Exactly What Is a Packet Trick?
It becomes clear reading posts on web forums, articles in magazines and even from the comments of some of the kind hearted card experts who contributed material to this volume that there are different views on what a packet trick is. It appears for many a snap description would be of an effect using between three and six cards, some of which are gaffed. Any number of marketed effects would fit that description. Often it is the gaffed/specially printed card or duplicate cards that made the effect a marketable option in the first place, but you and I know that is not the full picture.
Sometimes of course, no gaffed cards are required and the cards may be taken from the deck. Some might describe a packet effect as something with four or five cards and a series of false counts like Elmsley, Hamman, Jordan, Ascanio etc. to bring about multiple magical occurrences. Except that there are some packet effects with no false counts or sleights at all.
How many cards does it take before the effect is no longer a packet trick? Arthur Emerson asked me that after I asked him to write the foreword, and he pointed out Larry West’s “Wild Wild West” and “West’s Four Card Trick” were both supplied with around ten cards. Bruce Cervon’s classic “Dirty Deal” also came with it’s fair share of cards (without checking, possibly nine). In SBD I did consider I was stretching the boundaries a little on what constitutes a packet effect with my chapter on ‘Assemblies’ but some of them clearly are (my own “Monster Mash’’ Aldo’s “Fly Cards”, R Shane’s “Slasher” etc.) and some are clearly not because of the deck interaction with the packet throughout the effect (Max Maven’s excellent “Jumping Bean Aces” from “Focus”). Looking back at possibly the first book devoted to packet effects, Jerry Mentzer’s “Packet Tricks”, the introduction refers to it as being a collection of “..very good tricks with small packets of cards.” However, the book does contain an ace assembly handling for a “MacDonald Aces” type routine.
In John Bannon’s book “Dear Mr. Fantasy” can be found a series of effects using the Dudeney folding procedure concluding with the effect “Perfect Strangers.” This he explains is a packet effect and it’s practicalities are limited, then goes on to add that as the first of these routines he developed it was included for historical purposes. This packet trick uses nineteen cards (though three are simply shown at the end of the trick). I actually preferred the routine to the others so I’m glad he included it. It’s a packet trick in this instance because the large packet cannot be taken from the deck (all the backs are different) so has to be carried separately. Other than that it’s as practical and baffling as the other routines, none of which would be used by restaurant workers because of the table space required - but a suitable venue might be at a private house party where table or floor space may be available (I’ve been known to kneel down and perform card stuff on the carpet).
Since we have suggested a packet trick may be an effect where cards are removed from the deck to be used then perhaps John’s “Origami Poker” using the same principle should also be considered a packet trick? It uses sixteen cards taken from the deck. So where do we draw the line? I think the real question is do we need to? My answer to that from a performer’s view is no. These are just card tricks. But they definitely use less than half a deck. That should cover them all. Or does it? Some need a full deck before the packet is even introduced. Now that we are all on the same page, let’s turn it.