My Best Self-Working Card Tricks

My Best Self-Working Card Tricks

by Karl Fulves

See All Formats & Editions

An expert presents step-by-step, foolproof instructions for 65 of his most impressive card tricks. Mystifying, entertaining illusions include "Prediction Wallet," in which the card a spectator has chosen and signed is found in the magician's wallet; "Suspense," in which a card remains dangling in midair, and many others. 116 black-and-white illustrations.


An expert presents step-by-step, foolproof instructions for 65 of his most impressive card tricks. Mystifying, entertaining illusions include "Prediction Wallet," in which the card a spectator has chosen and signed is found in the magician's wallet; "Suspense," in which a card remains dangling in midair, and many others. 116 black-and-white illustrations.

Product Details

Dover Publications
Publication date:
Dover Magic Books Series
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.56(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.34(d)
Age Range:
10 Years

Read an Excerpt

My Best Self-Working Card Tricks

By Karl Fulves, Joseph K. Schmidt

Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 2001 Karl Fulves
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-15669-9



People like to gain insight into their own lives, and will spend time and money consulting astrologers, fortune-tellers and tarot card readers. The tricks in this chapter make playing cards appear to tell people things about themselves.

1. Someone Like You

Some of the more memorable tricks are those that deal on a personal level with a spectator. In this trick you will need three slips of paper. They have writing on one side, but the writing is not shown right away. On the other side are the words shown in Figure 1. The spectator shuffles some cards and picks five. They are sorted according to color. If there are five of one color, he picks the leftmost piece of paper in Figure 1. If there are four of one color and one of the opposite color (for example, four reds and one black), he picks the middle piece of paper. If there are three of one color and two of the opposite color, he picks the rightmost piece of paper.

When he has chosen a slip of paper, the other pieces are turned over. They describe personality types, but clearly they do not match the spectator's personality. When the chosen paper is turned over, the wording on the other side exactly describes the spectator's personality.

Method: You must know something about the spectator before you perform the trick. The spectator can be a friend, a relative or a friend of a friend. On a piece of paper jot down the spectator's traits, his hobbies, his job, and so forth. Turn this paper over and on the blank side write, "THREE AND TWO." On the other slips of paper jot down characteristics that are far different from the spectator's. Turn both of them over. On the blank side of one write, "FIVE ALIKE." On the blank side of the other write, "FOUR AND ONE." This is the only preparation.

Any deck may be used. Hold the cards so you can see the faces. Remove a pair of cards consisting of a black card on top, a red card below it, and place this pair face down on the table. Find three more pairs with a black on top, a red on the bottom, and place each onto the tabled cards. The eight-card packet will be stacked black-red-black-red-black-red-black-red from top to bottom.

Now find a pair consisting of a red card on top, a black card below it, and place this pair face down on the table. Find three more pairs with a red on top, a black on the bottom, and place each pair onto the tabled pair. The eight-card packet will be stacked red-black-red-black and so on from top to bottom.

Ask the spectator to riffle shuffle the two groups of cards together, Figure 2. He performs the riffle shuffle just once. Then have him deal the top five cards to himself. Because he shuffled the two groups of cards randomly together, it would seem that the top five cards are a truly random distribution of colors. But there will always be three of one color and two of the other.

The piece of paper that matches this outcome is the one on the right in Figure 1. Turn the other slips of paper over and read aloud the descriptions. Clearly, they do not describe him. Turn over the remaining piece and read the character description. It exactly describes the spectator's personality.

2. The Odd Couple

The magician remarks, "We all have had the experience of meeting a happily married couple and wondering how two such opposite types get along so well. In the world of playing cards, odd couples are represented by the odd cards." The magician deals the odd hearts in a layout like the one shown in Figure 3. "The ace of hearts is going to marry one of the prospective suitors represented by the three, five, seven and nine."

The [??]3, [??]5, [??]7 and [??]9 are gathered and shuffled by the spectator. While the magician turns his back, the spectator selects one of these four cards as the card she thinks will be most congenial with the [??]A. The magician does not know which card was selected. Let's say it is the [??]3.

The [??]3, [??]5, [??]7 and [??]9 are then shuffled back into the deck. The spectator may shuffle and cut the cards. The magician takes back the deck. "Let's see if you guessed who the ace of hearts chose." The magician removes one card from the deck. It is the [??]3, the very card selected by the spectator.

Method: The secret is given in Figure 3, but it is well concealed and almost impossible to decipher unless one knows what to look for. In a deck of cards, there are certain cards which magicians refer to as pointer cards or one-way cards. The odd-value hearts are examples of such cards. Looking at the [??]3, Figure 4, the center heart pip has one pointed end which can point up or down. In Figure 4, it points up.

Look again at Figure 3, and you will see that the center pip of each of the four cards below the [??]A has its center pip pointing upwards. If one of those cards is turned around end-for-end, the magician will know which it is because the center pip will now point downwards. This is the basis for the trick. (It does not matter which way the [??]A points, since this card does not figure into the method.) It is best to orient the four odd-value hearts the same way before the trick begins to avoid a lot of suspicious twisting and turning of the cards. You can perform other tricks with the deck as long as you are careful not to turn any portion of the deck around. With the odd-value hearts pointing the same way, the trick is performed as follows.

