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By Aaron Fisher

Edited by
Steven Goldstein

Photos by Wayne Houchin

Layout by Rose Rings

Copyright 2010 Aaron Fisher Magic

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in
any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording,
or any information storage and retrieval system now known or to be invented,
without written permission from the copyright owner.

After causing a selection to instantaneously rise to the top of the

pack, the magician repeats the effect, this time in slow motion,
allowing the spectators to watch as the card visibly moves upward
through the deck.

Table of Contents

Preface ................................................................................ 1
Introduction ....................................................................... 2
The Effect ........................................................................... 4.
The Setup .......................................................................... 4

The Gradual Shift ...................................................... 7

Origins and Credits ........................................................... 21

Thoughts and Commentary ............................................... 22

On the Gradual Shift ............................................... 22.

On Keeping the Gradual Shift in Alignment ............. 23

On the Moment ....................................................... 23

Timing the Classical Pass ........................................ 24

The Gradual Shift approach...................................... 25

Toward an Even More Deceptive Sift........................ 26

On the Right-hand Riffle Action .............................. 27

Alternate Approaches .............................................. 28

Afterword........................................................................... 30

To navigate to any page, simply click on the title above.


At the center of card magic -- swirling throughout its history and

animating the great, philosophical discussions from generation
to generation -- is the pass. This wonderful secret move has
always provided the nexus for understanding sleight of hand
and represented the shifting importance of techniques. (No pun
intended.) It has been essential, it has been discredited, and it
has been rediscovered and reassessed again and again. In the
hands of a number of brilliant contemporary card workers, the
pass has reached a new level of ingenious applications for magic.
Ironically, the pass is one of those moves, one of those very few
moves, which seems to match a laymans understanding of magic:
two hands come together at an important moment in the trick,
do something very quickly, and the trick is accomplished. One of
the great secrets of magic, of course, is the fallacy of this formula;
moves are shrouded in misdirection, not speed; in off-moments,
not dexterity. But the pass survives in all forms, as needed.
Sometimes it is on display, under fire, and sometimes buried
deeply within the subtleties of a routine.
Aaron Fishers previous writings on card magic, like The Paper
Engine, have established him as a unique thinker on these
subjects, and his performances and innovations have always been
wonderful examples of card mastery. Here the pass is called upon
again, with a different technique and startlingly different results.
Its been a pleasure watching Aaron perform The Graduate, and I
was intrigued to read the technique used to accomplish it. I hope
that readers will commit themselves to this wonderful effect, and
in turn be inspired by the marvels of the pass within Aarons
fascinating routine.

Jim Steinmeyer


The Ambitious Graduate, as it was called, first appeared in
2002 in Genii magazine. The method worked well in intimate
circumstances, but only in intimate circumstances, as the shift
required you to dip your right fingers, which would have been
visible from other angles and more distant spectator positions.
Ultimately, this proved to be a sticking point, and I eventually
grew dissatisfied with the method entirely and stopped using it.
Then, a few years ago, I was made aware of a similar effect being
marketed by Owen Packard at Big Blind Media an effect that
seemed overly close to The Ambitious Graduate. Owen and I
discussed the matter and, much to his and the companys credit,
Big Blind Media canceled its project.
But from my perspective, there was a strange synchronicity at
work. Only six months earlier, Id cracked the puzzle, and rebuilt
The Ambitious Graduate. The details of the new method were
entirely different the effect had become stronger and much
more practical.At the time, only a few close friends knew about
the new model; I had no thoughts of releasing it. Frankly, I was
just happy to have the trick back and just the way I always
wanted it.
But ever since, Ive had the sneaking feeling that this trick
now, simply, The Graduate is no longer mine alone. The idea
at the heart of it has finally become interesting to others. And so
it seems appropriate to share the finished product as well. I hope
you enjoy it!
I am indebted to many teachers and friends for helping me bring
this idea to the greater magic fraternity, and they deserve more
credit than they know. Special thanks go to my dear friend
Peter Galinskas, not merely for his suggestion of the sideways
movement of the deck under the top card that is just the
smallest of the things Peter has taught me but for infusing
within me an appreciation for the importance of the pass, that
most versatile and useful of techniques, on which so much,
including much of my own work, is based.


