Top Moves and Flourishes That Beginners in Cardistry Should Learn
Getting Started in Cardistry
Cardistry is the performance art of card flourishing, in which playing cards are manipulated to create visually pleasing displays. Cuts, pivots, spins, twirls, and other moves are just the beginning of this thriving art-form. Today’s cardists are constantly pushing boundaries, and applying creativity and originality to produce moves that have never been seen before. But because this is a hobby and performance art that anyone who owns a deck of playing cards can easily get into, there’s never been a better time to discover this emerging and exciting pastime.
With the help of technology, it’s easy to share ideas, and to learn some basic card flourishes – and you’ll have enormous fun doing so! If you are brand new to this growing art-form, and want to know why it is so popular, you can check out our previous article: How to Get Started in Cardistry. In this article we’ll point you to some resources that will help you learn some basic card flourishes, to help you jump right into this fun and rewarding way of using playing cards.
To begin your cardistry journey, there are a few essentials that you need to think about:
1. Your deck. You don’t need an expensive deck, but you should make sure that you’re using a quality poker-sized deck that handles well. Use something that has an embossed air-cushion finish, and is quite new. Standard Bicycle or Bee decks produced by United States Playing Card Company are very inexpensive, and will do the job just fine. When getting started, don’t worry too much about how your cards look, but focus more on the handling quality of your deck.
2. Your attitude. Cardistry isn’t a competitive activity, but is something that you can enjoy for its own sake on your own. So we’re excited about having beginners start out, and we warmly welcome you into the cardistry community. But you do need the right attitude. Don’t expected to be a skilled performer right away. It would also be a mistake to immediately trying to create your own moves. Instead, it’s better to start by mastering the basics, and have a graduated approach by starting with easy moves, and building on those towards more difficult maneuvers. Other than that advice, there’s no right or wrong way to do this, and you can learn what you like. Different people will enjoy different kinds of moves, and by all means go ahead and just learn the moves that interest you! And don’t give up when something doesn’t work right away, keep practicing! And above all, have fun.
3. Your instructors. So how can you go about learning the basics? The good news is that with the help of technology, there’s a ton of free tutorial material available online to help you learn cardistry. You don’t need to spend money to buy tutorial videos, because you can easily find lots of solid teaching videos on the internet. Cardists love their hobby, and are usually only too eager to share their skills for the benefit of others.
So now you want to know what moves you should start with, and where you can learn them, right? Well we’re here to help you, by giving you an overview of some of the key moves that beginners do well to learn, along with some links to videos that will teach you how to do them. We want your journey into cardistry to be an exciting and enjoyable one. Most of the flourishes mentioned below are not super complicated, so you’ll quickly be on your way to enjoying yourself with some basic moves. At the same time you’ll be laying a foundation for more complex moves to explore in the future.
I’ve also included some flourishes that are simply fun or flashy to do, while not being overly difficult. For each move I’ve provided direct links to at least three video tutorials that teach these flourishes. You’ll often benefit from watching more than one video, because different instructional videos will often give small tips that may just be what you need to master a tricky move. So let’s get you started with your first steps in cardistry!
Recommended First Flourishes
● Basic Grips: There are two main ways to hold a deck of cards, and you’ll want to know what is being referred to whenever they are mentioned. The most common way is Mechanics Grip, also called Dealers Grip, and it’s when a deck is held squarely in the center of your left hand. Biddle Grip, or End Grip, is when you take a deck out of Mechanics Grip by grasping the top and bottom edges, holding it with your thumb on one edge and your index finger on the other edge.
Where to learn it: [Fontaine] [lotusinhand] [SchoolOfCardistry]
● Riffle Shuffle (with Bridge): Everyone should know how to do a decent shuffle. A riffle shuffle in the hands looks much more flashy than the serious looking table riffle shuffle, especially when you finish it with a bridge in which two interlaced halves of the deck purr together card by card. This is a fairly straight forward flourish that is very satisfying to perform and immediately makes you look stylish. And because it’s a shuffle, it’s something that you have a good excuse to put into practice whenever you play card games too!
