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An advanced two-handed card flourish

Cardistry is a name given to the performance art of card flourishing. The term is a portmanteau of "card" and "artistry". Unlike card magic, cardistry is meant to be visually impressive and appear very hard to execute. People who engage in cardistry are nicknamed "cardists".


Conjuring tricks with playing cards became popular around the 19th century. At that time, simple card flourishes—such as the Charlier Cut, Riffle Shuffle and Thumb Fan—were often performed by magicians as a way of demonstrating sleight of hand.[1]

Cardistry is a portmanteau of “card” and “artistry.” It involves the use of hands to create cuts, displays, fans, patterns and sequences through the use of playing cards. Various armspreads, cuts, shuffles and springs can be used. The intent is to create a captivating motion and beautiful display. The effects are limited only by the types of cards used, the imagination, and the degree of manual dexterity of the performer. The presentation is typically neither “illusionary” nor purportedly “magic”; rather, it is more like juggling, mime, or similar entertaining activities.[2]

American magician Chris Kenner published Totally Out of Control in 1992, an instructional book concerning magic tricks with household objects. On page 125 was a two-handed flourish he called "The Five Faces of Sybil". Making use of all fingers, the ending face of Sybil displays five distinct packets. Kenner referred to Sybil in his book as "a quick cut flourish to demonstrate skill and dexterity". The cut became the most notable creation from Totally Out of Control and would eventually form the nucleus of what is now known as cardistry. Kevin Pang of Vanity Fair magazine remarked that "every cardist can deftly perform Sybil the way guitarists can run through a blues progression".

Los Angeles-based magician Brian Tudor released an instructional VHS tape in 1997 dubbed Show Off which featured only flourishes, including numerous variations of Sybil. The tape was well received by critics and resulted in growing attention to card flourishing as a performance art.

Sybil enthusiasts and twin brothers Dan and Dave released in 2001 Pasteboard Animations, another VHS tape explaining advanced cuts and flourishes. It sold hundreds of copies and was critically praised in a Genii magazine review that same year. In 2004, the twins released the instructional DVD The Dan and Dave System which officially separated advanced card flourishing from magic. Three years later in 2007, Dan and Dave released The Trilogy, a three-disc DVD set. Retailing at $85 per unit, The Trilogy is the best-selling cardistry release of all time having sold more than 25,000 copies. Virtually every cardist mentions either the System or The Trilogy as the source of their inspiration.


  • Packet – Any number 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 – A grip similar to the mechanic's grip but having 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 – A grip 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 a starter.
  • split grip – A type of grip used for flourishes like "hot shot", which is a way to reveal a spectator's chosen card.


One-handed cuts[edit]

A Charlier one-handed cut
  • 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.
  • 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 Brian Tudor). 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.

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 another 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 are many 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 looks visually appealing. 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 by Joey Burton or Mockingbird by Daren Yeow.

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. A subset of such flourishes are spins such as Pirouette and Padiddle.

List of notable cardists[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hugard, Jean; Braué, Frederick; Fleming, Paul (2015) [1999]. The Royal Road to Card Magic. Mansfield Centre, CT: Dover Publications, Martino Publishing. ISBN 1614278601. ISBN 978-1614278603. 
  2. ^ Tanz, Jason (20 April 2015). "Inside the Elegant, Mesmerizing Subculture of Card Juggling". Wired. Retrieved 14 January 2016. Cardistry is an arcane but growing pastime in which (primarily) young men shuffle, riffle, twist and toss decks of cards through acrobatic arrangements and sequences. Its practitioners, called cardists, share their feats by recording and posting EDM-backed compilations of their best moves. They already have built something of a canon. 

Further reading[edit]