Why do they have to pick a card again?

What is the point of someone picking a card again?  I took it for granted probably like every other magician, but lately I have been thinking what is the reason.  I mean it is a great effect when a spectator selects a card and returns it to be shuffled and to find it again, but I think that we as magicians might be taking it too far…

An example.  Triumph.  what is the trick?  It is making a shuffled mixed up face up/face down deck magically right itself into a normal state.  Now where the fuck does having a card selected come into that equation?  Do we dilute the trick because of the selection?  Isn’t it clearer if triumph is done without a card being selected?

Imagine handing a spectator the deck and having them throw it on the table and shuffle face up/face down.  you have them square the deck on the table.  You then do your magical move and then spread the deck.  The deck magically rights itself into all face down.  that is impressive, clear, direct.  Now add a selection into that trick….  it makes me wonder why.  Its like we want magic to happen “around” the selection.  The selection really takes a back seat.

“Look, I turned all the cards face down!… and found your card.”

Think about it this way.  If you did a set of card tricks but never had a card selected, do you think it would stronger or weaker than a set of card tricks where every time it had to have a selection?

Do you just cut to the fucking meat of an effect because you don’t have a card selected?  How many times had you have a layman say “like it really matters where I put the card… you know where it is anyways.”

Here is some homework.  How many effects do you know that doesn’t involve a selection?

Posted: March 14th, 2010
Comments: 25 Comments.
Comment from J_Wess - March 14, 2010

You can use the triumph effect to quickly and magically produce four of a kind. I will use it sometimes as a opener for twisting the aces.


Comment from Johnny - March 14, 2010

you point out the important part that most of the card guy should aware of , why the audience have to pick and card and why we should find that ,

sometimes , it ‘s ridictious and unreasonable…

colour changing sequence as an opener and follow by a ACAAN , :D finish by a ACR :D that should not be a bad choice i think …


Comment from Luigi - March 14, 2010

One of the reasons to have a card selected is to make the effect relevant for the spectator. Otherwise, why would anyone care that you can shuffle the deck faceup into facedown only to straighten it out again?

Once a spectator has gone through the trouble of selecting a card, making sure you don’t look at it, put it back where they want, etc, they are invested in what happens next, they participate. Otherwise you are just asking them to look at something clever you can do with a deck of cards. That can be okay, but my guess is that the spectators will stop caring quite quickly if you keep asking them to be passive clapping machines.

But to answer your question, off the top of my head:
Gemini twins
Jumping gemini
Twisting the Aces
Dr. Daley’s last trick
Jazz Aces
Sam the bellhop
Color changes
Christ fabulous four aces trick
Mental photography

I’m sure there are more…


Comment from Hansel - March 14, 2010

I always perform The Queens, which doesn’t require a selected card. I think that when somebody chooses a card, they feel involved in what’s happening, more involved than in a trick that’s just watching.
Sometimes when I perform the queens, I get comments like (from laymen):
That’s some nice sleight of hand.
You’re pretty quick.

However, when I perform a color change with a selected card, the comments are more referred as magic, than sleight of hand.

In my opinion, we should not tell laymen to pick a card again, if we want to perform two or more effects involving cards being selected. We should explain them, why are they picking a card (so they can recognize themselves in a deck of cards) and just move on to the next pick-a-card effect, but with the same card they choose.

I’ve been thinking about this same subject a few days ago and I’ve started to perform in this way, with this presentation, getting more astonished faces and getting participants more involved, with… uhm… ‘deeper’ reactions.


Comment from Semjon - March 15, 2010

First of all i wish to second what Luigi said. I think he is totally right. Selecting a card helps you to build a better contact with the audience. If they select a card, than they care more, they are much more interested in the outcome of the effect because they become a part of it. This helps you to bring the attention away from the cards and interact with your spectaitor more intensively.

Lets take for example the Fingerprint-Effect from Dai Vernon. This is one of my favorite effects because it has a very nice dramatic structure. So you show the spectator the first two cards and then he sees his card. This becomes automatically a peek point of tension only because the spectator sees his card and he wonders whether you will be able to spot it. As you pass his card the spectator stays emotionally involved, because on the one hand he is glad that he was able to beat the magician, but on the other hand he likes you so he feels kind of guilty about it. But then you state that you have found the card (obviously it´s the wrong one) and the conflict between you and the spectator reches its climax. The tension is so high people automatically burst into applause when you finally solve that conflict in a nice way via changing the card into the right one. All of this is only possible because of the fact that the spectator has chosen the card and that kept him involved.

This is only one example of many, many reel gut peek a card tricks. But i do think that you should work sparely with those. That´s why i only do one peek a card treek in a set of magic. But it is always either the opening or the closing effects due to the reasons i stated erlier.


Comment from Stein - March 15, 2010



Comment from Exo - March 15, 2010

I probably step on some guys opinions here but i realy think that selecting a card for a trick is not as strong as connecting to the spectators with a meaningful pattern that reflects some of your own personality or life.
Of course most magicians strive to go with the “this is what you see happening” patter which kinda forces them into having a card selected so their spectators dont loose interest (it also is the easier way out i guess :p ).
Well to keep this some what short: Dont do mathematical cardtricks or that boring “im shuffling in your card” patter.

