Magicians obsess over one specific card magic plot, called ‘any card at any number’ (or ACAAN for short). Many will refer to it as ‘The Berglas Effect’, named after David Berglas, who popularised the effect. If, like me, you had not heard about Berglas when you first got into magic, you’ll likely have heard of his son, Marvin Berglas — that’s Marvin of the Marvin’s Magic sets brand.
Anyway, typically, a spectator or two will name both a playing card and a number between 1 and 52. The spectators then remove a deck from a box and count down to the freely named number. Resting at the correct position in the pack is the freely named card.
My favourite performed version of this effect is performed by Derren Brown. You can find a video online of him performing it on actor Martin Freeman and his then-wife, Amanda Abbington. His method is clean and efficient, and he uses all the tools available to him in his space.
Elsewhere, magicians inclined to masochism will enjoy Asi Winds' sleight-of-hand and stacked deck method. If you prefer a solo, easy and reliable method, I recommend looking at Christian Grace’s fully gimmicked deck method.
However, I’m not interested in difficult sleight of hand or gimmickry.
I want simple, easy, reliable methods for everyday settings.
You do, too, it seems.
Most of One Ahead’s readers say they perform in casual settings.
So here, have a casual, reliable and sexy ACAAN.
Part 1. An ACAAN
You’re with your friends at the pub because you’re a terribly sociable person and have a slight drinking problem. Eventually, one of your mates will insist that if you want to continue shuffling that deck in your hands all night, you must show them a trick.
You’ve been shuffling the deck since you arrived, and you try not to look too pleased that they finally requested a performance.
This trick requires two friends, ideally two with a deep connection — perhaps a couple. So, you put your deck of cards back inside its tuck box, and you hand it over to Jeremy. He’s brought along his new girlfriend. You’re not yet sure if you like his girlfriend. Her name is Josie. Maybe if she reacts well to your trick, you’ll like her after all.
You ask Josie to name any number between 1 and 52.
She chooses the number 24.
There’s a chance she’ll need to change her mind. But this decision is not down to her. It’s down to Jeremy. You ask him if he’d like his girlfriend to use the number 24 or if he’d like her to change her mind. He decides she should change her mind, and Josie flirtatiously rolls her eyes at him before choosing a new number.
She chooses the number 43.
You then ask Jeremy to name any playing card. When you do so, you make it clear that the card he’s about to choose will end up in position 43 inside the deck he’s holding. He looks at the deck intently, pretending he has X-ray vision, and Josie laps it up — they really are an annoying new couple.
He chooses the four of hearts.
There’s a chance he’ll need to change his mind. But again, this decision is not down to him but to Josie. She is delighted by this fact, smiling across the table as Jeremy now rolls his eyes. You ask her if she wants Jeremy to change his mind and choose a new playing card. Of course, she does, so you wait patiently for Jeremy to change his mind.
He stares back at the deck, squinting like a child before choosing a new playing card.
“The six of clubs”, he says.
And that’s it — that’s the trick.
Obviously, Jeremy has to remove the cards from the box and hand them to Josie. And then Josie has to deal the cards down onto the table. But your work is done — the freely named card will be in the freely named position.
The six of clubs is in position 43 in the pack.
It’s an impossible miracle.
You won’t need to touch the deck; it works even if both of them change their mind or stick with their first choices.
So that really is it — that is the trick.
Part 2. Why It Works!
Here’s what Lloyd Barnes had to say when he learned the secret:
“A brilliant ACAAN to perform with friends, full of powerful subtleties.”
I’ll share the secret with you now…
I think magicians love ACAAN because of how easy it is to follow and how mathematically impossible it is. I cannot stress enough that laypeople don’t give a flying toot about ACAAN, and they’ll always be much happier to witness an ‘Out of This World’ or an ‘Ambitious Card’ routine. However, an ACAAN gives you a nice respite within a larger performance.
When performed correctly, and only when performed correctly, the trick is quite an impossible feat. To do so, you must find a suitable way to present the routine in its true impossibility. The audience needs to grasp how impossible it is, and you need to figure out what the pseudo method is.
An ACAAN effect can be either:
- A coincidence
- A prediction
- A telekinesis
Are you magically moving the card to the correct position? Was it there all along? By chance or through intention? Ask yourselves these questions and answer them to create a much better performance.