I would also like to thank the following individuals, for their

valuable help and encouragement along the way: Lee Asher,
Eric Mead, Juan Tamariz, John Thompson, Max Maven, Alex
Slemmer, Brian Mcelvain, Jen and Magic Mike Segal and the
campers of Sorcerers Safari, Wayne Houchin, Jason Dean, Josh
Saks, Keith Brown, Ethan Nessen, Jeff and Mary Mielke, Alpen
Nacar, William Goodwin, Chris Grant, and Mark Nelson.
And finally to you, cherished readers and students, I thank you
for making the journey meaningful.


The Effect
After causing a selection to instantaneously rise to the top of the
pack, the magician repeats the effect in slow motion, this time
allowing the spectators to watch as the card visibly moves upward
through the deck.
Sounds simple enough, but its a lot of sleight of hand packed
into a short period of time. The Graduate is a fairly advanced
piece of card magic. Well assume the reader has some basic
familiarity with both the Ambitious Card plot and the multiple
turnover, a technique the Ambitious Card effect nearly always

The Setup
To begin, control a selection by any
method to the third position from the
top of the deck.
With the deck in dealing grip, use
your left thumb to push the top
card to the right. Take the card with
the right hand, thumb above and
first two fingers underneath. In a
continuing action, push over the
next card and with the right hand
take it under the first card, spread to
the left. Turn your right hand palm
down, displaying the faces of the two
cards, and then immediately turn
your left hand palm down and use
the first finger to point to the faces
of the two cards (Photo 1). Matching
words to your actions say, Your card
isnt here.

As the left first finger points, use the left thumb to push off the
top card of the deck the actual selection and get a fourthfinger flesh break below it as its pulled back flush with the deck
(Photo 2). Turn both hands palm up and replace the right-hand
cards back on the deck and square up.

Be sure to maintain the

left fourth-finger flesh
break as you use the
right fingers to riffle the
front edge of the of the
pack (Photo 3). This riffle
will serve as your magic
moment throughout the
routine: it conditions the
audience to expect every
subsequent time they see
it that the spectators
card has just risen
through the deck. In the
audiences mind, the riffle
is the causative agent: the magic that enables the card to rise.
In this first stage, the card has risen all the way to the top; later,
via the gradual shift, it will rise in stages: first, a third of the way
upward; then another third; and lastly it will rise through the
final third of the deck, to ultimately land on top. Well talk more
about this riffle and how you should approach it in the Thoughts
and Commentary section. For now, just remember that this
action is important dont skip it.


Execute a triple
turnover to show
that the selection
has apparently
risen to the top of
the deck. As you
turn the triple
face down, use the
ball at the base
of the left thumb
to catch a greek
break between the
triple and the rest
of the pack (Photo
4). This is not a
stopping position,
however: use your left thumb to apply slight downward pressure
to the top of the pack and cause a break to open between the
triple and the rest of the deck at the back right corner of the
deck. This break is immediately picked up by the left fourth
finger, allowing the greek break to close.
Maintain the fourth-finger break as you use the left thumb to
push the top card off the deck to the right take care to do this
without disturbing the card above the break. Dont be surprised
if even this simple action takes practice to master. After you push
over the top card, take it with your right hand at the upper right
corner, thumb above and first two fingers below.
Use your left thumb to riffle down the upper left corner of the
pack. After roughly half the cards have slipped past the left
thumb, insert the indifferent card into the center of the deck.
Remember, the audience believes this card is the selection. With
the right fingers, cleanly push the card flush into the deck.
Again, riffle the cards for the magic move. Now, execute a double
turnover and, just as you did before, secure a fourth-finger break
beneath the double card as it turns face up. For a second time,
the selection has risen to the top.
Now offer to demonstrate the effect once more but this time
youll allow the audience to watch the spectators card as it visibly
rises to the top.


