The Expert at the Card Table is apparently the cult bible of the magic and gambling worlds, and has been teaching high rollers and con artists how to cheat at cards for over a century.
Card expert jden redden is clearly a fan of the book, having mastered its tricks and studied its mysterious author, S.W. Erdnase. After a successful debut at last year's Fringe, redden returns with this new show to inspire Adelaide to share his passion.
The audience gathers around a moodily-lit professional card table. Redden joins us, and dives straight into some artful shuffling that keeps a fresh pack of cards in new deck order. He then leads us step by step through each of the moves he used to do it. The artifices that follow come under the category of 'legerdemain' - sleight of hand, or the old 'card up your sleeve' tricks.
With charming names like False Riffling, Palming and Bottom Dealing, the ruses seem so obvious when explained but require a dexterous touch and deceitful confidence to really pull them off. Redden has both in spades (pun intended).
A dapper nerdy type, redden knows his stuff and methodically leads us through all his hot tips. Don't expect to come out an instant pro though - these tricks clearly take a lot of practice to master.
Woven through the training session is a slideshow with illustrations from the book and an exploration of the numerous theories surrounding the real identity of its author. With the show in such an intimate space, the slideshow feels a bit clunky, drawing your eye away from the real action. It seems like redden has tried to squeeze more of a story from the book's origin than exists - or perhaps his mastery of storytelling just hasn't quite reached the level of his cardistry.
His trick delivery is mostly remarkable though, inspiring a series of impressed oohs and aahs from the captivated audience. Redden is an adept teacher and brings in other tidbits about card game rules, the evolving magic scene and the how all decks are not made equal.
Things get really interesting when redden introduces the concept of intuition, and gets members of the audience in on the act. I was well and truly mystified about how I'd randomly dealt a winning hand, and redden doesn't reveal his secrets. I somehow doubt it's just my perfect intuition.
How to Cheat at Cards is a rare opportunity to see a magician reveal his secrets. It may not help you win big at the casino to fund your Fringe binge, but with a bit of luck and hard work, you'll definitely learn a new party trick.