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The Beginners Guide to Learning Card Magic

Updated on November 2, 2014
The traditional card spring flourish many of us will recognize
The traditional card spring flourish many of us will recognize | Source

How I Started

A little under 10 years ago I stumbled upon an underground world where communities came together to discuss, teach and learn magic. These communities were created by big name magicians and had videos/DVDs available for purchase so you could learn straight from the source.

At the time I lived in Valdez, Alaska. It's a very small city of a little over 4,000 people and just about zero to do for the youth growing up there (besides fishing, hunting, camping, playing outside, etc.). Anyway, a friend of mine showed me a TV show that had just recently started called Mindfreak. I found it fascinating and it brought me right back to the 90's when I would watch the David Copperfield specials with my family. As soon as my friend left, I began to Google.

Even back in 2005 there were all ready well established communities full of people who wanted nothing more than to learn magic. Needless to say, I jumped in.

My path to learning card magic started as something I could use to help me get over initial interactions with people I didn't know. I always had a hard time making a first impression. Typically around the 3rd or 4th time you met me we'd really hit it off, but with card magic there was always an icebreaker.

Ever since then I've always had a deck of cards around and every one I know has at some point called me "Magic Man" (a nickname all you soon-to-be-magicians should get used to). These days my interest in magic hasn't waned but I don't go out to perform much anymore. From time to time I'll sling a few routines at people to catch them off guard but for the most part I use cards to busy my hands with flourishing (covered later).

It's been almost a decade since I began my interest in card magic (and magic in general) and I've never regretted it. It's an amazing skill that can impress your superiors, get you a job (not just in magic!) or even help you get a date!

Phew... Now that you have an idea of how I got started, lets take a look at a few different ways you could start your journey to becoming a card magician!

Another Great Resource To Get You Started!

Where You Should Start

This isn't really something I can tell you how to do. All I can really say is that there are loads of different ways to start learning about magic. The traditional way would be the library. There are endless amounts of books that have come out for just about every aspect of magic and card magic is probably one of the more covered ones.

To the right I've displayed a couple of the more popular starting points.

The Expert At The Card Table by S.W. Erdnase (in reverse, E.S. Andrews maybe?) is the Bible on card technique and always a great place to start. It will break down everything you need to know in a very technical and explained way. The book was more crafted for those trying not to get caught cheating at the poker table but all the principles apply and there are some magic routines in the book itself.

The Royal Road to Card Magic is another very well cited starting point for anyone interested in magic. It was actually the first book I could find on magic all those years ago and it helped me really nail some of the basics. Though, if I had to pick between the two, The Expert At The Card Table is hands down the best.

When you start magic you may not want to start with books. It's the traditional way but not the only way anymore. With everything available online you could start by just picking up a few tricks for download that you like or an introduction DVD. I started with the DVDs because in Valdez Alaska it's hard to find a magic shop.

Speaking of, any city of small-to-medium size has some place to purchase magic books or materials. Even here in Anchorage Alaska we had a magic shop for a while. And if you do have a legitimate magic shop in town then you definitely have a magic club of some sort. Both are great ways to dive into the world of magic as the club is always eager to share knowledge with a new member (who's committed to magic) and the salesmen at a magic shop is always willing to show you a few tricks you could purchase.

Terminology Of The Magic World

The underground world of card magic is an interesting rabbit hole to fall down. You start learning new words, names for types of tricks, even what to call the non-magic inclined folk (not muggles). A lot of this is covered in the books I've recommended but if you're like I was, you'll want to learn as quickly as possible with the power of internet videos. So, here are a few of some of the new words/phrases that you'll want to be familiar with.

Sleight or Sleight of Hand
The definition of sleight is "the use of dexterity or cunning, especially so as to deceive." So in this case it would be talking about the dexterity of the hand or any technique you learn that requires dexterity to perform without being detected.

False Cut/Shuffle
A cut or shuffle that appears to mix the cards but in reality hasn't done anything to the deck at all.

Mechanics Grip
The main grip you need to get comfortable using as a card magician. You will see many references and descriptions of just this on your first few steps of the card magic journey.

Double/Triple/Quadruple Lift (most commonly Double Lift or DL)
As the name implies, it is lifting two, three or even four or more cards and displaying it as if you were lifting just one.

The Pass/Shift
A technique that secretly shifts the bottom and the top half of the decks. There are many variations of this.

Ambitious Card Routine (ACR)
For card magicians you can be judged just on how well you handle yourself during your ACR. It's the typical street magic routine where you take a selected card and repeatedly place it in the middle of the deck only to have it appear at the top, bottom or anywhere else you want it to.

Flourish
I'll post a video below that more shows this as words don't really describe what a flourish is. The definition that's relevant here is "a bold or extravagant gesture or action, made especially to attract the attention of others." In magic it can be a way to show your extreme level is technique or to misdirect.

Square up
To smooth out the edge of your deck after it has been spread out or discombobulated in anyway. Basically you're putting the cards back in a pretty little stack.

Laymen
The definition of a laymen is "a person without professional or specialized knowledge in a particular subject." In this case, a lay person is anyone who has no knowledge of card magic or magic in general.

Impromptu
This refers to a magic trick that you can perform on the fly with no set up. Someone hands you a deck of cards and says "GO".

Gimmick
A gimmick is the exact opposite of impromptu. A gimmick is the secret device concealed from the spectators that makes the "magic" happen.

