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Playing with a full deck

Posted by ubpdqn on March 8, 2011

I find the following puzzle instructive.  For expediency (and not bias) I will refer to the magician as a male.


A magician and his assistant perform a card trick. A regular 52 card deck is used.

An audience member is asked to shuffle the cards  then select 5 cards from the deck.  The audience member then  hands these cards to the magician’s assistant. The magician is blindfolded away from this activity.

After the cards are chosen, the magician’s blind fold is removed. The assistant progressively reveals four cards to the magician and the audience.  At this point the magician loudly asserts the identity of unrevealed card. It is revealed by the assistant and the magician is correct.

He does this correctly every time.

The questions is how is he correct every time?

The cards are not marked. There are no mirrors or other technical aids  and no verbal or non-verbal clues to the magician from the assistant.  The magician  and the assistant perform this trick reliably and consistently anywhere.

So how is this feat accomplished?

For a solution explanation see: Playing with a full deck: solution (explanation).

For illustration of the solution see: Playing with a full deck: solution (illustration).

Alternative solutions are welcome.

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