Enigma of a Svengali Deck Unravelled
When people flock to a magic show, there are several elements that they look forward to.
One of these is the flair and fluidity with which the magician performs with a deck of cards.
Magicians go on to perform several tricks with the cards and soon has their 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.
Svengali decks differ 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 are the same, the most popular denominations being three
of clubs or eight of diamonds. 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 as 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 a distance away. It is courtesy of these characteristics that a Svengali deck, unlike some other props, is not subject to being examined by the audience.
One of the best 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 entails that the regular cards must
alternate with the replicas. To accomplish this, magicians must use a
particular method wherein they place 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 until 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 more comfortable you will become with the deck. Over a period of time, you will realise 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.