David Verner—his name was botched by a Welsh reporter early on and the approximation stuck—was born in Ottawa in and used to joke that he wasted the first six years of his life before he came to magic. Once he did, he was obsessed. He would session with other magicians for endless hours, forgetting to eat or to go home. Vernon understood the importance of psychology in magic. Johnson relates an incidence where Vernon told a New Orleans casino dealer to take a deck of cards Vernon had shuffled and start dealing them out, stopping wherever he liked. The dealer laid out 50 cards and stopped, only two cards left in his hand, a grin spreading across his face.

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The year-old Vernon had come to Kansas with his wife, Jeanne, and their young son, Ted, for the new year, lured by invitations from his friend and fellow magician Faucett Ross and the promise of work cutting silhouette portraits of customers at the store. Ross had helped the Vernons get settled, and the two men did nothing for several days but practice and talk magic.

One of their sessions ran from 3 in the afternoon until 11 the next morning. Then, finally, Vernon knuckled down and went to work. Although he was best known for magic, the Innes job was no fluke.

Vernon had been practicing the delicate, fading art of silhouette cutting since his teens, and whenever money was a problem—which was often—he relied on his scissors to pay the bills. By he was a distinctive and sought-after stylist, and the store agreed to his condition that he start work late, at 11 in the morning, and knock off by Soon he was swamped with customers, and crowds waited for him to arrive in the morning.

But the silhouettes meant nothing to him. His consuming passion—his obsession—was magic, especially card magic built on the techniques of professional cardsharps. With the coming of the Depression, though, those lucrative shows vanished like one of his playing cards, and now Vernon was happy to have the Innes job.

Still, he was more than ready for some distraction when Ross hurried into the store on that dreary afternoon to say he had arranged for them to go that night to the nearby Sedgwick County Jail to see a Mexican gambler who was being held after a shooting demonstrate his card-cheating moves.

As a boy in Canada, he had absorbed an amazing book titled The Expert at the Card Table , a disarmingly literary illustrated manual of card-cheating methods by someone calling himself S. Not only did he master the techniques detailed in the book, including the difficult and dangerous second and bottom deals, but he actually memorized it and spread its gospel. Magicians could learn a lot about naturalness and misdirection, Vernon believed, from cardsharps.

If The Expert was his core curriculum, then his postdoctoral work consisted of tracking down mechanics. Magicians had always coveted the secrets of card cheats, but nobody had worked as hard as Vernon, who had spent 20 years diligently seeking out these guarded men. So Vernon knew what to watch for when he and Ross sat down over a deck with the jailed gambler, and he was not disappointed. The Mexican made a thoroughly professional showing, running through several slick moves and false deals.

But it was when the men began to talk shop that Vernon became riveted. While reporting on the local gambling scene, the Mexican told the magicians that he had seen a man in Kansas City who could actually deal cards flawlessly out of the center of the deck. Do you know his name? Vernon asked. No, no name. Vernon pressed him now: How was the deal? Did it look natural?

The soft-spoken Kennedy, 34, who was born just outside Pleasant Hill and had lived in the area his whole life, was considered something of a mystery man in town.

Though he picked up the occasional odd job—he drove a taxi for a while—many knew that he made his living mainly as a gambler. He ran a regular poker game on Randolph Street with a partner named Midnight Underwood. And because Pleasant Hill was a division point for the regional train lines, there were always plenty of salesmen and others staying the night, eager to get into a game at the Tucker Hotel on Cedar Street or above the pool hall on First.

If the poker action was thin, Kennedy could always join one of the floating craps games, which were plentiful in back alleys, in rail-depot sheds, even at farm sales. In those days, gambling was as much a part of Cass County as the fertile, rolling land that gave Pleasant Hill its name.

Kennedy also regularly made the short trip up to Kansas City, climbing into his Ford Model A coupe and driving the 25 miles to a city that by , in the grip of the legendary political boss and horseracing addict Tom Pendergast, was a nationally known center of gambling action. There he could easily find all-night games, mingle with local and out-of-town card hustlers, and stop in at the K. And unlike many gamblers, he never dressed in a flashy manner, preferring to wear what amounted to a kind of uniform for him: a light-colored button-down shirt, dark work pants, and a plain felt hat.

These were clothes that could serve him in both the city and the country. With family all over the area, and an easy, genial manner, Bill, as most in Pleasant Hill called him, fitted in and was accepted by townsfolk.

He knew when to and when not to. What Mitchell and most others in Pleasant Hill did not know was that in addition to his long nights, Bill Kennedy was putting in a lot of grueling hours during the day. One who did occasionally see Kennedy work in the daytime in the early thirties was Ralph McDonald, who is now The image remains vivid almost 70 years later.

Kennedy was practicing, working at something. The center deal was the ultimate move, the one that lay beyond even his exquisite dexterity and ingenuity. None of the top card men of the day could do it, though one, the Chicago magician J. Yet now, suddenly, here was a working sharp telling him of a man in the next city who had mastered the impossible.

