It is unwise to give the deck to someone who can’t shuffle cards. He might just scatter the cards all over the floor. You will then spend a good part of your performance crawling under the table to pick up the cards. Not a pretty sight and not an entertaining spectacle, if you asked me.
It is unwise to hand the deck to someone who is skilled in shuffling cards (he might be a professional gambler, or another magician). His efficient shuffling technique might actually trip you up, whether intentionally or not.
Most of all, it is unwise to give the cards to a heckler to shuffle them. He might just do something stupid to make your performance miserable. He might shuffle the cards, take one, and say, “Tell me what card I took.” Or he might put the deck in his pocket and refuse to hand it back to you.
All this is unwise. But you have to do it anyway. The routine might call for an independent spectator to shuffle the deck. Or someone in the audience might requests to handle the cards himself. To give a semblance of fairness, you hand the deck to him for a cursory inspection and even shuffling.
A performer has many ways to handle situations like this in such a way that the spectator doesn’t accidentally or intentionally ruin the trick. One way is proper audience management. Another is to pick a spectator wisely. A performer must steer away from hecklers, wise guys and potential troublemakers.
I am the best example of a performer who thinks I have honed my ability to read spectators, yet every now and then I choose the worst kind. I have picked hecklers, drunks, and people with personality disorders like hyper active kids or, their opposite, the lethargic and anemic children. Usually I realize my mistakes too late—when the wrong audience members are already onstage. By then, sending them back to their seats is no longer an option without appearing inconsiderate.
How to handle such situations is a topic in another post. In the meantime, let me discuss shuffling cards.
As I said earlier, letting an audience member shuffle cards is a necessary evil that you have to do every now and then. The trick may ask for it, or the situation may require it.
If you let a spectator shuffle the cards, just make sure you don’t stop the show. Most beginning magicians freeze and stop talking. They virtually go into suspended animation when an audience member shuffle the cards.
As I said in another post, shuffling cards can present a boring moment. This is especially true when the one shuffling doesn’t know how to handle cards well. Believe me: a spectator scattering the cards all over the table and onto the floor is the least entertaining spectacle in the world. That is why a spectator shuffling cards is the part of your show you have to give serious attention to.
So how do you make it entertaining then?
While the spectator is shuffling the cards, inject entertainment into what he is doing. Don’t expect him to entertain the audience for you. It’s not gonna happen. He is just going to bore people if you don’t step in.
Drop laugh lines. Make intelligent remarks. Use some scintillating patter. Any of this. Just don’t freeze up like the monument of Jose Rizal.
Here are some lines you may use. Some of them are not original with me. You have my permission to use them, especially the unoriginal ones.
When a lady is shuffling the cards: “Look at that! She’s using the Scandinavian shuffle, an obscure kind of shuffle used only by people in the Himalayas.” To the lady shuffling the cards, “Are you from Mt. Everest?”
Hand the deck to a gentleman and say, “Shuffle the cards thoroughly. Don’t stop shuffling until you are completely satisfied that all the cards are mixed up. Here are the cards. Shuffle them up till your heart’s content.” When he starts shuffling, grab the deck back from him, “That’s long enough!”
After a spectator has shuffled the cards, hold the deck in your hand and ask him, “Are you sure all the cards are mixed up?’
“The cards are in no particular order then?”
Okay, think up of your own lines to say before, during, and after the shuffle. The lines maybe sensible or nonsensical. It doesn’t matter which. The important thing is that they be entertaining.