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By Bob Farmer


“They wanted something for nothing, I gave them nothing for something.”

— Yellow Kid Weil, con man

This month both sides of the Kid’s quotation will play a part —

On the “nothing-for-something” side, we have K.E.N.T., an effect marketed by two benighted peasants, Kenton Knepper and John Mahood. For $15 you get to wade through 25 turgid pages of blather to find out how to identify a thought card. You aren’t always right, so Kenton suggests you buy another one of his tricks, “Kolossal Killer” to fix that problem (all of KK’s tricks always have a big “K” somewhere in the title).

Their ad crows that, “All we say here is TRUE” (their emphasis):

… you tell the spectator to make it tough on you and think of one of a few cards he himself removes from his own deck. You never see these. You instruct him how to focus upon his thought of card and you NAME HIS CARD … He dares you to tell him what his card is, and that is exactly what you are seen to do.” (emphasis in original)

Sounds impressive so far — actually it sounds just like “Tsunami Impromptu Version,” one of the ten effects in my 1987 gambling and mentalism manuscript, TSUNAMI (still available from the classier dealers for a mere $10).

Is imitation the sincerest form of flattery? Not in this case, because suddenly the K.E.N.T. ad veers sharply left away from the pristine Tsunami effect, and squeals, “Like real mindreading, you will at very rare times, miss.”

Aside from the bizarre implications of real mindreading missing (wouldn’t that make it fake mindreading?), the advertised effect seems to be shrinking quickly from its former miraculous dimensions and admitting that a complete failure is possible.

Can the miracle dwindle any further? Read on, because the truth is further reconstructed by this muddled qualification in the ad:

“In an effort of complete disclosure, the effect is you name the entire card. The reality is you name the name or number of the card, not the suit generally. But due to the psychology used, it appears you have named not only the name, but the suit as well.”

Got that? You don’t name, “the suit generally.” Actually, you don’t name the suit at all, so for $15 you get to name just the value of the card. Who cares what the method is, if that’s all there is to the effect. Keep your money: this is a lousy, grossly overpriced and misrepresented pile of camel dung.

However, there is a reason the K.E.N.T. miracle (at least the one initially claimed) sounded so much like something out of TSUNAMI to me: K.E.N.T. uses the “Tsunami Pentacle Force.”

Unfortunately, the perpetrators of K.E.N.T. in plundering the method without my permission, crippled the effect — which brings me to the something-for-nothing side of the Yellow Kid Weil quotation: I have decided to create a trick much better than K.E.N.T. and give it way almost for free right here.


EFFECT: Spectator shuffles his own deck of cards. You have your back turned (in fact, you can do this over the phone).

You tell him this is a game of mental poker and he will be using a “mental hole card.”

Spectator removes any five random cards and thinks of the highest card he sees. He then shuffles all of the cards together.

You ask him to concentrate on his card. Clues emerge and you name the card, both value and suit.

METHOD: There is an old gambling scam known by several names. Bill Simon called it, “The College Bet,” (MATHEMATICAL MAGIC, pp. 173-174); Darwin Ortiz used, “The Court Card Cut Prop” (GAMBLING SCAMS, pp. 235-237). The Mark shuffles his own deck and cuts it into three piles. The Hustler bets even money ($1 for $1) that a 5, 7 or 9 will be on top of one of the piles. Without going into the mathematics here, this is not an even-money bet: the Hustler will win 36 out of 52 times (i.e., about 70% of the time).

This works with any three values, as long as each value is different (e.g., 2, 3, 4 works as well as Ace, 10, 9). Note that the bet is that at least one of the three values (not suits, suit is never mentioned) will be on top of at least one of the piles. You are not betting that all three values will appear. This also works if the Mark shuffles the deck and simply deals three cards off the top — there is no magic in cutting the deck.

Using this basic idea, I developed the Pentacle Force. Rather than use three different values, I decided to use five, and since they could be any five, I decided to use the five royal flush values, Ace, King, Queen, Jack and Ten.

Using more values increases the probability of a hit. In any five random cards, there is a 92.25% probability that one of them will be an Ace, King, Queen, Jack or Ten.

Of course, there will also be a 92.25% probability that one of the cards will be a 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6 (or any other five different values).

Having had a spectator select five random cards as part of a game of “mental poker,” I needed a way to force him to ignore the irrelevant values and focus on the royal flush values. I decided the most plausible approach would be to ask him to mentally select one of the cards as his “mental hole card.” In doing so, I told him to think of the highest card (aces high) in his five-card packet. That makes poker sense.

