reviewed by Larry Travis (confirmed purchase)
Rating: ★★★★★ (Date Added: Monday 01 March, 2021)
This is an excellent ebook. It would be an understatement to say that it's easily worth the price! Gaukelwerk with Playing Cards is aptly subtitled, “Clocking the Deck and Other Gems.” Let's talk about clocking the deck, and then the other gems.
As a relative newcomer to card magic, I learned only fairly recently about clocking when I read Tap A Lack by Paul Cummins and Diplopia by Paul Vigil. Later I read another method in Power Plays by Mike Powers. There are, of course, other sources and methods, and Dr. Solka provides a brief history and helpful list of resources in Gaukelwerk. At the time of this review, I have not yet investigated those other sources.
For those with ears to hear (eyes to read?), a common method of clocking involves casting out 10s in your first pass through the deck to determine the missing card's value, and then often dealing with ambiguous results in your second pass through the deck to determine the suit. The method in Power Plays eliminates the ambiguities, and seems excellent to me. But my brain does not want to cooperate! I'm sure with plenty of practice I could get accustomed to it.
However, the Mingau Location in Gaukelwerk is the one I will focus on learning. It also eliminates ambiguous results on the first pass, and it comes more naturally to me. I am very happy to have learned it!
The other main method of clocking the deck in this ebook is Dr. Solka's own Solka Location. This is truly excellent. Rather than seeking to eliminate ambiguity in the results of the first pass in order to speed up the second, the Solka Location takes the opposite approach. It accepts greater ambiguity to resolve in the second pass, in exchange for what should be, with practice and experience, a lightning-fast first pass. For those with eyes to read, the first pass involves no casting out, only modifying your running total by 1 or 2 at a time, and being able to ignore a larger number of cards.
I really think the Solka Location should be extremely powerful, if you already know the colour of the missing card (as you often do in clocking scenarios, e.g., Tap A Lack and Diplopia). But the number of ambiguities would become, it seems to me, prohibitively cumbersome if clocking a whole deck to identify a missing card of unknown colour. This is the main reason I have opted to learn Mingau instead. Nevertheless, both methods are great and I enjoyed learning about the Solka Method and the thinking behind it. If your intention is to clock only for a known colour, or if you are willing and able to learn more than one method of clocking, then I strongly recommend the Solka Location.
There is a third clocking method in the ebook, the Wasshuber Method, and also some variations and extra hints for the two main methods. You might say there is a fourth method in the section entitled “Cues for the Professional.”
What “Other Gems” are there in Gaukelwerk? There are two culls and two false shuffles. The Mingau Cull and Landmark Cull are not versatile culls, but have the specific goal of ordering the deck in alternating colours. Personally, I enjoyed toying with these but probably will not be adopting them. I could be wrong, but I think even with lots of practice to build up speed and fluidity, these culls might not withstand much “heat.” This is absolutely no problem if your performance context and style permits, and Dr. Solka briefly lists some tactics for disguising the culls. That is to say, I don't believe these culls are bad; they're just not ideal for my personal style and performance context.
The two false shuffles are really given as a single shuffle, the Hans False Shuffle, and a variation on it, the Barry Ray alternative handling. I don't think it gives away too much to say that the Hans utilises a Hindu grip, and the Ray a Biddle grip.
Initially, I thought I would not use either. However, the more I play with the Barry Ray variant, the more I like it, and I've added it to my toolkit. The Hans False Shuffle (either version) is not what might be called an “explicit” false shuffle. If, hypothetically, you called attention to the shuffle in performance by saying, “Behold, I shall now mix the deck thoroughly!”, then you will have cued the spectator to watch and he might well notice that the cards aren't truly mixed.
It's debatable whether you should do such a thing with any false shuffle! However, the beauty of the Hans False Shuffle is that it is an “implicit” shuffle. You in fact seem to be cutting through the deck only to display a few card faces, showing they are random. In the process, you give the impression that you are mixing the deck even further as you go. Done smoothly and casually, it's quite a convincer. And if a spectator did notice the cards weren't being mixed, there's no harm done, because you haven't even claimed you were mixing them.
I have not had much opportunity yet to test it on live spectators. However, the ones to whom I have shown it are my usual guinea pigs for new tricks and techniques. They are very sharp, very observant, and have come to learn a fair bit about the things I get up to with a deck of cards. In other words, I have grown confident that anything that fools them will fool the average spectator. I found that for all of them, just showing the top card, executing the Ray version of Hans without comment, and doing nothing else, left them surprised when I showed the same card still on top (let alone the entire deck still in the same order).
Gaukelwerk with Playing Cards by Hans-Christian Solka is an excellent ebook and one of my favourite magic purchases. I have two techniques, the Hans False Shuffle (Barry Ray handling) and the Mingau Location, which are going straight into my toolkit for card magic. I think other readers might benefit enormously from the Solka Location and the other gems in the book. Regardless of what I've chosen to use, I found all the content of the ebook interesting and enjoyable to read.
On a personal note, Dr. Solka has also succeeded in giving this reader a fondness for his teacher, “Schorsch.” A young Hans-Christian bribed Herr Mingau with cigars to learn card techniques, and now the experienced Hans-Christian honours him in Gaukelwerk with Playing Cards. On another personal note, Dr. Solka encourages readers to contact him with feedback, and when I did he replied promptly and thoughtfully, which I appreciate dearly.
It's too late to make a long review short. But you would do well to add this ebook to your library!