The Basic Grip
Holding the deck the right way is the first important step, and both the one handed shuffle and the one handed cut begin from the same basic grip. Pinch the deck lengthwise between thumb and middle finger with the faces of the cards pointing toward your palm. Place your ring finger next to your middle finger, holding the side of the deck. Use your little finger to brace the bottom edge of the deck (you should be able to let go with your thumb and cradle the deck with your middle, ring and little fingers). Finally curl your forefinger around so that the bottom face of the deck rests against your nail and knuckle. Your grip should look something like this.
The One-Handed Shuffle
From the basic grip rotate your hand so the deck is standing vertically along the longest axis, holding the cards up with your little finger resting underneath. The vertical grip isn't strictly necessary, but it makes a clean cut of the cards easier. Bring your forefinger out from the back of the deck and grip the side of the deck above your middle finger. Use your forefinger to pull back half the cards. Now pinch the bottom half of the deck (closest to your palm) tightly between thumb and forefinger, letting the top half go with your thumb and balancing it on your little finger and supporting it with your middle and ring finger. You'll want to rotate your hand away from you slightly to do this, letting the top half of the deck balance neatly in your last three fingers.
Now comes the tricky part. With thumb and forefinger rotate the bottom half of the deck anticlockwise as far as you can while still cradling the top half mostly vertical with your bottom three fingers like so. This should bring your forefinger close to the opposite side of the top half of the deck. Now rotate your hand so the faces of the lower half of the deck (between thumb and forefinger) are pointing directly down and your palm is facing up. The top half of the should now be resting against the nail of your curled forefinger. What you want to do now is stretch and push upwards with your forefinger, so that it is touching the side of the top half of the deck. If you have big hands you will want to pinch the top half of the deck between middle and forefinger. If you have smaller hands (like myself) you should slide your middle finger underneath the top half of the deck and pinch the top half between forefinger and ring finger. Now pivot the two halves of the deck about your forefinger so that the corner of what was the top half of the deck is braced against the side of what was the bottom half of the deck. If you've done this correctly you should now be back at a stable grip with the deck in two halves next to each other something like this.
As a warning, almost undoubtedly the first few times you try this you will fail, potentially by quite a large margin. The temptation is to assume that it is impossible because your hand simply isn't big enough. Let me assure you, your hand is big enough (I have relatively small hands), it just takes a bit of practice and perseverance to learn how to make space in your hand. Here are some tips that should help you along the way:
- Your hand really is big enough.
- It's all about balance. You won't be able to grip the cards through the whole process so it's matter of learning to hold your hand at the right angle at the right time to balance the cards rather than gripping them. Wherever possible let gravity do the work.
- Get good at rotating with thumb and forefinger. You should be able to get the bottom half of the deck at almost right angles to top half. The further you can shift your forefinger across in the rotation the easier things become.
- Rotating your hand so it is palm up after rotating the bottom half of the deck is important. The key is the top half of the deck is now balanced on your forefinger so you can push up with your forefinger tipping the top half against the brace of your middle and ring fingers. Tipping the top half of the deck like that makes it much easier to slide your forefinger out from behind it.
- When rotating the bottom half of the deck away you want the top half well cradled - you want to, ideally, not touch the top half of the deck at all with your forefinger while rotating the bottom half of the deck. If you get this wrong you'll end up brushing the bottom card of the top half of the deck and pull it along with your forefinger which complicates things enormously.
- Practice is the only way, but when practicing try to keep in mind the points above, and try to take note of exactly what you're doing, and how you use gravity, or angle the cards differently, to make it easier.
After all that work you're actually most of the way there. Now that you have the deck in two halves side by side all you have to do is weave shuffle them together then squeeze the deck back into shape between thumb and middle finger. The first step to managing to do this is to move your middle finger so that it rests against the top edge of what was the top half of the deck, and shift your little finger around from the bottom edge to the side next to your ring finger. Now start the weave.
