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The Expert at the Card Table: The Classic Treatise on Card Manipulation (wikipedia.org)
76 points by c--misura on Jan 28, 2015 | hide | past | favorite | 20 comments

The Expert at the Card table is a classic, but pretty advanced for someone just getting started with card handling.

For anyone looking to learn more, I would strongly recommend some of the video tutorials available at http://www.theory11.com/tricks (some are free, many are cheap, and majority can be streamed online)

Specifically look for anything you can find by Jason England. That man is a modern master of card sleights if their ever was one, and over the years he has created some great walkthroughs for techniques from the Faro Shuffle to Palming to Dice Switching.

(Full disclosure, I have done some work for this site, but it's legitimately one of the greatest resources for learning more about this topic that I know of)

Erdnase is like the Genesis of the card magic canon. While it has an important & worthwhile place on any cardworker's bookshelf (Dai Vernon basically considered it the bible), there are some newer & more modern treatises a little more accessible in terms of language, descriptions, illustration, and just overall instruction. The multi-volume Card College series by Roberto Giobbi comes to mind.

Yeah, Erdnase is the last thing I'd recommend to someone who wants to learn card work -- that is, I'd recommend it, but after all my other recommendations :) Erdnase was revolutionary as a catalog of slights and subtleties that existed -- but if you want to learn to perform them, all you'll get from Erdnase is frustration.

What would you suggest?

Card College by Roberto Giobbi is pricey but provides excellent instruction. If you don't mind reading older, more formal language (though not as old as Erdnase!), The Royal Road to Card Magic by Hugard and Braue, and its sequel Expert Card Technique, cover more material than Giobbi at a fraction of the cost, albeit with slightly less attention to the subtleties of finger position.

Hugard and Braue are, again, totally canonical. (Almost sort of analogous to Thompson & Ritchie's published works on C/Unix, but for cards...sort of ;) They're cheap and easy to come by for <$10 each, and I agree that pound-for-pound, you're going to get more effects from them than anywhere else.

I do think for a serious beginner right now, though, Giobbi is probably more appropriate. I would argue he offers considerably more detail on subtleties of handling and overall performance and in more accessible language which is important. It's kind of like you're getting the best of Erdnase, Hugard, Braue and so many of the greats who came after them in the 20th century distilled down to best practices with Giobbi's course. There's nothing wrong with taking it slow either. You don't have to get all the volumes at once. In fact, it would be better to spend a long time mastering each before buying and moving on to the next.

I second Card College. Absolutely the highest standard in card magic pedagogy.

As a note, too, R. Paul Wilson did a rather decent DVD series of The Royal Road to Card Magic, which you can get for ~$60. The book is a useful reference, but actually -seeing- the sleights can be amazingly useful.

And as others have mentioned, if you do go to Erdnase (or get sufficiently hooked to just want a copy), there is both the Annotated Erdnase by Darwin Ortiz (which is pretty readily available), as well as Dai Vernon's Revelation book (not to be confused with the 'Revelations' series of DVDs), his own annotations on Erdnase ( http://www.mcmagicwords.com/books_revelation.html ).

Yes, yes -- start with The Royal Road. It's a fantastic place to start. Graduate to Card College if you can afford it; otherwise, Paul le Paul, and then dive in deep with Buckley's Card Control. If you're still hungry after that, you and Erdnase deserve each other.

For a fascinating look at one of the masters of card manipulation, see Secrets of the Magus :


There was also a recent documentary on Ricky Jay (available on Netflix) called Deceptive Practice :


I love Ricky Jay. My dad is a slight of hand specialist and his entire basement is essentially a magic library. Anyway, when I was a kid I took particular interest to Ricky's book on how to throw playing cards as he used topless models to demonstrate form.

Knowing how hard you can throw a card, I feel like I'm lucky that me and my brothers escaped childhood with our eyesight intact.

I also love Ricky Jay after seeing a video, but was disappointed when searching for others that it seems that, unless I'm missing something, he's been doing the same 5 to 10 tricks his entire career. Wish he had more variety (available online I mean, he's certainly capable I'm sure.)

I have a copy of this, reprinted in 1940s sandwiched into another work by MacDougall. Lots of fun for a bored child. I still shuffle cards in the rather striking way he describes:

Cut the deck perfectly in half. This is easier than it sounds.

Pincer the halves at the end, and push the two other ends together.

Push harder, smoothly, and rotate your wrists opposite slightly. The two halves will fan into each other. With practice you can perform 2 (4?) perfect shuffles and end up with the cards in the same order you started in.

It takes 8 perfect shuffles to get back to the start.


Here's a nice video by Richard Turner demonstrating various card manipulation techniques:


And the guy is blind!

That's nothing, there are whole books dedicated to some of these individual techniques and tricks, like 'Second Dealing'



I'm a big fan of "The Complete Works of Derek Dingle" and "The Secrets of Brother John Hamman"

Both are absolutely excellent.

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