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  • Writer's pictureMadison Hagler

Topping the Deck: The Perfect Move by Jamy Ian Swiss

Updated: Jul 10

This 59-page booklet by Jamy Ian Swiss is one of the most in-depth looks at “Topping the Deck” ever written. This was Vernon’s preferred method of palming the top card of the deck. Jamy has clearly put a lot of time, effort, and thought into perfecting this technique, and we are fortunate to have his thoughts collected in this booklet. 

The Vernon Palm - The booklet begins with a brief history of the palm. This technique was originally published by Dia Vernon in a self-published manuscript titled, “Select Secrets” in 1941. Vernon certainly kept this technique close to his chest and considered it a perfect move.

To Palm a Card - Vernon began his explanation of Topping the Deck with an explanation on how to palm a card, and Jamy Ian Swiss follows suit. This is a quality, in-depth explanation of finding the perfect placement for a palmed card as well as how to make the palm look natural. Here, Jamy points out one of the biggest giveaways for a palm, and explains the fix. This is a point that I only just discovered when palming cards, and it makes a huge difference. There is gold here in transforming your palmed-card-hand into a natural hand position that truly seems empty.

The One-Handed Top Palm - Here Jamy briefly touches on the one-handed top palm, and explains why it may not be the best choice.

A Perfect Visual Deception - In this section, Jamy claims that Topping the Deck is completely invisible even when the spectators burn your hands, and he has proven it at many lectures and workshops over the years. 

Squaring the Pack - This chapter covers how to properly square the deck. This sounds a little absurd, but for the Topping the Deck move to be invisible, there must be a continuity in how you square the deck at all times. Otherwise, something will seem “off” when you go to do the move. If you have a particular way of squaring the deck, you may have to alter it slightly so that it fits what “Topping the Deck” requires.

Topping the Deck - This is where the actual mechanics of the move are broken down. What is so great about this move is that it is a series of tiny actions and miniscule pressures that assemble into a seamless flow. People tend to overcomplicate it. It almost feels like nothing happens, and that is what makes this move so deceptive. This section is 12 pages long and contains 16 photos to make it abundantly clear what is happening at each stage of the move. As crazy as it sounds, this was my first introduction to this move, and this explanation is marvelous. It seems like a difficult move to teach via text, but I found the text and images were more than enough to communicate the precision of the move. After learning it, I am almost embarrassed because of the heavy-handed method I’ve been using up to this point. It’s amazing how minimal and automatic Topping the Deck feels. That’s not to say it’s easy–the hard part is developing the right touch and avoiding the temptation to do more.

Completing the Action - This describes completing the squaring action either by tabling the deck or squaring and keeping it in the left hand. Both options are discussed in detail to ensure it is performed as deceptively as possible.

The Erdnase Connection - Vernon’s Palm was inspired by a single sentence in Erdnase and Vernon refined it into the beauty the move is now.

The Schwarzman Finesse - Jamy considers this small finesse the final touch in perfecting “Topping the Deck.” It is very simple, but takes an already small movement in the palm and renders it obsolete.

Flaws and Fixes - Here Jamy breaks down nine common flaws when people perform the move, and proposes fixes for each. This is a great chapter to visit before you even begin learning the palm so you can see what to avoid. Then once you learn the move and it starts to feel like you get it, come back to this chapter to make sure one of these flaws haven't snuck in.

Select Bibliography - Five books that Jamy recommends reading to learn more about Topping the Deck.

Overall, if you have any interest at all in learning how to palm the top card of the deck, want to refine your current top palm, or want to see an explanation of this beautiful move from a master, don’t hesitate to pick this up. It’s wonderfully written and beautifully photographed. It will allow to walk in with zero experience on the move, and walk out with all the knowledge you need to perfect the perfect move. I wouldn’t say it’s for the beginner, but really, any skill level can pick this up and learn the move.

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