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Geoff Weber
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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.

Basic Handling Skills:
You want to appear at least as competent with a deck of cards as anyone you might sit down to play cards with.
  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.
  2. 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.

    Basic Sleight of Hand:
  3. 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.
  4. Getting/holding a break.
  5. 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.)

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


  7. 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.

  8. Elmsley Count. Hands down, the most useful false count.

    More Flourishes:
  9. Dribble the cards
  10. Ribbon Spread
  11. Charlier Cut. (One handed cut.)

    False Shuffle:
  12. 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.
...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...)
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Profile of Blackwood
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.

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Profile of KerryJK
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.
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Profile of JackDaniel
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.


Visit the magic of Vegas and your life will change forever..
Ricky B
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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?

Geoff Weber
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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.
Reis O'Brien
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Excellent list, Geoff! This is exactly what I could have used in the beginning. This should help many new comers!
Homo vult decipi; decipiatur
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Profile of ABlair36
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 Revolutionary Card Technique (Marlo). I started laughing and I convinced him to get Royal Road. 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.
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Profile of seraph127
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.
There are many tricks, and many effects, but rarely a Grand Effect. There are many entertainers, but few real magicians. Many technicians, but few artists who use their art to explore their vision. - Derren Brown, Absolute Magic
Dave V
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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.
No trees were killed in the making of this message, but a large number of electrons were terribly inconvenienced.
magic soul
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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
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Profile of MoonBeam
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.
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Profile of flooglestreet
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
If ya wanna be the Top Banana, Ya gotta start at the bottom of the Bunch (Johnny Mercer)
Geoff Weber
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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.
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Profile of HeyLockwood
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...
Why doesn't it tickle when I tickle myself, but it still hurts when I stick a fork in my eye?
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Profile of RayBanks
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.
Pick a card, any card...No. not THAT one...THIS one

Ray Banks
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Thank you heaps, I was not sure where to start until I read that.
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Profile of nakulshenoy
Great work Geoff! Absolutely fantastic!


PS: Many have already said this. But Geoff's post deserves many more saying this.
Nakul Shenoy
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Profile of GavinK
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!!!
Gary Barnard
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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.

"It's in the very trickery that it pleases me. But show me how
the trick is done, and I have lost my interest therein."
- Seneca the Younger, In his 45th Epistle to Lucilius
(4 B.C.-A.D. 65)
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