The Gradual Shift

Turn the double card face down on the deck, allowing it to fall
square, and use the thumb to push over only the top card of the
deck. This is an indifferent card. Again, take the card with the
right hand as before, taking care not to flash its face during the
actions that follow.
Relax the left-hand grip
so that the pack bevels
just slightly to the right
(Photo 5). Grip the deck
lightly but securely at
the rear edges between
the fourth finger and
the base of the thumb.
Your second and third
fingers may contact the
pack, but apply little
or no pressure to the

Curl the left first finger

beneath the deck and
use it to support the
deck from below. Use
the left thumb to riffle
down the upper corner
of the pack until you
reach the bottom card
(Photo 6).
Place the faux selection
into the pack above the
bottom card of the deck.
During the insertion,
keep the left thumb low
in order to afford the
spectator a clear view
of whats happening
(Photo 7). Dropping the left thumb also serves another purpose:
it allows you to be sure that the outjogged card is in precisely
the correct position, with the lower left corner of the card all but
contacting the fork of the left thumb.

Note that the

outjogged card is
slightly angled to
the right this will
help you find the
correct position for
the gradual shift.
Its crucial to the
sleight that when
you bring your left
thumb back to its
normal position
along the left side
of the pack, the
lower left corner of
the card contacts the web at the fork of the thumb. After youve
practiced The Graduate and thoroughly understand its workings,
youll be able to angle the card less with less of the lower
left corner of the card protruding in order to find the proper
position. For the time being, however, the angle will make this
sequence easier to learn.
In what then appears to be a single, unhurried, and natural
action, you will seem to simply grasp the pack from above and
softly riffle the front end of the pack the magic moment that,
when the audience sees it, signals to them that the spectators
card has magically risen in the deck. You then turn the long
end of the deck toward the audience to show that this has in
fact happened: the spectators outjogged card has mysteriously
melted upward through approximately 15-20 cards in the lower
part of the deck.
This astonishing moment is the result of the gradual shift, the
integral sleight of the effect.
To execute the gradual shift, you must first learn exactly how to
grip the pack. This is the most difficult part of the entire shift.
Most of your practice time will be spent learning to get into, and
maintain, the correct position. Compared to this get-ready, the
shift itself will be relatively easy.
As the right hand comes from above to grasp the pack, return the
left thumb to the side of the pack (Photo 8). The lower left corner
of the outjogged card should be in contact with the web of flesh
at the fork of the left thumb (Photos 9a and 9b show ONLY the
correct position of the corner of the card; the rest of the outjogged
card and the the right hand are purposely out of position in order
to facilitate this view.)




Hold your right fingers

lightly but securely
together as they engage
the pack from the right
side. Raise your right first
finger enough to clear the
card (which is outjogged
for about half its length)
and use the side of the
right second finger at the
outer joint to contact the
right edge of the card at
a point just forward of
where the card enters the
pack, such that the joint
is not touching the front
edge of the pack. Referring
again to Photo 8, you will
simultaneously contact the
short ends of the pack with
the outer phalanges of your
right first finger and thumb.


The right second finger

applies diagonal pressure
toward the lower left corner
of the card. This corner,
embedded in the flesh at
the fork of the thumb, will
act as a pivot post. Before
continuing, make sure your
right second finger can
securely feel the pressure
along this axis, as in Photo


Apply steady pressure

against the pivot point with the right second finger as you begin
rotating the supposed selection counterclockwise. This pressure
should be just enough to hold the card steady, but not so much
that the card bows.
Simultaneously with this movement, slide the right first finger
and thumb leftward across the short ends of the pack. Its
important to keep the right fingers together during this motion,
as in a moment they will shield from the audience the pivoting
action that will disengage the back right corner of the card from
the front of the deck.


Before your right first finger

and thumb reach the left edge
of the pack, youll reach a
point where you cant pivot
the card any further without
changing your finger positions.
This is not a stopping point
(Photo 11).


Continue moving the right first

finger and thumb to the left
but now, extend the right
second finger as you move
so that the card continues to
pivot out of the deck (Photo 12;
Photo 13, exposed view).

