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An advanced two-handed card flourish

Cardistry is a name giving 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".


Main article: History of cardistry

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 enthusiast 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 mention either the System or The Trilogy as the source of their inspiration.


  • 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 – 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.
  • 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.[3]
  • 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.

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 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, Mockingbird by Daren Yeow, the Tornado cut by Ashford Kneiltel, 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, which included four flourishes by Duy, each using packets gripped by the corners allowing them to rotate.
  • Another concept is using single cards as packets. Flourishes like Vine by Tobias Levin,

Snowglobe by Conor O'Kane, Spin Doctor by Nikolaj Pedersen and the emblematic Werm by the Buck Twins are good examples of flourishes using this concept.

Card spring[edit]

The "Anaconda", a card dribble that most people think is a card spring, like the one that posted this picture at first place.

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.[3]

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[specify], 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 the thumb and evenly distributing the cards. Other methods include the pressure fan, the one handed fan, the carnahan fan, the S-fan, and the curly-q fan.[3]

List of notable cardists[edit]


Decks of playing cards are an essential part of the cardist's tools. Ordinary playing cards will do.[4] Some decks are more suitable than others; some have the opinion that those chosen should be particularly adapted to the task, even though they can be rare and relatively expensive. A new development in the Cardistry Community has resulted in a new theory that draws upon the idea of cardistry being not with cards, but with rectangular objects, like Chase Duncan's "Squids" which are blocks of resin. Heated debates have risen, and some argue that cardistry should remain in the realm of playing cards, while others argue that playing cards are merely one tool for the trade.[5]

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. ^ a b c Cestkowski, Jerry (2002). The Encyclopaedia of Playing Card flourishes. Printmeister Press. pp. 19–20. 
  4. ^ "Card Flourishes (Cardistry) - Virtuoso: Off The Press (Visiting the United States Playing Cards)" (Video). United States Playing Card Company. 22 March 2016. Retrieved 2 April 2016 – via YouTube. 
  5. ^ EverythingCardz. "Top 5 Playing Cards for Cardistry" (Video). Retrieved 2 April 2016 – via YouTube. 

Further reading[edit]

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