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An advanced two-handed 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 colloquially known as "cardists". Some of the more influential cardists have been Bone Ho, Brian Tudor, Chris Kenner, and Dan and Dave Buck.


A Charlier one-handed cut

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]

Cardistry moves typically have unusual names that reflect their creator, origin, or appearance. There is Kevin Ho's "Flurf", "Off the Hook", and "Racoon", Joey Burton's "Skater Cut", Huron Low's "Firefly" and "Flicker", Daren Yeow's "Rev 2 Twirl", Bone Ho's "Anaconda" and "Tornado Deck Split", Oliver Sogard's "Friffle", Dan Buck's "Vertigo", and many more. Chris Kenner's two-handed "Sybil Cut" flourish uses multiple packets of cards, and is a good example of a popular flourish. It is arguably the most well-known and recognized move among cardists, and is a common starting challenge that newbies to the art try to take on. But from there, there are all kinds of advanced maneuvers to learn, some almost being a sub-genre of their own, such as "isolations".[3]

Chris Kenner's Sybil flourish

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.


Cardistry-Con, dubbed CC, is an interactive conference centered around the art of cardistry, where cardists from all over the world can gather and explore the limitless expressive potential of an ordinary deck of playing cards.[4] The event promotes cardistry in an encouraging environment suitable for anyone passionate about the art. The "beta" Cardistry-Con occurred in 2014 as a subsection of Dan & Dave's Magic Con. In 2015, Magic Con was discontinued and an official Cardistry Con took its place. The 2015 CC took place in Brooklyn, New York. With the second annual Cardistry-Con in Berlin, Germany 2016, the Cardistry-Con Championship (CCC) was birthed, allowing cardists to compete in a competitive showcase of skill. The two finalists would be flown out to the event and have their video's screened live. Some notable winners include: Jaspas, Luis Mecalco, Edgar Isacc, and Nguyen Hoang Duy. The third annual Cardistry-Con took place in Los Angeles, California 2017, and in 2018 it was held in Hong Kong.

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  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.
  3. ^ "What is Cardistry?". Retrieved 2018-09-06.
  4. ^ Pang, Kevin (April 21, 2015). "72 Hours Inside the Eye-Popping World of Cardistry". Vanity Fair. Retrieved November 9, 2017.

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