Conjuring Credits

The Origins of Wonder

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Banked Deck

In Edmé-Gilles Guyot's Nouvelles récréations mathématiques et physique, Vol. 3, 1769, p. 221, we find an early trick that employs a banked deck: A spectator discovers with the throw of a die in which of six piles of cards his selection lies. The method revolves on a deck made up of six cards repeated six times. William Kalush has found much earlier mentions of banked decks in several sources (his research as yet unpublished).

A three-bank force deck made of blank-faced cards with the names of cards written on them is described in R. P.'s “The Prophetic Billets” from Ein Spiel Karten, 1853, p. 34 of the Pieper translation. This deck also contains a group of mixed cards on the face, to suggest the deck has an assortment of card names. This type of forcing deck is sometimes attributed to Tarbell due to its inclusion in The Tarbell Course in Magic Vol. 1, 1941, p. 264. It is clearly much older.

Another trick using a banked deck is given by Professor Hoffmann: “To Force three Cards together” from More Magic, 1890, p. 13, employing a deck consisting of a repeated sequence of three cards. Edward Bagshawe uses a banked deck in “A 'Spirit Divination' Mystery” from Exclusive Problems in Magic, 1924, p. 43. Bagshawe's deck had four banks of thirteen cards, each bank containing the same cards in the same order.

In 1931 William Larsen (Sr.) published a card divination-location, “Shuffle It Yourself”, in a monograph titled I Won't Play Cards with Him. This trick used a forty-eight-card deck consisting of four sets of twelve cards. Larsen's ideas were published, without mention of him, by Audley Walsh as “The Magician's Dream” deck in The Jinx, No. 43, Apr. 1938, p. 298. Walsh used a different selection of twelve cards, but aside from this and a few small additional ideas, the trick and method are identical to Larsen's. Al Koran modified the deck to a repeated sequence of just six cards and began selling it privately c. 1954. He later marketed it as “Koran's Miracle Deck” in 1962. Both Walsh and Koran are widely credited with the invention of the deck and its application, while William Larsen, the inventor of the core idea, has been almost wholly forgotten.