The Svengali Deck - When people flock to a magic show, there are several things that they look forward to and one amongst them is flair and fluidity with which the magician plays around with a deck of cards. Then he goes on to perform several tricks with it and soon has his audience enchanted and enthralled not to mention wondering how all of this could have happened with a simple deck of cards. This is where the secret of a magician lies – what appears to be a normal deck of cards is in reality far from normal, especially if it is a Svengali type deck. The creator of the Svengali type deck was Burling Hull. Read more about him here
Svengali differs from a normal deck in several ways , foremost amongst which is the number of cards. As opposed to 52 cards that form a regular deck, a Svengali comprises of 46 cards of which half, meaning 23, are same - the most popular denominations being three of clubs or eight of diamonds - and the remaining 23 are varied as in a normal deck. How does a magician distinguish between them?
This is where the second difference comes in namely the 23 identical cards are shorter in length than the normal cards and while the difference is discernible at close range, it is hardly visible to the spectators who are seated at a distance. It is courtesy of these characteristics, a Svengali deck, unlike some of the other props, is not subject to being examined by the audience.
One of the good things about a Svengali is that it can be used by amateurs and experts alike because all that is required to handle it is the know-how involved in stacking followed by mastering of a few beginners tricks like Mind Blower, Blurt Out and Card in the Pocket. Setting up this special deck entails that the regular cards must alternate with the replicas. To accomplish this, the magician must use a particular method wherein he places the regular deck in one hand and the deck of replicas in the other. Assembly begins by placing a card from the normal deck on to the table followed by a card from the deck of replicas till all the cards from both decks have fallen into the pile and instead of two you have one long-and-short deck with you.
Next, it is time to learn how to use a Svengali and this situation is best handled by first identifying a trick that you wish to master. Practice plays a key role here and the more you practice, the higher is your comfort with this deck. Over a period of time, you would realize that the appearance of the deck is subject to the direction from which it is riffled, meaning riffling from front to back exposes only normal cards where as vice versa renders the replicas visible.
As you gain confidence, the next step should be to use both a regular deck and a Svengali in combination so that the audience is perpetually amazed at the array of tricks that you might be presenting in front of them. Having two decks with exact patterns is a primary requisite for this performance so that you are the only one who can actually discern between a Svengali and a regular one.
Below is a video on how to use the svengali Deck.