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Topic: Elmsley Count -- trouble making cards visible to spectators when seated
Message: Posted by: Bob G (Apr 9, 2020 01:30PM)
Hi People,

When I sit across the table from a spectator and perform the EC, I find that it's hard for him/her to see the backs or faces of the cards. They see the cards nearly edge-on. Does anyone have suggestions about how to fix this? One is to perform standing, of course, but I don't want to do that: I perform for one or two people, usually, and I like the friendly informality of sitting with them. Alex Elmsley suggested (and not just in the context of his count) that the magician put some cushions on her chair to raise her level. I find the cushions uncomfortable. And then, of course, there's a "vertical" version of the EC -- I forget what it's called -- in which you hold the cards up so that the spectators are looking right at their faces or backs. I may end up doing that, but it took me many months to learn the dealer's/pinch grip version, and I'm impatient to put what I know into practice. One trick I want to learn is a version of Faulty Followers, and I suspect it would be demanding too much to ask spectators to count cards from hand to hand in a vertical position. (But I guess I could work vertically while they work horizontally.)

As things stand, the best I can do is to bend my wrists back, which is uncomfortable, impedes my abiity to do the sleight, and still doesn't give a great view of the cards. People must run into this problem all the time; any ideas?

Thanks for your help!


Message: Posted by: Frank Yuen (Apr 9, 2020 03:41PM)
Just turn to the side, your hands would be at three or nine o'clock.
Message: Posted by: Bob G (Apr 9, 2020 04:58PM)
Thanks, Frank. I must be missing something: why would turning make the cards easier for specs to see?
Message: Posted by: stevie c (Apr 10, 2020 03:40PM)
It's a great question Bob. To be honest I've always found it to be not too much of a disadvantage if the specs see the cards slightly edge on. Allowing them to see the backs of the cards (I assume that's what you require) is achieved by a bit of flexion in the wrists? And presenting the cards slightly (but not fully) edge on, makes it far less likely that anyone will notice a discrepancy if you don't quite manage to square the received card perfectly.
Message: Posted by: Frank Yuen (Apr 10, 2020 08:52PM)
Sorry, I assumed it was self explanatory. You angle your hands as well. For instance if you count the cards from left hand to right you can turn to the left with your hands at the spectator's 3 o'clock view. Angle your hands a bit so your right hand is pulling off cards in a downward path. In miming the actions right now I actually tilt my body a little at the waist and draw the cards off with the right hand at about a 45 degree angle.

It's just easier to angle your hands so they can see the backs this way than in front of your body when you're sitting. Nothing else really changes. Much easier than bending your wrists at an uncomfortable angle.
Message: Posted by: Bob G (Apr 10, 2020 09:38PM)
Thanks so much, Stevie and Frank.

Frank, I just tried something inspired what you described (though not the same), and it worked really well. I didn't turn my body; and since I draw off cards from right to left, after each "take" I moved my LH to the left while turning my wrist so that the card was vertical and facing my computer (my audience :) ) The nice thing was that I could hold the cards flat in my RH, thus obscuring any discrepancies that occurred during the take (as Steve suggested). So I got to have my cake and eat it too.

Steve, I guess it depends on the trick. In Dr. Daley's last trick I use the EC to mix the cards, as suggested by a friend on the Café; in that situation I'm not displaying the cards so I think it makes sense to let the spectators see the cards more or less edge-on the whole time. In other tricks the whole point is for the spectator to believe that, say, all the cards are blue. There I'd want to do something like what I described so audience could see the backs clearly.

Anyway, through some kind of alchemy between the 3 of us, I think we've got a solution that works for me!
Message: Posted by: stevie c (Apr 11, 2020 09:34AM)
Hey Bob. Glad you found something that works for you :)


Message: Posted by: Francois Lagrange (Apr 12, 2020 02:58AM)
[quote]On Apr 10, 2020, Bob G wrote:
Thanks so much, Stevie and Frank.

Frank, I just tried something inspired what you described (though not the same), and it worked really well. I didn't turn my body; and since I draw off cards from right to left, after each "take" I moved my LH to the left while turning my wrist so that the card was vertical and facing my computer (my audience :) ) The nice thing was that I could hold the cards flat in my RH, thus obscuring any discrepancies that occurred during the take (as Steve suggested). So I got to have my cake and eat it too.

