An introduction to simple card tricks, aimed at the absolute beginner, with tips on equipment, and a simple card trick you can learn now and perform today!
Whether you're a seasoned professional, an interested amateur, or an absolute beginner with just a few simple card tricks under your belt, one of the first things you're likely to be asked upon revealing your interest in magic is "Hey, know any good card tricks?"
Card magic is possibly the most popular branch of magic around. Its popularity lies in its versatility. In skilled hands, these otherwise unremarkable pasteboards can be manipulated to perform a near infinite array of dazzling optical effects and magical minor miracles. Even more beguilingly, many seemingly breathtaking effects are, in essence, just simple card tricks enhanced by superior performance. The great Eugene Burger, a giant of close-up magic, once said he could happily spend the rest of his life perfecting three or four good card tricks.
This essay is the first in an ongoing series designed to initiate absolute beginners into the endlessly fun and fascinating (and occasionally frustrating) world of card magic. Starting with easy sleights and simple card tricks, I will share with you the most important skills any aspiring card magician can possess. I assume no prior knowledge, and indeed nothing whatsoever about you other than that you possess a desire to learn and a deck of cards.
One of the great things about card magic is that it can be performed anywhere. The only equipment you need is a deck of cards, and occasionally a pen and paper.
However, while the untrained eye may not be sharp enough to discern between well crafted professional cards and cheap rip-offs (or between red and blue cards, for that matter - but we'll come to that later) magicians quickly become sensitive to the handling difficulties which substandard cards can pose, even when performing simple card tricks.
The gold standard for playing cards are Bicycle Brand, manufactured by the U.S. playing card company. Their appealing design and air-cushioned finish for superior handling make them extremely popular with magicians. They can be picked up either online, or at any magic shop. Accept no substitute.
A SIMPLE CARD TRICK
Before beginning the long but rewarding process of mastering the sleights, dodges, and deceptions essential to great card magic, let's start with a simple card trick which you can learn now, and perform today.
This trick falls into the category known as the "Sucker bet". It requires no sleight of hand, only limited performance skills, and the overall effect is surprisingly impressive, and you will doubtless receive requests for repeat performances. More importantly, it will win you a lot of free drinks.
The trick is best performed in front of a group. I would suggest not performing it for fewer than five people, making it perfect for social occasions.
Offer your cards to the first spectator for shuffling. Most often, they'll perform a simple overhand shuffle. If they do anything more complex, like splitting the deck in half and riffling the two halves together, take the deck back and pass it to the next person for "further shuffling." You'll find that, before long, this move will bring forward a suitably bad shuffler.
Once the cards are shuffled, take the deck back and swiftly glimpse the bottom card. This is your "Key Card". Put the deck on the table and ask the spectator to cut the cards at any point and place the top half next to the bottom half. Then ask him to pick up the card he cut to, and memorize it.
Once the spectator has taken his card, pick up the top half of the deck and ask your spectator to place his card on top of it. Then take the bottom half of the deck and place it on top of the spectator's card. This means that the chosen card is now directly below the key card.
Ask your spectator to shuffle the deck again. Now the reason for choosing a poor shuffler becomes clear! If your spectator repeats the simple overhand shuffle he performed last time, his chosen card will inevitably remain below the key card.
Here's the part that will win you the drinks. Deal the cards face up from the top of the deck.When you see the key card, you'll know the next card is the one the spectator selected. Note that card and continue dealing. Your spectator, confident that you have missed his card, will be lulled into a false sense of security. Then, all you need do is bet your spectator a drink that the next card you pick up will be his card. Once he accepts, simply reach back into the pile of dealt cards, fish out his selection, and pick it up.
In the next lesson, we will focus on elementary sleights which will allow you to perform far more complex and entertaining tricks.