When the right first finger and

thumb reach the left side of
the deck, use them to grasp all the cards above the jogged one.
By this point, you will have all but disengaged the outjogged
card from the pack. Thanks to the fortress-like screen provided
by your right fingers, it looks as though you have simply anglejogged the selection and grasped the deck from above. To help
ensure that you dont flash, the left thumbtip should now contact
the outer phalange of the right first finger and the right thumbtip
should firmly contact the base of the left thumb.



In a continuing
action, use your left
fourth fingertip to pull
down very slightly
on the bottom 17 or
so cards from the
deck. This number
is merely a guideline
representing about a
third of the pack do
your best, but dont
sweat it. In addition,
you wont need to hold this break. This means that your fourth
finger doesnt need to pull down very much on the cards. Pull just
enough to break the packet from the deck (Photo 14).
As soon as you feel the bottom packet begin to break away, stop
pulling! If the packet dips any more than necessary, you risk
flashing on your right. As you break the bottom packet from the
deck, use the pad of the left first fingertip to hold the front edge of
the broken packet securely against the left thumbpad, which still
contacts the packet at the back edge near the left side. Photo 15
shows the pressure applied by the left first fingertip to the packet.
Now comes the shift
itself. You will pass
the broken packet
around and below
the outjogged card. If
your finger positions
and pressure are
correct, the shift
itself should be
simple to accomplish
by comparison. Its
often helpful to keep
in mind that the illusion of the outjogged card moving upward
is accomplished by successively transferring blocks of cards



Use the right thumb

to apply pressure to
the back edge of the
lower packet. Now
use the left first finger
to rotate the bottom
packet clockwise,
using the back left
corner of the packet
as a pivot post. (Photo
16. Note: this photo
and the next, Photo
17, illustrate these
motions using a transparent, acrylic block the OMNI Deck
in place of the upper packet, allowing you to see through to the
correct finger positions.) You shouldnt have to rotate the lower
packet more than a half-inch before you hear the click of the
outjogged card as it snaps free of the lower packet and against
the bottom of the main pack. (Photo 17). With practice, youll be
able to do this silently right now, the click is a good sign. It lets
you know youre on the right track.


The OMNI Deck was developed by Danny Korem and Jerry Andrus, and manufactured by Palmer Tilden. It is
currently marketed by Shawn Farquhar.



As you feel the

lower packet clear
the outjogged card,
use your right first
fingertip to press
down lightly on the
back of the card.
The front edge of
the card will tip
forward. This will
cause the rear edge
of the card to butt up
against the bottom
card of the deck
proper, ensuring
that the outjogged
card remains above
the lower packet
will remain above
the lower packet
as you square the
deck (Photo 18). In the photo, this action is exaggerated; in
actual performance, the movement wouldnt be noticed, let alone


To finish the shift, several small moves happen at once. Use the
left first finger to reverse the course of the bottom packet and to
make sure that the packet goes below the outjogged card as you
square the deck (Photo 19).




At the same time, use the left side

of your right second finger, which
still contacts the right side of
the outjogged card, to pivot that
card clockwise again using
the lower left corner of the card
as a pivot point. This will reintroduce the back right corner of
the outjogged card into the front
end of the deck. When the second
finger contacts the front edge of
the deck, stop the pivoting action
(Photo 20).
The shift is complete all except
for the magic riffle that signals
to the spectators that the card has
risen in the pack. As your right
second finger comes back into
contact with the front edge of the
deck, use the left second, third, and fourth fingers to secure the
reconstituted deck. At the same time, lay your left thumb across
the back of the pack and use your right first finger to slowly and
softly riffle the front end of the pack above the outjogged card
(Photo 21).