Weave shuffling is a little tricky, so if you aren't used to shuffling this way I suggest you practice it two-handed for a while to get the feel of it first. To do a two-handed weave shuffle split the deck in two and hold one half in each hand pinched between thumb and forefingers at the far ends of each half. Bring one half up to the other, edge on along their shortest side (your hands should be gripping each half so that they are as far from each other as possible). Now touch the corner of one half of the deck to the edge of the other, and slide the corner along the edge, gently pushing one half into the other. If done right, as you slide the cards with naturally interleave, or weave, together allowing you to push the two halves together thus shuffling the cards.
For the one-handed shuffle you will be weaving the halves along the long edges rather than the short, but the principle is the same. While applying gentle pressure with your ring and little fingers push what was the top half of the deck along past the other half with your middle finger (pushing from the top edge). Once you've introduced the weave at the bottom corner you can slide your forefinger out from between the two halves and bring them together with thumb and middle finger. Now bring your little finger back to the bottom edge of the deck, place your forefinger against the top edge, and using thumb and middle finger, and little finger and forefinger as opposing pairs straighten up the deck so all the cards are flush. From there just bring your forefinger back curled behind the deck to return to the basic grip: you're ready to cut the deck.
Once again, the first several attempts at this may be rather discouraging. Weave shuffles aren't the easiest even with two hands, and you have very little control with only the one. Don't panic though, with a bit of practice you'll rapidly find yourself getting the hang of it. Here, again, are some pointers on how to make things easier:
- Lining up the halves is key - you want both halves as level and parallel as possible. The best time to sort that out is when you are pivoting the halves about your forefinger. Spend time getting good at lining the halves of the deck up and you'll find the weaves a lot easier.
- Light pressure with the ring and little fingers makes quite a difference. Push too hard and I assure you that it won't work. Ideally you want to use only as much pressure as is required to keep the two halves touching. Most of the work is done with the middle finger sliding the corner along, it's this action that generates the weave.
- Applying slight upward pressure with your ring and little fingers can help - ideally you want to start the weave from the bottom of the deck.
- Your forefinger plays an important role. As the weave begins the two halves of the deck will tend to tip up, and you need to use your forefinger to hold the top cards down - if they escape your grip they'll pop up and destroy the weave for the top part of the deck. I like to curl my forefinger at the last joint and while pushing with the middle finger uncurl my forefinger to keep control of the top cards. This also makes for a smoother removal of my forefinger from between the two halves by simply continuing to uncurl my forefinger.
The One-Handed Cut
The one-handed cut is much easier to master than the the one-handed shuffle (no surprise, cutting is always easier than shuffling). From the basic grip rotate your hand so that the palm is facing directly up. Pinch the upper half of the deck between thumb and middle finger, letting go of the bottom half with your thumb so that it falls onto your curled forefinger. Now draw your forefinger back so that the bottom half of the deck falls against your palm and your forefinger is resting just underneath the edge of the bottom half of the deck farthest from your thumb. Push up with your forefinger. If you have particularly large hands you can keep a hold of the top half of the deck. If you are like me, then let go with your thumb and let the top half of the deck fall against the edge of the bottom half as you push it up with your forefinger. This should make a little A-frame of cards like so. Keep pushing up with your forefinger until the bottom half of the deck pushes past the top half, and the top half falls onto your waiting forefinger. Bend your forefinger as flat you your palm as you can lowering what was the top half of the deck as much as possible. Use your thumb to push what had been the bottom half of the deck over on top of the other half. Tip your hand away from you slightly and use your forefinger, curled flat underneath the deck, to lift the deck up out of your palm and pinch the deck between thumb and middle finger as in the basic grip. You can now use you fingers to straighten up the deck as after the one-handed shuffle, and then return to the basic grip, ready for another shuffle of cut as required.
Both one-handed techniques feel almost impossible when first attempted, but actually become manageable surprisingly quickly with a bit of persistent practice. Practicing is easy - it's the sort of thing you can do when sitting watching TV or reading a book, idly manipulating the deck as you do so. It can, of course, take considerable practice to get really smooth and consistent at these techniques. If you're aiming at that, try to focus on making each step smooth and easily repeatable, speed isn't that important. If you don't believe me, try videoing yourself after you've managed to gain some basic proficiency. You'll find that the process actually looks a lot faster than it feels, and that you don't actually have to go that fast for it to be very impressive.