How can do I do those crazy card tricks?
May 3, 2008 7:47 PM   Subscribe

I've recently been enamored by card tricks that appear to be magic. Can anyone suggest reputable teachers/mentors and study guides?
posted by jasonspaceman to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (11 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: It's easy to learn card tricks. But to make them look like magic is the real secret. That takes more than just knowing the right moves. It involves a lot of subtlety and psychology that only come with study and practice. For this reason, I recommend The Amateur Magician's Handbook. It has a a couple chapters of very good card tricks, but more importantly, there are a couple chapters at the beginning that contain the real secrets magic that will help you learn how to turn those tricks into impressive miracles.

Beyond that, there are countless books and DVDs of card magic. But to do any of them correctly, you really need the foundation that Henry Hay lays out in his book.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 8:17 PM on May 3, 2008 [2 favorites]

Look for videos and writings by sleight-of-hand experts like Ricky Jay and David Roth.

I've seen Roth perform. He's the brother of a friend, and he's kindly flabbergasted us across the dinner table. I know what he's doing is sleight-of-hand, and not magic, and he knows that I know, and I've seen him do this stuff from barely a foot away and I can't spot how he does it. He's so good - at the mechanics, the psychology, the whole thing. Fuzzy Skinner is right - the mechanics themselves are one thing, and important, but the "selling" of the trick is what makes it, and is the harder part.
posted by rtha at 9:21 PM on May 3, 2008

I recently interviewed a really awesome magician/magic consultant who does this kind of thing. His website details the services he can provide.
posted by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] at 10:25 PM on May 3, 2008

Best answer: The Royal Road to Card Tricks is pretty classic.
posted by miss lynnster at 11:32 PM on May 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

What you will discover is that these tricks take a pantload of practice. In order to train your muscles and nerves and mind to pull these maneuvers off, you'll need to start simple and just build your skills gradually. Grab some nice new playing cards and start learning to palm them and eventually to flip from your palm to the back of your hand. That is one of the most essential moves in card magic. Watch video like this for examples of expert card handling.
posted by kurtroehl at 12:02 AM on May 4, 2008

Best answer: Grab some nice new playing cards and start learning to palm them and eventually to flip from your palm to the back of your hand. That is one of the most essential moves in card magic.

Absolutely not. It may be the basics of card manipulation, a la Jeff McBride, but in no way necessary to close-up card magic.

Some of the other suggestions above are good. The Amateur Magician's Handbook is a good place to start. For a more comprehensive introduction to card work, Royal Road to Card Magic is indeed a classic. R. Paul Wilson has DVDs that cover the material from the book, check them out here.

Another good introduction to card magic is Card College, a 5 book series written by Roberto Giobbi. This is somewhat more recent (original German in early 90s, English translation in mid-90s). It is a very complete course in sleight of hand card magic. There is also a newer addition to the series, Card College Light, which is based on self-working card tricks.

Of course, the overarching question is what kind of magic are you really interested in? If you are interested in taking a pack of cards and doing something with it (pick a card, I shuffle the deck, spread it and your card is face up in the middle of the deck, for example), the suggestions above are a good start. If you want to make cards appear and disappear from your hands, that's a different branch entirely. And then there's the rest of the magical world, with coins, cups, rings, women sawed in half and boeing jets that disappear. But maybe that's for another time...
posted by splice at 2:47 AM on May 4, 2008

Watch video like this for examples of expert card handling.

Also, not to put a fine point on it, that's pretty much beginner-intermediate card handling. This video shows a smoother handling of the routine by Wayne Houchin. The "lay down" of the cards is much nicer.

For your entertainment and edification, some really expert handling of close-up and card magic.

Less technical, but no less magical is Darwin Ortiz's The Last Laugh. This one takes a lot of skill to pull off, although Darwin was lucky in that performance. This is the kind of card magic I have an interest in: close-up, no gimmicks, just moves. Pick up a deck of cards and go. But the card magic world is much bigger than just that, of course.
posted by splice at 3:33 AM on May 4, 2008

I like this site quite a bit, though I haven't done tricks for a while. They have lots of video now so it's even better.
posted by tomble at 6:09 AM on May 4, 2008

Response by poster: Splice: Well, I am interested in card tricks that appear to be magic. I do not want to put the buggy before the horse. I'd like to start off small and work my up if possible.

Thank you all for the great responses! It should get me going in the right direction.
posted by jasonspaceman at 11:17 AM on May 4, 2008

card tricks that appear to be magic

Do you have any examples of what those are? We may be able to better target our advice if you could show us what a "card trick that appears to be magic" is to you.
posted by splice at 2:02 PM on May 4, 2008

Magic all takes place in the mind of the spectators. They contrast the conditions at the beginning (e.g., I picked a card at random) with the conditions at the end (whoa! that very card I picked is now IN MY POCKET!). They search their minds for some kind of logical explanation, and when can't find one so they have that moment of awe and appreciation that all good magicians try to produce.

If you didn't know it already, the mechanics of most tricks are incredibly stupid. When you learn the secret of a trick, there's most often a feeling of deep disappointment, that something that seemed so transcendent is actually so banal.

The craft of magic is to create stories and perfect techniques that will exploit our assumptions about what we think we're seeing, and create a moment of art that is entertaining and that may even give us all hope that things that are torn can be restored, or that things can vanish and reappear.

Go to your local magic store and introduce yourself as an aspiring magician. If the store's any good, you'll get recommendations about effects that are within your reach, and you can build from there.
posted by jasper411 at 5:18 PM on May 4, 2008

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