The overhand shuffle gives the performer or magician the means to keep one or a group of playing cards under tight control without a spectator being able to see anything untoward. If the magician/performer is right handed then the cards will usually be drawn off the main pack by the left thumb.
This is a relatively simple shuffle which takes very little practice to master and yet allows the performer to maintain a high level of control of for example the top card of the deck, the bottom card of the deck or indeed packets of cards in those positions. It’s also possible by means of a process known as ‘running’ to put a definite number of cards on top of another card.
So let’s take a look at the various uses that the basic overhand shuffle can be put to which will enhance many of the card tricks which you will perform ….
1. To retain the top card in its exact position after thoroughly shuffling the deck
Firstly, take hold of the pack with a relaxed but firm grip face down in the left-hand (presume you are right-handed) and holding it at an angle of roughly 45° towards the right. Next, led the pack with the right hand keeping the top card in the left hand by means of applying a little pressure with the left thumb. Then, shuffle the all the cards on top of this one.
Next, raise the whole deck with the right hand and proceed to shuffle off each and every card into the left hand right down to the last card which you will drop on the top of the others. By means of this seemingly innocent double shuffle, you will have an effect returned the original top card exactly to its original position in the pack.
2. To control a selected card placed on the top of the pack
Holding the pack in the left-hand, once again lift it with the right hand this time apply a little pressure on the bottom card with a left fingers keeping it in place and at the same time as in 1 above, draw off the top card with the left thumb. In doing this, the top card will fall on the bottom card in the left-hand and all the cards in the right-hand can now be shuffled freely on top of the two in the left-hand.
You will have noted that the original top card of the pack is now second from the bottom and because of this fact you are able to turn the pack over and show that the bottom card is an indifferent one. You can also turn the cards once again face down and show a few cards from the top to also be indifferent cards.
Now for the clever bit! Shuffle once again and this time retain the bottom card by the pressure of the left fingers. As you shuffle the cards on the right hand to the left you will be aware that the very last card of the right-hand portion of the pack will be the original top card and so you can shuffle freely until it is the only card remaining in your right hand whereby you can drop it on top of the pack in the left-hand.
3. To run a set number of cards on top of another card
When performing card tricks, it is often either very useful or very necessary to place a definite number of cards on top of another card. This process of simply drawing cards off the top of the pack one by one with the left thumb in the course of a shuffle is generally known amongst the magical fraternity as ‘running’ cards and it can be performed without detection with a little practice. It’s generally a good idea to use good quality playing cards which helps facilitate this process.
4. Using the jog technique to make use of the marker card
When performing the overhand shuffle, it’s possible to add into the process a technique known as the ‘jog’. This is a technique which has been employed by gamblers and card shops from time immemorial. Basically during the course of the overhand shuffle, a card is pulled back a little over the inner end of the pack so that it becomes an effect a marker card which can either indicate its own position to the performer or the position of a card or cards immediately below it.
To put this into practice, let’s say you take the four Kings and put them on top of the pack. With the pack in the left hand ready for shuffling, lift the back half of the pack with the right hand. As you start to take the cards off with the left thumb, move the right-hand about a half an inch in towards your body and draw off one card only then as naturally as possible move the right-hand forward again and continue with the shuffle as usual. At the end of this process there will be one card protruding from the pack at the inner end marking the location of the four Kings. To bring the four Kings back to the top, take hold of all the cards below the protruding card let them drop from the top as if making a simple cut. You will now have the four Kings back on top of the deck.
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