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An advanced two-handed flourish

Cardistry is the performance art of card flourishing. Unlike card magic, cardistry is meant to be visually impressive and appear very hard to execute.

The term "cardistry" is a portmanteau of "card" and "artistry". People who engage in cardistry are colloquially known as "cardists".


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 arm-spreads, 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]

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".

David Copperfield, Chris Kenner and Brian Tudor
David Copperfield poses with his Cardistry collaborators Chris Kenner and Brian Tudor, 2015 MGM David Copperfield Theater

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.

In 2001 Sybil enthusiasts and twin brothers Dan and Dave Buck released 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.

Types of cardistry moves[edit]

One-handed cuts: These moves require only one hand to perform. The Charlier Cut is the most familiar one-handed cut; other famous one-handed cuts include Jerry Cestkowski's L-cuts, the Revolution Cut, and Nikolaj Pedersen's Trigger and its variations.

Two-handed cuts: These moves are performed using both hands to grip/hold packets of cards; they often utilize one-handed cuts as a part of the move. These represent the bulk of all cardistry moves, ranging from beginner moves like the 'Five Faces of Sybil', to highly complex and difficult cuts that require months to master. Dan and Dave greatly popularized this category with cuts like 'Pandora'. Other cardists like Daren Yeow, Oliver Sogard, Tobias Levin, Brian Tudor, and Noel Heath have greatly influenced and reformed two-handed cuts.

Fans and Spreads: These moves involve spreading a deck of cards in various ways, typically in a circle. The 'Index/Thumb fan' is the most fundamental move in this category; other common moves in this category include the highly visual 'Riffle Fan' by Dimitri Arleri, the 'LePaul Spread', and the 'Pressure Fan'.

Aerials: These moves involve cards (or packets of cards) being shot or thrown into the air, typically being caught by the other hand. Some of the most famous moves in this category include the 'Spring' and the 'Anaconda Dribble'. Many aerials are done as part of a bigger display sequence.

Isolations/Twirls: These moves are done with a single card. Belonging in this category are 'Palm Shift Isolations', which were showcased by Jaspas Deck in his 2010 video 'Starry Eyed'.


Cardistry-Con 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.[3] The event promotes cardistry in an encouraging environment suitable for anyone passionate about the art.

One of the highlights of the annual event is the Cardistry-Con Awards, which includes categories for deck design as well as a technical achievement.[4]

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. Since then, Cardistry-Con has been held in Brooklyn (2015), Berlin (2016), Los Angeles (2017), Hong Kong (2018), and Portland (2019).[5] The next Cardistry-Con was originally scheduled for mid-2020 in Brussels, Belgium, but was postponed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.[6]

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.
  3. ^ Pang, Kevin (April 21, 2015). "72 Hours Inside the Eye-Popping World of Cardistry". Vanity Fair. Retrieved November 9, 2017.
  4. ^ Cardistry-Con Awards - Recognizing Skill, Creativity, and Showmanship Retrieved 1 February 2020.
  5. ^ About Cardistry-Con Retrieved 1 February 2020.
  6. ^ Registration page for Cardistry-Con 2020 Retrieved 2 August 2020.

Further reading[edit]