Random Card Generator Tutorial

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The participant is given a “random playing card generator." It is a card with every value and suit represented, each in its own perforated box. The back of the card is entirely red (fig. 1). Once the participant takes hold of the card, the performer does not touch it again.

The participant tears the card along the perforations and drops the 20 small pieces into a shot glass or other vessel. To randomly generate a playing card, the pieces are shaken and then spilled onto the table. Ones that are facing down (red-side up) are eliminated. All face-up pieces are put back into the glass and the procedure is repeated until one value and one suit remain.

However, there is nothing random about this outcome—you are forcing the Seven of Diamonds. The “7” and “◆” pieces are double-sided; they have no red back and therefore cannot be eliminated. The custom-printed card hides this secret between its layers—only revealed once it is separated at the perforations. You might have seen this underlying method before using a double-headed coin or sugar packets. It was published by Francis Carlyle in the 1940s.

You first instruct the participant to tear the card lengthwise along the center perforation (fig. 2). Then ask her to stack the two pieces together and tear the card lengthwise again (fig. 3). Lastly, she stacks all four pieces and completes the final four tears—dropping the individual squares into a glass (fig. 4). This is not only is the most efficient way to separate the card into 20 pieces, but it also conceals the addition of the double-sided pieces.

Alternatively, after the initial lengthwise tear, you could involve two participants. Give each participant one half of the card. Instruct them to tear their cards in half again along the lengthwise perforations, so each of them is holding two pieces. They both stack their two pieces together and concurrently complete the final four tears. This splits the workload while still concealing the addition of the double-sided pieces.

Go forward with the aforementioned procedure. It is likely that you will eliminate three of the four suits before most of the values. In this case, set the chosen suit aside and continue the procedure with just the values. In more rare instances, all but one value will be eliminated before three of the suits. Similarly, set the chosen value aside and continue the procedure with the remaining suits. No matter how many turns it takes, the “7” and “◆” pieces will be the last two remaining.

At the end of the routine, casually drop the pieces back into the glass but secretly retain the “7” and “◆” pieces. It should appear as if you are discarding the pieces and moving onward. If an audience member feels encouraged to try the procedure again, it will now yield random results.