Card flourish

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David Pedersen's execution of Bone Ho's flourish, "Anaconda"

Card flourishes are visual cuts, displays and movements performed with playing cards, designed to manipulate playing cards in a visually pleasing way and to show the manual dexterity of the 'cardist' or the 'flourisher' .This art is also called "Cardistry". Card flourishes are intended to look fluid, versatile and visual. They can also be used as expression of creativity ; in fact Cardistry is often referred to an artfom.[1] [2]

Card flourishing is a hobby mostly practiced by young people around 12 to late 20s and has almost become separated from the magic community, however this movement has been hindered somewhat by magicians incorporating flourishes into magic tricks. Many young people will practice this art form with no interest in magic at all, yet Card Flourishing is derived from the magic community and has since been trying to liberate itself from the stereotype that all card flourishers are magicians.


The history of creation of card flourishes is a bit vague. Still there is a few important steps to clear up, without doing an exhaustive description.

Cardistry is an art form redirected from card manipulation. In the 20th century the most common flourishes like the Spring were created; at the time, Cardistry was used to show dexterity when doing close-up card magic. Progressively it became an 'art form' by itself.

At the start of the 21st century, card flourishes like De'vo Vom Schattenreich, Bone Ho and Jerry Cestkowski developed a new style of card flourishing which was composed of a lot of aerial moves and eye-catching big displays (Anaconda, The Eye cut etc...). That style was called "Extreme Card Manipulation" or "XCM".

Later during the 21st century, the "XCM" lost its popularity and a new and modern 'era' of cardistry started by Dan and Dave Buck in 2003. They posted the first cardistry video online and encouraged cardistry to develop as an art. This 'era' includes less aerials and eye-catching, hard-to-master moves, but more fluid motions, a lot of two-handed multiple packet cuts but of course one-handed cuts. Cardists like the Buck Twins, Tobias Levin and Andrei Jikh can be considered like 'modern' cardists.

Today, there is more and more young people that start practicing this new 'art'. The community stays small, but cardistry has also gained international attention:

  • In 2015 a video produced by The Virts (or Virtuoso), "Air Time" [1] was featured on Uni Lad, and some newpapers and TV channels, like the Discovery Channel.
  • April 2015, a three day conference entirely devoted to cardistry is organised in Brooklyn New York, grouping together the most famous cardists around the world[2].


  • Packet - Any amount of cards separate from the rest of the deck; the word "packet" can also mean the deck itself.
  • A cut - Any move that cuts the cards, which means to switch or re-arrange the positions of two or more packets of cards.
  • Display - A display of packets, single cards or fans, usually held still, then closed.
  • Grip - The way the deck is held in the hand.
  • Opener - A way to grip the packets or a simple movement used to start or 'open' a flourish.
  • Closer - A way to grip the packets or a simple movement used to end or 'close' a flourish.

The different grips

  • Dealer's Grip/ Mechanic's Grip - A way of holding the deck where it lies across the palm, and the index finger is on one short side of the deck, the other fingers are on the long side next to it, and the thumb is lying across the other long side of the deck.
  • Straddle grip - This grip is similar to the mechanic's grip but has the fourth finger on the opposite end to the first. Used for springs and dribbles for more control over the cards.
  • Biddle Grip - Another way of holding the deck, in which the palm is face down, the second and 3rd fingers are at the top short edge of the deck, and the thumb is at the bottom short edge of the deck holding it in position.
  • Z grip - This grip is used as the base of many card flourishes. It is accomplished by holding the deck in Mechanics Grip, then raising a packet of cards up from the deck in Biddle Grip while holding another packet between the thumb of the hand in Biddle Grip and the index finger of the hand in Mechanics grip to create a 'Z' formation. This grip is commonly used as it is versatile in its applications for beginnings of flourishes.


