Enter the maze

The joker in the pack: the one where the joker is pulled to the front

The magic effect

You take an ordinary pack of cards and ask for a volunteer from the audience. Remind them that teachers must be able to spot troublemakers - jokers - in their class and get them to the front before the trouble starts. You are going to apply a test to see if the person is a natural born teacher.

A carnival joker

You ask them to think of a small number and tell you what it is. They count out that number of cards on to the table. You ask them to turn over the top card and to their surprise they have found the joker and brought it to the front straightaway.

The mechanics

This trick is very simple. Just place the joker at the top of the pack before you start. Get them to pick the number (let's say they choose 5). As you explain to them that you want them to count that many (5) cards on to the table, you show them how. Now pick the 5 dealt cards back up and place them on top of the pack, giving the pack to the volunteer. Get them to count the cards out themselves dealing them on to the table: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. They turn over the last card and magically it is the joker.

Prove it works!

The joker is at the top of the pack. Whatever number the person says, you deal that many cards on to the table. If they picked 5, then there are now 5 cards on the table. The joker is at the bottom, in the 5th position.

Placing these cards back on top of the pack leaves the joker as the 5th card. That is exactly where it needs to be so that when the volunteer deals 5 cards themselves it is on top of the pile on the table.

Suppose they picked some other number. The same reasoning applies. If they pick the number n, then the joker moves to the nth position in the pack. Dealing out the first n cards pulls it to the top of those dealt.

The showmanship

A girl holding a joker

Don't draw too much attention to the fact that you have dealt out the cards. That is the part that makes the trick work, so you need to do it casually: you are just making sure the volunteer understands what to do.

It is also important to put in a delay between each deal of the cards and before the joker is revealed. Think of some patter for these bits. Quickly take back the remaining pack as they finish dealing. Fan the cards and point out they are a just an ordinary pack of cards. They aren't all jokers! Perhaps pick out some individual cards to show them. This draws attention to the pack and what you are doing with your hands and away from the dealt cards. It also means they are more likely to forget precisely what happened earlier. Magicians call this time misdirection, and it's a useful psychological tool. Try it out and work out what forms of misdirection work for you.

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