Cardistry, or the art of creating amazing card flourishes that often resemble looking into a kaleidoscope has been rapidly growing in popularity thanks much in part to YouTube and other online video communities.  It certainly helps that the wildly popular Shin Lim on America’s Got Talent this year mixes a little cardistry into his mind blowing sleight of hand magic acts.

Which leads us to ask? Is Cardistry Magic?

The answer in short, is no, cardistry is not magic.  However, card magicians often include these intricate and visually impressive card flourishes in their performances demonstrating their sleight of hand abilities as well as assisting with misdirection.  A well-known YouTuber, Chris Ramsay (close to 1.7 million subscribers) constantly blurs the lines between cardistry and magic, however also often (falsely and playfully) claims to be no good at cardistry.  I think that is known as a #humblebrag 😊

Further supporting this notion is the cardistry reddit page which advises under it’s rules:

  • “Any magic-related posts should be directed to our good friends over at /r/magic.”

And if you visit cardistry-con (yes, there is one) you will likely see this allusion to Fight Club posted:

  • The first rule of cardistry-con is: You do not talk about magic.
  • The second rule of cardisty-con is: You do not talk about magic.

Perhaps Dave Buck of cardistry’s most well-known duo, Dan and Dave, put it best in a 2015 Vanity Fair article: “Magic and cardistry reside at philosophical opposites. Magic, he said, relies on the concealment of skills. You don’t want the audience noticing the four aces removed from your sleeve, whereas cardistry is about the overt display of skill. It’s not about keeping secrets from one another, but rather ‘an open-source lifestyle.'”

Jon Landry shows a snake spread move using Cardistry specific Bicycle cards.
A snake spread move using Cardistry specific Bicycle cards. 

Dan and Dave Buck

In 2001 at the age of 13, twin brothers Dan and Dave Buck couldn’t get enough of the 1997 VHS instructional tape, “Show Off,” produced by Brian Tudor.  Show Off was one of the first instructional videos featuring modern day cardistry flourishes. In this video, Tudor takes the common “Charlier Cut” (a one handed deck cut that has been around for more than a century) and modifies it to spin the top packet 180 degrees. This is now known as a “Revolution Cut.”

Today, the Buck twins are in their 30’s and considered the godfathers of cardistry.  They have released several of their own instructional DVDs including “The Dan and Dave System” and “The Trilogy.”  They run a multi-million dollar enterprise selling cardistry based merchandise and effects.

It’s in the cards

There are many mixed opinions on what type or what brands of cards to use.  Many say to stick with the tried and true and very affordable United States Playing Card Company Bicycle Rider Back or Bees, while others swear by the $12-$200 Virtuoso decks.  There is a growing market for decks with backs that are printed with designs of objects, angles and colors that specifically look good during a card flourish.  Such brands include: Keeper, Theory 11 National, Union, and of course the Monarch, Dan and Dave’s Drifters, Madison Kings, and the ever so popular Virtuoso.

Jon Landry visual of first print Black and Red Virtuoso cards.
First print Black and Red Virtuoso cards go for more than $200 on eBay.

What ever deck you choose, just remember, this is a hobby and have some fun!  Now it’s time for me to get back to mastering my Revolution Cut while simultaneously honing my skills at 52 Card Pick-up.