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Topic: Card magic skills: learning by order of importance
Message: Posted by: Geoff Weber (Feb 18, 2004 09:39AM)
This is just one man's opinion. If you are going to tackle the beast that is card magic, it helps to know which skills are the ones you are going to need time and time again, that way you know what to focus your time and energy on during your practice sessions.

[b]Basic Handling Skills:[/b]
You want to appear at least as competent with a deck of cards as anyone you might sit down to play cards with.[list=1][*]Deal. This includes knowing the proper dealer grip. Practice being able to just deal cards around the table without any hiccups. As you improve, you can try to get fancy and sail the cards like a Vegas dealer, so they still go to the corrects spots around the table without accidentally flipping over.[*]Shuffle. Learn classic waterfall shuffle with a bridge as well as an overhand shuffle. This should be clean and neat, without cards falling out of alignment.

[b]Basic Sleight of Hand:[/b][*]Card Force. You really only need one, although it is sometimes useful to have an alternative method when performing multiple times for the same individual. The easiest is the cross-cut force. The hardest (but cleanest) is the classic force. I think the best compromise between difficulty and fairness is the Hofzinser cull force.[*]Getting/holding a break.[*]Double Lift/Double Turn-over. There are many fancy ways to do this. Beginners should avoid all such fanciness and stick to the basic method. Practice making this look the same as the action of turning over a card normally.

(With these two sleights you can perform literally thousands of tricks.)

[b]Flourishes: [/b]
To appear like a magician and not a fool with a pack of cards, you must inject some elegance into your handling.[*]Thumb fan. Being able to form a perfect fan and then close it up is a must.


[*]Double Undercut. There are many ways to control a card, but none are within the grasp of a beginner as much as this move. It may not look the "fairest" but it is well worth the trade off. Forget the pass, the side steal. Just learn this for starters.

[b]Counts:[/b][*]Elmsley Count. Hands down, the most useful false count.

[b]More Flourishes:[/b][*]Dribble the cards[*]Ribbon Spread[*]Charlier Cut. (One handed cut.)

[b]False Shuffle:[/b][*]Slop Shuffle. I would say of all the false shuffles, this is easiest one for maintaining the full deck in order. If you only need to maintain a small section of cards in order, than I would just use a genuine overhand shuffle, not touching the stacked cards.[/list]...more to come later.

(There are many principles of magic you should also be aware of, but I would not categorize them as "skills". Things like key-cards, crimps, stacks...)
Message: Posted by: Blackwood (Feb 18, 2004 02:37PM)
Excellent, Geoff! A lot of people have been asking for a list like this. I've tried making one myself and I'm pleased to say that mine is very close to yours.

I'm coming back to magic after 30+ years away. I'm 52 now. If I wait until I get my invisible pass up to snuff, I'll be premiering it on my death-bed.

So, I'm eager to get input as to the must-learn sleights I need to concentrate on.

Message: Posted by: KerryJK (Feb 18, 2004 06:32PM)
I've just spent the last week or so learning cards; it's not really my favourite area of magic, but I'm getting an act together with a girl I'm building illusions with, and I figure that sort of makes me a magician so I'd better be able to at least bluff with cards to look the part.

So far what I've learnt, in no particular order;

Flourishes/shuffles: (this was my priority as the whole point of the exercise was to be able to look the part);
Thumb fans
Ribbon spreads/flippovers
One handed cuts
Palm and production
Overhand shuffle to retain top card
Quick cuts

Slip force (I use this most)
Cut force
Fan slip force
Double lift (along with various ways of using this to make the card "magically" transform into another)
Card palming and production

Card tracking;
Bottom key card and cut (or whatever it's called; anyway, I use this more than any other)
Double ended deck (or whatever it's called when you flip over the top card to disguise which way up the deck is)
Crimp (I don't really use this at all, but it's there if I need it)

This is my arsenal so far, which also contains a whopping three tricks, though they are ones that can be done impromptu and look skilled rather than something that came out of a Christmas cracker (force and reveal, one I don't know the name of but which involves turning the selected card the wrong way round inside the deck and various "your card" variations combining force, key card and double lift moves).

