Faro-cious

by Kevin Gallagher

For the uninitiated, the Faro shuffle is a technique for perfectly interlacing the two halves of a deck. The implication of course is that whilst the shuffle looks very severe, it is possible to accurately predict the position of every card. If you cut a standard deck into two twenty-six card piles, there are two possible ways of weaving the cards together depending on which pile delivers a card first. In the first possible shuffle, the top and bottom cards remain in place, in the other, all cards change position. These are respectively known as an OUT Faro and an IN Faro. A friend of mine told me that he had struggled for a long time to master an OUT Faro and that, having learned it, it took him many more hours, to master an IN Faro. I confessed that I only had one technique to perform an OUT Faro and that if I wanted an IN Faro, I simply reversed the position of the two halves which in performance means simply performing a swing cut instead of a straight cut. This I demonstrated by running the cards into one another without pushing the cards home and rotating the deck half a turn (God, I hate to see a grown man cry!).

One of the things that makes a Faro particularly useful is that if you perform eight consecutive OUT Faros on a standard fifty two card deck, the deck is restored to its original order, There are a number of fine card tricks that use this principle, most notably, the superb 'Unshuffled' (Paul Gertner), where the set-up is to perform four OUT Faros on an ordered deck. In this position, the deck looks very well mixed when ribbon spread but four shuffles later, the whole deck is in order. This is strong enough on its own to close any gambling demonstration where ostensibly, you (false) shuffle the deck and show its truly mixed state and, after much deliberation (acting), you perform a whole sequence of false shuffles and cuts with the occasional OUT Faro and show that the whole deck is now in order. One slight pitfall is that laymen can be prone to presenting you with a truly shuffled deck and a number of their associates pleading "Show my mates how you can look at any shuffled deck and after one look, shuffle the cards without seeing their faces again into any order you want". Depending on how I feel, at this point I either complain of the severe headache that it has given me or tell them to "Sit down, I'll show you something even better".

If you perform consecutive IN Faros on a fifty two card deck, after twenty-six, the deck is restored to its reversed order, a further twenty-six IN Faros restores the deck to its original order. Unfortunately, whilst fifty-two consecutive Faros followed by a ribbon spread is fantastically interesting to us (?), rarely do laymen share the same enthusiasm. As an exercise, I took out a pair of cards to give a fifty card deck. Amazingly, 8 IN Faros now restores the deck but it now takes twenty one consecutive OUT Faros. It is possible therefore to palm off the two bottom cards and perform an IN Faro demonstration which has the advantage that the top and bottom cards continually change, the two cards being replaced after the last shuffle. If you add a pair of cards, for example the two jokers, to make a fifty four card deck, it takes fifty two OUT Faros or twenty IN Faros to restore them. All other decks close to fifty two cards are similarly useless. Two good decks are sixty-four cards which restores in 6 OUT Faros and reverses in 6 IN Faros, and thirty-two cards which restores in 5 OUT Faros and reverses in 5 IN Faros (do you see what a sad life I lead?). 

I have expanded on the chart of seventeen theory (as fully described in 'Expert Card Technique') to find the equivalent sets for different sized decks. Not all sized decks have one and I have not managed to find a useful generalisation, suffice to say, it is not the number of cards less one divided by three as I had hoped.

Fascinatingly, I have also discovered that the number of IN Faros that it takes to restore a deck of any size is always the same as the number of OUT Faros to restore a deck that has an extra pair of cards. Also, OUT Faro sequences never properly reverse a deck but leave the top and bottom cards switched at the half restored stage and not all IN Faro sequences reverse the deck at the half restored stage, this only happens when... (God, I'm sending myself to sleep now) zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz zzzZZZZZ.

 

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Kevin Gallagher August 2000

 

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