Where to learn it: [52Kards] [lotusinhand] [SchoolOfCardistry]
● Swing Cut: This is a very smooth looking in-the-hands cut where you use your index finger to rotate a packet from the top of the deck across to the side, then dropping the remainder of the deck on top of it. It’s very easy to learn, and is a very good place to begin your new cardistry career.
Where to learn it: [Fontaine] [lotusinhand] [SchoolOfCardistry]
● Swivel Cut: Like the swing cut, this move involves rotating a packet of cards from the top of the deck. But instead of rotating counter-clockwise around your lower thumb, the packet rotates clockwise around the fingers holding the upper portion of the packet.
Where to learn it: [52Kards] [Ramsay] [SchoolOfCardistry]
● Sybil Cut: This is a more difficult move that will require much more practice, but is extremely satisfying once you master it. It’s considered to be a foundational flourish, and the basis of many other more complex flourishes. It involves dividing the deck into four separate packets, which are rotated around with moves similar to the swing and swivel cuts. One neat feature of this cut is that despite all the motion, completing a Sybil Cut will successfully restore the cards in exactly the same order as when you started. It will take you a while to learn this, but once you have it down, you’ll have a lot of fun with it, doing it over … and over … and over!
Where to learn it: [52Kards] [dealersgrip] [Ekaterina] [Fubuki] [Milson]
● Charlier Cut: This is the classic one-handed cut, where the bottom half of the deck is elegantly separated from the top half of the deck, and put on top – all with one hand. Once you’ve learned this with one hand, try learning how to do this with the other hand as well!
Where to learn it: [Fontaine] [lotusinhand] [SchoolOfCardistry] [TheVirts]
● Revolution Cut: This looks somewhat similar to the Charlier Cut, but the top packet is rotated 180 degrees in the course of the two packets switching places. So it’s a far more flashy move, that is extremely satisfying to perform.
Where to learn it: [dealersgrip] [Ekaterina] [lotusinhand] [SchoolOfCardistry]
● Scissor Cut: This is also a one-handed cut, but instead of one packet moving on top of the other via the side of the cards, the packet moves lengthwise. The movement of the packets mimics the actions of the two moving parts of a scissors, hence of course the name. Large hands may help you with this one!
Where to learn it: [Ekaterina] [lotusinhand [SchoolOfCardistry]
● Ribbon Spread (with Turnover): This move is a great way to display all the cards in a deck in a smooth and stylish manner. Holding the deck in biddle grip, and your index finger on the side of the deck, you slowly release your index finger as you spread the deck horizontally across a flat surface with one smooth motion. When done well, the resulting spread should show the indices of all the cards. You can make this even more flashy by using your index finger on the card at the start of the spread, to run across the length of the entire spread, turning over the cards rapidly one by one. Very easy to learn, and you’ll immediately look like a pro. This won’t work well on a smooth or slippery surface like a table, but works best on a felt-like surface.
Where to learn it: [52Kards] [lotusinhand] [SchoolOfCardistry]
● Arm Spread: The mechanics of this are similar to the ribbon spread, except that you are ramping up the difficulty and style factor, by spreading the cards on the inside of your forearm. This will create a spread that goes from inside your left elbow, all the way onto your palm. If you want to really impress, you can do a spectacular clean-up by turning over all the cards at once, or trying to catch them quickly in one hand.
Where to learn it: [lotusinhand] [MikePatrick] [SchoolOfCardistry]
● Five Faces of Sybil: This flourish takes the basic mechanics of the Sybil Cut, but instead of doing a four-packet cut, it ends with a display of five separate packets. The packets are held and displayed between the fingers and thumbs in a line. Attributed to Chris Kenner, this flourish has perhaps inspired more cardistry moves than any other, and is considered a foundational move that was an important catalyst in the early success of cardistry in the 1990s.
Where to learn it: [dealersgrip] [lotusinhand] [SchoolOfCardistry]
● The Werm: Like the Five Faces of Sybil, this two-handed cut starts with an display of four packets in the shape of a square or diamond, and then rapidly turns into elegant display of five packets, positioned between the fingertips into a long row. This iconic move is a standard beginner flourish that you’ll really enjoy doing, and was created by cardistry legends Dan and Dave Buck.