There are other moves I've come across, but which I either am not satisfied with or can't see an use for just yet, but I think at this stage my priority is just getting what I've done so far as smooth as possible, before undertaking a similar crash course in coins.

I'm also finding out the learning curve when it comes to performing card tricks; having rehearsed thoroughly in front of the mirror when I gave a trick a dry run before a few people the first few times it always went wrong due to the pressure of an audience; it's particularly embarassing to be using a key card to find a chosen card inside the deck only to develop a sudden attack of amnesia and forget which card is the key card.
Message: Posted by: JackDaniel (Feb 19, 2004 02:23AM)
Great post guys,

This should be the first post new members read before they move on. A very important A-B-C for beginners of card magic.


Message: Posted by: Ricky B (Feb 20, 2004 01:50AM)
A very intelligent approach, Geoff. All too often I see recommendations that beginners learn the pass!

The only change that I would suggest is to add the jog shuffle too as a control to learn.

By the way, when you say the beginner should learn "the basic method," what method do you mean?

Message: Posted by: Geoff Weber (Feb 20, 2004 10:21AM)
I mean, just spread the cards on a previous beat for your getting ready. No need for strike doubles, pinky counts, diagonal pressure squeezes, etc.
Message: Posted by: Reis O'Brien (Feb 20, 2004 04:15PM)
Excellent list, Geoff! This is exactly what I could have used in the beginning. This should help many new comers!
Message: Posted by: ABlair36 (Feb 22, 2004 05:09PM)
The problem I see in most new magicians is that they try to start off with something very advanced because they have one good (in their opinion) trick. They think that the basics are like, "take left hand and hold cards, take right thumb and push off the first card into your right hand and then drop on table".

Those are the words of someone in the magic store closest to me the other day. This guy only knew the glide, the double lift and a very pour palm. He wanted to get [i]Revolutionary Card Technique[/i] (Marlo). I started laughing and I convinced him to get [i]Royal Road[/i]. That list definitely helps young magicians and I think that every one should follow it.

BTW, Marlo would be past the ect. of the list.
Message: Posted by: seraph127 (Mar 2, 2004 11:51AM)
Very useful information here. If I would differ in one small point, it might be regarding the Double Undercut. I'd recommend as an alternative Gilles Couture's Swivel-Cut Control. It's just as easy as a DU and is harder to reconstruct.
Message: Posted by: Dave V (Mar 2, 2004 07:28PM)
I can't argue with you on the "Gilles Couture.." whatever move as I've never heard of it.

But I believe that was the point of Geoff's post that you need to know the basics before moving on to moves I can't even pronounce.
Message: Posted by: magic soul (Mar 3, 2004 03:47AM)
I think all you guys who have gone before me are all excellent views in my opinion I think the most important not that you should'nt practice more are the double lift,a palm,and some kind of control and then after a while go on to some more advanced ones.But you cant go wrong to start off with them first three I mentioned.Andy
Message: Posted by: MoonBeam (Mar 8, 2004 06:18PM)
From Mr. Lorayne's visit at the Café':

MoonBeam: I've written, a few times, that you can do miracles with a GOOD control, double lift, palm, not necessarily in that order. And that's true. Bear in mind that thee are many different controls (I would include the Classic Force in that category), lifts and palming methods. Knowing more than one of each can't hurt. But, I also do "miracles" with my HaLo Cut, Ultra Move, Universal Reversal, Illogical Double Lift, and so many more.
Message: Posted by: flooglestreet (Mar 9, 2004 12:59PM)
I've just started Hugards Royal Road. The approach is similar, and I go slower then some.

Geoff, have you seen Royal Road, and if so, why do you place less emphasis on the overhand shuffle? I consider the break easier then the injog but like the reaction to the injog, done well, makes the latter techinique more powerfull. Later, I can use a break because the audience is sold. I very much want to hear your comments on Royal Road. Bill
Message: Posted by: Geoff Weber (Mar 9, 2004 02:38PM)
If you read item #12, I do suggest the overhand shuffle, however I think this move is better suited towards controling multiple cards. If you are controlling a single card, I stand by my original recommendation, the double undercut.

