The very first sleight of hand technique you should learn in card magic is how to get and hold a pinky break.
That is, how to allow a spectator to pick a card and return it to the middle of the deck, all while knowing exactly where it is and how to access it quickly.
From there, you’ll need to learn some basic card control in order to perform most card tricks.
You’ll usually have to control that selected card to the top or bottom of the deck, or sometimes to a specific position (like 3rd from the top).
One of the easiest and most effective card controls for beginners to learn is the double undercut.
What is the double undercut?
In practice, it looks like this:
- A spectator picks a card and returns it to the middle of the deck
- The magician gives the deck two quick cuts
- The selected card is now the top card of the deck
It looks extremely fair when done well, as though you’ve simply cut the deck at a random spot twice and then placed the cards down on the table.
It’s also extraordinarily easy to do, which is why it’s great for beginners to learn.
But chances are you’ll continue to use this as your go-to card control for years and years to come.
How to do the double undercut card control
Here are the mechanics of how to make this happen:
- First, get a pinky break above the selected card in the middle of the deck
- The deck should be held in your non-dominant hand mechanic’s grip
- Now, transfer the deck to your other hand, using the Biddle grip, and maintain the break with your thumb
- Use your non-dominant hand to remove about half the pack from below the break, pull it out to the side, and place it on top of the deck
- You should still be maintaining a break above the selected card
- Repeat this action again, using your non-dominant hand to now remove ALL the remaining cards below the break
- Place those cards on top
- You’re done!
For some video instruction, I’ll turn it over to one of my favorite channels for learning card magic, 52Kards:
Why a double undercut? Why not just a single undercut?
The double cut just looks more fair and less fishy.
You could do a single undercut, and just remove all of the cards below your break the first time around and place them on top.
But I think it would look a little “off” to spectators. Cutting the cards twice just makes it seem less likely that you know where their selected card is.
You could also do a triple or quadruple undercut, just removing as many small packets from below the break as you want and placing them successively on top.
This can be quite convincing, but it’s not usually necessary. Two is the perfect amount.
Can you do a double overcut?
Yes, you totally can. But you’ll need a table to do it smoothly.
The mechanics will be a little different but the results will be the same.
Keep the cards in your mechanics grip and hold your pinky break.
Then use your other hand to peel off about half the cards from ABOVE the break using the Biddle grip, and put them down on a table.
Repeat, grabbing ALL of the cards now above the break, and placing those on top of the tabled stack.
Then place everything that’s left in your hand on the very top, and you’ve achieved the same result.
Double Undercut Applications & Uses
The undercut is one of the simplest and most convincing ways to control a card to your desired position in the deck.
In a lot of card tricks, you’ll need to start by controlling the selected card to the top of the deck.
Sometimes, it’ll be the bottom (in this case, you’ll get your break BELOW the selected card).
You can also use the double undercut to control a card to, say, the 3rd position in the deck. Just add two cards to the top of the selected card before you get your break, and now you’re ready.
The double cut can also be used to displace one card, or a few cards, from the top to the bottom of the deck, or vice versa.
For example, if you get a break below just the top card of the deck and then perform a double undercut, you’ll move the top card to the bottom in the process of what looks like a simple and fair cut.
The double undercut is an absolutely must-know move for card magic, and it shouldn’t take too much practice to master it.
Practice until you can perform the motions smoothly and it really looks like you’re just casually cutting the deck.