The One Ahead Principle (A Mentalism Mind Reading Trick Revealed)

How to perform the magic one-ahead principle and to gain confidence in mentalism techniques

The One Ahead Principle - A Mentalism Mind Reading Trick Revealed

The ‘one ahead principle‘ is a really cool mind reading trick used in mentalism. A great mentalism effect. Is it magic or is it mentalism? I think you can use it as a magician or as a mentalist.


The magic one ahead principle is a great mentalism mink reading trick. This mentalism effect tricks your volunteer into thinking you're reading their mind. When in fact your're one step ahead of them, all the way through the trick.

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In this article about the one ahead principle, I share Chris Ramsay's video showing this great mentalism effect. Watch the video first before you read ahead.

The 'magic' one ahead principle video performed by Chris Ramsay

The one-ahead principle - basic techniques

The one-ahead principle is one of the basic techniques used in mentalism and magic for that matter. It's a great trick as a starter when you're learning mentalism for the first time.

When you're using this mind reading technique, you can make what looks to be like impossible predictions. It truly looks like you're mind reading your volunteer.

In the video above, demonstrated by Chris Ramsay, you'll see he first performs the one-ahead principle to his friend. After this he then reveals how it's done.

But one of the great things about this trick, as shown in the video above, is that it can be performed over Skype or similar video-phone system. You don't have to be in the same room for this mentalism trick to work well.

If you've not seen this mentalsim effect before, you'll be wondering how he did it. But once Chris reveals the trick at the end, it becomes so obvious. You'll wonder how you didn't work the trick out before!

Performing the one-ahead mentalism trick provides for some very convincing mind reading.

How the magic one-ahead principle is done - a simple explanation revealed step by step...

How the one-ahead principle is done - a simple explanation revealed step by step

In this explanation, I going to explain the same one ahead principle to the one that Chris does in his video above. But there's nothing to stop you from varying the prediction choices yourself. The principle will be exactly the same.

Before you perform this mentalism mind reading trick, make sure you have some pieces of card. If you don't have any card, cut up some pieces of paper instead. Card or paper the size of a business card or slightly bigger will work best.

Step #1 of the 'one ahead principle'

Give your volunteer a pack of normal playing cards. They can shuffle them if they wish, give them the choice, as it makes no difference, one way of the other.

Ask your volunteer to show all the cards, by asking them to splay them across a desk or table face up. Face up means you're not seeing the back of the cards, but the 'faces'' of all the cards.

Ask then to spread them out completely. You can add comments like, 'you can see that the pack is a normal pack of cards.' 'Right?' Which actually they are.

Step #2 of the 'one ahead principle'

Ask your volunteer to close the cards back up again and to place them 'face-down' on the table or desk.

Tell your volunteer to cut the pack anywhere of their choosing. Ask then to take the bottom half of the pack and ask them to place it on top of the top half, but laterally. That means the two halves of the pack are stacked in a way so that the two parts to the pack form a cross shape.

If you're not sure what I mean, watch the video again, as it's made clear in this.

Tell them 'we' will get back to that in a while.

Step #3 of the 'one ahead principle'

At this point, write down a prediction onto one of your pieces of card or paper. Make sure your volunteer doesn't see what you are writing down.

Say something like 'this is what I think you're going to go with.' This is your prediction #1.

Turn the card or piece of paper over with your prediction on, and place it on the table face-down.

It's at this point that you're already 'one ahead.' See below for why you're already one ahead on the first prediction.

Step #4 of the 'one ahead principle'

Ask your volunteer to say a random number. If your volunteer chooses a small number, say the number 5. Say something like, 'a lot of people say five or seven.'

If the number they said was a small number of say one or two digits. Then say, 'let's make this a bit more complicated, say a three-digit number instead.'

After they've said this, you're going to write down your next prediction. But before you do, say something like 'the next thing I'm going to ask you is...but before I ask you I'm just going to write something down.'

Then write down your prediction - this is your prediction #'2. Turn the card over and place it face-down on the table or desk. Make sure your volunteer doesn't see it.

Step #5 of the 'one ahead principle'

Ask your volunteer to say a name of someone. Tell them to make the it the name of someone that you are unlikely to know. It could even be a famous person or a celebrity.

At this point write down your next prediction, say something like, 'maybe we'll do this.' Which makes it sound like you're thinking this up on your feet.

You then tell your volunteer that you're prediction is about the card they are going to pick.

Ask your volunteer to lift off the top part of the pack. This will leave the bottom half of the pack on the table. Then ask your volunteer to lift off the top card from the bottom part of the pack, i.e. the top card of the part of the pack that's still on the table.

Tell your volunteer to look at it, but not to show you.

Step #5 of the 'one ahead principle'

The reveal of your predictions.

Your volunteer will not know which of your cards is which prediction, as you can carefully muddle them up. But turn them to yourself and select from the cards or pieces of paper the #1 prediction you wrote down.

This prediction will be the card your volunteer is looking at. Tell them your prediction. This will amaze them. It will leave them wondering how you did it!

How do you know the card? It's quite simple, this is the card that was on the top of the original deck.

When your volunteer first spread the cards out, you will have seen this card. You’re maybe thinking, but your volunteer cut the pack at a random place. Yes they did.

But you told them to place the bottom of the cut pack on the top of the top part of the pack. The card you're asking them to turn over is the card that was originally on the top of the pack.

This was your prediction #1, which is what you wrote down when you saw the card on the top of the pack, when in fact your volunteer thought you were writing down what they were about to say.

Then show them your two other predictions.

Prediction #2 will show that you predicted their original number, be it the number five or whatever, but you crossed this out and then wrote down the three-digit number you ask them to say.

Prediction #3 will be the name of their friend or of a famous person they chose.

How the one ahead principle works - explained in more detail

The cut of the cards works on the 'criss-cross force' principle. The criss-cross force works on the principle of time mis-direction. The person forgets that you asked them to place the bottom of the cut on to the top of the deck. Thus allowing you to predict the card.

This is what you wrote down as prediction #1 - i.e. the top card, when you took a peek at the top card when they were completely splayed out, face up.

Your volunteer thought you were writing down what they were about to say. This makes you that one step ahead.

The next two predictions are what your volunteer says after this. So prediction #2 is the number, which is what they said first. Prediction #3 is the name, but your volunteer thinks you wrote that as prediction #2.

For easier understanding, please go ahead and watch the video above of the same mentalism one ahead principle trick again.

If you would like to learn how to do amazing mentalist tricks that will make your friend’s jaw drop, look at the Master Mentalism course.

Master Mentalism is an in-depth course that will show you the secrets behind most of the popular mentalist magic tricks there are.

In just a short time after learning from Master Mentalism you will know exactly how mentalists do what they do!

For a ridiculously small investment on your part you will be learning some fantastic mentalism and magic skills. These skills will not only make you the life of a party, but they will set you on your way to become the next famous mentalist!

I hope you enjoyed this article about The One Ahead Principle

I’d love to hear from you. Tell us about your journey to master mentalism to become a performing mentalist or magician (or both). Please comment below. Please also share your experiences, both good and bad!

If this article hasn’t answered all of your questions. If you have more questions either about mentalism or magic, I will try to answer them (or specifically about The One Ahead Principle), please comment below with your questions.

There will also be many more articles about mentalism for you to read and learn about this fantastic skill.

Have fun and enjoy your journey into learning how to become a mentalist!

The One Ahead Principle (A Mentalism Mind Reading Trick Revealed)

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