One-handed Cuts[edit]

  • The Charlier Cut (also known as the Charlier Pass) is a method of splitting a deck of cards into two parts using one hand. This is typically one of the first flourishes learned by beginner card manipulators, as it is later necessary for some more difficult movements.
  • Similar to the Charlier cut, the Thumb Cut also splits the deck into two parts. However, it is much more difficult to execute. The thumb cut requires the flourisher to reach across the deck and use their thumb to raise half the deck upwards. Then he must raise the bottom portion of the deck with his other fingers, completing the flourish. If a flourisher can successfully execute this cut with both hands, he can tackle more advanced cuts that require more dexterity.[2]
  • The Scissors Cut is a challenging one handed cut, which is also really used in a lot of card flourishes (Squeeze by Daren Yeow and Very Bad Habit by Tobias Levin). It is also one of the first movements that needs to be acquired before moving forward to more challenging card flourishes.
  • The Revolution Cut, created by Brian Tudor is a variation of the charlier cut. Instead of keeping the packets parallel, like in the charlier cut, the top packet executes a 180° rotation. It is also a very common one-handed cut in the cardistry community.

There is a variety of rolling one handed cuts, like the V-cuts by Tobias Levin and the L-cuts by Jerry Cestkowski. In the "rolling one-handed cuts" a single movement is repeated many times to create one continuous visual movement.

Indeed, there is plenty of other one-handed cuts invented by a lot of cardists, like the Muse Cut by Henrik Forberg,and Bella Rev by Nikolaj Pedersen (published in the "B-Bundle", a collection of three of his flourishes) but the ones recited previously are the most 'mainstream' and known ones.

Two-handed Cuts[edit]

Two handed cuts are flourishes that utilize both hands.

Cuts such as the Swing and Swivel cut are often the first two handed cuts that beginner Cardists learn. They are essential as they provide a basis for more advanced cuts.

The Sybil Cut is the best example of a two handed multiple packet cut, originally performed by Chris Kenner. It has provided the foundation for most two handed cuts that are being developed today. It is among the most well known and recognised flourishes ever created with many artists using it to develop their own flourishes and variations.

The Squeeze cut by Daren Yeow is an other really good example of a two-handed multiple packet cut. It uses the scissor cut and has become a 'mainstream' move, a 'classic' and is one of the moves that can be considered as a basis for other card flourishes.

There is a lot of different concepts developed to improve the variety of two-handed cuts:

  • Many cuts are based on just taking the packets by the long or short edges and moving them in the two hands in a way that it looks visual. It can sound simple but it is challenging to acquire the mechanics because advanced coordination of the hands is needed and a lot of practice indeed.
  • Many really popular cuts are based on a concept in which the packets are taken by the corners to be able to rotate them, like the Skater Cut, the Mockingbird by Daren Yeow, the Tornado cut, Phaced by Tobias Levin, Nimbus and Bowtie by Chase Duncan etc... The New Deck Order, a Singapore based website even released a project on 2015 called Spingod, wich included three flourishes by Duy, each using packets gripped by the corners allowing them to rotate.
  • An other concept is using single cards as packets. Flourishes like Snowglobe by Conor'O'Cane, Spin Doctor by Nikolaj Pedersen and the emblematic Werm by the Buck Twins are good examples of flourishes using this concept.

One card flourishes[edit]

  • Card twirls: First popularised by Jeff McBride, card twirls combine many small motions with a single card that, in unison, allow the card to appear as if it is rapidly twirling from finger to finger. These flourishes are generally accomplished by combining small movements of the fingers with a larger motion of the wrist moving to allow the card to "spin" faster than it normally would by simply twirling the card with a still wrist. Currently, the most prominent examples of card twirls are the Virt's "Flicker" and Andrei Jikh's "Bullet." Such card twirls are famous for being simple to master, but just as easy to learn incorrectly which ruins the illusion of the fluidity that is accomplished within the twirl itself.
  • Other one card flourishes are Prince Charming by Oliver Sogard and Raccoon by Kevin Ho and the Paddidle.

A project, "The One-Card Ep" was released in 2012. There was instructions for six flourishes, each with a single playing card.

