Teach me magic?
May 15, 2006 4:03 AM   Subscribe

Teach me a card trick. Inspired by a recent post on card tricks, I'd like to learn a simple but reasonably impressive trick with which to pester children at family gatherings etc.

I have no natural ability in this area, so easy would be best.
Obviously, a typed answer might be a bit hard to follow, so links to reputable sites who could show me diagrams/videos etc. for free of for a modest price would be great.
posted by bystander to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (17 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
It's been a while since I've done this, so I'm not 100% sure about the steps, but some testing should make sure it works.

This one requires stacking the deck and I believe can be messed up if your audience member does any other type of shuffling than riffle shuffling. Advantages are that they allow the audience member to shuffle and cut the deck (impressive!) and requires no sleight of hand (easy!).

1. Stack the deck so that cards alternate red-black-red-black. Do this beforehand, not in front of them.

2. Hand them the deck and get them to riffle shuffle it once and cut it once.

3. Go through the deck from the top and the first time you see two cards of the same color in a row, cut the deck there.

4. Pull off 2 cards from the top at a time and flip them over. If I've remembered the trick correctly, you should be able to go through the whole deck and every two cards you pull one should be black and one should be red.
posted by juv3nal at 4:16 AM on May 15, 2006

A classic beginner's trick would be the 27-card trick.

Deal 3 columns of 9 card each as following: deal the first card to the left column, 2nd to the middle, 3rd to the right, then back to the first column, then second, and so on until each column has 9 cards.

Ask the spectator to look at the cards and remember one of them. Ask him what column it is in. Gather the cards such as the column with the spectator's card will be in the middle. For example, if the card is in the 2nd column, gather the 1st, then 2nd, then 3rd. Hold the cards face down again.

Deal the cards in the same way again. Ask the same question of the spectator. Gather the cards in the same way.

Do the same procedure a third time. After you have gathered the cards, the spectator's card will be 14th from the top. Magic!

If you want to learn card magic, I'd reccomend either Royal Road to Card Magic or Card College Volume 1 as good books for that purpose.
posted by splice at 4:19 AM on May 15, 2006

wow juv3nal, I'd never expected to see something using the Gilbreath principle as a beginner's trick. Well, the principle your trick is based on can be used to perform virtual miracles. Max Maven has a number of ideas with it that are wonderful.
posted by splice at 4:20 AM on May 15, 2006

I have a large collection of card magic books, and agree with splice that Royal Road to Card Magic and the Card College series are full of great tricks. For a true beginner, I'd suggest checking out Magic For Dummies; it's easy to find, and has some surprisingly startling tricks that are easy to learn and require little sleight of hand.
posted by NewGear at 4:33 AM on May 15, 2006

Best answer: Something simple.

Before-hand divide the pack so the first half is red, and the last half is black.

Hand pack to someone, ask them to cut them roughly in half.

Fan stack A in front of them, ask them to select a card and insert it into stack B.

Ask them to pile the stacks back together, and cut them.

Their card is the single red card buried in a whole bunch of blacks.
posted by Leon at 5:05 AM on May 15, 2006

A variation on the above: Get a deck with an asymmetrical back. (It can be obviously asymmetrical -- my best run with this trick was with a deck with a huge graphic parrot on the back.) Point all the backs in the same direction -- kids won't notice. Have a kid draw a card from somewhere in the deck, look at it and really concentrate on it. While they're concentrating, subtly do a 180 on the deck. Have them replace the card, and they will most likely do so opposite of the direction of the rest of the deck. Smartly shuffle the deck so as not to disrupt the back orientations (it looks perfectly natural if you practice), and while you shuffle the deck a few times (sky's the limit), talk to the audience about how it's not a poker trick but a psychological trick -- how you are able to look for subconscious physical traits that indicate when the person is lying, what's called a "tell" in poker. When you're done shuffling, raise the top card and show it to the person. Ask him to say "yes" or "no" to each card, and tell him he's free to lie or tell the truth. No one will be paying attention to the card backs whatsoever, and if you do this carefully you can go through the trick without disturbing the back orientations (so you can repeat the trick). When you get to the card with the reversed back, announce as much. They'll beg to know what their tell is, but decline to tell them. Instead, ask the other kids to watch the player with you, and when the card comes up next time, ask the other kids, "Did you see it?" Or pass the correct card, but then, a few cards later, get a confused look in your eye and go back to it, praising the person for almost tricking you.

I did this at a high school camp once and people ate it up. The casualness of the sleight is what's important. If the deck gets interrupted and you can't rectify it simply, just stop and come back to it. And it's the sort of trick where you can "fail" now and again, which only adds to the realism.
posted by blueshammer at 5:37 AM on May 15, 2006 [1 favorite]

Simple slight-of-hand: Flip bottom card, Fan deck and offer a card. While person examines card, tap the deck on table/heel of opposite hand and flip it so the bottom card is up. Hold narrow sides of deck between finger and thumb, and suggest they insert their card. Tap/flip deck again with appropriate banter, and fan cards - their card is face-up.

