casually drop
the right hand cards on top of the remaining face-down table spread,
and square up the deck.
Hold the deck in left hand dealing position. I explain, "The
next Ace is the Ace of Clubs. Thats the educated Ace. It watches
Sesame Street and has learned to spell its own name." Deal cards
off the deck one at a time, turning each face up to form a face up
pile on the table, as you spell aloud one letter for each card dealt:
A-C-E-O-F-C-L-U-B-S. Pause before the "S" and then dramatically
turn over the "S" to reveal the AC, and toss it to the right
of the AD. With your right fingers, flip the face up just-spelled
cards face down onto the table, and dribble the balance of the pack
Pick up the deck as you comment, "On Sesame Street the Aces also
learn basic arithmetic. Look, todays show is brought to you
by the numbers
." Here pause to deal off the top card from
the deck (the 3H) face up at the right side of the table, glance at
it, and say "Three
." Continue dealing the next card
(the 6C) face up, overlapping the 3H toward the left. Look down at
it and announce "Six
" and finally deal a third card
(the 8D) overlapping the 6C, saying "
and Eight." It
appears as if these three spot cards just happen to be there by chance,
and this apparent impromptu randomness the impression that
they might just as likely have been different values is enhanced
if you act as if youre really just learning those numbers yourself,
for the first time, as theyre dealt face up.
to the three dealt cards and recite, "Three, plus Six equals
Nine, plus Eight, thats a total of Seventeen. Lets see
how talented these Aces really are." Deal cards off the deck
face up one at a time rapidly, to form a face up pile on the table,
as you count aloud from 1 to 17. Pause before the final card on "17"
and then dramatically turn over the 17th card to reveal the AS. Toss
it face up next to the AC, to triumphantly end the routine.
Clean Up to Restore Stack Order:
this point, if you drop the sixteen face-up counted cards onto the
three face-up "total" cards (the 3H, 6C and 8D), you can
then flip these combined cards face down and replace them back on
top of (or under) the rest of the remaining face down cards still
in your left hand. The entire deck will be back in Aronson (cyclic)
order, minus the Aces which are still out on the table. This allows
you to use the Aces for some other packet effect (Twisting the Aces,
Daleys Aces) and then replace them back into proper stack position
at a convenient later time.
actually go one step further, because I wanted a way to restore the
deck to full Aronson order, including the Aces, at the end of the
"Christ-Aronson Aces." It takes just a tiny bit more procedure,
at the very end of the routine, to accomplish this. Heres what
step 11, as you count and deal off the cards into a face-up pile,
deal the first seven cards into a somewhat squared pile, but for count
#8 deal that card (the 7S) sidejogged to the left for about half its
width (so the 3S still remains visible, for about half its width).
Continue the dealing/counting with the same rhythm for counts #9 and
#10, dealing those two cards directly onto and square with the 7S.
Count #10 will be the QD. On count #11 deal that card (the 8S) onto
the QD, but again sidejogged to the left for about half its width
(so the QD remains visible). Then complete the dealing/counting from
count #12 up to #16, dealing those cards directly onto and square
with the 8S. Per step 11, reveal the next card (the 17th) as the final
foregoing two "sidejogs" are quite easy, and should be done
without breaking rhythm as you deal and count. It appears as if youve
simply dealt 16 cards face up in a somewhat messy pile; in fact, the
resulting pile on the table contains two "steps," immediately
above the 3S and the QD. These two visible steps will allow you to
easily and nonchalantly insert the Aces exactly where you need them
when you gather up the cards. All you need to remember is to step
the pile on counts #8 and #11; all other cards are dealt/counted directly
onto and covering the preceding card. And it doesnt matter if
the rest of the dealt cards land a bit askew; that adds to the messy,
youve produced the final AS, youll clean up as the spectators
are marveling at your feat. Pick up the AH and casually insert it
among the dealt cards, actually using the visible step so that it
gets inserted immediately above the QD. Take the AD and stick it back
among the dealt cards, this time above the 3S step. Next take the
AC and use it as a scoop to pick up this entire pile of dealt cards,
turn them all face down and drop them onto the balance of the face-down
left hand cards. Finally pick up the AS and "notice" the
three "total" cards off at the right side of the table,
still in an overlapping face-up row. Use the AS to scoop them up,
turn them face down and replace them on (or under) the balance of
the deck. The stack is back in complete (cyclical) Aronson order.
If you use a tactile key for the 9D, you can easily cut the deck back
to original stack order.
me emphasize that this final step, of inserting the Aces back into
their proper places in the stack, takes only a moment, and is done
in a very nonchalant and apparently inattentive manner. Its
almost as though youre "tossing" or stabbing the Aces
back among the dealt cards, and its natural that they would
land or get stuck into the places where the pile was most open or
askew (i.e., the steps).
(1) Background and Credits. I learned "Henry Christs Fabulous
Ace Routine" as a teenager when it appeared in Cliff Greens
Professional Card Magic (1961), p. 48. Later I worked out my alternative
layout procedure that eliminates any need for undercuts, and published
that method, along with other ideas, in my essay "Meditations
on the Christ Aces," Sessions (1982), p. 112. An integral
part of my layout procedure is a new way of dealing with the final
Ace, by secretly controlling the number of cards that comprise the
third packet. This is discussed extensively in my Comments in Sessions,
pp. 117 - 119 with many variant endings; in variation (v) I described
the idea (used above at step 11) of using the apparently random "total"
cards to locate the final Ace. Dai Vernons description of Christs
classic effect did much to popularize this great routine (The Vernon
Chronicles Volume 2 (1988), p. 242).
(2) Alternate Endings. Step 11 is my preferred way of discovering
and producing the fourth Ace but it is certainly not the only
way. As mentioned above, the variations I introduced in Sessions
could all be applied to the Aronson stack version described here.
Indeed, the use of the stack makes this concept even more efficient,
because the necessary "counting" of cards for the third
packet can be planned beforehand, and the use of a known key in the
face up spread as the dividing point for the final packet obviates
the need for any actual counting during the presentation.
who have Sessions will understand the flexibility of this procedure,
but since that book isnt in everybodys library, let me
offer a brief explanation and an illustrative example. When we initially
laid out the four packets, the reason for my choosing to divide the
third and fourth packets between the 7C and 4H at step 5 was to control
exactly 19 cards into packet #3 (the three "total" cards
at the top, plus sixteen more cards which will ultimately go on top
of the final Ace, thus controlling it to the 17th position). By varying
the number of cards that comprise packet #3, we can control the final
Ace to any specific position we want, for either a count, or a spell,
or an estimation, or a lie detector, or whatever revelation you elect.
(John Bannon uses my placement procedure in connection with a reverse
faro elimination, in his "Beyond Fabulous").
example, heres a simple, quite different ending that illustrates
this flexibility. Suppose you know beforehand the name of one of your
spectators, say, Ginny Aronson. Her name spells with 12 letters, so
if pile #3 contains a total of 11 cards (which will wind up on top
of the final Ace), then you could spell your spectators name
to discover the AS. So, how can you control pile #3 to contain exactly
11 cards? The stack allows you to plan this outcome beforehand. The
stack runs consecutively from the top down starting with the 3H (because
during the initial layout we cut five cards to the face), minus the
Aces. Either a physical count or a mental calculation (before you
begin the trick) informs you that the 11th card from the top is the
7S. So, at step 5, just divide the last two packets between the 7S
and the 5S (instead of between the 7C and 4H), and this will automatically
put 11 cards into pile #3. You would then present the entire routine,
exactly as written, but dispense with the three "total"
cards at step 11. Instead, after spelling the AC at step 10, say,
"Just as the Ace of Clubs knows how to spell its name, we can
spell any name. For example, whats your name?" On getting
a response, spell G-I-N-N-Y-A-R-O-N-S-O-N dealing the cards into a
face-up pile, and the AS will appear on the final letter.
one more alternative ending, where you apparently find the last Ace
at whatever number is named by a spectator. At step 5 just divide
the third and fourth packets between the 8S and the 3D; this will
place 14 cards into pile #3, thus controlling the AS to position 15
at the climax. Early in the routine ask a spectator to name a number,
"somewhere between 10 and 20." At the end of step 10, by
simply undercutting a few cards from top to bottom, or vice versa,
you can secretly adjust the final AS from its position at 15 to whatever
number the spectator has mentioned. Once this casual cut and placement
has been done, turn to the spectator and ask, apparently because youve
forgotten, "What number were you thinking of?" When she
replies, count down to the spectators number, to reveal the
final AS. (The simple adjustment undercut maintains the cyclical nature
of the stack).
will show you the flexibility of this procedure. Personally, I like
the Sesame Street patter and the use of the three "total"
cards, just as written.