Christ-Aronson Aces
(Simon Aronson)

Henry Christ’s 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. I’ve now worked out a handling of this great routine that captures all the benefits of Christ’s original routine and my additions – and yet starts and ends with the deck in complete Aronson stack order.

If 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.

The 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 the deck.
Start 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.
The Layout:
1) Hold the deck face up, and announce you’ll 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 Christ’s 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, we’re going to use the 6D as that reversed card, so I’m 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.)
2) 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. (You’re 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.
3) You’ll 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 doesn’t matter how many cards are in each pile. The stack helps tremendously in this regard, because you really don’t need to do any counting. The specific key cards will tell you instantly where to separate the packets. Here’s the detail.
Start 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.
4) 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).
5) 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.)
[Situation 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 don’t 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 endings].

Burying the Aces:
6) You’re now going to bury the Aces face down, as you reassemble the deck. Explain that you’re 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 you’re going to magically produce the Aces in that exact order. (It’s not absolutely necessary to emphasize this, but I find it adds an extra quantum of apparent difficulty, that you’re not just finding any Ace each time, but a specific Ace.)
Pick 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.
Pick 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).
Pick 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.
Finally, 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 AS.
7) 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, let’s 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 I’ll even let the spectator do the cut. (This step 7 is completely optional, so if you don’t care about whether the 6D appears centered, you can dispense with the cut.)
Place the deck at the left side of the table.
Finding the Aces:
8) Announce that you’ll "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).
With 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.
As the spectator’s 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.
9) 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.
10) Hold the deck in left hand dealing position. I explain, "The next Ace is the Ace of Clubs. That’s 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 onto it.
11) Pick up the deck as you comment, "On Sesame Street the Aces also learn basic arithmetic. Look, today’s 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 you’re really just learning those numbers yourself, for the first time, as they’re dealt face up.
Point to the three dealt cards and recite, "Three, plus Six equals Nine, plus Eight, that’s a total of Seventeen. Let’s 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:
Without the Aces:
At 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, Daley’s Aces) and then replace them back into proper stack position at a convenient later time.
Including the Aces:
I 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. Here’s what I do.
At 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 AS.
The foregoing two "sidejogs" are quite easy, and should be done without breaking rhythm as you deal and count. It appears as if you’ve 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 doesn’t matter if the rest of the dealt cards land a bit askew; that adds to the messy, casual look.
Once you’ve produced the final AS, you’ll 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.
Let 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. It’s almost as though you’re "tossing" or stabbing the Aces back among the dealt cards, and it’s 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 Christ’s Fabulous Ace Routine" as a teenager when it appeared in Cliff Green’s 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 Vernon’s description of Christ’s 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.
Those who have Sessions will understand the flexibility of this procedure, but since that book isn’t in everybody’s 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").
For example, here’s 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 spectator’s 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, what’s 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.
Here’s 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 you’ve forgotten, "What number were you thinking of?" When she replies, count down to the spectator’s number, to reveal the final AS. (The simple adjustment undercut maintains the cyclical nature of the stack).
Experimentation 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.

©Simon Aronson Productions, 2001