Where to learn it: [Dave Buck] [Milson] [RussianGenius]
● Thumb Fan: This is the classic display of a hand of cards. With the deck held in one hand, you use the thumb of your other hand to spread the deck in a beautiful semi-circular fan shape, ideally showing most of the indices in the process.
Where to learn it: [dealersgrip] [Fontaine] [lotusinhand] [Ramsay] [SchoolOfCardistry]
● Smear Fan: While a thumb fan requires the use of both hands, a smear fan uses a single hand. The trick is to use your thumb and “smear” the cards in a semi-circle pattern to produce the fan. It’s typically done with half the deck, and thus can be done in both hands at once.
Where to learn it: [52Kards] [Ekaterina] [Fontaine] [lotusinhand] [Ramsay] [SchoolOfCardistry]
● Dribble: This is a multi-purpose move that can be used for various things, including to demonstrate that all the cards in a deck are well-mixed, or even just as an attractive looking flourish that quickly displays all the cards in a deck. Dribbling cards is often done from hand to hand, where your thumb and fingers hold the deck in one hand in a modified biddle grip, then releasing the cards so that they drop smoothly and quickly one-by-one in a steady stream into the other hand. You can also dribble cards from your hand directly onto a table. This is a bit of knacky move that takes a while to learn, and simply requires practice and experience.
Where to learn it: [Fontaine] [lotusinhand] [Ramsay] [SchoolOfCardistry]
● Spring: Like the Dribble, the Spring is an impressive visual flourish, and is a flashy move that most people will recognize, yet seems magical and amazing. It is a kind of reverse-dribble, because you use the tension that results from bending the cards in the opposite direction in order to “spring” the cards rapidly one at a time from hand to hand. This is the kind of move that you absolutely need to master as a beginner, because it’s guaranteed to produce great reactions from others, as well as being enormously satisfying for yourself. It’s one of the ultimate iconic moves associated with cardistry.
Where to learn it: [Ekaterina] [Fontaine] [lotusinhand] [Milson] [SchoolOfCardistry] [TheVirts]
● Waterfall: This move is sometimes also called a cascade. The significance of the name becomes obvious once you see what happens. You hold the deck in one hand, and by creating some tension by squeezing the short edges of the deck together, you can release the cards so that they cascade vertically downwards one by one, in a waterfall like stream. In some ways this is like a dribble, but with the cards falling vertically instead of horizontally, and the end result is very pretty.
Where to learn it: [52Kards] [Fontaine] [lotusinhand] [Milson] [SchoolOfCardistry]
● Deck Flip: With this clever flourish, you’ll learn how to hold the deck in your left hand, and with a quick flick of your finger, have the entire deck spin around 360 degrees and land in the same position that you started in. It’s surprisingly easy given how impressive it looks!
Where to learn it: [52Kards] [lotusinhand] [Milson]
Single Card Aerials
● Boomerang Toss: This move just involves a single card, which you throw up into the air with a spinning action, and then catch when it returns to your hand. With practice you can learn how to do this at an angle, so that the card actually travels away from you like a boomerang and then returns. But it’s easiest to begin by just throwing it straight up vertically in this fashion, as a simple flourish.
Where to learn it: [52Kards] [MikePatrick] [RickSmithJr]
● Hot Shot Cut: This has many variations, but the general idea is that it shoots a spinning card right out of the deck, by applying pressure to two packets of cards and using a flick motion. It’s a very visual move that will really impress, once you have it mastered.
Where to learn it: [Ekaterina] [lotusinhand] [Rise] [SchoolOfCardistry]
Twirls & Isolations
● Angel: I’ve included this because it’s such a super easy move to learn, and yet there is something about it which seems to defy gravity. With the deck divided into two packets (one in each hand), you place your thumb on each packet’s top card and simultaneously lift them up, with each card apparently sticking to your thumbs magically.
