Developing Daley: Introduction

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 “No serious-minded man should have time for the mediocre in any phase of his living.”

James Cash Penney

LIKE many magicians, “The Last Trick of Dr. Jacob Daley” is one of my favourite effects. It is easy to follow, only takes a few seconds to perform, and, like The Incredible Hulk, packs one hell of a punch! Yet, the trick suffers from several inherent weaknesses. If you want your performance to be more than mediocre, these deficiencies must be addressed.

Dr Daley believed that every magic trick had at least one weak spot; he would try everything to eliminate it. I hope my attempts to do the same with his most famous trick would have met with his approval.

Wait a minute! Maybe you're unfamiliar with the original trick? Here's the description from chapter twenty-one of The Dai Vernon Book of Magic (Ganson, 1994, p. 211):

"The four Aces are held face up in the left hand; the red Aces on top of the squared packet and the black Aces underneath. Each card is shown separately, then a black Ace is placed on top of the packet and the other black Ace underneath — the cards are spread and the red Aces are seen to be sandwiched in the centre. After turning the cards face down, the two outer (black) Aces are placed on the table, leaving the performer holding the two red Aces. A spectator is asked to indicate the position of the Ace of Spades which a moment previously he saw dealt on to the table. When he points to the card the performer turns it face up — it is a red Ace. The other card on the table is also a red Ace! Both black Aces are in the performer's hand; an extraordinary transposition has taken place."

By writing this book, I'm not suggesting anything is wrong with Daley's method for the trick. Although rarely performed nowadays, his original handling is superb; most magicians don't learn the trick from The Dai Vernon Book of Magic, so they tend to perform alternative, often inferior handlings. That's a real shame and something, I hope, this book will remedy. (Daley’s original handling is included in Chapter Three to encourage you to perform it.)

The weaknesses I mention in the following pages are part of the trick's DNA; they would be present no matter what. However, I'm also aware that improvements don't always make a trick better. As Swiss card expert Roberto Giobbi once said, "the person who claims to have improved upon Vernon or Daley is either a fool or a liar." (Giobbi, 2005, p. 16). Well, maybe I'm both, but I don't necessarily consider the tricks in this book superior to what has come before. However, in my opinion, the presentations accompanying each effect make the classic two-by-two transposition more interesting, entertaining and engaging. The new methods discussed in this book also provide certain advantages over the existing ones, such as automatic Double Lifts and displays that make the initial state of the trick clearer to your audience.

I've arranged this book into several thematic chapters to make the reading experience more enjoyable. I recommend reading them in sequential order to maximise the learning process, but you don't have to if you'd rather not.

In Chapter One, you'll learn about the history of the trick and how it got its unusual name. A brief biography of Jacob Daley has also been included so that you can learn more about the man behind the myth. Chapter Two identifies and analyses the four main weaknesses of the effect. It also offers some general advice on how to remedy them. 

Several popular handlings appear in Chapter Three; these methods are referenced throughout the text to avoid repetition. Chapter Four explores some alternative presentations for the plot that can be applied to these existing handlings. Chapter Five details four pure variations of Daley's trick: extended handlings that use the four Aces only.

Chapter Six explores the use of extra props, such as poker chips, envelopes, wine glasses and wallets. And I've included three routines in Chapter Seven that extend the “Chase the Ace” presentation of Daley's original trick.

Chapter Eight contains several variations that feature Jokers and Jacks rather than the four Aces. In this chapter, we will also discuss the benefits of employing extra cards and look at a couple of tricks that use this idea to provide an additional kicker ending (there are more tricks like this later on in the book). Similarly, Chapter Nine covers four more transpositions using Kings and Queens in lieu of the Aces. 

The tricks in Chapter Ten all focus on the symbolic meaning of Hearts and Diamonds, providing a romantic backdrop for the tricks. This makes them perfect for couples, young and old alike. There is even a variation specifically designed to be performed for the bride and groom at a wedding reception (see “The Happy Couple”).

Chapter Eleven features six routines with a gambling theme; you will learn several pseudo hand mucking demonstrations that will make you look like a seasoned grifter. In Chapter Twelve, you will learn three tricks that blend the printing plot with Daley's Last Trick.

Finally, the three variations in Chapter Thirteen all incorporate a selected card (or two) into the trick. In total, this book contains well over forty variations of the good doctor's most famous trick. This level of variety should mean you will be able to find at least one version that you like enough to perform, I hope! I've also included a comprehensive list of published variations in the Appendix. This list should help you explore this classic card plot in the broader magical literature.


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