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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » The September 2014 entrée: Jason England » » Expert at the Card Table » » TOPIC IS LOCKED (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

Bill Mullins
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If Dai Vernon hadn't been such an evangelist for _Expert_, do you think we'd still find it to be such an important book?
JasonEngland
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Bill,

It's a great question and I'm not sure how to answer it. Is the book "important" in some sort of absolute sense that would remain even if Vernon hadn't championed it, or is it important because he championed it? I'm not sure and could probably make arguments for both sides.

Jason

PS: I think that once you decide how you define a book's "importance" you'll have your answer. This holds for Expert and dozens of other books that changed the landscape in a given field because some giant in that field found inspiration in one of them.
Eternal damnation awaits anyone who questions God's unconditional love. --Bill Hicks
Tom G
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Speaking of Expert, do you feel there is a likely candidate for the person who wrote as Erdnase?
JasonEngland
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Tom,

Absolutely. I think we're looking for someone named E.S. Andrews who lived or traveled in Chicago in late 1901/early 1902.* I think we shouldn't take M.D. Smith's description of Erdnase as gospel, but that it is without question the best starting place. (Smith's memory might've been fallible after 45 years - he was interviewed in the mid-40s - but he had no reason to lie that I can see).

I think Marty Demarest's wonderful continuation of David Alexander's research into W.E. Sanders is "fascinating research into the wrong man" as I've said many times. I respect their work and insight, but I would bet any amount of money that W.E. Sanders is not the author of The Expert at the Card Table.

Assuming we some day nail him down, I don't believe the author will turn out to be a "cheater" in the true sense of the word. Nor do I think he'll be a "magician." I think he tells us very plainly who he was in the introduction of the book: he was a young man that liked to gamble casually, but didn't make a profession of it, who got cheated. This stuck in his craw a bit (he uses the phrase "heartrending jolts to our insufferable conceit") and he began to educate himself by reading books on cheating and card handling. Unfortunately The Expert doesn't read like anything a hardcore cheater would have ever written. No cheat worth his salt would ever look down his nose at marked cards - they've won more money than everything else combined!

I think at the end of the day Erdnase loved the movements. He wasn't fascinated with cheating - he was fascinated with the engineering, the actual physical movements, and the artistry of manipulating a deck of playing cards. In other words, if you didn't do it with your hands, he just wasn't interested. That means anything mechanical (like a holdout) was out, marked cards were out, prepared cards (for magic) was out, etc. Even cold decking (which won tons of money) was looked down upon by Erdnase because he didn't see the artistry in having the card room manager walk over and hand the dealer the cooler. Where's the "art" in that?

The fact that Erdnase was more interested in the physicality of the moves than the end result is extremely damaging evidence against the notion that Erdnase was a dyed-in-the-wool cheater. He may have fooled around in soft games, but that's about it.

He tells us this (in so many words) with the sub-title of the book: A Treatise on the Science and Art of Manipulating Cards. It doesn't say, "A Treatise on Advantage Play and Magic" because in my opinion Erdnase wasn't really all that interested in those things. He was only interested in the actual manipulative movements themselves. In that regard, he's not entirely like Ernest Earick. Ernest wasn't interested in card tricks per se, but was fascinated by card sleights. You could almost say that Ernest wasn't a magician at all (in the performing sense) any more than the guy that nails together illusions before selling them isn't a magician. Ernest built sleights, not tricks.

I think Erdnase was the same, perhaps to a lessor degree. He clearly improved the 13 tricks in the Legerdemain section (although he didn't invent any of them), so he was obviously interested in magic, but I'd be willing to bet that he wouldn't describe himself as a magician at all.

So we're looking for an E.S. Andrews in Chicago in 1901 that wasn't a cheater and wasn't a magician but who wrote one of the most interesting and influential cheating and magic books ever. It sounds crazy, but where Erdnase is concerned, that's par for the course.

Jason

*Richard Hatch's research has uncovered just such a candidate. I think that's our best chance at present of having the right guy, although it's quite possible the actual author isn't on any of the researchers' "radars" yet.
Eternal damnation awaits anyone who questions God's unconditional love. --Bill Hicks
Tom G
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Great post Jason, thanks a lot.
Ray Haining
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Jason, that was good. Thanks.
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