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Profile of JacquesDeCoeurs
Hello, all!

It's an honor to chat with you folks.

I'm recently back to magic and trying to decide how to go about it.

I would like to give cards a proper go and have picked up a couple of solid card books.

My question is whether to start with sleights, self-workers, or both?

Would love to hear some thoughts from folks a bit further down the royal road than I. ~_^

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Inner circle
Pittsburgh, PA
1001 Posts

Profile of Ado
Self working tricks, or effects with technique you can do well already. Then, all you have to do is learn how to deliver them entertainingly.
That will be rewarding much faster, and will give you the motivation to dive deeper into technique (if you ever decide to).

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Profile of Jim_Macdonald
Please see the discussion in Henry Hays' Amateur Magician's Handbook (a book that everyone should own -- sadly out of print but widely available used) on "easy hard tricks" and "hard easy tricks." (To boil it down and wildly over-simplify: Harder tricks can be easier to present because we're forced to slow down and think about them during the learning process.)
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367 Posts

Profile of RobertlewisIR
I think you should choose the kind of magic and the individual tricks you really want to present (because of their effect on the audience, not because of the method used to achieve them). Often (not always) these will not be the easiest ones.

That said, I think there's something to be said for the idea that, as you're beginning, it's good to have a small repertoire of easy ones so you have something you can work on and show people sooner and don't become disheartened as you work through the hardest ones.

Regardless of their difficulty, though, make sure you take your time to script and rehearse so they become pieces of theatre, rather than just "tricks" you learned how to do.


Last night, I dreamed I ate the world's largest marshmallow. When I woke up, the pillow was gone.
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Profile of DaveGripenwaldt
Knowing what I know now, I'd start with learning basic slights that are generally applicable...double lift, a control of card to top and bottom, basic force, etc.

I'd work on those while simultaneously learning and perfecting the performance of a couple of self workers (and the number of sources for that has grown tremendously, from Karl Fulves classic books to John Bannon's 2 volume DVD set "Zero").

Frankly, I would then continue by choosing the next moves I learned based on effects I want to perform. So I would find effects I really wanted to do and work on the moves needed to do them. There is nothing wrong with being a move-maven....I did that in my early days...but there is so much material, I think it is more practical to find effects first and moves second, after you nail the basics.

And, of course, the goal is not to know moves or tricks, but to learn how to make magic that entertains, which is definitely not necessarily the same thing...the move/trick learning is just a means to that end.
Bill Hegbli
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Eternal Order
Fort Wayne, Indiana
22403 Posts

Profile of Bill Hegbli
You have one of the best books for learning card trick. Royal Road is tutorial, you start at the 1st chapter, and follow through each chapter in succession, do not skip around, as, what they teach is used in later chapters. It is like most careers, you have to know what the jargon means in order to understand the words.

If you go to the back of the book and read a routine, you think, what is this guy talking about. Then you will get confused and lose interest. So I advise stick with it.

Self working card tricks has a place in ever card man's arsenal through few goods ones in and fool the heck out your spectators. Practice culling the cards for the setups, and by talking to your audiences and culling at the same time.

Most magicians don't know all the self-working tricks, so you have them scratching their heads.

Good luck.
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Profile of JacquesDeCoeurs
Thank you for all the responses!

I definitely agree; there is no magic without magic. In other words, the trick is a vehicle to the effect, but without performance, you just have a trick.

While I did make a reference to it, I don't actually own the RRTCM.

What I do have (and should have been more clear about) is Card College and Card College Light.

My basic plan was to practice sleights all week and then learn self-working routines on the weekends in the hopes of building both sides of my skill-set simultaneously. But I was beginning to wonder if maybe I should just start with the entire CCL series and then switch over to CC later on...

Thanks again for your insights!
Dick Oslund
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Inner circle
8363 Posts

Profile of Dick Oslund
Bon Jour, mon ami, et bienvenu, aussi!

My "infernal electrisch peckenclacker" was momentarily in-op, so I'm late to the party.

