by Ariel Frailich
The Double Undercut (described, uncredited, in “The Card Magic of LePaul” and in “Stars of Magic”) is a technique commonly used to transfer one or several cards from the top of the deck to the bottom. You hold a break beneath the cards to be transferred, cut about half the cards from bottom to top while retaining the break, then you cut at the break and complete the cut. Simple, elegant, and above suspicion.
Its counterpart, the Reverse Double Undercut (credited to Bob Haskell in Alton Sharpe’s “Expert Card Conjuring”), is designed to accomplish the opposite: transferring one or several cards from the bottom to the top. It uses the Double Undercut technique, but in order to have cards to cut, the move has to be ‘primed’ with a preliminary Swivel Cut. To wit: you hold a break above the cards to be transferred, Swivel Cut at least half the deck and place this portion on the bottom while maintaining the break, then do the Double Undercut, first cutting about half the cards below the break to the top, then cutting to the break and completing the cut.
Although the Reverse Double Undercut is a laudable effort, it destroys the elegance of the Double Undercut, in my view. If you observe the motions, you see cards being cut from top to bottom, immediately followed by cards being cut from bottom to top. In other words, the first undercut appears to undo what the Swivel Cut accomplished. This is illogical.
In 1995, I returned to magic after a decade-long absence and started to revisit some basic techniques. As I played with the Reverse Double Undercut, I wondered: what happens if I try to cut the deck and complete the cut while holding a break above the bottom card? The answer was painfully obvious: I bruise my left fingers. Or at least, they get in the way of placing the cut-off portion on the bottom. And I can’t open them, because then I’d lose the br–
Epiphany. Move the break to the other side of the deck — to the thumb side instead of the little finger side.
Simple and obvious. And elegant, too, because it makes the technique look virtually identical to the Double Undercut.
Start by holding the deck in left hand dealing grip and get a break above the bottom card. In the act of squaring the deck with both hands, pull all the cards above the break slightly upward with your right thumb, then lower them again, trapping a fold of flesh at the base of the thumb between the bottom card and the remainder of the deck.
Lift off about half the cards above the break with your right hand. Open the left fingers; the left-hand portion is held in place by downward pressure from the thumb and the tip of the first finger against the outer right corner. You shouldn’t have to do anything extra to maintain the break, but you may have to play with its size to get it right for your hand and grip.
Place the cut-off portion on the bottom and gently align it with the card below the break as you square the deck. Be careful not to create a second break between the original bottom card and the cards below it.
Continue by lifting the cards above the break, placing this portion on the bottom, and squaring the deck. The motions should be identical to the first cut.
And voila! The card originally on the bottom is now on top. The sequence looks almost exactly like a Double Undercut and only requires a little bit more care in execution. And just like the Double Undercut, you can use it to transfer multiple cards as easily as a single card. Enjoy!