Impossible Three (Joshua Jay)
Amazing impromptu effect performed with a borrowed and shuffled deck
I've benefited from Joshua Jay's magic for many years. His excellent books Magic: The Complete Course and Joshua Jay's Amazing Book of Cards have to be considered two of the best modern introductions to magic for young magicians starting out, not least because they each come with DVDs. But if you've watched any of his lectures, you'll know that Josh isn't just good at teaching magic, but he's also a very creative thinker.
Impossible Three is a powerful and simple impromptu card trick that was released as part of a package of six effects by Joshua Jay for Penguin Magic under the title "A Different Side of Me". The six effects are: Cornered, Elevation, Big Deal, Credit Cash, Impossible Three, and Royal Assembly; the collection is described by the publisher as "Six fresh and original tricks from the mind of Joshua Jay! Highly commercial and fun to perform. Features Joshua Jay's workhorse card routine + Cornered, an ingenious new concept in money magic!". See a performance of all these routines here. But they're also available for purchase separately, and in this review I'll be covering Impossible Three.
The official ad copy for Impossible Three describes it like this: "A spectator cuts a borrowed, shuffled deck into three piles. She looks at the face card of one pile. Your back is turned throughout the process. In merely assembling the deck, you'll ascertain the identity of the chosen card. This impossible card trick will fool even the most knowledgeable magicians." And that's actually what happens - a borrowed shuffled deck, cut by the spectator into three piles. They memorize one of the cards they cut to, and you reassemble the deck and reveal which is their card. It's best performed as a demonstration of mentalism, although other presentations are also possible.
See Joshua Jay perform the effect in a short two minute demo here:
What you get for $10 is an instant download, which demonstrates and teaches the routine, with Joshua Jay himself providing the explanation. I got the video from Vanishing Magic (a site that Joshua Jay runs together with UK magician Andi Gladwin), where it is available here: https://www.vanishingincmagic.com/magic ... ible-three.
The site works smoothly - once purchased, the video is added to your online account under your list of digital downloads. From there, you can play the video via streaming, or download it in *.mp4 format to view on your computer with any video program. The entire video is just over 12 minutes long, of which the first two minutes have a performance, and the remaining 10 minutes are the explanation. The downloaded file is only about 30MB in total size, and the entire process of getting the file and watching it proved hassle-free for me.
The video recording features Josh sitting on a couch and running through the effect, so it's an intimate style close-up magic setting, and there are a few close-ups of the cards here and there. Even though it's not a high res video, it's all clear and straight forward.
In the explanation, Joshua credits Bob Hummer's "Mathematical Monte", which was originally published in Hummer's booklet Mathematical Three-Card Monte (1951), as the background for this trick. An explanation of Hummer's effect can also be found in Martin Gardner's Mathematics Magic And Mystery, and there's also a chapter on it in Joseph K. Schmidt's book Bob Hummer's Collected Secrets (1980).
The original effect from Hummer is already quite strong and has been known to baffle magicians. But Joshua's version takes the original premise and brings it to a deck of 52 shuffled cards, making the overall impact much stronger still. So he's applied some creative thinking to a proven concept, and developed it into a routine that makes it even more baffling. Some magicians consider Joshua Jay's version of Hummer's effect to be one of the best applications of the principle, and I have to agree.
Joshua Jay is a good teacher, and in the 10 minutes of teaching he does a good job of explaining everything you need to know in order to learn and perform this effect. He explains the method and handling carefully and completely, and his instructions are easy to follow. He also gives some ideas for patter. He wraps things up towards the end by going through the explanation again. Finally, he closes with some comments about the psychology, with some ideas to increase your odds so that you can pull this off in an even more miraculous and impossible manner without some of the "work" needed to divine the selected card.
This is not a difficult trick to perform, and is well within the ability of intermediate magicians - and even relative beginners if you're willing to put in some time to practice the basic move required. There's only minimal sleight of hand required, and Joshua Jay also goes through the moves needed for a subtle glimpse that is required at one point. He also teaches some good subtleties that strengthen the overall effect. This is definitely a trick that you can learn and be ready to perform in 15 minutes or so, although you will want to master one particular move (which is quite easy) so that you can do it smoothly and unnoticed. On a difficulty scale, Impossible Three would have to be considered as relatively "Easy".
Is this trick really as good as it looks in the demonstration video? Absolutely. There are no hidden moves or edits, and what you see in the video is genuinely how the trick works; no workings are left out of the demo performance. Impossible Three is something you can perform completely impromptu, with a borrowed deck that is completely and thoroughly shuffled by your spectator. So what you see is what you get - and it's really quite straight forward to learn.
I would have liked to have seen a more polished revelation in the end, but most magicians will have their own methods for presenting the final part of the routine. The real value here of course is the method that allows you to divine the selected card in the first place. But if you do play up the mentalist aspect at the end, you can make this trick have even more impact.
The Vanishing Magic page for this effect states: "A well-known magician has been knocking people over with Joshua Jay's Impossible Three, a miracle that can be performed with a borrowed, shuffled deck, and no sleight-of-hand. The trick is creating a lot of buzz, so it felt like a great time to release this trick to Vanishing Inc members. In fact, the performer barely touches the cards yet he divines a card a spectator cuts to." I'm not sure who this "well-known magician" is, and would love to hear more about this and who it is - but I'm not surprised to hear that there are pro magicians who are having good success with this effect!
I'm not the only one who is impressed with this trick. I looked up some other comments about this effect, and here's what other people have to say about it - these are mostly quotes from scattered places online:
"Joshua Jay is a real up and coming star in magic. Of all his downloads, this is probably my favorite. Very easy to do, with pretty much no sleight of hand needed. Gets great reactions." - G Money
"Watching the demo, I though it would be impossible with just what I saw and nothing cut out. The name fits." - zeebo
"This is easily among my favorite of the Joshua Jay downloads. You can perform this with a borrowed, shuffled deck, it requires no sleights, and unlike other effects that meet these criteria, the method isn't the least bit transparent. "
"If you like impromptu card magic then you'll love Impossible Three." - Shanku
"Joshua Jay really out did himself on this one. Under seemingly impossible conditions he pulls ahead! Kept me guessing over and over I just couldnt figure out how the heck he did it. And the solution is so easy to learn! Great for any skill level." - Mitch
"While mostly a magician fooler, this effect still hits laymen hard. Takes some practice but you'll get it down in a day if you practice productively."
"I never would have guessed how it was done...not hard to master." - Ulysses Ortiz
"Pretty good. Is this a magician fooler? I think it definately has potential to be so." - lunatik
"Very easy to perform and yet very hard for the spectators to figure out. GREAT!!!!!!!" - Eric G
"The handling of the trick is pretty simple and won't take a lot of practice. The best part about this trick though is that the spectator does everything." - christurchinski
"A good impromptu magic trick is worth it's weight in gold, and this is no exception." - G Money
"I watched demo video a few times and could not figure it out,so I bought it. They way it is done is truly brilliant!" - Robert Cook
Magicians are always on the lookout for an effect that looks impossible to do, and yet has a method that is quite simple, and this trick fits those criteria nicely. If you like the look of the performance video, I highly recommend Impossible Three as a great impromptu trick that is easy to learn and can be very powerful.
Want to learn more? See Impossible Three at Vanishing Inc Magic:
https://www.vanishingincmagic.com/magic ... ible-three.