An important note: when you riffle the cards, your natural
inclination will be to pull up on the cards with your right fingers;
the danger here, however, is that in lifting the upper portion of
the pack (Photo 22), you might expose the indifferent card to the
audience or worse, cause it to fall out of the pack entirely! (A
good sign that youre tilting too far upward is if your right palm
is visible to the audience.) To help you avoid this fatal flaw, use
your left hand, with the fork of the left thumb as a lever, to push
down on the deck in effect rotating your left hand, at the leftthumb fulcrum point, outward and forward toward the audience
allowing the cards to riffle off the right first finger.
Dont let the length of the preceding description deceive you. The
entire sequence, from the time your right hand grasps the deck
from above, to the completion of the riffle, takes about a second.
You will now show the spectators the result of the magic riffle
(the rise of the card), by raising the pack to your fingertips. Grasp
the deck from above between your right second finger and thumb.
The right second finger and the left thumb both contact the
outjogged card precisely where it enters the pack (Photo 23).
Use the right hand to raise the pack to your fingertips as your left
hand re-grips the pack in new finger positions (Photo 24, right
hand removed for clarity).
Notice how the first finger supports the pack from below (Photo
25). The second finger provides support on the right. Also, the
thumb grips the pack opposite the third finger. While the fourth
finger provides support, its role is secondary.







Hold the pack for a few moments with both hands as you wait for
the effect to register. During this display take care not to flash the
face of the outjogged card. The effect truly does beg repetition. In
fact, if you wait a few moments, your spectators will normally say
something like, Do it again!
Momentarily take control of the cards above the selection with
the right first finger and thumb as you lower the pack into your
left hand. With the right hand, place the back left corner of the
outjogged card as closely as you can to its earlier position
embedded in the flesh of the left thumb fork.
As you return the deck from the fingertips to dealing position, use
the left fourth fingertip to pull down slightly on the next third of
the deck. Just as before, the exact number of cards you pull isnt
important just retain some cards with your right thumb and
catch the break where the pack splits (Photo 26).
Take care to hold this break securely and invisibly as you ask the
audience to watch closely.
You will now execute the gradual shift a second time. Use the
side of the right second finger to pivot the outjogged card back
into position for the shift, again using the left rear corner of
the outjogged card as a pivot post. Just as before, as you pivot
the card, slide your right first finger and thumb leftward along
the short edges of the pack. Once more, this pivoting action is
shielded from your audiences view by the extended right fingers.
Also as before, stop moving your right hand when the first finger
contacts the left thumbpad, creating the airtight seal that is
your signal to execute the shift itself.
Thanks to the pivoting action (See Photo 12, page 11), the rear
right corner of the outjogged card is now free from the deck. As
before, use the side of the right second finger at the outer joint to
contact the right edge of the card, as close to its rear corner as
From the audiences perspective, youve simply displayed the
pack cleanly at your fingertips, and lowered the cards back into
your left hand.
Allow the break to open slightly at the front end of the deck and
grip the lower talon with the outer phalange of the left first finger.
Remember, open the break only enough to secure the packet
between the left first finger and the right thumbpad. The moment
the left first finger seizes control of the lower, larger portion of the
deck, execute the gradual shift. Follow up as before by riffling
the cards from the outjogged card upwards, and raising the pack


to your fingertips (Photo 27).

Remember to riffle the cards
slowly this time you have only
a third of the deck above the
outjogged card to work with.
Repeat the sequence of raising
the deck to your fingertips to
show that the card has risen
You will now execute the gradual 27
shift a final time to bring the
outjogged card to the second position from the top of the pack.
This will be the easiest shift to accomplish in the routine, as well
as the most visually stunning, so make sure you have everyones
Again catch a break as you lower the cards into your left hand.
However, this time you need to hold back only one card with the
right thumb. Just as before, its imperative that the break not
flash the (indifferent) card.
Perform the shift. This time, there will be only one card above
the outjogged card when you finish the sleight. And because
thats not enough to riffle, in this case you do something slightly
different: you pull up from about halfway up the pack just to the
right of the outjogged card, instead of from just above the card, as
with the other riffles. Since all of the riffles are casual, out-in-theopen actions, this discrepancy will not be remarked upon. And,
if youd like, you can make this last riffle with the second finger
(Photo 28) this small discrepancy will pass unnoticed.



Youre almost home.