Sorry to disappoint you, but I can't comment on Royal Road because I haven't read it. Nor have I read card college. However based on the number of people who swear by the book, I have no trouble passing along the title of it to someone asking me for a book that covers the fundamentals.

I probably made life hard for myself because I had no systematic approach when I entered card magic. I studied books that were probably too advanced for me at the time. And I learned the moves eventually, but it could have been much easier if I had followed a guideline such as the on I am describing in this topic.
Message: Posted by: HeyLockwood (Mar 11, 2004 11:03PM)
This looks like a top notch list for someone to start with, Geoff. If only more beginners would listen to the collective voice of experience on this...


PS The Royal Road is a great book, but Lord knows it can be a tough read...
Message: Posted by: RayBanks (Mar 12, 2004 08:57AM)
On 2004-03-12 00:03, HeyLockwood wrote:
PS The Royal Road is a great book, but Lord knows it can be a tough read...

Opie Houston, a magician in Austin, TX and a former college teacher, has written a study guide for the Royal Road. It is written much like Geoff's post in that it emphasizes learning the basics rather than proceeding through the book chapter to chapter.

He has given me permission to distribute it so If you or anyone would like a copy, email or PM me and I send it out.

I have sent many out to MC readers already and it has a pemanent place on the Conjure Nation forum.

There is some more discussion about RRTCM and the study guide in the Pick a Card...topic.
Message: Posted by: Josie_Archer (Apr 12, 2004 01:23AM)
Thank you heaps, I was not sure where to start until I read that.
Message: Posted by: nakulshenoy (Apr 20, 2004 07:07AM)
Great work Geoff! Absolutely fantastic!


PS: Many have already said this. But Geoff's post deserves many more saying this.
Message: Posted by: GavinK (Apr 21, 2004 12:52PM)
Great advice. When I returned to magic, cards were the first thing I tackled. I really need to bookmark this post and use it as a reference while practicing.

Three cheers to you and whoever made it a sticky!!!
Message: Posted by: Gary Barnard (Apr 22, 2004 08:07PM)
Those are some good tips. I learned the Hindu Shuffle and its served well over the years. It being a shuffle and force at the same time.
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Apr 23, 2004 04:49PM)
Losing all the 'playing cards like a shark' stuff and also any thing that looks like fanning or showing off with the cards, I'd agree with much of the above. The Hindu Shuffle is a good basic way to start learning to control and force cards.
Message: Posted by: Han Solo (Apr 24, 2004 10:05PM)
Hey man great list but I think the biddle countis also very useful. And Erdnase color change.
Jonathan Thompson
Message: Posted by: magicphil (Apr 25, 2004 11:34AM)
Thanks for the very useful advice. I would aso recommend learning the spread cull as I think that is probably the easiest method of getting cards to the top of the deck.
Message: Posted by: TheHungryMagician (May 2, 2004 07:35PM)
I have a variation on the double undercut. It looks cleaner than the DU. PM me if you're interested. When I was beginning I exposed the double undercut so this might be valuable.
Message: Posted by: Pocket_Picker04 (May 15, 2004 09:39AM)
Excellent post if I may interject my own list here
1.of course the basics i.e. the mechanics grip the deal the riffle and overhand shuffle
2.the double undercut
3.riffle shuffle to maintain top or bottom stock
4.the double lift (nothing fancy just a simple smooth lift)and the triple lift its less used but its useful in one of my favorite tricks o I suggest it
5.false cut(s)
6.thumb fan or pressure fan
8.marlo tilt
9.the glide
10.at least 2 or 3 forces (one for each position of the deck)
11.the add on control
it took me about two years of solid practice to get all those moves and now I can do an infite number of tricks (shamefully I don't know more than 10 or 15 tricks). For those of you who are REALLY new to magic the tenkia is a method of palming a card whilst still allowing use of that hand (to an extent)well I hope I have helped
Message: Posted by: emeline (May 17, 2004 10:36AM)

