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Diagonal Palm Shift

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Diagonal Palm Shift is a card slight that controls a card which has has been replaced into the middle of the deck and then moving it secretly diagonally through the deck until it can be palmed out.


The primary source for the Diagonal Palm Shift (DPS) is The Expert at the Card Table by S. W. Erdnase. It is believed that the author of this seminal work invented the Diagonal Palm Shift. Unfortunately, existing descriptions of the DPS (including this one, without a doubt) suffer from the fact that the move requires somewhat of a "knack." To build a comprehensive picture, the serious student is encouraged to study Revelations and to consult Darwin Ortiz’ annotations on the move as well as the advice of both Roger Klause and Pat Cook (found in The Annotated Erdnase). The present description will incorporate a number of the elements from these previous authors. In Erdnase, all of the DPS illustrations were drawn from the exposed right side. Here, the cozier position of both hands eliminates the weakness from the right and reduces the bad angles from the left at the same time.

The mechanics of the Diagonal Palm Shift result in a card being inserted into the deck from the outer short side only to be immediately removed from the inner side in a full left-hand palm. To begin, the single card is in the right hand and the deck is in a left-hand dealing grip. The card to be controlled is slid into the middle of the deck until it is out-jogged for about an inch and a half. Your left thumb is against the side of the outer left corner of the deck and the left pinky is against the side of the inner right corner of the deck as in Figure 1.

Figure 1: insertion

Pause. Make some witty comment, casually flashing your empty right hand. Bring the right hand back in front of the deck, and begin to push the out-jogged card into the deck at the same time as the front edge of the deck descends. The deck should be parallel to the floor in time to eliminate any flash of the controlled card as it starts to become angled to the right. The right palm is directed down and to the left so that you can see only the left side of the top of the deck, and so that the deck is completely hidden from the right side. As you push the out-jogged card into the deck, its outer right corner is forced to the left. The result is that it now pivots around the left thumb, angling its inner right corner out to the right. Now, as it is pushed into the deck, its inner right corner butts up against your left pinky. Without hesitation, the left pinky kicks out. The position is illustrated in Figure 2.

Figure 2: diagonal jog

The reader should note, however, that this figure is an exposed view, taken from the perspective of the floor. As soon as this position is obtained, the left thumb draws back while the left pinky maintains the relative orientation between the deck and controlled card. The action of the pinky is hidden under your right hand, and the action of the thumb mimics a squaring action. The thumb recedes no further than the middle of the deck, and then immediately returns to its proper place at the outer left corner of the deck. The left pinky slides under the now angle-jogged card and rests on its exposed long side. The repositioning of the controlled card by this mock squaring action is described by Dai Vernon in Revelations. As discussed in The Annotated Erdnase, if the position of the left pinky is either too low or too high on the exposed edge of the controlled card, the seamless swivel into full palm to follow will be compromised. The mock-square recommended above provides opportunity to obtain the ideal position in a well-motivated manner. Further, it also breaks the motion of the controlled card, adding to the illusion that the card is now square with the rest of the deck. An exposed view of the necessary configuration is provided in Figure 3.

Figure 3: reposition

As is clear in the illustration, the card under control is angled considerably to the right of the deck. Toward its inner end, the minimally-exposed left long side of the angled card is touching your right thumb. Its orientation with respect to the rest of the deck is almost entirely hidden by the right hand. The only angles of concern are from the bottom (usually safe) and from above and to the left. If there are any spectators directly to your left, you should develop the knack of being able to hold the deck so that they cannot see the top. You may also need to draw back slightly with your left pinky to ensure that the outer left corner of the card to be palmed does not extend beyond the left edge of the deck and that the outer right corner of the controlled card does not extend beyond your covering right hand.

At this point, there needs to be some motivation to separate the hands. In Erdnase, the assumption is that the right hand will present the deck to a willing spectator for shuffling. An equally legitimate ruse is to have some reason for the left hand to go to a pocket, for example. In any case, the left hand now draws back sharply, and the angle-jogged card pivots around the right thumb. The left fingers open to receive the card in motion as it breaks free from the deck. The card is initially trapped between the base of the left thumb (the “pivot point” of Mike Close’s discussions on card palming) and the first joint of the middle finger as shown in Figure 4, but as soon as possible, the grip becomes the more natural full palm. Under no circumstances should you even glance at the proceedings. Instead, you should be holding the attention of the audience with your patter and your eyes.

Figure 4: swivel out

Among the classic DPS "gotchas" is the tendency for the card under control to bow out (from the palm) rather than into the left-hand palm position. One of the surest remedies for this difficulty is to have the deck broken in appropriately. If the deck contains a longitudinal convex bow, as recommended by Derek Dingle to facilitate riffle passes and the Dingle Double Lift (see The Complete Works of Derek Dingle), for example, this troublesome tendency is mitigated considerably.


Routines using the Diagonal Palm Shift include Ambidextrous Travellers by Larry Jennings (found in Classic Magic of Larry Jennings by Mike Maxwell) and What's Good for the Goose by Roger Klause (in Roger Klause in Concert by Lance Pierce).