Thoughts about Topping the Deck: The Perfect Sleight
By Jamy Ian Swiss - Monday, July 10, 2023
The Perfect Move is a project I have dreamed of for a very long time.
Dai Vernon's "Topping the Deck" is, in my opinion, the single greatest sleight in all of card conjuring. For reasons of practicality, deceptiveness, naturalness, efficiency, and elegance of design, there is simply no better method for palming a single card from the top of the deck. It is an important item in the substantial inventory of Vernon's greatest achievements and creations.
I have had the opportunity to learn from the greatest exponents of "Topping the Deck", not only Vernon himself, but from his first line of expert protégés and exemplars of this particular technique, including Howard Schwarzman, Bob White, Harry Riser, and Johnny Thompson. I have, in turn, been teaching this technique to private students, amateurs and professionals alike, for more than 35 years. When you teach something this complex and subtle for that long to that many, you gain insights and understanding beyond those who are capable of perfect execution, but have not had the necessity to further penetrate its secrets.
I have always admired the unique book, The Invisible Pass, by Jean Hugard and Frederick Braue. Published in 1946, it is an entire hardbound book, in oversized format, richly illustrated with huge photographs as well as detailed line drawings, and devoted entirely, in 29 pages, to a single sleight. Over the years, I have found myself fantasizing about perhaps attempting a similar project: to try to create the definitive description of "Topping the Deck".
My first attempt was in writing the description of the sleight for inclusion in "The Gambler" routine included in The Magic of Johnny Thompson. However, and despite John's encouragement, when the draft began to approach 2500 words, I realized it was not the right setting. I edited the draft down and we eventually included what I consider a very useful description in the book.
More recently, in my Vanishing Inc. Masterclass about palming, I returned to my original draft for the Thompson book and included a somewhat tweaked and cleaned up version for the class registrants. But it revived my interest in the idea of attempting a completely thorough write-up of literally everything I know about the sleight.
When Andi and Josh read that description, they proposed perhaps expanding it into a small stand-alone publication. Which brought me full circle, as I explained my affection for the Hugard and Braue Invisible Pass book, and my longstanding fantasy of doing something similar about "Topping the Deck".
And now, that fantasy is a reality.
-Jamy Ian Swiss
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