Anyway, through some kind of alchemy between the 3 of us, I think we've got a solution that works for me! [/quote]

I did a quick search on this forum, and I reckon you have reinvented the handling described in the second post of this thread: https://www.themagiccafe.com/forums/viewtopic.php?forum=201&topic=657845#1

If you can, stand up as it is the best option, or adapt the Spirit(u) count as suggested by Jonathan Townsend for a good alternative.
Message: Posted by: Bob G (Apr 12, 2020 10:56AM)
You're absolutely right, Francois, about the second post. The post's author, Claudio, is brilliant. I remember reading this thread a year or so ago when I was first learning the EC. I don't think I was ready to understand the advice then, but perhaps I got the idea because of my reading.

I found the conversation about the spirit or (spiritu?) count confusing. Are you familiar with the count that Jon mentions? I have Counthesaurus, but this "spiritu" count seems to be something different by Bob Farmer.

Thanks for searching.

Message: Posted by: Bob Farmer (Apr 12, 2020 11:15AM)
The Spiritu Count can be found in my manuscript, Bammo 666 on Lybrary.com.

You can do all the counts (Elmsley, Jordan, Hamman) from a Biddle grip which allows for more visibility when seated.

Elmsley: Hold the packet face down in left hand. Left little finger pulls down the bottom card. Right hand comes over and takes the packet in a Biddle grip, the right thumb taking the break. Pull off the first card into the left hand. Secretly add it under cards in right hand as left thumb reaches over and takes all the cards above the break, then count 3 and 4.
Message: Posted by: Bob G (Apr 12, 2020 11:32AM)
Ah, thanks so much, Bob!

Does Bammo 666 include the handlings from Biddle grip for other counts besides the Elmsley? If not, have you published them elsewhere?

Message: Posted by: Bob Farmer (Apr 13, 2020 09:01AM)
I will explain them here. For a Jordan, hold the cards in a right hand Biddle Grip. No breaks. Take the first card. Take the second card onto the first but hold a break under it. Left thumb reaches over and takes the two cards in the right hand as one onto the cards in the left hand (count 3) as the broken card is stolen beneath and counted as 4.

The key move in both of these counts is the left thumb reaching over and hooking itself on the right side of the cards to take those cards.

For the Hamman Count, which is a five count: Start with a right hand Biddle Grip.Count 1 and 2 but on 3, the left thumb reaches over and takes all the cards from the right hand as the right thumb and fingers grab all the cards in the left hand, then count those as 4 and 5.
Message: Posted by: Bob G (Apr 13, 2020 09:37AM)
Kind of you to take the time. Thank you, Bob. I'll have fun working on these alternative handlings.
Message: Posted by: Francois Lagrange (Apr 13, 2020 12:18PM)
Lawrence O, who unfortunately does not visit these shores anymore, described in minute details the Biddle grip handling in this post: [URL=https://www.themagiccafe.com/forums/viewtopic.php?forum=37&topic=351263#3]Elmsley count with Biddle Grip[/URL]. Lawrence uses his "Lawrence O's break", but you can forget about it and use a thumb break instead.

Personally, I dislike counts with a Biddle grip as they look too cosy and not as natural, but Lawrence has a different opinion and loves them. Many others do too.

Remember that often you can substitute a different count for an Elmsley.
Message: Posted by: Bob Farmer (Apr 13, 2020 12:49PM)
There is a way to make any count using a Biddle Grip much more deceptive and much more visible.

Assuming you are holding the face-down packet in a right-hand Biddle Grip, the normal procedure is to keep the hands close together, side by side as the cards are counted.

Don't do that.

Have your palm-up left hand forward of your right hand (your right hand about even with the left wrist and pulled in). In what follows, the left hand never moves.

The right hand moves up to the left hand and the left thumb pulls off a card as the right hand retreats inward then back for the next card to be taken.

The right hand shuttles back and forth, over to and away from the left hand.

This procedure puts all the attention on the left hand and makes it easier for the audience to see the cards.
Message: Posted by: Bob G (Apr 13, 2020 01:39PM)
I just tried this procedure, with just an honest transfer of four cards in RH biddle grip to deep LH dealer's grip -- no Elmsley count, etc. I'm not clear on why this makes the cards easier for the audience to see.
Message: Posted by: Bob Farmer (Apr 13, 2020 02:35PM)
It's because your right hand isn't in the way. In the normal procedure, your right hand is blocking some of the cards from people on your right side. The key point: it is the cards in your left hand that they should be focusing on, the cards that are taken. In the normal procedure, it is the cards in the right hand that are the focus and that's all wrong.
Message: Posted by: Bob G (Apr 14, 2020 10:04AM)
Ah, okay. I was thinking about spectator in front not on the sides. Now I understand.
Message: Posted by: Russ182 (May 3, 2020 02:34PM)
I am sure Guy Hollingworth discussed this and does a vertical count at chest height
Message: Posted by: Bob G (May 3, 2020 02:57PM)
Thanks, Russ. I have Liam Montier's Elmsley Count Project, and I'm pretty sure he talks about the handling your describe. Eventually I may go that route, but it took me long enough to learn the "horizontal" handling that I want to do as much as I can to make that feasible before I learn what is essentially a whole new sleight.

