Enter the maze

Holding a card to your heart: the trick

by Paul Curzon, Queen Mary University of London

A scribbled heart: copyright www.istockphoto.com 21696662

A volunteer chooses a card at random to predict how rich the person they marry will be. Without looking at the chosen card they hold it against their heart linking it to their one true love. Amazingly they choose the only Joker in the pack - they will marry a fool! Even more amazingly, on the table in a sealed envelope is the calling card of a Joker asking the volunteer to marry them. It just shows how easy it is for your heart to make a fool of you!

The set-up

For this trick you need to prepare a special pack of cards that consists only of Jokers - you will need to buy lots of identical packs (so get cheap ones, but check that they do contain Jokers). Most packs have four Jokers so you will need to buy 13 to make one full pack though no one will notice if you have a pack of only 48 cards.

Before the trick starts, place a normal pack, with the Jokers removed, shuffled and loose in your pocket. Place the Joker pack in a box on the table. Take an extra Joker and write on it "Will you marry me?" Place it in a red, sealed envelope placed on the table - you could use one of the normal jokers for this or buy a jumbo sized pack of cards from a magic shop and use a Joker from that for extra effect.

The mechanics

Get a volunteer from the audience. Take the pack of Jokers and explain that the volunteer will pick a card that will predict who they will marry. If their card is a King or Queen then they will marry royalty. A Jack means they will marry a millionaire. A numbered card means they will marry a normal person but the higher the number the richer they will eventually be once married. If they pick the Joker then they will marry a fool.

Shuffle the cards, then fan them out face down, making sure no one sees them. Ask the volunteer to point to a card to predict the person they will marry. They must remove it from the pack and hold it to their heart without looking at it (point at their heart as you tell them this). Stress that is important they do not see their card before it has been held against their heart and that they must try and feel their heart beating through the card.

As they put the card against their heart so looking there drop the pack into your pocket, taking out the other pack. The story about their heart is there to misdirect them. While they are thinking abut the card and their heart they will for a moment not be looking at your hands. Because you are talking to them, if they do look up it is will be most likely at your face.

To make swapping the cards easier place a bit of cardboard in your pocket. It can act as a divider so that the pack you want to switch goes into one side and you can take the new pack from the other side of the divide. That way the cards won't get accidentally mixed.

Spread the cards taken from your pocket face up on the table. Point out they had a free choice and it is a normal pack of cards so they could have chosen any card. Now ask them to look at their card and show it to the audience. They will marry a fool!

Now point to the envelope reminding them that they had a free choice and no one could have known who they would choose. Say the envelope is for the volunteer from an admirer who sent their calling card before the show. Ask them to open it, show the audience the card and read the message. After they have done so suggest they should think hard before agreeing to marry as it is never too late to change the future. Note that it shows how careful they should be as it is so, so easy for your heart to make a fool of you!

Find out about the link from the magic to computer science and multimodal design ...

An alternative presentation is to use a pack with most Jokers but the bottom dozen or so normal cards. You can then casually fan the normal cards to convince everyone that it is normal. Then turn the pack over and let them choose a card fanning only the Jokers for them to choose a card from. Make sure your hidden pack has the same first dozen cards as the Joker pack.