Remove the [??]A plus the other odd-value hearts. Arrange them as shown in Figure 3, as you remark that these are the four suitors that the [??]A will choose from. Gather the four suitors into a heap, and turn the heap face down on the table. Ask the spectator to cut the four-card heap and complete the cut, then to give it another complete cut. Point out that this randomizes the positions of the four suitors. Now cut the deck into two heaps and say, "The ace of hearts chose one of these suitors to be her companion. I'd like you to guess which one." As you tap the packet on the right say, "Deal three of the cards onto this heap. This represents the rejected suitors." After the spectator has done this, have her deal the remaining card onto the packet on the left. This represents the suitor chosen by the spectator.

Lift off the card on the left-hand packet. Tilt it up so the spectator can see the face of the card. "I'd like you to remember the identity of the suitor you chose. We'll see if this matches the one chosen by the ace of hearts." Return the card to the top of the left-hand packet, and ask her to cut each packet and complete the cut. After she has given each packet a cut, grasp the packets as shown in Figure 5. You are going to shuffle them by a procedure invented by Theodore Annemann.

Turn the packets toward one another, Figure 6. This is a subtle way of reversing the packets end-for-end. Riffle shuffle the two halves of the deck together and square up the deck. Ask the spectator to give the deck an additional shuffle and cut. Spread the cards so you can see the faces. Look at the faces of the [??]3, [??]5, [??]7 and [??]9, specifically at the center pip. One of these four cards will have the center pip facing in the opposite direction from the pips in the other cards. This is the card chosen by the spectator. Remove this card from the deck and say, "Here's the card chosen by the ace of hearts. Which card did you nominate for that honor?" The spectator names the card she chose. Turn over the card in hand to reveal she chose the correct suitor.

In tricks using one-way or pointer cards, it is important that no cards are accidentally turned end-for-end. In this trick, that possibility is minimized by the way you allow the spectator to handle the cards. Since the spectator does nothing more than deal three cards to one heap and one to the other heap, there is little risk of something going wrong.

Many people riffle shuffle cards by the method shown in Figures 5 and 6. Magicians use a different method called the end riffle. It produces the same result but it looks more professional. Grasp the cards by the sides, near the inner ends, as shown in Figure 7. Turn the packets toward one another in the direction of the arrows in Figure 7. The packets are now in the position shown in Figure 8. Shuffle them together, square up the deck and give it a cut. The spectator can also give the deck a shuffle, but make sure that no cards are accidentally turned end-for-end.

3. Compatibility

In this trick, the magician demonstrates how the science of numerology reveals whether or not two people are compatible with one another. The trick should be done for a husband and wife, or a boyfriend and girlfriend.

The lady mixes a deck of cards, turns the deck face up and removes any eight cards, then seven more, then six more, and then five more. She gives the balance of the deck to her boyfriend or husband. She gathers her cards into a common heap and holds the packet face up in her hand. Her boyfriend holds the remainder of the deck face down in his hand. The lady slowly deals her cards one at a time into two heaps, red cards in one heap, blacks in another. Her two heaps are shown as A and B in Figure 9.

The gentleman simultaneously deals cards off the top of his face-down packet into two heaps, C and D, but he does not look at the faces of his cards. He matches the way the lady deals. In other words, if the first two cards in her heap are red, she would deal these two cards into heap A. The gentleman deals the top two cards of his packet sight unseen into heap C. If the next three cards in the lady's packet are black, she would deal these three cards face up into heap B. The gentleman deals the top three cards of his heap face down into heap D.

At the finish, there will be two face-up heaps (A and B) in front of the lady. Heap A will contain only red cards. Heap B will contain only black cards. There will be two face-down heaps in front of the gentleman, C and D. Each of his heaps will contain a random mixture of reds and blacks. Point to the face-up cards in front of the lady and say, "These cards reflect attributes we can all see in someone. The number of reds in the first heap and the number of blacks in the second heap indicate that one partner is tall, the other short. One is quiet, the other outgoing." (Simply describe the two people engaged in the test.)

Now tap the face-down heaps. "These represent qualities that are hidden—personality, character, spirit, soul. We're going to focus on the red cards over here [tap packet C] and the black cards over here [tap packet D]. If there are far more reds in one heap than there are blacks in the other, it means that two people are incompatible. The closer the numbers are to one another, the better the two people match up. On very rare occasions, one in a million, the two people are so well matched that there are exactly the same number of reds over here [indicate packet C] as there are blacks over here [indicate packet D]."

Ask the lady to count the number of red cards in packet C. Have the gentleman count the number of black cards in packet D. They will always be equal to one another. Congratulate the lucky couple on being one in a million. The trick works every time if you use a full deck of fifty-two cards.

4. Most Wanted List

The magician remarks, "Computers can now be equipped with a program called Astro Logic. The program analyzes your personality so it can help you find your perfect mate. Science tells us there are personality types. Some of the most typical are listed here in what is called—for some reason—a Most Wanted List." The list is shown in Figure 10. Read off the first four or five lines, and place the list face down on the table.