Welcome to the Café!

Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (May 6, 2020 06:04PM)
[quote]On May 3, 2020, Russ182 wrote:
I am sure Guy Hollingworth discussed this and does a vertical count at chest height [/quote]Where do you recall Guy discussing the how-to of vertical false counts? He discusses how to spread the cards for his alignment procedure and the sleight which happens during the "wave" yet I'm missing where he discusses the basic block transfer needed to do Elmsley (even) and Hamman (odd) counts.
Message: Posted by: bobmag56 (May 13, 2020 07:18AM)
This is probably not the answere your are looking for, but it works for me. If I am sitting, I simply extend my hands so they are closer to the viewers. Naturally, I must keep keep the hands fairly close to table top so they can be seen. However, the easiest for me is to stand in a crouch position.
Message: Posted by: Bob G (May 13, 2020 01:02PM)
Thanks, bobmag56. Crouch position wouldn't work for me due to back problems, but I'm glad it works for you! I think I have a pretty good solution, though, which is just to turn my wrist and forearm a bit after each take, so that the taking hand is horizontal with its palm facing spectators.
Message: Posted by: emanuele (Feb 11, 2021 08:22AM)
There are two solutions to the problem:
-Hollingworth's vertical counts. However you can work yourself a vertical handling of an Elmsley count.
-Tamariz's solution. Just sit higher. He generally uses pillows or a higher chair to make sure he's sitting higher than what's "normal". This way, his wrists are naturally in almost a 'praying' position, making the hands lay forward with palms more towards the audience (rather than towards the ceiling), which makes the cards very visible and nobody's looking at the edges.
Message: Posted by: martyjacobs (Feb 11, 2021 05:22PM)
Bob, Alex Elmsley himself had a very simple solution to this problem: sit on a cushion (as already mentioned by Emanuele). The use of a cushion is discussed in the Stephen Minch books on Mr Elmsley's wonderful magic. Doing this raises both of your arms up from the table and allows you to display the backs of the cards while performing the Ghost Count in a more relaxed position.

Something I've used in the past in informal situations is a leather or canvas satchel/messenger bag balanced on my lap. I keep a sturdy magic book in the body of the bag (you cannot have anything in there that will make the surface of the bag lumpy). The backside of the bag doesn't have a clasp or buckle, so works well as an impromptu close-up pad. Using a flat bag as your performing surface has five major advantages;

1. You do not need a table to perform, only a chair.
2. Your hands naturally fall in a good, relaxed position to perform counts.
3. The bag hides your crotch from your audience!
4. You can store props in a box in the bag.
5. You can use the bag to secretly retrieve or ditch items, similar to a servante.

I'm currently designing a custom satchel/messenger bag with an integrated close-up pad and multiple servants. I'm planning to make it myself because I'd like to learn leatherworking.
Message: Posted by: Bob G (Feb 11, 2021 07:34PM)
Thanks, emanuele and Marty! I remember trying the cushion idea when someone first suggested it on this thread. For some reason I decided it didn't work -- maybe I just found it uncomfortable. I think I found it hard to arrange enough pillows to sit significantly higher. Worth another try, though; maybe find a cushion that's nice and thick to begin with.

Marty, the idea of a flat bag on your lap is really interesting. I'm envisioning a small group of people sitting in chairs in a circle, with no chair between them; is that what you have in mind? I guess you can't lap things, right? I've heard of servantes; I suppose they serve the same purpose?

Message: Posted by: martyjacobs (Feb 12, 2021 03:13AM)
Yes, everyone is sitting in chairs, without anything between the chairs (or a low coffee table, if any). This is a popular setup for professional storytellers.

