The Ambitious Card, or Elevator Card, is a magic effect in which a playing card seems to return to the top of the deck after being placed elsewhere in the middle of the deck. This is a classic effect in card magic and serves as a study subject for students of magic. Most performing card magicians will have developed their own personal Ambitious Card routine.
The effect is often credited to French magician Gustav Alberti, in the mid-19th century. However, there is a related idea in Ponsin's Nouvelle Magie Blanche Devoilée, published in 1854, that might precede that. The ambitious card is also known as the "Trick that Fooled Houdini" as Dai Vernon fooled Houdini with the Ambitious Card. Many magicians base their routine on Darryl Martinez's version as he had a comprehensive VHS tape on the many variations possible on accomplishing this effect.
The magician usually gets a card signed by an audience member and inserts it into the middle of the deck, after which it reappears at the top. This is repeated under more and more improbable conditions, sometimes to humorous effect.
There are many methods for accomplishing the basic effect. These are often based on sleight of hand methods such as the double lift; however, gimmicks can also be used, such as a stripper deck. More detailed descriptions can be found in books such as The Royal Road to Card Magic, The Expert at the Card Table and Card College. Many magicians have come up with their own methods and routines. Dai Vernon's ambitious card routine, for example, can be found in the book Stars of Magic.
Variations to this trick can be linked together to create routines. Many magicians perform the same routine every time, though the trick is structured such that one is able to combine variations in different ways for each performance. This is one factor which has earned the Ambitious Card the status of a classic effect.
Variations of this effect include:
Some variations include an ending to the ambitious card routine, such as a card to shoe, or a card to wallet.
Alberti ... French magician, late 1800s, said to have invented Ambitious Card.