Self, Working . . .

Published on Monday, March 21, 2005 in , , , , , , ,

Karl Fulves is most well-known for his series of "Self-Working" book series from Dover. If you dig a little further into his works, you learn about his other works, such as the magazines "Pallbearer's Review", "Epilogue" and "Chronicles" (some of the most read things in my personal collections!).

Few know that Karl Fulves also has a several books out available from him directly. There is one particular work in his collection that I will focus on, and that will be of particular interest to readers of this blog: "Combo"

Combo focuses on a rapid binary memory system for use in various memory feats, as well as gambling and magic effects. The book is broken up into four parts:

1) The System
2) Gambling Tricks
3) Magic Tricks
4) More Than One Way

"The System" introduces the binary concept, and how to memorize it. For those who fear the word "binary" (especially because of its close relationship to the inner workings of computers), Mr. Fulves starts slow, and eases the reader into the binary concept and his associated memory method.

Quick Explanation: Binary simply refers to something that only has two different possible states. For example, the binary quality of cards include such things as being red or black, face down or face up, odd or even and even spot and court cards.

The system taught in Combo lets you remember the arrangement of four binary states at a time. With one simple thing to keep in your mind, you can remember, say, whether the first four cards were "red, red, black, red" or "black, red, black, red" or any of the other possible arrangements.

My one criticism of the approach taught here is that a number from 1-16 is assigned to each of the states, and you are supposed to remember these states by their number. Lewis Jones teaches a much simpler and quickly-learned approach which he calls "The Pattern Principle" and is taught in Semi-Automatic Card Tricks: Vol. 3, but the drawback is that the Pattern Principle only lets you remember a group of 3 binary states at a time (as opposed to Combo's 4). To combine the ease of Lewis Jones' approach with the expanded capacity of the Combo system, I created the system listed in section 1.2 of Mentat Wiki's Binary Numbers System article.

Having established a system to help us remember, we get to jump to how exactly the system we can be used. Since cards and memory together instantly bring up the idea of gambling, the next section concerns gambling tricks. In this section, there are routines where you memorize where the high cards are (card counting demos, anyone?), where the good blackjack hands are (an especially ingenious application of the system), and even an apparent method of tracking memorized cards through shuffles.

One great thing about the routines that use this system is that, while you're usually only remembering something simple like re/black, high/low and so on, those watching can easily be led to believe that you're more details, such as the individual suit and values.

The magic routines include color divinations, ingenious code acts, and even an "oil-drilling" dowsing routine! Besides cards, there are routines with poker chips, ESP cards, crystals and more.

Just when you think you've explored all that is possible with the system, the book concludes with a section called "More Than One Way". In this section, you learn how to vastly expand the system by using other principles in conjunction with the "Combo" approach. Intriguing uses of things like one-way decks, subtle signals and even the Gilbreath Principle (ooooooh!).

If you're looking for something new in magic to experiment with, that not everybody else is doing, then I highly recommend "Combo" by Karl Fulves. It goes for $18, and is only available directly from Karl Fulves, at the same address he has made famous throughout his career:

Karl Fulves
Box 433
Teaneck, NJ 07666

Update: Concerning shipping charges, the standard suggested by Karl Fulves is 20% of the purchase price, but no less than $5 for USA customers. For customers outside the US, the suggested amount is 25%, but no less than $10 postage.

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4 Response to Self, Working . . .

12:24 AM


Is there a site that I can order the book from?

by the way-
I really liked your site and your articles.



8:39 PM

Thank you for the compliment!

I haven't yet been able to find a site that carries it for sale.

I actually searched for it for about a year and a half on websites, magic convention booksellers and anything else I could think of, without any luck.

When I finally broke down and just sent a money order to Karl Fulves, and I found myself reading and using the material in Combo in less than a month.

8:15 AM



4:51 AM

Karl Fulves is somewhat of a recluse who only does business through the mail. No website, no email, no phones.
While his stuff is somewhat hard to find, most is well worth the effort.