Erdnase made no mention of a center deal, but he devoted considerable space to the innocent cut. As any experienced cardplayer knows, rule and tradition require the dealer to offer the deck to the player on his right for a cut before dealing. This routine proffer is considered insurance against false dealing, and Erdnase made it plain that cheaters considered it a huge problem. Even if a sharp could deal the second or bottom card flawlessly, he would still have to beat the cut or his precious cards would be buried in the center.

To get around the cut, a sharp requires either a confederate to his right or still more difficult and risky sleights—like the shift, which reverses the cut, or the palm. He could offer the deck for a clean cut, gather it back up, and blithely fetch his desired cards from the center. Second and bottom dealing called for advanced technical proficiency and granite nerve.

Professional common sense told him the center deal was probably out of the question. Still, the only logical course of action now was to ditch the silhouettes, get to Kansas City, find this sharp, and have a look.

The twist was that Miller had only read the descriptions of the effects in a magic magazine and had been forced to work out his own techniques. Imagine Isaac Stern and Itzhak Perlman joining forces to locate a Kentucky mountain fiddler or Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner hitting the road together in search of a backwoods storyteller.

The popular perception of the city they sauntered into was of a wild town teeming with crooked gamblers and gangsters. But while it was indeed chock-full of both, Kansas City was actually tightly controlled by the Pendergast organization, which relied on the mob boss John Lazia and a wholly owned police department to keep the wards in line.

When he told the story in later years, Vernon gave Lazia the colorful alias Snakey Davis. Vernon posed as a natty sharp who played the transatlantic ships. Miller, the greenhorn, was under strict orders to keep quiet. Vernon told him that if asked, he was to say only that he was a dice man and not go into details. Above all, he was not to mention that he was a magician; if the cheaters knew, they would never talk.

The two doggedly made the rounds, hitting gambling joints, bars, and pool halls. But when they asked about a center dealer, they came up with little except shakes of the head. When they visited the K. Card Company, they were directed to still another gambling den, a tough, rundown joint guarded by a man who kept a. Vernon gave the name of K. What do you want here? Vernon casually stuck to his cover, explaining that he was a mechanic and had heard there was a cheater in town who could deal from the center of the deck.

He told them he was eager to get in contact with the man. The men stared at him, and then one of the toughs spoke up. What do you mean, dealing from the center of the deck?

Nobody does that. He and Miller were shielded from both information and harm by the sheer preposterousness of their goal. Vernon made a motion to the men to indicate that Miller was a bit off, and then the two undercover magicians beat their retreat.

Coming as it did in his very first foray into the world of cheaters, the dice-man episode was something of a humiliation for the young Miller. Deflated, he dropped out of the hunt and returned to El Paso, but Vernon was back in Kansas City almost immediately. This time he concentrated his efforts on the K. Card Company, figuring this center of gambling gossip just a block from city hall would hold the key.

There he ingratiated himself with the staff by showing off his rigged faro box, a beautiful antique designed for cheating at the popular turn-of-the-century card game, and he pressed them again about a center dealer. Eventually they sent him to an old man. The town was Pleasant Hill. The name was Allen Kennedy.

One person told Vernon that Kennedy lived above a grocery store, but when he found the place, it was deserted. Next, he was told that Kennedy lived behind a printshop.

That, too, was a false lead. So Vernon tried the garages, where many knew Kennedy but no one knew, or would say, where he lived. Finally, in frustration, Vernon asked a little girl on the street.

She pointed to a small white house. He looked a little like the movie star Richard Dix. They talked a bit, Kennedy undoubtedly judging his visitor, and then he began to come out of his shell. Finally they moved to the dining-room table. Kennedy instructed Vernon to sit across from him as he got down to business.

He began with a simple riffle shuffle, and it was all Vernon needed to see to know he was watching one of the greats. Then Kennedy took three kings, put them on the bottom of the deck, and placed it on the table for Vernon to cut. Vernon watched every move closely.

Kennedy dealt the hole cards—the face-down cards—and then the first round of face-up cards to each of the four hands. The next face-up card to drop in front of Vernon was a king.


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Vernon sought these men out diligently. Great introduction to Dai Vernon. It started much cardshxrp, in Canada, where a small boy came upon some playing cards strewn along the railroad tracks. Learn more about Amazon Giveaway. Did Vernon get his man or did the man some call the greatest cardsharp who ever lived just vanish into thin air? Has Karl Johnson written anything else? Amazon Restaurants Food delivery from local restaurants.


The Magician and the Cardsharp: The Search for America's Greatest Sleight-of-Hand Artist

Samugami Anyways, if you get a chance to get to a library or even a bookstore, take a look! Saudi Arabia Home Page: Certainly there are plenty of effects that call for expert sleight of hand Just like a magician. In the summer ofthe Vernons were in Virginia Beach when they decided they might as well head west. The Magician and the Cardsharp theory11 forums Amazon Giveaway allows you to run promotional giveaways in order to create buzz, reward your audience, and attract new followers and customers. You also may like to try some of these bookshopswhich may or may not sell this item. You will take a trip back in cardsuarp and explore a portion of the life of the Professor.

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