EFFECT: From a shuffled deck, four cards are randomly dealt to four spectators. They each select one - purely in their mind - and shuffle them before returning them to the magician. After a quick mix of the entire stack, the magician deals them out into four piles. One at a time, each spectator says which pile contains their card, and the magician is able to figure out what card they were merely thinking of!
BACKGROUND: This trick was first released as part of The HaLo Project Volume 2, featuring hidden gems from Harry Lorayne and released by Rudy Tinoco of The Magician's Forum; it has since been released separately as part of Bro Gilbert's The Vault series. It's arguably one of the best tricks included in Volume 2 anyway, and quickly became one of Rudy's personal favourites after learning it from Johnny New York. Johnny teaches it in this video, and uses his own handling of Lorayne's original. It's actually just the second phase of a much longer routine from Harry Lorayne in his book The Classic Collection Vol 2. Rudy gives a performance to a group of spectators, as well as some afterthoughts and commentary at the end. Rudy even says "personally this is the best card trick, arguably, that I have ever learned" - and I think that's a real reflection of the fun he's had performing it, and the amazement he's produced, even when performing it multiple times to the same spectators.
IMPRESSIONS: As Rudy points out, the need to memorize four cards probably scares a lot of people away from this trick, but Johnny New York's handling involves a very easy way to do this. While this revised handling is harder to do impromptu, simplifying Harry's original method with help of a small stack cleverly eliminates the need for memorizing, and makes it much easier to learn and perform. When I first saw this routine, I thought it was basically a self-working trick, and pretty much was right about the main method. It is essentially a self-worker, but there is some work you'll have to do in order to make it more convincing. Johnny New York also teaches both the Charlier Shuffle and Lorayne's Utility Mixer (from Jaw Droppers! Two) for false shuffling the packet, which helps sell the effect. Much can be learned from Rudy's presentation, because his approach goes a long way to making this trick powerful. For the reveal, he uses patter along the lines that he's trying to determine from the cards in the pile which card he thinks that particular person would pick, and with a bit of acting, this can really sell the effect as a mind-reading or mentalism type routine. Emphasizing that the selected card was merely thought of also helps. Repetition can make a trick boring, but in this case it strengthens the illusion that you're really able to get inside your spectator's heads and know what choices they would make, and that really makes Four By Four a hidden gem.