Yes, between this and the Balducci levitation, I know some of the lamest magic tricks of all time.
posted by Orb2069 at 5:45 AM on May 15, 2006

Really easy one. Fan cards and ask someone to choose one. Hold the closed deck out to them face down and tell them to place their card on top. Put deck behind your back, flip their card over so that's it's facing outwards and then hold the deck out to them at arms length so they are looking at the bottom card of the deck. While you are doing this, you are looking at their card which you've just flipped over. Ask them if the card they are looking at is theirs. They'll say no and you feign embarrassement. Put cards behind your back again, flip card back the way it was and ask them to shuffle the deck. Since you now know their card, it's easy to find.

Silly trick but you did say it was for kids.

Also, not a card trick but here's a great one to do on kids. Before you call them over, lick your index finger and press it on to some black pepper so that the pepper sticks to your inside finger tip. Ask child to hold his (or her) hands out flat in front of you. When he does, grab his hands and say "a little higher". As you do this, you are pressing the pepper stuck on your finger into the palm of his hand which he won't notice. Then tell him to make a fist, pour a bit of pepper on to the top of their fist, rub it in, say abracadabra and blow it away. Then ask him to turn their hand over and viola, the pepper is in his palm. Kids love it.
posted by gfrobe at 7:17 AM on May 15, 2006

Here's a great production for kids. Pick two kids, have each choose a card from the deck, show it, return it. Control one card to the top and one to the bottom of the deck. Hold the deck with the back facing them, squeezed tight between your thumb and first finger. Snap your wrist up - the cards go flying all over the room! Except the top card and the bottom card, trapped between your thumb and finger - the two cards they chose. Messy and spectacular, perfect for kids.

A fast and easy way to control the chosen cards to the top and bottom is to use a stripped deck. You can get these from magic stores. Simple physical slight you can do behind your back.
posted by zanni at 7:26 AM on May 15, 2006

Here's one that I've used to annoy the heck out of people, some slight of hand, some trickery.

Shuffle the deck, and while you do take note of the card on the bottom of the deck as you finish shuffeling. You should be able to do this without it being obvious.

Fan the deck, let the victim choose a card. Have them put the card on top of the deck, and then cut the deck into three piles.

Put one pile on top of theirs and one pile underneath such that the card you noted before is right on top of the victim's card. Point out that their card is now basically right in the middle of the deck and is lost to all.

Now start laying out the cards face up in columns and rows. Count as you go so that they think you've got some sort of number system going on.

Keep laying out the cards until you see your noted card go by, their card should be the next one, but ignore it for now. Don't give the plot away by making eye contact or anything like that, or else they might figure out what's going on.

Finish some nice looking number of rows and then lay out one card *face down*. I like four rows of 9, as that usually gives me enough cards to get theirs out, and still have some left over, as if I didn't need them all.

Put your hand on the face down card and say "I bet you the next card I flip over will be yours". Since the victim by now has probably realized that you've already laid out their card face up and it can't possibly be the one face down, they'll take the bet (you can get rich here).

Then flip over the card that came out after your noted card, so that it's face down. Slide it towards the victim and ask them if it's their card.

Take the money and run!
posted by tiamat at 9:21 AM on May 15, 2006

To set up: Look at the top card of the deck. Let's say it's a 5. From there (starting at 5) count off until you get 13: "5, 6 (that's the card right under the top), 7, 8, etc etc". Put that stack down. Look at the new top card, repeat (aces are 1, face cards are 11, 12, 13) until you don't have enough cards to make another pile.

Now, how many piles you have all depends, but you need to be left with 3. So, let's assume you have five piles in all; ask the person watching to tap the top of 2 piles. Collect those two piles and add them to the cards you have left over.

From that stack of cards, count off ten. Put those ten aside, they aren't important.

Ask the person watching to tap the top of two of the remaining three piles. Flip the top card of each of those piles over. Add the amounts together. Remove that amount of cards from the extra-card stack.

Count the number of cards remaining in the extra-card stack. Announce how many you have. Flip over the top card of the last pile. If you counted everything correctly, it should be the same number.
posted by hopeless romantique at 9:34 AM on May 15, 2006

Buy a so-called Svengali deck.
You can do very, very impressive tricks with it and it's unbelievably easy (and still hard to figure out for those who don't know how it works).

Unfortunately, you can't just take some random card deck and do tricks with it then, it will only work with the Svengali cards you brought.
posted by bloo at 9:40 AM on May 15, 2006

"I'm going to do a card trick for you, but it's going to be a little different. Most magicians would shuffle the deck themselves, but I'm not like most magicians, so I'm going to let you do all the shuffling. Go ahead and shuffle as much as you want."

[Shuffle, shuffle]

"Great. Now, most magicians would cut the deck themselves, but I'm not like most magicians, so I'm going to let you cut it. Go ahead."


"Perfect. Most magicians would hold the deck in their own hands while they asked you to draw a card, but I'm not like most magicians, so I want you to pick up the deck and pull a card by yourself."


"Almost done. Most magicians would hold the deck while you slipped the card back inside, but I'm not like most magicians, so you're going to keep holding the deck and put the card back in."

[Replace card]

"And finally, most magicians would shuffle the deck yet again, but I'm not like most magicians, so you get to shuffle."