P.S.: Nearly forgot to post my homework :p
but im sure i have forgotten some ^^


Comment from Jeffrey Tong - March 15, 2010

That’s why the original triumph didn’t have a card selection.


Comment from eric - March 16, 2010

To Luigi-

Your logic is flawed. By your logic, people watching amazing street dancers will get bored (thinking they are only passive clapping machines) if the dancers don’t ask them to participate.

Sure, a few effects where a card is selected will be good, but only if the effect is built around the premise of a “selection,” in which case, the Triumph, is not.

Less one-sided thinking can go a long way.


Comment from admin - March 16, 2010

I think the one thing that we have to remember is that the connection we want is between the magician and the spectator. Forget the cards. The cards are just used to show the audience visually what “magic” is suppose to be.

Don’t limit yourself to thinking that you can only have the spectator participate because there is a selected card. There are better ways to get the spectator involved. Having the magic happen in their hands, for example, is much more powerful.

remember the link you are trying to create is between the magician and the audience.

Now I’m not saying that we get rid of all card selections, but the trick itself has to be about finding a card. Not having magic happen around your card just for the sake of it.



Comment from Yohann - March 16, 2010

Back when I was a laymen, I happened to see triumph being performed with a selected card. After the trick was over, I remember thinking: “how the hell did he turned the face up cards face down? Plus, how did he know which one to leave face down/turn face down? He must have moved them one by one, otherwise my card would have been caught in the process!”


Comment from Luigi - March 16, 2010

To Eric,

Not that logic has anything to do with it, but your example actually confirms my point: if you are thinking of yourself, as a magician, on the same level as street dancers, I think you are missing out on the chance to create a strong emotional connection with your audience. Yes, dancers ask the audience to be passive and marvel at their skill; what would be the magical equivalent? XCM?

With dance, the audience doesn’t get bored because the dancers’ skill is both easier to appreciate and more impressive than a magician’s skill. We hide our skill, in the interest of connecting with the sense of mysterious in our audience.

I’m not saying that having a card selected is the only way to connect, or that every trick should be a pick-a-card trick. I don’t believe that at all. But the post asked “what’s the point of having a card selected?”, and I gave my take on what I think the point can be.

One of my favorite effects to perform is Sankey’s “back in time”. At the end, when the spectators realize that the card they’re holding is their card, I regularly see the strongest emotional reactions: people have literally gotten goosebumps.

From one point of view, the trick is Triumph with an added transformation at the end, but the reactions are so much stronger than Triumph. Why? Well, I think that in Triumph the card selection is incidental to the trick, which is often related as a story that happened to someone else! The selection is not even really a selection, it stands in for a card some other punter selected one time. When the selection appears, it confirms what we already were thinking: yep, you clever magician you!

In Back in Time the selection is stressed and highly personal, the spectator is asked to burn the moment of looking at the card in their head, remember every detail about it. When that selection appears, it’s an event, it’s personal, it’s powerful.

On the other hand, another extremely powerful effect is Out of This World. No selection there, but it is incredibly relevant for the spectator. The magician takes a back seat there. So I’m not sure the link we’re trying to create is between the magician and the audience… What if it is between the spectator and their own sense of wonder?



Comment from Tony Chang - March 16, 2010

Great point Luigi.


Comment from Hiroki - March 21, 2010

I think that having a card selected brings the spectator into the trick. Makes them part of the magic and feel important. Maybe it lets them think that the trick is personal to them, instead of them just watching you do some fancy stuff with the boards. Also pays homage to the traditional ‘pick a card’ thing.

I guess having them select a card is an half-arsed attempt to make the magic meaningful for the spec. There are far better ways to do this, but having a card selected seems the one of the most popular and direct methods.

With that said, there are far better ways of connecting and getting the attention of the spec.

Like FIRE WALLET. For example.



Comment from eric - March 23, 2010

Luigi- I agree with your second post. I guess the problem that I had with your first post is that you wrote it in a way that sounded like an absolute. It reads with the nuance that “if you don’t have a card selected, your spectators will get bored.”

I do agree with what your wrote in your second post though.

I think one thing that people might misunderstand from Tony’s original post is that, he isn’t saying having a card chosen is bad, just that you need to be aware of what your are trying to accomplish. And, perhaps, sometimes having a card selected will have an adverse effect on what you want to make happen in the eyes of the spectator.

This is a reason that I don’t like flourishing mixed in with magic. As a showcase for your own personal skill, sure, but if you are trying to perform “magic”, you are giving the spectator too many things to be impressed with, and taking the glory away from the original intended effect.

In the same way, having a card chosen can have this same negative effect.