The Best Magic Communities On The Web

There is no reason you should have to learn only from books' hard to understand explanations, this is the age of the Internet! For the past decade (give or take a few years) of my training in the magical arts I've come across a lot of websites that offer great communities as well as tips and pointers from some of the most respected magicians in the business. Below I'll go over the best of the best (in my opinion) of the magic communities I've ran into and been a part of.

Keep in mind! All of these communities have their own merits, magicians and style so don't put all your cards in one deck! (hah, that took me 5 minutes to come up with) I didn't put these magic communities in a special order.

Source

Ellusionist

Ellusionist was the first magic community I found online almost 10 years ago. Brad Christian has some of the best introductory videos you can find on the net that will have you performing (or at least wanting to perform) before the end of the day. His techniques aren't too complicated, though take years upon years to master, so you can literally go out and try out what you learned right after!

That being said, you should always take the time to master even the simplest of tricks. Your first few times messing up will be enough to remind you of that.

Some of the better beginner videos include Inside Magic, Crash Course, Crash Course 2, Ninja 1 and Ninja 2. All of them go through many different aspects of card magic and show you a lot of basics you'll need to start creating your base of knowledge.

Source

Theory 11

Theory 11 has a very special place in my heart. My friend and I were full fledged magicians (at least to our friends, families, father's drunken poker buddies and school mates) when whispers around the internet started: "What is Theory 11?" It was months of hyping before the unveiling of the Theory 11 website where a large group of well known magicians came together to create a new community for the "new generation of magic". If you wanna see some of the hype, their teaser sites (and I believe all the clues hidden in the videos and html) and videos are still available at www.whatistheory11.com.

This site was made from the ground up by the creators of some of the most amazing effects used in current magic. They have videos for beginners all the way up to wizards. A few videos that you should probably take a look at as a beginner is anything by Chris Kenner or Jason England. For Jason England, make sure to check out Foundations, Foundations 2 and Foundations 3. For Chris Kenner, try to avoid anything that looks advanced until you're ready. Or if you want to be hardcore, jump right into some of the harder looking effects and start mastering them now!

Source

Dan and Dave

I'm hesitant to bring up D&D because they operate at a very high level of technique and with a certain style that demands perfection, but there is a lot of great things to be learned here. Dan and Dave Buck are twins that have created a very new style of street magic that focuses on handling the cards like a pro. There moves are typically flashy, technical and just pure eye candy. My friend and I jumped into The Trilogy by Dan and Dave way too soon (about 6 months into our 'journey') but we practiced hard and there's no reason you can't learn some really great things from even the hardest tricks.

As far as what to get from them, it's up to you. They have many different DVD's, books or video downloads available that you can watch trailers to. There's no reason you can't watch a trick, find out you like it and dedicate yourself to perfecting it. Just jump in!

Another thing to keep in mind with D&D is that they also have brought cardistry (or sometimes called flourishes and Extreme Card Manipulation [ECM]) to the mainstream. A lot of their products are specifically geared toward learning fancy cuts or flash ways to display the cards. It took about a year of card magic before I really got into the idea of cardistry. In the beginning of your journey you'll learn a few flourishes: the card fan, the one handed cut (charlier) and the card fan. These are introduced to you as a way to display your level of skill or use as misdirection but Dan and Dave have made an art out of it. I'll put a link to their trailer for The Trilogy below. The second DVD is focused solely on flourishes.

Source

Penguin Magic

I was never a huge Penguin Magic fan but there's no reason I shouldn't mention it here. They seem to be some of the most positive people on the net and I have great respect for Jay Noblezada (who seems to hang out there a lot) especially for his coin magic DVD as well as his Sponge Ball DVD.

As far as card magic, they have that covered as well. I haven't spent a lot of time on their site for the past few years (looks like they got an update!) but as I remember they do have some great routines for video download. Go check it out and let me know what you gems you find in the comments below! I'd love to know what I'm missing.

What It Takes

People like to see a magician mess up. People will rag on you if you ever drop a card. It doesn't matter that you just pulled their selected card through glass, if you drop any while squaring up they will laugh at you. It's best to have a nice little line or gag that you can use to gain control of the situation again but you have to accept that you're going to mess up sometimes.

Another thing to keep in mind is that spectators don't always know how to watch magic. You'll find people who actually think that the point of watching magic tricks is to try to figure it out while you're doing it. Sometimes it's guys who want to impress his chick by figuring it but a lot of the time they think they're supposed to guess. As if that's the game. You do the trick and he figures it out. I haven't found the best way to handle this situation. If you figure it out, let me know!

To become a magician of any level (street, cocktail, stage, etc...) you have to have thick skin. The first time you try to walk the street like David Blaine you'll learn real quick that they edit those specials because a good amount of people you ask to see a trick will tell you no. Typically they're not rude about it but every once in a while they will be. Some people just don't like magic. It's something you're going to have to deal with. I've put a video below I found 4 years ago that addresses this exact problem and the words have stayed with me. Watch it and really let it sink in because as a magician you must be ready to face rejection.

As a final word, I want to say good luck! The world of card magic is endless and the interest in the magic community is on the rise. The time to start your journey is now!

Words of Wisdom for ANY New Magician

5 out of 5 stars from 2 ratings of How'd I do? Did I help nudge in the right direction?

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    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 2 years ago from Oklahoma

      Cool tricks. What I like about card tricks is that they are so dependent on skill, not just some bit of technology.