Maintain the outjog
as you cleanly spread
through the pack and
show the card is truly
second from the top of
the deck (Photo 29).
Lie confidently to the
audience and say
something like, Push
the Nine of Spades
into the deck. Its
crucial that you call
the selection by name
it helps create a
vivid picture in the
spectators mind.
It will add to the
strength and clarity of
the coming revelation
and make the climax
all the more powerful.
29 When youre just
learning this effect,
you may have to remind yourself to memorize the name of the
selection in the first place!
After your spectator pushes the card flush with the deck, give the
cards a final, light riffle, keeping the palm down, in uniformity of
action with previous movements.
Finally, extend the pack and ask your stunned spectator to turn
over the top card of the pack to reveal the selection.



Origins and Credits

These are the credits that appeared in my FISM 2003 Notes when
I first published The Ambitious Graduate.
The slow-motion Ambitious Card plot was pioneered by Geoffrey
Latta, who developed a method for causing an outjogged card
to visibly rise through the pack bit by bit, using the riffle pass.
Through developed around 1980, Lattas handling did not apear
in print until 1990 in Spectacle by Stephen Minch.
Later, Bill Kalush, Chris Kenner, and Ray Kosby developed
interesting variations and additional mdthods. Kenner has used
two different methods for his handling: a genuine S.W.E. Shift
(S.W. Elevator, in Totally Out-of-Control, Kenner, 1992) and a faux
S.W.E. Shift thats actually a displacement where only a single
card is moved (Shifty, in The Pass, Ouellet, 1994).
Shigeo Futagawa also developed a handling of Kenners
diplacement idea, but done while holding the deck longitudinally
(unlike the sideways position of the deck in the S.W.E. Shift);
Kenner had also developed this handling but never published it.
Like Kenners handlings, Futagawas required the rather broad
gesture of raising the pack to the lips for cover to blow on the
pack, ostensibly as a magical gesture; in his hands, the entire
effect is particularly elegant and magical. Ray Kosbys ingenious
and fiendishly difficult Raise Rise accomplishes the effect with
one hand (and a well-trained, muscular little finger).
Also, as mentioned earlier, the sideways movement of the deck
underneath the top card comes from an unpublished idea of Peter



Thoughts and Commentary

On the Gradual Shift
Performers with shift experience may find it especially difficult to
eliminate left-finger movement from the gradual shift. Dropping
your left fingers unnecessarily during any pass can be a hard
habit to kick. Not only that, it tends to spread to your other work.
Consequently, if you drop your left fingers when you perform
the classic pass, youll be likely to drop your fingers during the
gradual shift.
The first step to eliminating this common problem is to recognize
it for what it is a bad habit. Then stand in front of a mirror and
practice. Watch yourself practice, and work at the problem until
you stop dropping your fingers.
Admittedly, this is the traditional approach to practice. And The
Graduate provides you the perfect opportunity to apply this tested
method. Since the gradual shift was designed to eliminate finger
movement, you can confidently know that any finger dipping
you see in the mirror simply shouldnt be there. But be warned:
it may be months before this practice seems to yield substantial
benefits. It takes time, focus, and stubborn devotion, but its the
only method I know that works. And, eventually, your persistence
will win out. Over time, your left fingers simply wont yank at the
cards the way they will when youre just beginning.
Learn to keep the shift tight as tight as the design allows
and youll have an illusion you can proudly present for years to



On Keeping the Gradual Shift

in Alignment
As you work on the gradual shift, it will take some time and
practice to find the exact point where you should stop pivoting
the outjogged card as you go into the shift. The lower left corner
of the outjogged card rests in the web of flesh at the fork of your
left thumb. That web acts as your pivot point and theres some
give in it. Not only that, its very easy for the right second finger
to overextend during the pivoting action that precedes the shift
(Photo 18). When this happens, the effect suffers.
Take a good look at Photo 18. The gradual shift is based on an
illusion: that the back edge of the outjogged card is securely
held by the cards above and below it. In the photo, this
illusion is broken. As you continue to pivot the outjogged card
counterclockwise, take care not to move it past the point where
its back edge becomes too closely aligned with the left edge of the
deck; you can compromise the illusion by going too far, and, if
you disengage the card, you risk spoiling it entirely.
Youll know youve found the sweet spot when the outjogged
card appears to be gripped in the front of the pack, but you can
still shift the lower packet around it without extending your left
fingers so far that you risk detection. Once you find that spot
stick to it, and learn not to overshoot it. In this way, learning the
gradual shift in many ways resembles learning the gravity halfpass.