Comment from DC - March 24, 2010

Some effects that don’t involve a selected card that I can think of off the top of my head:

1. Easy Ace Estimation (Ace cutting routine)
2. Starship Leader
3. 4 Card to 4 pockets (Jennings)
4. Repro Retro (or any variation of Reset)
5. Bizarre Twist – PH
6. 3 Card Monte

Many of the ideas of my own opinions of having a card selected have already been mentioned but at the same time many of the reasons why we have a card selected is also the very reason we often have a card signed too. =)


Comment from Jesse Rijpkema - March 25, 2010

The bigger part of all packet tricks doesn’t involve a selection


Comment from Michael Feldman - March 25, 2010

Spectators are more emotionally invested in an effect when they have a stake in it. Granted, choosing a card isn’t much of a stake, but it seems to help.

The problem with many effects where NO card is selected is that they are completely passive for the spectator. If it’s just a show with no audience involvement, the spectators might as well watch special effects on TV.

The question shouldn’t be whether or not we should have spectators keep picking cards, it should be how can we make sure the spectators CARE about the effect, and while we’re thinking of a better way, having chosen a card works alright.


Comment from Bryan - May 6, 2010

Ascanio’s “X-1=0″ is essentially a triumph without a selected card and is one of my favorite’s of his.

I shan’t expand too much upon the reason for having a selection as others have already begun to clear up the issue. To make a brief statement, there is a clear difference in the minds of the spectators when I perform “X-1=0″ in comparison with a standard triumph.

Here is the appeal of a triumph. Not only do you perform the effect of correcting all the cards, you have such control that you can keep the spectator’s card reversed. You’re performing magic, bringing in the spectator, and reminding him that he’s an important part of the magic by taking the extra time to find his card out of all the others, and making it stand out.


Comment from Mendel - July 9, 2010

I am suprised to see no one has named the classic effect called Oil and Water.
It’s very interesting to think about tricks without a selection to come to the point: Does a selection really involve the person more into the trick?

I think it really depends on what you are trying to reach.
Plot wise a lot of tricks are the same: selection -> lost -> found.
90% of tricks go like that but that also means it’s doing something good.

Thinking of a card is imo a bit more interesting then selecting, losing and finding.
But you could also see that as a selection, because the trick still focus on that card.

Here’s something I’ve been trying to work on: One joker (no selection) to be able to do things with the deck. For an example the joker is thrown in the center of the deck (face up in face down deck) and the deck is seperated from red to black with the joker being the center point of both colors.
Nice discussion here btw, lovely site.


Comment from Lance Pierce - October 8, 2010

::::: An example. Triumph. what is the trick? It is making a shuffled mixed up face up/face down deck magically right itself into a normal state. Now where the fuck does having a card selected come into that equation? Do we dilute the trick because of the selection? Isn’t it clearer if triumph is done without a card being selected? :::::

Actually, Vernon addressed all these questions and concerns in his original presentation for Triumph.

Why have a card selected? Well, you’re not having a card selected for THIS trick; you’re telling about another time you were doing a card trick for someone (what that trick was is irrelevant).

Why find the card? Because that was the triumph of the magician over a seemingly insurmountable obstacle.

Is the effect clearer without the selection? Do you mean, is the righting of the cards clearer without the selection? It depends on how clear the performer makes it.

I’ve always promoted revealing the climax of Triumph in two steps; first, by simply cutting off the top half of the deck to reveal the selection, outjogging the selection, and putting the top half back on it. There’s your Triumph. At least, says your opponent, I left you with a messed-up deck. Then you spread the cards, showing all the others are face down. Double-Triumph. There’s nothing confusing or unclear about it in any way.

Towards your more general question of why have cards selected, yes, I’ve observed that some magicians don’t think about whether it’s a really good idea to have a card selected for certain tricks as opposed to, say, the performer simply throwing one out there. The reason to have a card selected is because what follows will be more meaningful for having done so. If that’s not in play, then why bother?


Comment from Tony Chang - October 8, 2010

Totally agree with you Lance. Sometimes my examples are more of what the majority of magicians do when performing triumph. Obviously any classics such as Triumph has been thought through with great deal. Otherwise it wouldn’t be considered a classic.

I just think majority of magicians do triumph like its another “reveal” of a selected card. We go through the motions to find the selected card. I seen many just not milk the effect of triumph enough. It’s a very very strong effect, and most of the time people don’t make it feel that way when they perform it.


Comment from Brad Tobin - March 22, 2011

I was chatting online with another magician the other day, and i brought up this same example, why have a card picked in triuph? The effect is much more about the cards righting themselves then it is about finding the selection. If you watch Kostya Kimlats performance on Youtube you can see when he spreads the cards FACE UP the spectator fully reacts to the climax of the effect, even without the effect reaching its destination which is finding the card. The Card is face down but the spectator shows no anticapation of seeing if his card was realy found. After the cards right themselves the effect is over and no one realy cares if the card is found or not which is why the cards should be spread face down and both climaxes happen at onece, deck is righted and card is found. As far as even having a card selected i think it gives the effect a direction to go in, and gives a reason to mix the cards face up and face down, but If you can find another reason to mix them in that way, doing it without a selected would be just as good, check out Jack Carpenters triple triuph.


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