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Los Angeles Magician Explains Cardistry

Have you seen a magician cut a deck of cards with one hand? Have you seen her spring the cards from hand to hand? These card flourishes have been around for a hundred years or more but in the past 20 years they’ve advanced further than in the previous 80 years. Though related to card magic in the sense that they involve cards and dexterity, card flourishes aren’t magic tricks per se, they are visual feats with playing cards involving card fans, cuts and other flourishes. What was once a handful of flourishes has expanded into a subset of magic known as “cardistry,” an apt portmanteau for “card” and “artistry.”

Some card magicians will complement their card tricks with cardistry to convey their skill with a deck, others prefer not to so obviously display their technical skill as they prefer the magic be understood as magic, not as the result of sleight of hand skill. Unlike most any other card trick, cardistry doesn’t require an audience, it can be performed solo and the performer often doesn’t engage the audience at all. As such, and because the performance is entirely visual, cardistry has spread on social media. The moves often last less than 15 seconds, not due to any social media requirement but because there’s only so much the cardist can do in one move. The moves are also often very very difficult and to perform them once correctly may take 15 tries (not something you can afford to do when performing for a live audience).

As with much in life, cardistry developed over the course of years as magicians here and there improved on previous moves and created their own moves. A slow progression then jumped, seemingly overnight, by the contribution of Dan and Dave Buck, known as the Buck Twins. These two cardists were so far ahead of the pack that no one previously had performed anything close to what they performed and it is fair to say they created the discipline known as cardistry. Since their contributions, other cardists have come along performing at their caliber and have contributed their own moves and ideas.

As a corporate magician I’m occasionally asked if I perform cardistry and though I do a few moves (one-handed shuffle, triple one-hand cut, various fans, etc.), it’s not my focus. I completely respect the skill and beauty of well executed cardistry but I focus my attention on sleight of hand magic and mentalism.

Here’s a video from the Buck Twins introducing you to cardistry: ​​