On the Moment
The gradual shift is not a classic pass, but both moves make use
of similar timing and mechanics. First well look at the principles
at work in the older brother, the classic pass. Then well show
how they can be adapted for use in the gradual shift.



Timing the Classic Pass

As most students of the pass know, the shift should be executed
in line with Vernons instructions, at the exact moment the
hands come together. The reason for this is really quite simple.
If the performer makes the shift at the exact moment the hands
come together, with no delay, the move becomes undetectable.
Heres why.
Your spectators naturally follow the focalpoint of your
presentation as it moves from one phase to the next: the gaze of
your eyes, a gesture of your hand, the movement of your body. In
the context of these motions, when your right hand unassumingly
comes to the deck, the spectators eyes are necessarily a split
second behind and by then, its too late.
Thats because youve already executed the shift; the exact
moment your hands come together before your spectators eyes
get there is the safest moment you will ever find to perform
the pass. It simply doesnt get any better: at the precise instant
your right hand reaches the deck, youre half a beat ahead of
the audience. So that by the time their gaze arrives at the deck,
theres nothing left to see; no sign that anything happened that
anything could have happened.
Squander this decisive advantage and youll never get it back. It
earns you a single moment of deception no more. You can use
this time to accomplish any action you want as long at it takes
less than a moment. Any longer and your spectators will focus
on the deck just in time to see the second half (or more) of your
In order to ensure that you never squander this momentary
advantage, you must be prepared: all get-readies secured and
ready to rock. The moment your right hand arrives at the deck,
there must be nothing left to accomplish but the actual shifting
of the packets. If the deck isnt ready to go, you wont have the
time to make the shift in a single moment. Youll either arouse
suspicion or get caught. Either way, the experience youve worked
so hard to create will be ruined.



The Gradual Shift Approach

Assume you have just inserted the faux selection into the pack
just above the bottom card. You are about to take the pack from
above and execute the first gradual shift.
This is the most difficult shift in the trick because you must pivot
the selection into position and then go immediately into the shift
itself. Just as with the classic pass, youll need to act at the exact
moment your hands come together, but in this case, you wont
use that moment to perform the shift. Instead, youll use this
moment to execute the get-ready. The gradual shift itself follows
a full beat later, once all the eyes are on the deck.
The get-ready for the gradual shift is substantial, so dont dawdle.
It must be complete by the time the spectators gaze rests on
the pack. It should seem as though you angle-jog the selection
casually, without much thought, as you grasp the deck from
above with the right hand.
Executing this get-ready without arousing suspicion is the most
challenging moment of this trick. If you make it to this point, and
youre in the correct position, the shift itself is easy to do, and
completely invisible.



Toward an even more deceptive shift

As mentioned in the previous section, the first gradual shift is
harder than the others to cover because you must first push the
outjogged card into position and then launch straight into the
shift itself. With practice, however, and after you understand how
it works, youll be able to work on this advanced handling, which
makes the first phase of The Graduate even more deceptive and
Complete the get-ready for the gradual shift up to the point
depicted in Photo 11. Take note of the precise position of the
outjogged card as it contacts the flesh in the fork of the left
thumb. Youre about to remove the pack from the left hand
entirely and in order for this handling to work smoothly, youll
have to eventually return the pack to exactly the same position
in the left hand. This is why this handling is challenging to
learn: you must know this key position very well indeed to find it
without delay upon returning the pack to the left hand.
As you reach the position in Photo 11, take the deck with your
right hand long enough to point at the outjogged card with your
left first finger, saying words to the effect, Take a look any
further down and your card would be on the very bottom of the
deck. This patter and gesture allow you to take the deck away
from above; the motivation is your need to point at the position of
the selection near the bottom of the deck.
Now place the pack back into the left hand, which re-takes it as
precisely as possible, and use the left fourth finger to obtain a
flesh break about 17 cards up (do this without delay). You are retaking the pack so that you can riffle the front end with your right
So prepared, the shift is already all but accomplished. No getready at all remains you can truly accomplish the gradual shift
just as you would the classic pass, at the exact moment your
hands meet.



