Card flourish

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

Card flourishes are visual displays of skill performed with playing cards, designed to show the skill or manual dexterity of a 'flourisher'.This 'art' is also called "Cardistry". Card flourishes are primarily intended to be visually impressive and to appear difficult to do. They can also be used as expression of creativity, or can be referred to as an artform.[1] [2]

Card flourishes for magicians can be divided into many genres: one-handed cuts, spreads, two-handed cuts, fanning, aerials, and springs. Card flourishes are performed both as part of magic performances and on their own. Though there are many flourishing moves, the most common method of learning the art is through DVDs, books, free tutorials on the internet, private one-on-one sessions as well as privately produced instructional videos. As a result, there is significantly more informational material available on the market today for those interested. 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.


  • Packet - Any amount of cards separate from the rest of the deck; the word "packet" can also mean the deck itself.
  • Card cut - Any move that cuts the cards, which means to switch or re-arrange the positions of two or more packets of cards.
  • False cut - A move that cuts the cards without switching or re-arranging the positions of the cards.
  • Display - A display of packets, single cards or fans, usually held still, then closed.
  • Shuffle - Any move that mixes the cards thoroughly, this is different from a card cut because a card cut mixes larger packets of cards, but a shuffle usually mixes 1-2 cards on top of another all the way through the deck.
  • False shuffle - A shuffle that uses prestidigitation to keep the cards in the original order, prior to initiating the shuffle.
  • Grip - The way the deck is held in the hand.
  • Long sides of the deck - The sides of the deck that are longer than the other two sides.
  • Short sides of the deck - The sides of the deck that are shorter than the other two sides.
  • 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.
Shahan Bedrosian's performance of his flourish Poleaxe.


Charlier Cut[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 the first flourish learned by beginner card manipulators.

Basic Two Handed Cuts[edit]

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.

Thumb Cut[edit]

Aditya R.'s performance of a Thumb fan

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]

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 fans, the reverse fan, the carnahan fan, and the giant fan.[2]

Intermediate/Advanced techniques[edit]

Advanced Two handed cuts[edit]

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 recognized flourishes ever created with many artists using it to develop their routines and variations. Two handed cuts are flourishes that utilize both hands and can be done both slow and fast, but they must flow smoothly to be successful.


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, the one-hand spring, the overhead spring, and the cascade.[2]

Card Twirls[edit]

First popularized 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.


  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 Encyclopedia of Playing Card flourishes. Printmeister Press. pp. 19–20.