Where to learn it: [lotusinhand] [SchoolOfCardistry] [W.A.V.Cards]
● Palm Shift Isolation: Since we’re playing around with single cards, let’s introduce you to your first “isolation”. This is a relatively easy one, and the idea is that the card doesn’t move at all, but instead your hand appears to magically slide around the edges of the card, while the card stays in position. If nothing else, watch Zach Mueller’s “Floating Cards” to get inspired by some of the fantastic possibilities that isolations offer in cardistry.
Where to learn it: [DeGuzman] [SchoolOfCardistry] [Slayer]
● Pirouette: The name of this flourish is inspired by the ballet move in which you spin on one foot. In the world of cardistry it’s a move that involves balancing a single card on one finger, and spinning it around. It’s a great “fiddle” move to practice in spare moments. Once you master this, you can graduate to the more difficult Padiddle, which is a slightly off-center Pirouette that you can keep going indefinitely by moving your hand at the same time.
Where to learn it: [lotusinhand] [Fontaine] [Milson] [SchoolOfCardistry] Padiddle: [dealersgrip] [SeanO]
● Card Twirl: Because Padiddle involves considerable dexterity and balance, you might find the Card Twirl a little easier. This move involves twirling a single card and rotating it around your fingers, resulting in a twirl-like series of motions.
Where to learn it: [lotusinhand] [SchoolOfCardistry]
More Advanced Moves
The moves below will take a bit more effort to learn, and some of them are a bit knacky and will require quite a bit of practice. But they are still regarded as foundational flourishes, and you’ll definitely be wanting to learn them, even as a relative beginner. I wouldn’t start with these, mind you, but once you’ve mastered some of the earlier moves and are looking for more of a challenge, then head here.
● Faro Shuffle: This is considered to be the most precise shuffle in the world, and if you perform eight of them perfectly in a row, a deck will be returned to its original starting order. But what we’re interested in is the visual flashiness of this move, which involves weaving together two halves of a deck perfectly, one card at a time, with the cards sliding into each other smoothly just like a zipper. The faro shuffle is a prerequisite for other cardistry moves, like the Giant Fan, the Cascade, and Friffle, all of which you’ll enjoy learning and performing once you’ve mastered the Faro.
Where to learn it: [Ekaterina] [lotusinhand] [SchoolOfCardistry]
● Giant Fan: This move requires mastery of the Faro Shuffle, and involves taking the two interwoven halves of the deck, and doing a motion similar to a thumb fan, which in this case produces a giant fan that is double the size of a regular thumb fan.
Where to learn it: [52Kards] [MikePatrick] [RussianGenius]
● Friffle: With the two halves of the deck interwoven together, again courtesy of the Faro Shuffle, one packet pivots down from the horizontal position to vertical, one card at a time. Like the Cascade, it’s a very visually pleasing move.
Where to learn it: [dealersgrip] [DanielHuckins] [Rise]
● Cascade: This is one of my all time favourite cardistry moves, and is a very flashy way to showcase the visual aesthetics of a cardistry deck. Starting with the cards interwoven with the help of a Faro Shuffle, the two halves of the deck flow from one hand to the other, and merge together from two sides into a single stream. This will require considerable practice to master, but it sure is worth it!
Where to learn it: [lotusinhand] [MikePatrick] [Rise]
Are there elementary flourishes that I’ve missed in this list? Undoubtedly. Cardistry is a performing art like music, and much of it has to do with personal taste. So if someone else was making a list like this, they might exclude some of the ones I’ve mentioned, and include others. But by and large, many of these are agreed to be classic moves in cardistry. Even if other cardists would make slightly different choices, theses are ones that you will have fun learning and performing, and are well-suited to people starting out. And remember that there’s no right or wrong way to do this – if you dislike a particular flourish, then don’t bother learning it, and concentrate on whichever moves appeal to you!