"And... is this your card?"

[No, of course not, because you just drew a random card out of the thoroughly shuffled deck]

"Well, most magicians would have gotten it right."
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:15 AM on May 15, 2006

Done properly this one is a mindbender.

1. Starts as above, layout a 5x5 grid (you can stack them for space) it helps the trick later to do this row by row
2. Ask someone to pick a card and tell you what column it's in.
3. pick up that column leaving it face up in your hand.
4. (this is showmanship). If they picked column three count three columns left to right 1. 2. 3 cirlcing around and pick up the "3" column adding the cards face up in your hand. Keep counting until all columns are picked up. The column they picked should be the "top" of the deck
5. Layout 5x5 grid row by row, if you picked up the cards right this should leave all the cards in the column the victim picked earlier in the top row.
6. Have the vic tell you which column their card is in THE FIRST CARD SHOULD BE THEIR CARD
7. Pick up the same way using the count part to throw off the hounds.
8. Now their card should be the first card in your deck.
9. Create 5 "Stars" of 5 cards (4 corners with one in the middle) remember which card is theirs
10. This is the gist of the trick. Have the user pick "3 stars" if they pick the one with thier card then pick up the other two if they pick three without their card then pick up those. Then depending on how many stars are left have them pick 1 or two continuing to pick around their card. (They'll never notice whether you are picking up the groups they picked or leaving them). When you get to one star, repeat but this time having them pick 3 cards etc. You should be able to leave them with one card left, their card.
posted by bitdamaged at 12:59 PM on May 15, 2006

An easy peasy trick to perform for young kids, like this trick but with a normal deck: give a kid the q♠ & k♣, have them put it anywhere in the deck. You've prepped the deck beforehand so that the top & bottom cards are the q♣ and the k♠; thoroughly riffle shuffle the deck, but make sure you keep the top & bottom card in the same place. Blow on the deck, make a big show, and then pinch the deck hard & toss it, making a big mess. The top & bottom cards left between your fingers will be the king & queen--and the kids won't notice that the suits have switched.

This was my favorite trick to do when I was a kid. Showed it to mostly other kids, and it went over well (especially the flourish of throwing the cards).
posted by neda at 4:48 PM on May 15, 2006

The simplest card trick, and one that impresses little kids, is:

- shuffle the deck, glancing at the bottom card
- fan the deck, and ask them to choose a card (without showing you, of course)
- ask them to put their card on top face down
- ask them to cut the deck
- fan through the deck face up - their card will be on top of the card you saw on the bottom of the deck

You can even risk shuffling after the cut if you like - it's pretty unlikely those two cards will be separated by little hands (or even by yours, if you do it right). You could probably even risk multiple cuts. You can do it over and over again, letting them all shuffle before you do the trick - all it takes is a quick flick of the wrist for you to see the bottom card.

Slightly more advanced, setting the deck up for two tricks in a row:

- separate the four Aces from the deck, along with the 5 of Spades
- put the 5 of Spades on the bottom of the deck *face up*
- put the four Aces on the bottom of the deck, face down as normal, below the 5 of Spades

Face down, the deck now looks like this:

A bunch of cards (face down)
5 of Spades (face up)
Ace (face down)
Ace (face down)
Ace (face down)
Ace (face down)

Keep the deck to one side until you're ready to use it. Take out the deck, then shuffle, keeping the bottom five cards on the bottom. It's not hard - hold the deck in your right hand with the faces toward your palm. Keep hold of, say, the bottom quarter of the deck in your right hand while you shuffle the top three-quarters over and over with your left. Those Aces still on the bottom below the face up 5 of Spades? Good.

Fan the deck face down and ask them to pick a card (don't show me!). Just fan the top half or two-thirds of the deck - you don't want them to get those Aces or to see the face-up 5 of Spades. Ask them to place the card face down on the deck. Ask them to cut the deck. Face down, the deck now looks like this:

A bunch of cards
5 of Spades (face up)
Their card
A bunch of cards

Keeping the deck face down, fan through the deck. You come across the face up 5 of Spades among all the face down cards.

"Is this your card?"
"Hmm...maybe the deck is trying to tell me something."

Count the next four cards (which are the Aces) face down, counting "1...2...3...4...", then turn the hold the fifth card face up...."5! Is this your card!" Of course, it is.

Take up the four cards you dealt face down and place them on top of the deck. You'll be asked for another trick. Hum and ha, well, OK.

You can do another trick, you announce, but the magic in the deck is greatly depleted after the last trick, and needs recharging. Only a magic girl with a magic kiss can do that. Ask a girl to kiss the top of the deck. Riffle the deck next to your ear. "Hrm...nope, you don't have the magic kiss." Repeat a couple of times til you come to the favourite niece / birthday girl / whatever. Get the bestest girl to kiss the top of the deck. Riffle the corners again next to your ear, and announce that the bestest girl does indeed have the magic kiss. Then deal out the top four cards face up - Ace, Ace, Ace and Ace.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 6:18 PM on May 15, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks guys. Some good stuff here. I'll check back later for anymore and mark best then.
posted by bystander at 6:25 PM on May 15, 2006

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