I bought some cards by Bicycle ( poker cards, 52 cards, red ). do you think it's a good choice? thanks
Message: Posted by: TheHungryMagician (May 17, 2004 07:36PM)
I personally love bikes. Before I got into magic we got like a 24-pack, and that's kept me going for a long time. But yes, I think Bicycle is a great choice.
Message: Posted by: Thinker (May 22, 2004 10:15PM)
Congratulations for the list.
I started at magic a year ago, and this list is very helpefull, now I can see what did I miss,thank you very much.
Message: Posted by: Hushai (May 26, 2004 03:00PM)
Geoff, thanks for what sounds like very good advice. I have at least two questions:

(1) Regarding the Double Lift, what do you mean by "the basic method?"

2. What do you mean by "slop shuffle?" The slop shuffle I know is one used in tricks to apparently get the cards all mixed up, some faceup and others facedown, but in fact they're not really that mixed up at all, and can easily be put right and shown to be all faceup or all facedown.

Is that the slop shuffle you mean? Can that be used to maintain full deck order? Or is there some other "slop shuffle?" If so, where could I read about it?

I apologize if these are dumb questions. But, you have helped a lot of people here. Thanks again. -
Message: Posted by: pepijn (May 27, 2004 03:58AM)
Jep, some very good posting around here :applause:
I am not sure what is ment with the Slop Shuffle,and for the double I think there are several methods that are good if you are just getting started.

For example the Dai Vernon double. The method taught in Expert Card Techniques or the instantanious DL( Dr. Jacob Daley)

If you are getting stuck on the double I have heard that Wilson vhs is very good on the subject and where I learned it from ( and what I can really recommend) is Daryl's Encyclopedia of Card Sleights. I know that the set is extremly expensive (I think. It still hurts in my wallet). And If you think that it's just too much maybe try out volume 5 as it teaches doubles.

Oh well got to run

Thanks everyone for the posting!
Message: Posted by: Oz Fan (Jun 1, 2004 12:08PM)
Really great info Geoff! I wish I would have started out learning all of the basic sleights instead of just tricks.

Message: Posted by: dg (Jun 2, 2004 03:06AM)
To start off with I got hold of a few good books and learned the basic sleights. The lists above are a really great starting point for anyone involved in magic. Obviously everyone's tastes are different but by learning these sleights it gives you a much better grounding for all types of card magic.

Personally I use a hit lift for a double, found it the easiest and most natural looking for me.
Message: Posted by: Bill Palmer (Jun 2, 2004 10:55AM)
I would add one other thing that nobody has mentioned here. That is PRESENTATION. Don't try to learn too many tricks and/or sleights all at once. Make sure that each thing you learn has a purpose, that is, that you have a trick for every sleight or move you learn and vice-versa. The sleights, moves and subtleties are useless without something to use them in. Forcing a card for the sake of forcing a card is useful only as practice.

Learn a few good tricks, and by good presentation, make them into good magic. Good magic does not have to be difficult to do. In fact, good magic MUST NOT be difficult for you to do. It must be as easy to do as breathing.

So you need to practice.

To give you some insight into presentation, I recommend that you get Henning Nelms' book [i]Magic and Showmanship, a Handbook for Conjurers.[/i] It's as relevant now as it was when it was written.

If you follow the principles in it you will be able to entertain people with your magic.
Message: Posted by: paulajayne (Jun 3, 2004 09:43PM)
A point of view on "finger flinging" card moves.

When we show somthing magical with cards is it not more effective if we handle the deck in a natural way and shuffle like our customers?

Sure if you perform for a living as I do, riffle shuffles are nice , one handed cuts as well but the average Joe doesn't do that. Magic is more effective if it comes on the offbeat.


Message: Posted by: Alastair_Webb (Jun 7, 2004 02:50PM)
I feel a bit stupid asking this question but what are passes used for, and how are they applied to real tricks.

I'm not sure whether you can answer this without exposure, especially since I don't fully understand the rule of exposing a secret.

Any answer you can give would be apprciated.

Message: Posted by: Avrakdavra (Jun 18, 2004 08:30AM)
Thanks to G. Weber, et al. for the advice. Now, intent on following the advice, I am looking for specific recommendations of books/DVDs, etc. which clearly and systematically teach sleights and other basic techniques. For example, what is the full reference for the "card college" book? Any other suggestions?

Much appreciation from this abecedarian avrakadavrian.
Message: Posted by: Richard Allen (Jul 1, 2004 04:57PM)
Pretty good post, and I'd have to agree for the most part. Bill Palmer makes an excellent point... the moves only serve as your tools... you need to learn [i]how[/i] to use them in order to build a magical effect in your spectator's eyes.
Message: Posted by: click pass (Jul 4, 2004 08:02PM)
I am definitely a beginner to card magic. I have several of the card college books as well as royal road and have worked through them. My question is whether anyone would recommend the Apocalypse volumes to a novice card magician. A lot of the tricks seem to be way out of my league. In terms of trying to learn ring and coin tricks is these a good source or would it be better to find books that focus on these topics specifically?
Message: Posted by: CloseUpMan (Jul 6, 2004 11:54PM)
Thanks for all the good info. I'm getting back in to magic, after 20 years. So, I consider myself a beginner. There are some things that I didn't learn back then and this info will get me going in the right direction.
Thanks Bill for mentioning the need for Presentation! Any other resources that you or anyone else can recommend for creating a routine?
Message: Posted by: marlotto (Jul 8, 2004 04:16PM)
In magic, I beleive it is the EFFECT that is all important. If I can develop an alternative method of handling rather than have to master complicated sleights in order to perform a card trick then I will if doing so retains the original effect. Working on your PRESENTATION is, in my opinion, far more important than practicing a card sleight just for the sake of it.
Message: Posted by: Barajista (Jul 12, 2004 10:28AM)
Thanks Geoff,
I've been jumping around for awhile on where to start and your list has been helpful to get a sense of direction. The comments on presentation are important to remember!
Message: Posted by: stuper1 (Jul 14, 2004 04:12PM)
One person mentioned the Hindu shuffle as both a shuffle and a force, but it can also be used to control cards quite easily and convincingly.
Message: Posted by: sinnead zenun (Jul 19, 2004 12:27AM)
I also recommend the rolly polly pass. a very easy pass for beginners...
Message: Posted by: Jason Robillard (Jul 25, 2004 08:53AM)
Being a beginner and a visual learner, what videos or DVD's would anyone recommend for learning card handling techniques?
Message: Posted by: Geoff Weber (Jul 25, 2004 11:55PM)
Please refer to the other sticky topic in the "New to Magic" section entitled "Recommended Books for Beginners".

Presentation: This is just as important as everything I put on my list. Because it is an entirely different beast altogether, it would be impossible for me to rank it on the card magic skills list. I think Presentation is more than just a skill, I think it is a whole new category with its own list of skills. Skills such as timing, blocking, storytelling, communication, acting, creativity, improvisation, scripting....

Each one of these things is far more complicated to master than any piece sleight of hand I mentioned.

So if you are brand new and have not developed your presentation skills? what do you? Study the masters and copy what they do. Video or live performance (even better) is really the only way to convey this. See how they carry themselves, how they make eye contact with the audience. How they make a dramatic pause here, or break the tension with a joke there...

If you buy an instructional video that has a presentation you find entertaining, use it! Learn the script word for word, and match the actions as closely a you can. The ability to develop your own original presentations, is something that can only happen with experience and time, so for now put your faith in the person who is teaching you. As you grow in your performing abilities, you will be more comfortable with your magic, and have better understanding of what works and what doesn't.
Message: Posted by: Jaz (Sep 5, 2004 08:56AM)
Good job Geoff!

I would add jog and slip shuffles for control and the Hindu Shuffle.

The Hindu is a good foundation for forces, false cuts, etc.
Message: Posted by: magicbymccauley (Sep 14, 2004 09:47AM)
This is what I teach to kids:

Riffle shuffle (waterfall)
Riffle shuffle Retatining Top Stock
Overhand Shuffle
Overhand Shuffle card to top and bottom
Hindu Shuffle
Running cards

Key Card Principle
Bob Longe False Cut
Overhand Shuffle Backjog Control,
Pinky break (time misdirection) Cut
Pinky Break Overhand Shuffle (also called simplified pass)

Hindu glimpse
Hindu Pinky Break
Bottom Glimpse
Locator Cards (the crimp,long, short, thick cards)

Cross Cut Force
Bottom Spread Force (From Royal Road)

That right there is the bare bones of card magic: controls, forces,
and false shuffles. (Note that the controls can be used as false shuffles,
but only to retain top stock) You should be able to do just about anything
you can imagine as far as "Pick a Card" goes.

Then if you continue in card magic

Jordan Count
Elmsley Count
Hamman Count
Gambler's Cop
Bottom Turn Palm
Zarrow Shuffle
Side Slip (to top and bottom)
Slip Force
Riffle Force
Spread Cull Force
Multiple Card Culling
Biddle Add On
Dai Vernon's Multiple Card Control
A 3 way False Cut
For the Unambitious
Coutures Cut Control

Double Lift
Top Change
Classic Pass
Hermann Pass
Front and Back Palm
Two hand Top Palm
Multiple Top Palm
One Handed Top Palm
Multiple Diagonal Palm Shift

There are more good moves I could include, but these to me look like the essentials.

People think the double lift is for beginners or intermediate level. It's not in my opinion. It's for advanced conjurors. Bad double lifts are the absolute worst, and I've seen many. This doesn't mean that you shouldn't practice the double lift at the intermediate level, it means to perform it, it really takes a lot of effort to master. Ususally this amounts to proportionally more work than other card sleights.

The top change is curious, because althought it is an easy sleight, it takes advanced timing and misdirection.
Message: Posted by: Mitchum (Sep 15, 2004 06:39PM)
Great list magicbymccauley. I wonder why you don't teach the glide to your students. This is an easy sleight to perform and can have the same impact as the double lift (only done from the bottom of the deck).
Message: Posted by: blueboy7948 (Sep 21, 2004 07:12PM)
Thanks for the list an absolute godsend to a total newbie such as myself.
I have always loved magic since I was a kid and it has taken me many years to have the drive to learn it and also to overcome my intrepidation of going in the magic store to ask for a book.

Your list is something that I am starting to apply now and I'm practising furiously (much to my wife's annoyance)
Message: Posted by: ShidennOdmistL (Oct 10, 2004 02:35PM)
On 2004-06-07 15:50, Alastair_Webb wrote:
I feel a bit stupid asking this question but what are passes used for, and how are they applied to real tricks.

I'm not sure whether you can answer this without exposure, especially since I don't fully understand the rule of exposing a secret.

Any answer you can give would be apprciated.


I heard a saying once that the only stupid question is a question never asked. Checking in my book, RRTCM, and I quote from pg 153 (man I feel like a pastor) "After all,the principal of the pass is to bring a chosen card from the middle of the pack to the top and vice versa..." So there you go. Its a sleight to bring a card from the top to the middle and vice versa. And to add alil more clarifaction to it, the reason why its called the pass is not only cause of the sleight, but on how the sleight looks. Just imagine it, ok? Hope that helped.

A question to all: aside from good sleight to learn as a beginner, what are good tricks or routines that implement these sleights?

IMHO, Geoff, you have a great post and I know all that read it will appreciate it by far. However, to no offense, this is just a list of sleights. Sleights that have no absolute application to the magician, and by no absolute application, I mean that the magician does not know how to apply these sleight to their magic, makes it something of a chore to learn.

No offense to anyone tho. This list is a great list. My applauses. :carrot: :cucumber: :pepper::

Message: Posted by: poiboy28056 (Oct 15, 2004 01:40PM)
On 2004-06-07 15:50, Alastair_Webb wrote:
I feel a bit stupid asking this question but what are passes used for, and how are they applied to real tricks.


a pass is an invisable cut used as a control to secretly bring a card to the top of the deck.
Message: Posted by: blade (Oct 17, 2004 03:56PM)
Add presentation and misdirection to the list...