Card Fans[edit]

There are several different methods of fanning, some more difficult than others. The simplest method is the thumb-fan, which is done by pivoting the entire deck around your thumb and evenly distributing the cards. Other methods include the pressure fan, the one handed fan, the carnahan fan....[2]

Card spring[edit]

Card springs are among the most flashy flourishes. It involves building a lot of pressure on the corners or edges of a deck, then releasing that pressure so there is a steady flow of cards going from one hand to another. Experienced artists can produce springs up to three to four feet long. Variations of this include the upside-down spring, and the waterfall, etc.[2]

Cardistry Con 2015[edit]

The first conference entirely devoted to cardistry

A conference only devoted to cardistry was organized in April 2015.

Influential Cardists[edit]

Buck Twins ( Daniel M. Buck & Dave M. Buck )[edit]

As children, Dave and Dan Buck dreamed of dedicating their lives to magic. The quest to find where they would belong in this world of endless possibilities eventually led the pair to Cardistry.

Cardistry, the art of flourishing cards, allowed for them to personalize their tricks. The art of Cardistry may have started as just a beloved hobby among enthusiasts, but when the juggling duo began making videos to document their routines, a movement began. After Dave and Dan posted their first video online in 2003 and then launched a DVD, the art and community of Cardistry began to grow — with Dave and Dan emerging as leaders of the trickery.

They launched their own brand, and produced their own playing cards. Nowadays some of their playing cards are high valuable collectors items and really hard to find.

The Virts/Virtuoso (Daren Yeow, Huron Low, Kevin Ho, Jeremy Tan, & Joshua Tan)[edit]

Based in Singapore, this team got together to create what's widely regarded as the best deck in cardistry. They claim that it's the only deck designed for cardistry. They've created a few display videos, such as "Test Room", a tribute to Dan & Dave's Smoke & Mirrors deck and was featured on the Discovery Channel, and "Air Time", featuring the Spring/Summer '15 deck. They've made 3 versions of their deck and both paid and free tutorials. The decks are Launch Edition (released in August 2013), Spring/Summer '14 (released in July 2014), and Spring/Summer '15 (released in March 2015). Their tutorials can be found on their YouTube channel, thevirts, and on their website, The paid tutorials are only sold along with their decks as addons as of March 2015.

Tobias Levin and Oliver Sogard[edit]

Tobias Levin and Oliver Søgard have tremendously influenced the modern era of card flourishes. The two young cardists from Denmark, after five years of card flourishing, released an instructional DVD nominated Director's Cut in 2013. Ten new flourishes were presented and the two artist gained a lot of attention in the card flourish community. Some of the card flourishes wich were in the DVD, like Acridid and Maverick came iconic and representative of the new and modern era of card flourishing, named "Cardistry" by some cardists now.

In 2014, the two cardists launched their own website, Dealersgrip [3]. They made available in this website tutorials for cardistry moves created by them and also by other cardists from Scandinavia, like Nikolaj Pedersen or David Pedersen. Some tutorials of the flourishes in the Director's cut DVD released in 2013, were remade for the website. Also some collections of a few flourishes have been released, like Collection 3 by Nikolaj Pedersen (the video includes three tutorials for three different flourishes with three packets used in each flourish, everything created by Nikolaj Pedersen) and Shuffle Play by both Tobias Levin and Oliver Søgard.

Even if the release of the Director's Cut DVD was a breaktrough, the performances of the two cardists are admired in the community for their fluidity and originality. Videos such as "Wheels Within Wheels" produced by Tobias Levin and Oliver Søgard at the beginning of 2014 acquired admiration in the "cardistry" community. Some of the flourishes exposed in this performance video, like Albatross or Tailormade became without a doubt popular and inspired a lot of cardists. The most recent performance video of them is "Offhand" [4] by Oliver Søgard.

Tobias Levin and Oliver Søgard still stay very active in the community and portray the scandinavian modern cardistry.

Andrei Jikh[edit]

Andrei's debut instructional video GENESIS which became one of the resource to start learning cardistry. Genesis 1 received rave reviews from around the world, inspiring a sequel Genesis 2 which released in 2011.

In 2013, Andrei directed the special features content and iTunes Extras for the blockbuster film "Now You See Me" starring Jesse Eisenberg, Morgan Freeman, Mark Ruffalo, and Isla Fisher. In the iTunes Extras, Andrei teaches some basic cardistry moves and also demonstrates his skill and accuracy at card throwing.