The bag I'm designing will have the close-up pad on the reverse of the flap. To use the bag, you will open it and attach the flap, so it doesn't move. This will cause the inside of the bag to be accessible, in a very similar configuration to a servante. So, the plan is the bag will allow you to lap, ditch and retrieve things from the bag secretly. I'm also designing the bag so that it can be used on the edge of a table (with the performer standing). In this case, the servante will hang from the inside of the bag behind the table.
Message: Posted by: Bob G (Feb 12, 2021 12:49PM)
Very imaginative. Have fun with the leather-working! You've got me thinking about whether I could make such a thing, though I'm not handy...
Message: Posted by: Bob G (Feb 15, 2021 01:04PM)

You inspired me! My close-up pad was delivered between two sheets of stiff material, which I kept to protect it when I'm not using it. So I tried putting the mat on one of the sheets, and the sheet on my lap. It worked really well when I sat on my rolling chair. When I sat on the couch, the cards slipped away toward me because my hips below above my knees, but I think I can just put a bar of foam under the near side of the pad to correct that.

Not elegant the way your invention is going to be, but simple!

Message: Posted by: Bob G (Feb 15, 2021 01:08PM)
On a related topic: some people have suggested that I stand up while performing (with the spectators seated at the table). I'm beginning to warm up to the idea; certainly it makes the cards easy to see. There's just one thing standing in my way: I have back problems that are exacerbated if I have to lean over to do something on the table -- a ribbon spread, for instance. I wonder if anyone has ideas about how to deal with this.

Years ago my physical therapist suggested that in such situations (cutting vegetables at a lower counter, etc.), I stand with my legs apart to lower my arms. That works pretty well, but might feel awkward while performing. I might also have to bend my knees, which, at my age, can hurt a bit.

Thanks for any thoughts,

Message: Posted by: Nikodemus (Nov 23, 2021 06:03PM)
I assume you are sitting at a dining table? I just went into my kitchen to sit at a "proper" table and try an EC - it felt really cramped, as you described. What about doing your magic at a coffee table? That's what I do, in my living room. More relaxed atmosphere too.
Message: Posted by: Bob G (Nov 25, 2021 08:50AM)
Intriguing idea, Nick -- and I like the "relaxed atmosphere" aspect. I'm interested to hear more about the "geography." Our coffee table is in front of our couch; it would be a bit awkward if the spectator(s) and I were sitting on the couch and I was laying cards on the table. But obviously other arrangements are possible.
Message: Posted by: Nikodemus (Nov 25, 2021 03:48PM)
I was just thinking about the height, but I guess you are thinking about "angles".
I've got two sofas arranged in an L shape, with a coffee table in front of them. I wouldn't want to sit myself in the corner of the L because then I would be surrounded. But luckily my favourite spot is at the other end of one of the sofas. If I just swivel slightly sideways in my seat, the person next to me is no longer looking over my shoulder, so that works. I've never really thought about it that much. I suppose most of the tricks I know are not very angle-sensitive anyway.
Message: Posted by: Bob G (Nov 26, 2021 09:39AM)
Yes, after you made your suggestion about height, it got me thinking about sight-lines -- just so that everyone could see the trick. I can see how an L-shaped configuration would work really well. I think I can arrange something, like having people sit on the couch and chairs, and I sit on a chair, all of us gathered around the coffee table.
Message: Posted by: martonikus (Dec 12, 2021 07:39PM)
Hi! You can do an Elmsley or Jordan count at chest height with the cards (or backs) face on to the spectators in a vertical orientation. Take each card in front (spectator side) of the last. To do the counts, modify your grip by extending the right thumb (assuming you are counting into the left hand). Instead of pushing off a packet with the thumb, push it off the front side using the fingers. By extending your thumb, this allows you to retain a grip on the remaining cards. You will leave the repeating cards under the thumb, instead of under the fingertips. Practice this in front of a mirror. It's not especially difficult. Good luck!
Message: Posted by: Bob G (Dec 12, 2021 07:44PM)
Thanks, Martonikus; nice to hear from you! The time has come to give this a try! A few people suggested this idea in the past, but I was too embroiled learning the standard position to give time to the vertical position you describe. My regular EC count is good now, though. And there's a nice description of both in Liam Montier's Elmsley Count Project DVD.

Message: Posted by: gregg webb (Dec 18, 2021 11:41PM)
Martonikus is right. Can do it up vertically. Another solution is to be standing while the viewers are sitting, unless that has already been mentioned, and do it the usual way.
Message: Posted by: Bob G (Dec 19, 2021 11:25AM)
Another solution that a friend on the Café suggested: use a lower table. Nick's "coffee table" idea is an example, but a card table -- higher than a coffee table but lower than a dining table -- might well work. Haven't tried it yet.