Revealed: Magic Tricks Displayed on Playing Cards (1)

Cardicians and card historians, take notice: Recent research conducted at the Schaffel College for Industrial Pasteboard Paraphernalia in Ryffling, Denmark has revealed astonishing facts about some of the key images of our beloved standard poker playing cards: Most of the men and women on court cards are actually portrayed performing magic tricks! And the biggest trick of all: This open display of the magical skills of some Jacks, Queens and Kings has gone wildly unnoticed in our card-crazy community for at least 100 years!

“In the light of these exciting revelations, the history of some classics of magic may need some serious reshuffling,” says Gioberto Robbi, research director and current chef artist in residence at Schaffel College. The results of his team’s research are currently under benevolent peer review and will likely be published in an upcoming issue of the renowned magic history magazine, Fibecière.

Thanks to our tightly-knit global research network, we are happy and proud to offer you an exclusive sneak preview here over the next few days. Read along and marvel with us why we all haven’t spotted these obvious performances from the past before?!

The Jack of Spades: Paddle Trick


His magic prop is obviously a paddle, likely made of wood, big enough for good visibility in the spacious parlors and ballrooms at any Renaissance court. The artist displayed here is left-handed and just about to execute the paddle move.


Robbi and his research team believe that the diamond shape in the middle of the paddle could not only be made to appear and disappear, but also to jump freely to the top and the bottom of the paddle. This is possible due to some clever flipping mechanism probably furnished by Johann Gaugann the Elder in the early 18th century! (Further proof pending.)

The Queen of Spades: Torn and Restored Paper


Once set on the magic trail, it doesn’t take an expert to realize that the female artist on display here has just torn a royally imprinted sheet of fine handcrafted paper, and she is about to magically restore it instantly.


Notice the flowers which are held in each hand, apparently serving, just like a magic wand, for misdirection and for the concealment of the secret paper ball in one hand!

Robbi speculates that this trick may have been a simple forerunner of the later and more elaborate illusion of cutting, burning and restoring a royal silk handkerchief.


Check out Part 2 now with more exciting discoveries!




Card Magic: McDonald’s (Tr)Aces – Fast Food for Thought

Aces Three_FS

Every cardist knows this classic of card magic, but many have probably missed so far both the inherent discrepancy and a choice of effect that come with it when performed as everybody else does. This aspect was briefly discussed within a bigger thread on the Genii Forum recently.

The regular description of the trick goes something like this (quoted from Magicpedia here): It is “an Ace Assembly … where four Aces are shown, placed face up on the table, and covered with three other cards. One by one the Aces vanish from three piles, assembling together under the fourth pile held by the spectator.”

Now, what is the effect?

I think this describes the effect well from a spectator’s perspective. The key word is “vanish” here. What actually happens in most versions, though, as some magicians were quick to point out, is that the Aces do not actually vanish; they (are supposed to) transpose with three other cards which were (seemingly) put onto the fourth Ace in the beginning. To make it even more complicated, the way the trick is usually presented, this effect only happens in hindsight, once it is completed, that is with rediscovering the three Aces in the fourth pile. Until then, the perceived effect was much rather either a one-by-one vanish or a transformation of each Ace into a different card. So the effect changes as the trick progresses: Three individual vanishes or changes turn out to have been one third of a final transposition. Quite confusing, ey?

Two more thoughts from the discussion to make matters even worse: If the Aces actually vanished (= three cards left per pile) and then just reappeared in the fourth pile, there should be a total of seven cards then, not four, right? If not, what happened to the three indifferent cards that took their seats there in the beginning? Where did they go, and when and where will they return?

As mentioned above, this is likely nothing spectators will ever wrestle with; they may be content to take home that the three Aces somehow magically found their way from their piles to their pal in the fourth pile. No questions asked.

Structural and visual clarity

Right, so what’s the big deal? No big deal, but I feel it is our responsibility to carve out the intended effect as clearly as we can. If this is about an artful transposition, we probably need to stage it as one and make this point clearer visually. But many of us simply show a bunch of high black number cards, which are impossible to remember (for a good reason), so they cannot contribute to the concept of transposition which demands that you can clearly identify the objects involved in order to acknowledge the final effect.

Thus, a better option could be to use, for example, three Jacks, Queens and Kings for the three piles and then add the fourth Jack, Queen and King (seemingly) to the fourth Ace. If we now turn the three Aces into the missing Jack, Queen and King in their three respective piles and find the four Aces together, the transposition effect would be hard to miss, wouldn’t it?

Another option (which has even more visual merit and clarity, I think) would be to put three blank-faced cards onto the fourth Ace and then turn each of the other three Aces into a blank.