Your Next Steps
So where do you go from here? As mentioned already, there’s a variety of styles and moves within cardistry, and none of them is a wrong path to explore. Some track-and-field athletes prefer sprints, while others prefer marathons; some prefer high jump and pole-vault, while others prefer the javelin throw or discus. Similarly in cardistry there is a variety of ways you can go. You might find yourself being especially good at or enjoying a particular type of move, like cuts, tosses, or isolations, so by all means dive into whatever you like.
But to help you on your way, you do need some good teachers to hold your hand, and lead you into this exciting new territory that you want to explore. Here are some solid and respected teachers that have proven themselves as great resources to learn card flourishing from. You’ll recognize many of these names from the tutorial videos above. I’ve provided a brief introduction to each of them below, along with a link to more of their videos.
1. The School of Cardistry – This youtube channel has over 120,000 subscribers, and was specifically created by noted cardist Jaspas Deck as a centralized and structured platform for complete beginners to pick up the art of cardistry. You’ll find professionally produced tutorials arranged systematically to help you build up your skills progressively.
2. Lotusinhand – This Taiwan-based cardistry group has the goal of growing the art of cardistry by producing performance videos and tutorials for both beginners and veterans. Their “Cardistry Bootcamp Basics” series of videos will teach you all the essentials and more.
3. Fontaine Cards – Zach Mueller is the brains behind the now-famous Fontaine brand, which also produces one of the most sought-after playing cards. Zach is one of cardistry’s biggest names, and a section of his website is devoted to teaching all kinds of cardistry moves, with the help of tutorial videos.
4. The Virts – This Singapore-based team has single-handedly introduced thousands of people to cardistry, and inspired people around the world with their stunning videos. They were also the first to create a deck of playing cards designed specifically for cardistry. Their tutorials are detailed and fantastic, although some of their better ones are premium ones that need to be purchased.
5. dealersgrip – Founded by Oliver Sogard, dealersgrip was launched in 2014 with the aim of producing cardistry media and related products, in order to inspire others who shared their passion for playing cards. Their online tips and tutorials are among the very best you’ll find anywhere.
6. 52Kards – This is the home of Asad Chaudhry, and has been a growing online resource ever since 2011. Besides selling a wide range of playing card and magic related products, a large section of this site is dedicated to teaching materials. The free video tutorials here especially focus on card handling skills, tricks, and sleight of hand, but there’s also a large number of tutorials for card flourishes.
7. Rise Magic – Rise Magic features tutorials and performances by Grant and Chandler Henry, who have experience in both magic and cardistry, and have put together a large number of solid tutorials on many popular card flourishes.
Are there others? For sure. It’s a big world, and the number of people in it that are doing cardistry is growing all the time. This is by no means a complete list, but it will give you some good leads to start with. Cardistry is a very personal journey, and your path might take you in a very different direction than mine, and that’s totally fine. To find more, head to the “Resource and Beginners Guide” that has been put together by the cardistry community on Reddit [link] or their giant list of cardistry moves and tutorials [link]. Their material includes a very long list of moves categorized by type, along with links to places you can learn them.
I also recommend that you connect with other cardists on social media, and join an online community. There are lots of places online where cardists come together to talk about their favourite decks and moves, and share videos about the latest and greatest things. The cardistry community over on Reddit has around 60,000 subscribers, and is a great place to start.
So go out there with your deck of cards, start throwing, spinning, cutting, and tossing, and above all, have fun!
Want to give cardistry a whirl – literally? Why not treat yourself to a nice cardistry deck from PlayingCardDecks, and give cardistry a go for yourself? The Virtuoso FW17 deck created by The Virts is an ideal place to start, but you will find many other creative and colourful decks that are ideal for cardistry by checking the range at PlayingCardDecks here.
About the writer: EndersGame is a well-known and highly respected reviewer of board games and playing cards. He loves card games, card magic, cardistry, and card collecting, and has reviewed several hundred boardgames and hundreds of different decks of playing cards. You can see a complete list of his game reviews here, and his playing card reviews here. He is considered an authority on playing cards and has written extensively about their design, history, and function, and has many contacts within the playing card and board game industries. You can view his previous articles about playing cards here. In his spare time he also volunteers with local youth to teach them the art of cardistry and card magic.