The Expert at the Card Table

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The Expert at the Card Table: The Classic Treatise on Card Manipulation
Expert at the card table.png
Cover of the 1995 edition.
AuthorS. W. Erdnase
IllustratorSmith, M. D.
Cover artistEd Smith Design
SubjectSleight of hand
PublisherOriginal Unknown
Publication date
1902 (first edition)

The Expert at the Card Table, is an extensive book on the art of sleight of hand published in 1902 by S. W. Erdnase, a pseudonymous author whose identity has remained a mystery for over a century.[1] As a detailed manual of card sharps, the book is considered to be one of the most influential works on magic or conjuring with cards.

The Expert at the Card Table is the most famous, the most carefully studied book ever published on the art of manipulating cards at gaming tables."

— the Foreword by Martin Gardner, p. vii.[2]

In August 2020, mnemonic artist David Trustman adapted The Expert at the Card Table into a graphic novel, incorporating the old figure drawings and adding new ones to help explain some of the sleights. This edition of the book also gave S.W. Erdnase a face and identity, which all previous editions of the book have lacked.[3]

Description of the book[edit]

Despite his widespread influence on the magician community, the author's identity remains an unsolved mystery. Many believe his real name was E.S. Andrews (S.W. Erdnase spelled backwards). (See Gardner's Foreword, pp. vii-ix.)[2] Another theory is that the author is Wilbur E. Sanders, son of Senator Wilbur F. Sanders. W.E. Sanders is an anagram of S. W. Erdnase, and Sanders had the education, knowledge of magic, and familiarity with gambling necessary to write the book.[4]

Originally the author started selling the book for $2.00 in 1902 and the next year it dropped to $1.00. Although the author did not renew the copyright, the book has remained in print since 1902, albeit small private printings on occasion.[5] The influence of this book is such that it has been issued in annotated form;[6][7] translated into Japanese, German, Spanish, French, Italian and Russian;[5] and issued as a series of DVDs by a professional magician, demonstrating and explaining Erdnase's techniques and methods. A featured show of the story of Expert of the Card Table is also performed regularly by UK magician Guy Hollingworth.[8]

Dai Vernon is credited with popularizing this influential text in the community of professional magicians. Well past ninety years of age, Vernon was fond of quoting from it, with page numbers, when discussing card techniques with his colleagues at the Magic Castle.[9]

In Expert Card Technique, Jean Hugard said of it, "... perhaps no other book in all the list of conjuring books has been so avidly read, so affectionately regarded."[10] Erdnase's glossary of terms was in itself extremely influential, and has been reproduced more or less directly by numerous authors, including Hugard,[10] and Henry Hay.

The Movie[edit]

A film based on the life of the mysterious author, adapted by German director Hans-Joachim Brucherseifer, is currently in production. The magician Yann Yuro (a.k.a. Florian Beyer) plays the lead role of S.W. Erdnase. It is scheduled to be released in late 2022.


  1. ^ Silverman, Rachel Emma. "Fresh Clues Could Reveal Magic-Trick Writer Who Pulled a Disappearing Act a Century Ago", The Wall Street Journal, August 16, 2000. Retrieved January 13, 2008.
  2. ^ a b Erdnase, S. W (1995) [1902]. The Expert at the Card Table: The Classic Treatise on Card Manipulation (1st Ed. reprint ed.). Mineola, NY: Dover Publications. ISBN 978-0-486-28597-9.
  3. ^ Trustman, David L. Artifice, Ruse, and Subterfuge. The Expert at the Card Table Graphic Novel Paperback. ISBN 0997892781.
  4. ^ Demarest, Marty (Winter 2013). "Montana's Conjurers, Con Men, and Card Cheats: Wilbur E. Sanders, S. W. Erdnase, and "The Expert at the Card Table"". Montana The Magazine of Western History. 63 (4): 3–93. JSTOR 24419968. Retrieved April 7, 2021.
  5. ^ a b England, Jason (2007). "The Expert at the Card Table Editions". Retrieved January 8, 2008.
  6. ^ Ortiz, Darwin (1991). The annotated Erdnase. Magical Publications. ISBN 978-0-915181-21-6.
  7. ^ Vernon, Dai (2013). Revelation (Second ed.). Mike Caveney's Magic Words. ISBN 978-0-915181-44-5.
  8. ^ James, Wesley (2007). "Expert at the Card Table by Wesley James" (7 volume DVD). Retrieved January 8, 2008.
  9. ^ Johnson, Karl (2005). The Magician and the Cardsharp: The Search for America's Greatest Sleight-of-Hand Artist (Adapted ed.). New York: Henry Holt and Co. pp. 368 pages. ISBN 978-0-8050-7406-2.
  10. ^ a b Hugard, Jean (1940). Expert Card Technique: Close-Up Table Magic (Second ed.). New York: Dover Publications, Inc. pp. 448 pages. ISBN 0-486-21755-8.

External links[edit]