The Stack Attack by L. R. Brooks

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

I first met Lew Brooks last year at a cardician's lunch group that meets weekly in Las Vegas. Lee "Asher Twist" Asher first mentioned Mr. Brooks to me, and I am grateful that he did. Mr. Brooks is not only a clever and original magician, but a unique character possessed of substantial gambling expertise and experience. This veteran has combined these interests in this offbeat but excellent manuscript, dealing exclusively with the subject of card magic relying on the use of partial and/or full-deck pre-arrangements, to wit, stacks. While the author is certainly a capable sleight-of-hand worker, he has limited the selection of material in this collection to routines that are virtually self- working, or, as Ken Krenzel would say, sleight-free. As Mr. Brooks observes, "...the use of a well-timed and well-performed false shuffle and/or false cut can only enhance the performance. However, they are not absolutely necessary..." Most of the material falls into the gambling-demo category, but these are far from dry demonstrations of arcane skills; rather, they are the basis for an extremely original selection of potentially entertaining material with a gambling theme.

The manuscript begins with an item entitled The False False-Shuffle (FFS). This takes a standard technique and cleverly expands upon it to produce a technique that is suitable for any kind of material requiring prearranged stacks. In brief, Mr. Brooks provides a simple technique by which any prearrangement is precisely altered to allow the performer to begin by apparently casually overhand shuffling the deck, during which the deck is in fact secretly returned to the necessary prearranged condition. This utility principle is easily executed, can be used with any thing from a small packet to a partial setup to a memorized full-deck system, and is applied by the author throughout much of his manuscript. And in the final entry the author explains how to easily apply the principle to any stacked-deck routine of your own.

Order Out of Chaos demonstrates the use of the FFS in a small-packet effect, wherein despite the performer's apparently random and thorough shuffling and cutting, a suit of 13 cards ends up in numerical order. The Four Second Stack is Mr. Brooks convincing solution for an impressive feat he once witnessed John Scarne perform, in which the magician apparently stacks four-of-a-kind into any number of from three to six hands, determined by a spectator, with merely a few seconds of overhand shuffling. Bughouse Poker demonstrates how the performer comes up with a Royal Flush in an amusingly bizarre series of pseudo-poker antics. Bughouse Blackjack is a blackjack quickie with a humorous ending (and that does require a common gag card). The Kangaroo Kid uses some simple technology, including the venerable down-and-under-deal, to achieve a poker demo with a fanciful presentation. High Card Poker describes another imaginary poker sequence in which only the high cards are used, but your opponent still manages to lose. A Red/Black Location is a two-card location that occurs under rather stringent conditions. The LRB Stacking Demo is yet another poker demo, but unlike the previous items, which appear to require great skill yet make no pretense of realism, this one has the look of genuine cheating.

This routine begins with several quick run-up demos, then climaxes with a draw poker sequence in which after each hand discards and draws appropriately, one hand ends with a Flush, another hand with a Full House, another with four of a kind, and finally the dealer has drawn to a Royal Flush. This routine is very convincing thanks to its earlier establishing phases, and will go a long way to creating the impression of masterful card handling despite a remarkable minimum of technical demands.

The production quality here is as simple and straightforward as the descriptions, but the ideas are sound and that's what you're paying the quite reasonable price for. And here's a terrific bonus idea courtesy of the author that you won't find in the manuscript: try loading up a deck for several of these effects—say, Order Out of Chaos, Bughouse BJ and Poetry Poker—all in a row, using extra cards in between each setup for a little FFS action during the transitions. If you haven't yet heard of Lew Brooks, this manuscript will serve as a worthy initiation. You'll be glad I introduced you, but don't thank me, thank Lee.

8 - 1/2" X 11" comb bound; 35 pages; one page of illustrations; 1997; Publisher: L.R. Brooks