The following will be dry and probably be of interest to no one but other magicians, and even then that's doubtful. But I'm writing it anyway... ;-)So, for the last few years, due in part to the legendary (at least in magic circles) David Berglas, many in the magic community have been obsessed with an individual effect called "Any Card At Any Number", shortened to ACAAN. The basic plot is as follows:
One spectator names a number, a free choice between 1 and 52. Another spectator names a playing card... another free choice. A deck of cards, which has been lying in full view the entire time, is handed to a third spectator who counts down to the selected number, dealing cards face up. When the selected number is reached, the playing card at that position matches the card named.
Here's a Youtube clip that looks pretty much like this pure effect being performed:
ACAAN- The Berglas Effect
While Berglas didn't originate the plot (early descriptions of this plot include "The Acme Card Trick" by Chas. Shepard in the March 1908 issue of The Sphinx, a couple methods exist in Erdnase, etc), his performances of ACAAN have become stuff of legend. In fact, many think it is just that, a legend. He rarely performs this effect. Few have actually seen him perform it first hand. Those who have, however, including magician Barrie Richardson as related in his book Theater Of The Mind, describe an effect that seems impossible. Barrie actually got to witness it twice. On one of these occasions, David and Barrie were driving somewhere when David suddenly asked Barrie to name a number, which he did. He says he had a free choice, with no use of equivoque. Then he was asked to name a card. Again, a free choice. David then told Barrie to open the glove compartment of the car and remove the deck of cards he found there. He did so, and then was told to count down to his number and turn over the card at that number. He did, and it matched the card he named.
Over the years, this pure version of ACAAN has also been called "The Berglas Effect", and duplicating this effect using a set of conditions has pretty much become the Holy Grail of magicdom. The required conditions are as follows:
1. No stooges (i.e. confederates/secret helpers of the magician)
2. Free choice of card and number
3. Only one deck
4. Spectator counts the cards, the magician never touches deck during the entire effect.
Berglas seems to have met these predictions, but he's never revealed his method. Well... not fully. In The Mind And Magic Of David Berglas, a book that was eagerly awaited by the magic community due to the fact that supposedly Berglas would reveal his method to ACAAN, he devotes and entire chapter to this effect. However, the secret can basically be summed up as follows: You have to be David Berglas to do the Holy Grail version of ACAAN. He claims to use psychology, audience management, luck, the right time and right circumstances and taking advantage of such things when they come up, and several different methods and means in order to achieve "The Berglas Effect". It's an interesting read, but there's no way someone reads this chapter and then is able to go out and perform ACAAN for his friends at a bar.
So the search for this Holy Grail continues.
Several marketed versions have been released over the years, but none fulfill the requirements set forth fully. Some use two decks, some turn out to be more of "Card At Any Number" (notice the missing "A"), some use multiple decks, some limit the choice of number, some require the performer to count the cards. Etc. However, and this is where it gets interesting (really!! ;-p), all this causes philosophical arguments within the magic community. Many think that this ACAAN effect is really just "magic for magicians", that the average layman doesn't really care, that, to them, the effect is no more amazing than any other card trick, and that some (especially The Invisible Deck), are even stronger from a layman point of view with basically the same plot. (For those who have never been forced to watch me perform the Invisible Deck, the plot is basically someone names any playing card, and that named card is found to be the only reversed card in a pack of face-up cards).
Let's focus on The Invisible Deck (ID) for a moment. An argument can be made that to the spectator this plot is the same as ACAAN. A freely thought-of card is proved to be known in advance by the performer. In fact, the plot is simpler and more direct than ACAAN, because no counting or choice of number is required. The fact that ID is easy to do, has no set-up and an instant reset is another plus in its favor. But magicians love to fool other magicians, and to say that the ID is universally known among magicians would be an understatement. We all want the Holy Grail, we all want to fool fellow magi, and we all sometimes forget that the point of magic, especially to a working performer, is entertaining laymen (or at least our family and friends if we're hobbiests). Thus the obsession with ACAAN.
There are also disagreements about the need to steadfastly stick to the conditions "required" for a pure ACAAN as if they were handed down to the magic community by Moses himself, i.e. if all the requirements are not strictly met, but to the layman the effect is the same, who cares? Often, no matter what conditions are met, the spectator walks away thinking he saw the magician perform the Holy Grail version. One forgets all the minutia of the routine the performer used to achieve the result. As an example, compare this version of ACAAN to the one above:
This version obviously isn't the Holy Grail, but really, does the spectator care? When he or she thinks of the effect later, and describes it to his friends, how will it really differ from the pure Holy Grail version that Berglas supposedly has performed? Again, it would seem that only magicians care about this. We're a bored lot it would appear.
I'm also interested in the statistics, and while I'm better at most at such things, the ACAAN problem it's hard for me to wrap my head around the supposed odds involved. Magicians, amazingly enough, also can't agree on this (again, we're bored). Many say that ACAAN isn't that amazing, anyway, because it only represents a 1 in 52 chance, which isn't that high. However, I don't know if i agree with his. To me, ID does represent a 1 in 52 chance: A card is named, it is the only card reversed in the deck. I tackle this problem this way: how many decks would the performer need on hand to assure a successful completion of ACAAN on the one hand, and ID on the other.
For ID, you'd need 52 decks. Each deck would have a different card reversed. One deck, for example, would have the two of hearts reversed. Another deck would have the Queen of Clubs reversed... and so on, using a separate deck for each card, totaling 52 decks. You'd either have to have 52 decks hidden about your person, pulling out the correct deck once the spectator names a card, or you'd have one deck and take your chances. The chance you'd be correct with only one deck is thus 1 in 52. Right? Right.
Now let's move on to ACAAN. Most magicians claim this is also a 1 in 52 chance, but to me this can't be correct, since these are the same odds as ID, and obviously ACAAN has two different criteria: the card, and the position. In my way of thinking this would require 52 decks just for a single card, say the Queen of Clubs. You'd need one deck where the Queen of Clubs was the first card, another deck where it was in the second position, and so on until you had a deck where the Queen of Clubs was at position 52. This would seem to require 52 decks for each card, or 52 X 52, or 2704 decks of cards (hidden about your person. Fun!).
However, others have sussed the odds as follows: Once the number is named, there is then a 1 in 52 chance that the named card is at that location. In other words, spectator A picks the number 17, then spectator B picks the Queen of Clubs. Once the number is named, there is a 1 in 52 chance that the Queen of Clubs is that card. Makes sense.... BUT that would mean the ID and ACAAN share the same odds, and that seems counter-intuitive. I've tried to think about this, and perhaps, since the order of the other cards make no difference, there are 52 possibilities out of a total of 2404 for a given card, or 52/2704 = 1/52. But again, this is the same as ID.
My head hurts. I need input from people on this. But if true, and if most spectators sense this on some level, then why not just perform ID and be done with it? Why? Because magicians are bored. ;-)
And no, I am not a geek... :-P