In February of 2014, theory11 [5] released The Mystery Box in collaboration with JJ Abrams and Bad Robot. Andrei's cardistry is featured in the official preview video for The Mystery Box, showcasing the playing cards and the Mystery Lockbox.

Zach Mueller[edit]

Zach Mueller is a Los Angeles based young magician and cardist. At first he influenced the Cardistry community by his deck of playing cards, the Fontaine deck.

In 2013 he launched an Indiegogo project [6] for his own deck of playing cards, the red Fontaine deck. The Indiegogo campaign went viral and reached its goal in less than 24 hours. In 2014 he permitted the existence of the same deck but in blue [7]. The project was funded at 300 % and was a magnificient success. Cardists around the world ordered the deck and the original red Fontaine deck became a rare collection item, as only 2500 decks were made (15 000 decks of the blue Fontaines were produced one year later). Like that Zach Mueller developed his own brand, Fontaine Finesses and initiated his own website, Fontainecards [8].

Zach Mueller not only influenced the community by his playing card design, but also his performances, instructional videos and traveling.

  • He makes Cardistry videos in collaboration with magicians and cardists like Tobias Levin, Chase Duncan, Michael James, Oliver Sogard, Franco Pascali and Franky Morales [9]. These performance videos are renowned in the Cardistry community.
  • In 2014 he made a Europe Tour, visiting the biggest cities in Europe like London, Paris, Amsterdam and Stockholm, just to jam with the local cardists and produce a DVD in collaboration with Noel Health and Bizau Cristian [10]. As he claims himself, the DVD he produced, "Biz x Zach take Europe" is "half a travel DVD and half a magic DVD". In fact the DVD includes like a travel documentary part, and an instructional part, in which flourishes, magic effects and sleight of hand, created by Zach Mueller and Bizau Cristian is explained.
  • He produces some free instructional videos for card flourishes (and magic, but magic tutorials aren't free) for his website. For exemple in 2014 he released a free tutorial for his flourish Hook, and in 2015 he released a tutorial for Virus, a flourish created by an upcoming cardist, Noel Health.

Chris Kenner[edit]

In his first career as a close-up magician, although now known more as a comedy magician, Chris Kenner was one of those rare individuals who was not only proficient, but highly influential in both card magic and coin magic, but also cardistry : he created the Sybil Cut, a two-handed multiple packets cut which inspired a lot of flourishes of the modern era of cardistry.

De'vo Vom Schattenreich[edit]

He was one of the "old-school" card flourishers: he influenced the Cardistry community by his "Extreme Card Manipulation" (as he called it) which involves a lot of really difficult looking moves, like aerials. He also produced his own playing cards.

Jaspas Deck[edit]

He affects the cardistry community through his custom playing cards (CoSEA Deck, SOC Deck), and instructional videos. In 2014 Jaspas Deck won the known "World Kardistry Championship" final against Andrew Avila, which is an open cardistry competition. He earned a lot of attention and was able to launch his own website, The New Deck Order [11]. In the website, instructional cardistry downloads from differents cardists of South East Asia are available to purchase.

Jerry Cestkowski[edit]

In 2002 he published his book The Encyclopedia of Playing Card Flourishes. He is also known as the inventor of the iconic L-cuts popular in the Cardistry community.

Michael James[edit]

It all started in 2008 when Michael James began to develop card flourishes. In a world that is overflowing with extra long dribbles and unnatural geometric displays, Michael favors a classic approach where fluid and expressive motions are top priority in a card flourish. In 2012, he released Solo: Ten unique flourishes: Arriflex, Ekklesia, Collective, Elysium, Twistor, Tidalwave, Reich, Reinvention, Mysterium, and Zero, that demonstrate smoothness and articulation above anything else.


  1. ^ Tarr, Bill (1976). "Flourishes". Now You See It, Now You Don't! Lessons in Sleight of Hand. Vintage Books. pp. 59–89. ISBN 0-394-72202-7. 
  2. ^ a b c d Cestkowski, Jerry (2002). The Encyclopaedia of Playing Card flourishes. Printmeister Press. pp. 19–20.