A Magician's Quest for the Perfect Card Cheat Dai Vernon was among the most influential magicians of the 20th century, but one trick continued to elude him. His quest to learn its secret led him from one sleazy dive to another. The answer finally came in a little white house in Missouri.

A Magician's Quest for the Perfect Card Cheat

A Magician's Quest for the Perfect Card Cheat

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Dai Vernon demonstrates the Allen Kennedy "center deal" in a 1982 video recording with magicians Gary Ouellet and Steve Freeman. Courtesy L&L Publishing hide caption

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Courtesy L&L Publishing

Reporter's Notebook

Barry Gordemer was a professional magician for 15 years. The real magic, he says, lies in the audience's desire to believe.

Allen Kennedy, the master of the "center deal," in Kansas City in the 1950s. Courtesy Pleasant Hill Historical Society hide caption

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Courtesy Pleasant Hill Historical Society

Dai Vernon, considered among the most influential magicians of the 20th century, could do just about any trick that called for sleight of hand. He was obsessed with learning the secrets of crooked card dealers. But there was one move he couldn't master.

In the The Magician and the Cardsharp, author Karl Johnson documents Vernon's quest to find the one man who was able to perform the holy grail of card tricks -- the so-called "center deal," dealing a specific card from anywhere in the deck, undetected.

Vernon's search took him from one sleazy dive to another: bars, nightclubs, pool halls, and smoke-filled back rooms. In 1932, the trail finally led him to a little white house in Pleasant Hill, Mo., where Allen Kennedy lived.

Kennedy didn't disappoint Vernon, showing him exactly how to perform the trick great gamblers had assumed was a fairytale.

Vernon died in 1992 at the age of 98. But at the Magic Castle, a Los Angeles club for magicians, there's a seat permanently reserved in his honor.

The Magician And The Cardsharp
The Search For America's Greatest Sleight-of-hand Artist
By Karl Johnson

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