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The Expert's Portfolio by Jack Carpenter

Reviewed by Jamy Ian Swiss (originally published in Genii August, 1997)


Expert's Portfolio

One surefire way for a magic book to earn its place on the shelf is to offer dramatically new and original elements in the realm of effect, method, presentation, or some combination thereof. In this, his second major book, Jack Carpenter has won his place with some stunning methodological approaches to gambling plots.

Although some material in this volume is within reach of average skills, the most dazzling fireworks are reserved for those who can handle real-world use of Riffle Stacking and the Second Deal. For those who persevere, however, this book is a treasure. Even though I presently have little professional application for the kind of full- dress gambling demonstrations described in The Expert's Portfolio, I nevertheless spent several evenings working through some of this material in great detail for the sheer joy of seeing the results of brilliant construction and an inventive approach to the use of challenging skills.

After a high-praise foreword by Darwin Ortiz, the book presents 14 items divided into two sections; eight entries of "Card Magic" and six under the appropriate heading, "The Expert's Turn to Deal." The conjuring material is good, including an opening routine featuring some unusual approaches to the one-at-a-time vanish of four queens; a self- working triple prediction effect; a pretty and not terribly difficult visual change of a visibly angle-jogged card; a visual approach (using the previously described change) to the Red Hot Mama plot; an odd utility visual card change for tabled conditions; a novel ace location loosely inspired by Darwin Ortiz's Slick Aces, in which the first ace located suddenly becomes the other three; a slow-motion backfire assembly; and the standout item of this section, a terrific Three-Card Monte routine with some refreshingly new ideas. This routine uses an actual monte toss switch, so the routine reasonably approximates real-world conditions, but in fact the cards (which are removed from the deck in play) are not bent, hence providing an extremely practical yet convincing routine with a magical climax.

The book's second section begins with a quick and unusual four-ace revelation entitled the Sweep Control, a quirky and impossible-to-reconstruct approach. The author in fact uses this routine as the opener in a sequence of four routines that are described in order in this segment of the book. As Mr. Carpenter comments in his introduction, "Although each can stand on its own, the maximum entertainment value will be extracted by performing them sequentially as written. This is because as you progress through the routines—with the nature of what you accomplish becoming more and more profound and impossible—they are linked by the common thread that each effect is accomplished by a single shuffle. This is quite humorous, serves as a running gag, and ultimately ties the act together." Here the author woefully understates his case; the fact of the continuous use of one shuffle for the next three routines renders them—to use an oft- abused but absolutely appropriate word in this instance—awesome.

Riffle 'n' Roll is an instantaneous single Riffle Shuffle stack of four aces into five hands. To be perfectly accurate you—well, maybe not _you—_in fact perform a preliminary Riffle Shuffle (sort of a concluding shuffle from the previous effect, or perhaps a between- effects shuffle); drop the four aces down on top of the deck; execute a brief running-cut sequence; execute a very fast and convincing Riffle Shuffle (there are no strip-out or Zarrow actions); and deal out five hands of poker, dealing yourself the four aces. As the author points out, there is a great deal of work on this kind of effect in the literature, from such notables as Marlo, Fulves, Ortiz and Nash, but this is as good a version as you could hope for, if you can handle the necessary work. This and the next routine, Nine Angry Men—a fabulous title for a fabulous routine, namely Mr. Carpenter's amazing one-shuffle solution to the ten hand poker stack—rely upon a clever synthesis of methods, so there is some Second Dealing involved, but there is no Bottom Dealing whatsoever.

The routine called the D.C. Hustle is worth the price of the book for pure problem- solving brilliance. Many readers will be familiar with the concept of the "double duke," in which the hustler controls two hands in a game, to assure not only that he (or his partner) wins, but that the sucker will receive a sufficiently good hand to keep him betting and assure a big win. Mr. Carpenter has achieved a remarkable feat, namely a triple duke! The performer places the four queens followed by the four kings on top of the deck, executes a single Riffle Shuffle, and deals out five hands. The queens go to the first hand, labeled as the mark's. The kings go to the fourth hand, for the cheater's partner. But the accompanying story climaxes with a double-cross, as the performer turns up his own hand to reveal the four aces! This is an incredible, truly unbelievable effect. There is no bottom dealing, a traditional (and perfectly acceptable) element in double-duke solutions. Once again, there is a combined approach to the methods, with some preliminary setting-up in the course of displaying the cards, then a "running load" sequence prior to the actual shuffle, and some second dealing in the final deal. (The "running load" concept is an excellent technique introduced in Riffle 'n' Roll that confirmed Riffle Stackers will find wide use for, by which cards are, in the course of a brief set of running cuts, strategically located prior to the shuffle.) Nevertheless, there is no reason that this would be anything but a completely deceptive and convincing demonstration in capable hands. My only doubt about this routine, frankly, is that I wonder for how many audiences it would be worth doing? All but the most experienced card players will never completely grasp how utterly impossible this effect is to achieve; it's almost like fooling the FISM judges who end up thinking you used a stooge!

The D.C. Hustle concludes the four one-shuffle items. The next, penultimate entry is Nova Royale, a flashy production (that actually might just as well have been included in the conjuring section) of a Royal Flush, inspired by a legendary but still unpublished display sequence by West Coast card master Steve Freeman. And the book concludes with some excellent work on stacking cards via an Overhand Shuffle that should probably eclipse most traditional handlings, with no injogs or outjogs in the midst of the shuffle, and few if any telltale single-card runs.

While Mr. Carpenter's first book, Modus Operandi, was written by the talented writer Stephen Hobbs (in fact his debut magic book), Mr. Carpenter has found his own voice for The Expert's Portfolio, and it is an accessible and personable one at that. The illustrations are workmanlike but sufficient for the purpose. The production is bare bones; the book was first published in a limited edition of a more-or-less lecture manuscript format by the author; subsequently he sold the book to A1 Multimedia, who proceeded to add absolutely nothing to the production values of the book, not even so much as a new cover. This is unfortunate because a more substantial production would have assured this book its major due as an important work; the current packaging risks its being ignored as just another vanilla comb-bound manuscript. But considering the strength of the content, even with the design-by-Kinko's look, this book is both a bargain and a delight.

by 8 - 1/2" X 11" spiral bound; 102 pages; 61 line drawings; 1997; Publisher: A1 Multimedia

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