So this is the Pentacle Force: if a spectator selects five random cards from a shuffled deck and he is told to think of the highest one, there is a 92.5% chance that he will think of an Ace, King, Queen, Jack or Ten.


This force is the basic method used in K.E.N.T., though it is mistakenly credited there as the “’high card distribution probability’ featured in Bob Farmer’s manuscript, ‘Tsunami.’” The proper credit would be, “The Pentacle Force invented by Bob Farmer used here ineptly without his permission.”

As you can see, since it is a virtual certainty that an Ace, King, Queen, Jack or Ten will be the thought card, a further fishing procedure will let you nail the card. K.E.N.T. uses a bungled progressive anagram to do this (and adds insult to injury by crediting Ray Grismer with “What’s My Sign?,” a trick I invented).

My method for the scenario allows you to name the value and the suit. Once you’ve used the Pentacle Force and you have the spectator thinking of a card, ask him if there is an “E” in the value and/or the suit. His response narrows the possibilities to one of four groups as follows:






value no, suit no

value no, suit yes

value yes, suit no

value yes, suit yes


King Club

King Heart

Ace Club

Ace Heart

Can be

King Diamond

King Spade

Ace Diamond

Ace Spade

in value


Jack Club

Jack Heart

Queen Club

Queen Heart

suit, or

Jack Diamond

Jack Spade

Queen Diamond

Queen Spade


Ten Club

Ten Heart

Ten Diamond

Ten Spade

Once you know which group his card is in, ask him whether it is red. Since each group has an equal number of red and black cards, and only two suits, his answer will cut the possibilities by half and tell you the suit.

Once you know the suit, the third question depends on which column his card is in. If in columns 1 or 2, ask him if there is a “G” in the value. That answer will tell you the value, King or Jack and you can name the card.

If it’s in columns 3 or 4, ask if it’s a spot card. This tells you whether it’s a ten or ace, on the one hand, or queen on the other.

If it’s a ten or ace, you have to ask one more question: ask whether there are a lot of spots — whatever the answer is, you can slide into the revelation of an ace or ten.

Here are two examples. The spectator says there is no “E” in the value but there is one in the suit. That means it has to be a card in column 2.

You ask if it’s red and he says it is, so it has to be a heart.

There is no “G” in the value, so it has to be the Jack of Hearts.

The spectator says there is an “E” in the value but none in the suit. That means it has to be a card in column 3.

You ask if it’s red and he says it isn’t, so it has to be a club.

You ask if it’s a spot card and he says it isn’t, so it has to be the Queen of Clubs.

Note 1: You can write the chart on the flap of a card case and use it as a secret cue list.


Note 2: There is an 7.75% chance that you will fail. However, though you will get the value wrong, you will be right about the suit. For example, if the thought card is actually the eight of hearts, your questions will lead you to believe it is the ten of hearts (which is wrong). You can stop right there, after saying, “Ten of Hearts,” and claim you got the suit right, or you can continue with a few more questions.

Remember, you know the suit, so the value can only be a 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 or 9. Ask if it’s an odd card; the answer will tell you whether the value is in the even group (2, 4, 6, 8) or the odd group (3, 5, 7, 9).

Ask whether it is higher than a 5, and that will reduce your possible thought cards down to two. Ask another question about value and you can always get down to one.

For example, the spectator says the card is odd. You know the suit at this point (assume hearts) and you know it has to be a 3, 5, 7 or 9.

Ask whether it is higher than a 5. The spectator says it is, so it’s got to be either a 7 or a 9.

Ask whether it is higher than an eight. The spectator says it is, so it has to be the nine of hearts.

Note 3: To ensure 100% success that at least one of the target cards will be in the five selected cards, have the spectator shuffle the deck, then take it back, scan it quickly and cut any Ace, King, Queen, Jack or Ten to the top. Table the deck and have the spectator cut into five piles. He takes the top card of each pile (and one of those cards will be your top card). The other cards he takes will either be higher, lower or of the same value as your top card, but that doesn’t matter, since any cards lower will not be thought of.

Caveat Scamtor: Ethical Hustlers warn the Mark the game is fixed. Money lost is an educational investment. Gambling may be illegal where you live. Information in this column may be wrong, so don’t bet the farm until you’ve verified it’s right. Flim-Flam TM & Copyright 2004 Every Trick In The Book Inc. All Rights Reserved.