On the Right-hand Riffle Action

As you embark on the practice youll need to learn The Graduate,
take care not to lose sight of the simple things that tie this
illusion together.
Consider, for example, the right-hand riffle that ostensibly brings
the selection to the top of the deck. Because this riffle is merely
cover for the gradual shift, many readers may want to cut it from
the first and last phase. After all, in those phases the riffle is not
a physical necessity for the sleight. Why not drop them and speed
things up?
The problem is that cutting these seemingly unimportant touches
will create a dissonant perception in the middle phases. In the
first sequences, the riffle tells your audience how the effect works
and how to perceive the magical moments to come. Leaving them
out means you will essentially be displaying a replica without ever
establishing the original. You need both to create the illusion.
The final riffle also adds to the effect, but in a different way. After
the spectator pushes the supposed selection, second from the top,
flush with the deck, this final riffle looks just like the original. The
deck is completely square. This closes the circle and strengthens
the overall effect.



Alternate Approaches
As you practice The Graduate, you may become concerned about
flashing the face of the outjogged card during the effect. Its not
the selection, after all, and if anyone sees it, youve got a real
At first, I thought the outjogged card had to be the actual
selection. After all, its face-down during three sleights before it
finally appears on top of the pack. Surely, the audience wouldnt
believe the outjogged card was still their selection, would they?
When I performed the effect, I discovered something strange.
Throughout the routine, the identity of the selection remained
strangely unimportant to the spectators. Even as they marvel
at how the card rises through the pack the card never leaves
the audiences sight they never actually wonder which card is
doing the rising. Thats because the action of the card through
its series of ascensions is so startling that it overtakes any
consideration of its identity. When their selection appears on top
of the deck, its a surprise, but a logical one.
Ultimately, I chose to make use of this unexpected benefit so
that I could end the routine cleanly, with no double lift and the
selection in my right hand.
Some might reasonably choose, after practicing The Graduate,
to trade the clean ending for a worry free middle. In that case
you would simply begin the sequence by outjogging the actual
selection. Then continue normally. Now you neednt worry about
flashing the indifferent card. In fact, you can show it whenever
you want.
But there is a price to pay. After the spectator pushes the card
in herself, its second from the top. Youll have to do a double
turnover to show that the selection has arrived; you wont be able
to cleanly display the card on top of the pack.
Personally, I like to start dirty and end clean. But professional
conditions being what they are, its best to have a foolproof
method at the ready at all times. If things get ugly if the cards
get sticky, for example, because its hot, humid, or for whatever
reason youd rather finish with a double lift than try to explain
why the selection changed into another card as it fell out of the
deck and onto the floor.



No doubt some will also discover that a duplicate card can allow
you to show the card along the way and end the effect cleanly. Ive
even used the unmatched jokers that come with every pack with
success. These methods can work quite well, and, under some
circumstances, may even be the perfect approach. Just make
sure you can secretly remove any gaff you apply. Its hard to
explain away a selection that changes mid-trick. But duplicates?
Theyll never forgive you.



If youve come this far, congratulations. Far too many magic
students give up at the first sign of the serious practice an effect
like this requires. But that youre reading this paragraph signals
good news: if you have the desire to learn of the details in this
booklet, youve proven you have what it takes to apply them.
Put in the time, and youll have a truly special effect for your
repertoire. And also a bonus the thoughts on timing, the
moment, and the management of the gradual shift can, and
should, apply to much of your shift work. The pass, after all,
still proves central to artistic card handling. And as elusive as its
study can be, time has shown that the best way to understand a
shift that confounds you is to study another!
Aaron Fisher



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