The spectator is asked to think of two of the digits in her date of birth. If her birthdate is June 27, 1985, the digits would be 6-2-7-1-9-8-5. Ask her to think of two of the digits. We will assume she picks 5 and 7, although she tells no one of her choices.

Before the trick started you placed any 9-spot on top of the deck. Holding the deck in your left hand, ask her to tell you the larger of the two digits. In our example she would say 7. Push off a packet of seven cards without reversing their order. Place this packet on the table. The top card of the packet is the 9-spot. Turn your head to one side, and ask her to focus now on the smaller of the two digits. She is to silently count that many cards onto the tabled heap. In our example, she would count five cards onto the heap of seven cards. She does not tell you how many cards she dealt.

Turn and face the audience. Square the packet. "You have entered two digits into the Astro Logic program. We know only one of those numbers, the seven, so we will use it twice." Deal seven cards, one at a time, from the top of the packet to the table. Drop the balance of the packet on top. Again deal seven cards to the table, but stop when you have dealt the seventh card. Push this card in front of the lady and say, "One number is known, one unknown, symbolizing in turn controlled and random elements in our lives. Turn over that card. See what the number is and then consult that number on the chart. We will know soon enough if Astro Logic has correctly analyzed you." The lady turns over the playing card. It shows the number 9. Consulting the ninth entry on the Most Wanted List, she can't deny that the description fits her to a "T."

All the start of the trick when the lady hears that the possible personality types include serial killer, armed robber, axe murderer and so on, she will expect the worst. Present the trick in a lighthearted way, making it all seem a bit of a joke. When showing the list at the beginning, obscure the one positive entry at position 9 bv keening the hand over the list, Figure 11.

After you have read off the first five or six character types, turn the list over and keep it nearer to you than to her to discourage anyone from turning it over to read the rest of the list. At the end of the trick, she will be surprised to learn that Astro Logic got her personality exactly right.

This trick is based on a principle invented by Stewart James.



People sometimes suspect magicians of using trick decks. They will even voice doubt that magicians can perform card magic with ordinary playing cards. For this reason, it is important to have on hand a repertoire of tricks that can be performed with any deck that is handed to you. The tricks in this chapter use borrowed cards and can be performed on the spot.

5. Calculated Cut

In many cards tricks, the magician must have secret information about the deck, or he must perform secret manipulation at some point in the trick. This trick is an exception. The magician has no information and has nothing to do but perform the actions described here. If the instructions are followed correctly, he will locate two freely chosen cards under strict conditions. The trick gets its name from the fact that it originally used a sleight-of-hand method of cutting the cards to get the desired outcome. In this version, all sleights have been eliminated.

Method: The deck must contain fifty-two cards. Turn your head to one side and ask someone to shuffle the cards. He is to then remove a small number of cards from the top of the deck, any quantity between one and ten cards. He counts these cards and hides them in his pocket. Whatever number of cards he takes, he is to remember the card that lies at the same number from the top of the deck. For example, if he pocketed eight cards, he would remember the card that now lies eighth from the top of the deck.

Turn and face the spectator and say, "I'm going to have another card chosen, but I don't want someone to choose the same card this gentleman chose. That would be too easy." As you speak, take the deck in your left hand. Push off exactly sixteen cards without reversing their order and place them off to one side on the table. Hand the remainder of the deck to a lady. "Please shuffle these cards. Lift off a group of cards. The number is not important. Look at the face card of the group you cut off, and then place that packet on top of these cards." Tap the sixteen-card packet. The lady places her cards on top of the sixteen-card packet.

Say, "You still have some cards left over. I want this to be as difficult as possible for me—no tricks, no cheating—so please shuffle the remaining cards and place them on top of all." When the spectator has done this, square the deck and place it face down in the left hand. You do not know the identity of either card. You don't even know how many cards are in the deck. Yet, without asking a question, you are going to locate each of the chosen cards. It is done as follows.

Ask the first spectator to get a clear mental picture of his card. Begin dealing cards off the top of the deck into a face-up heap on the table. Pause every now and then as if studying a particular card. It seems as if you are looking for clues, but what you are really doing is silently counting the cards as you deal them. Deal thirty-five cards off the top into the face-up heap. When you get to the thirty-sixth card, stop. Don't turn this card face up.

Look at the first spectator and say, "What card did you choose?" He might name the [??]9. Turn up the card in hand. It will be the [??]9. Toss this card to the table in front of the first spectator and say to him, "We still have to find the lady's card. I'm going to ask your help on this. You have some cards in your pocket. I'm going to put these cards in my pocket."


Excerpted from My Best Self-Working Card Tricks by Karl Fulves, Joseph K. Schmidt. Copyright © 2001 Karl Fulves. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Karl Fulves is one of the most respected authorities in the field of magic. For over 40 years, he has written hundreds of books on the subject and taught the art of illusion to thousands of people of all ages. This legendary figure also edited and published such magazines as Epilogue and The Pallbearers Review.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews