Beginner's Guide to Card Flourishes

Flashy and Fancy Attention-Grabbers That Magicians Use

Card flourishes
rebekah / Twenty20

Card flourishes are flashy, attention-getting moves that magicians can perform as part of a card routine. Flourishes include fancy cuts and shuffles, card fans, arm spreads, and more.

Learn more about card flourishes from how they are viewed in the magic community to some beginning moves you might want to figure out.

Getting Started

Most beginning magic books often teach a few basic lessons on card flourishes. A branch of magic known as “XCM” stands for extreme card manipulation and is dedicated to the performance of difficult card flourishes. Some of the best-known XCM artists include The Buck Twins, Jerry Cestkowski, De'vo, Max Vlassenko, J.S. Lin, and Brian Tudor. It is a fine line, but card flourishes can be considered a branch of sleight of hand.

The practice of cutting cards in card play is primarily a method of reducing the likelihood of someone cheating by manipulating the order of cards to gain an advantage. Cutting cards is a way to prevent suspicions of cheating.

Flourishes are somewhat controversial. Some magicians feel that they detract from card magic because they display manipulative feats that indicate that a magician is skilled with cards and can then be able to cheat with cards. Some magicians perform card flourishes to show spectators that magic is a result of practice and skill, and not a trick deck. Done well, it can also add to a spectator's entertainment value.

Beginning Moves

As a start, you should learn the one-handed cut, as well as pivot and swivel cuts. These cuts will teach you skills that will form the foundation of your card flourishes.

You will also want to learn the false cut, where, despite the cuts, the cards stay in the same order. Another interesting cut, the one-handed cut, uses one hand to divide the deck into three sections. It is neat to see this move in action, you palm the cards and use the tips of your fingers to cut the deck.

There are some fantastic cuts that are explained in Bill Tarr’s classic magic instructional text, “Now You See It, Now You Don't.” There are a couple of great false cuts that you can learn early on and find yourself using all the time, such as Lee Asher’s Fabrication and Sibling moves. Sibling is taught on Asher's “Five Card Stud” video.

Card Flourish Resources

If you want a look at what the top practitioners are doing with XCM and card flourishes, you can do a simple YouTube search and can find some eye-widening material to inspire you. However, if you want to get serious about your own moves, you might want to follow along with the experts in this field by checking out a few instructional videos.

  • "Xtreme Beginnerz": A two-disc set offers instruction by De'vo, Jerry Cestkowski, and other pros and teaches a wide variety of card flourishes for beginning and intermediate performers. It's a virtual encyclopedia on flashy card moves.
  • "The Official Poker Shuffles & Cuts DVD" and "Official Poker Flourishes": This is another excellent resource from Rich Ferguson.
  • "Trilogy" and "Sleightly Magical": On the advanced side, The Buck Twins offer a three-disc set with six hours of flourishes, moves, and fast card tricks. If you want lots of good, hard moves to master over a long time, this is the video set to purchase. The Buck Twins teach 14 moves in the well-illustrated book called "Sleightly Magicial."
  • "World XCM Champions": A video with Max Vlassenko and J.S. Lin teaches some 50 fantastic moves. This video is less about the multiple cuts and more about outrageous balancing, juggling, arm spreads, and more.