However, I do prefer the plot of vanishing the three Aces from their piles, which means that three cards instead of four are put to the table after each vanish. That’s why I like the versions of Gary Ouellet/Chris Kenner/David Copperfield and Jean-Pierre Vallarino so much. I never tire of watching the sheer beauty and artistic quality of the card changes. Both also offer fine solutions for the finale.

I believe this concept has two extra points worth mentioning: First, vanishing one of four playing cards seems more impossible (or at least more difficult) than changing it into a different one. Second, you don’t see the climax of the Ouellet routine coming, whereas the ending of the traditional version suffers slightly from its predictable outcome after the vanish (or whatever) of the third Ace.

Another easy version to climax without a discrepancy would be to find the three “lost” Aces in the card box, together with the formerly isolated “leader Ace”, as has been suggested in the Genii Forum discussion.

In short, this is an interesting example of how the planned and the perceived plot may differ significantly from the magician’s and the spectator’s point of view. Plus, we are reminded here that only minor changes in handling or presentation can actually change a trick’s effect from vanishes or transformations to reappearances or transpositions. And because of that we are also reminded to always keep the effect, the handling and the visual imagery as clear as possible to avoid any confusion, which may only diminish the perceived effect and its recall later on the spectator’s side.

A clear vertical version

As a side note, here’ another visual version that also gives the trick a nice vertical dimension of presentation for parlor or stage: Put each Ace into a wine glass with their face towards the audience. Add three cards each to the first three Aces and put a silk over the glass with the fourth Ace (which seems to be left on its own). Take one pile after the other from their glasses, make the three Aces disappear one by one and then return each pile of only three cards to their glasses. Now lift the silk briefly to display the leader Ace again in the fourth glass. Then whisk away the silk over the glass as you rotate it in familiar fashion and show another Ace up front. Take out the pile and slowly spread all four Aces. Ta-daa! (Obviously, this handling would call for another D/F with the same Ace on its front and back.)

Just some thoughts.


A Card Aficionado’s Exemplary Labor of Love


Granted, a lot of things are wrong in magic today, among them the ridiculous, breathless magic industry that keeps spitting out overpriced and underworked trash (tricks, moves, one-trick DVDs or downloads) in a daily frenzy.

Thankfully, a lot of other things still feel so right and so great and thus make magic the most amazing and most gratifying hobby I could ever imagine. Here’s one reason: The endless creativity and dedication which some amateurs put into their projects, be it in developing new tricks or routines, performing, or teaching others, without a price tag, simply out of sheer joy and the belief in sharing.

To give you an impressive example: Paco Nagata (that’s his stage name) from Spain is one such amazing fellow who has just “surfaced” in the magic community. A lifelong student and lover of card magic, he has written a book titled The Passion of an Amateur Card Magician. As he states (quoted from the Genii Forum),

It took me 25 years to write it. It’s a kind of autobiography card magic life as amateur, plenty of ideas, anecdotes, pieces of advice according to experiences, etc. Interesting especially for family amateurs like me. (…) I’m very happy to be able (finally) to share this work with every card magic lover.

And, oh, passionate he is: Originally written in his native Spanish tongue, Paco has taken up the enormous task of translating his own 550+ pages into fluent, readable English, which took him several years and which apparently was just completed very recently.


Best of all, he is offering his thoughts and routines completely for free, in a PDF file you can read and download right here! (The Spanish version està disponible aqui.) And he is not even bragging about this or plugging his product. Maravilloso!

If I’ll ever come around to publishing more of my own stuff in a coherent form, I will try to remember and follow your bright example, amigo!

I’m only about 70 pages into the book at this point of writing, and I have neither the inclination nor the cardists’ knowledge to write a review, but I am already enjoying his style and many of his observations, like this catchy quote:


As another example, Paco gives you some interesting thoughts about the difficulty of the amateur performer to be accepted, unlike the pro, as a “true” magician by his family and friends.

I certainly look forward to diving deeper into this tome as time allows and can only applaud the author for his effort, product, and demeanor. Magic could certainly need a couple more guys like him!

Muchas gracias, Paco! Viva la magia e todos los aficionados mágicos!


Those Young Aces

YouTube Screenshot

Oh, sweet bird of youth! Every once in a while a new kid appears on the block and just blows you away… This time, Noel Heath from Gothenburg, Sweden hit us oldtimers right between the eyes, as Tom Stone spread the word and linked to Noel’s video called “ACE” on YouBurp. Have a look, I’ll wait…


So, what’s your response?  I say: Damn! Just as I was starting to get pleased with my DL and Elmsley Count…

But honestly: Amazing stuff! When cardistry finally meets card magic! Fresh, smooth, artistic, and utterly meaningless. Sign o’ the times?

Let’s hope his school grades are below average. Or life isn’t fair.