Everyone above has offered good advice, I'll just try to add a few pertinent thoughts.

Cf. friend Ado's post above, His first paragraph is especially important to bear in mind! --THE EFFECT IS ALWAYS MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE METHOD!

Jay Marshall and I shared a bit of philosophy that may help sum up some of the good thoughts already mentioned: The "rule of three" is worth a place in your notebook!

To add a "new" trick to one's repertoire (ha! I threw in a French word!) there are three steps necessary:

1. Learn how it is DONE.

2. Learn how to DO it.

3. Learn how to DO it, so that it ENTERTAINS an audience. --THAT'S the "hard one"!

Cf. our canny Scot's mention of Henry Hay's magnum opus, above.

I'm also a "believer" in Henry Hay's "Amateur Magician's Handbook" As a teenager, I dubbed it: The Poor Man's Tarbell"! It, like Tarbell, is somewhat out dated, not in techniques, but "here and there" in styles of presentation.

E.g. Hay, said, regarding one's opening trick, "Give 'em an eyefull!" (Harry Blackstone Sr. opened his theater show with ten minutes of flowers and silks productions. --The stage was FULL! Harry B. Jr. often opened with the vanishing bird cage!) A young lad, whom I am mentoring, cited Hay's "eyefull", and questioned my opening with a color changing silk through my hands. I explained to him that modern audiences need to be more involved with the act or show, than audiences of the thirties. It's important to quickly "break the fourth wall", whether on a stage, in a parlor, or busking on a street corner. Performers must talk WITH, not, AT, or TO the spectator(s).

Cf. RobertlewisIR's well written statement!

As a retired professional with 20 years as a part time pro'. and, 50 years as a full time pro'. I, early on, developed a list of criteria which "ruled" my selections of tricks to perform. I'm inferring that Jacques has no plans to be a full timer, so, even though he can select from a much wider range of tricks, he might be wise to develop a set of criteria to help him focus on tricks that are practical for his intended audiences. (Why "waste time" with the three steps outlined above, if the possible trick would not be practical?)

I've posted those criteria, in a number of threads. Those threads are easily searchable, so I won't repeat them here. I will reiterate my basic "rule": KISMIF! --an acronym for "Keep It Simple Make It Fun".

Dave Gripenwaldt's ideas are IMO very sound. Especially his final paragraph! BTW, I am not a cardician, but, as I've posted before, I've been fortunate to meet and know, many of the top card men in the world. Men like Ed Marlo, Ricky Jay, Alex Elmsley, Dai Vernon, Charlie Miller, Jon Racherbaumer ET AL! --So, I've had opportunities to see and enjoy some GOOD card work!

Bill Hegbli have been friends for many years. We do have occasional differences of opinion, but, nothing serious. His statements on RRTCM are, IMO, solid "gold". I posted, a day or so ago, that I had, back in the early '70s, recommended Hugard's RR to a young man whom I was mentoring. He bought it, He studied it, and, he USED what he learned to MAKE A LIVING for about 30 years , until his untimely death due to diabetes complications.

Bill is absolutely correct when he suggests how to use Hugard's great book!
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Profile of JacquesDeCoeurs
I've been lurking on these forums for some time, so many of you (not least of whom, Mr. Oslund) have somewhat become celebrities to me; so thanks again for taking the time to respond.

I hear what you are saying about the trick, not the method. I do have other magical interests outside cards and I have something of a character in mind, even (something along the lines of a darker Cardini, but still tongue-in-cheek). That latter fact steers me even more back toward your collective urgings of choosing effects over methods. Also, I seem to prefer the most visual of magic. If I were to learn ten card tricks, I would only want one or two of them to be locations (although I do like cards for their portability and mystique).

Any suggestions on where to look for non-location card tricks?

Lastly, I feel compelled to go through Card College step by step and learn sleights, if only to "pay my dues" in some weird way. I guess the consensus is that that is silly?
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