Beginner's Guide to Card Flourishes

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. If you want to learn card flourishes, here’s just about everything that you need to know to get started.

Getting Started

Most beginning magic books often include lessons for a few basic flourishes. A branch of magic known as “XCM,” which stands for extreme card manipulation, 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's a fine line, but card flourishes can be considered a branch of sleight of hand.

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 thus be able to cheat with cards. Personally, I like to perform some card flourishes to show spectators that my magic is a result of practice and skill, and not a trick deck. And I think that the flourishes that I perform enhance my ability to entertain with playing cards.

Starting Out

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.

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’s a cool one-handed cut where the deck is broken into three sections, as well as a couple of false cuts, where, despite the cuts, the cards stay in the same order. The book is out of print but you can find and purchase it online.

A couple of great false cuts that I learned early on and use all the time are Lee Asher’s “Fabrication” and “Sibling.” I don’t know if Asher still sells a download video for teaching “Fabrication,” but I know “Sibling” is taught on his “Five Card Stud” DVD.

Card Flourish Resources

My favorite resources for card flourishes are as follows:

Xtreme Beginnerz is a two-DVD set that offers instruction by De'vo, Jerry Cestkowski and other pros and teaches a wide variety of card flourishes for beginners and intermediate performers. It's a virtual encyclopedia on flashy card moves.

Another excellent resource is Rich Ferguson and his DVDs: The Official Poker Shuffles & Cuts DVD-Volume 1 and Official Poker Flourishes DVD-Vol 1.

On the advanced side, I'm a big fan of The Buck Twins. “Trilogy,” their three-disc set, offers some 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 DVD set to purchase. And for those who prefer books, The Buck Twins teach 14 moves, many from "Trilogy," in a well-illustrated book called "Sleightly Magicial," which I also recommend.

I have been impressed with the work and skills of Brian Tudor. However, if you are offended by bad language, his instructional materials are not for you.

Finally, a relatively new DVD on the scene, World XCM Champions Vol.1, with Max Vlassenko and J.S. Lin, teaches some 50 fantastic moves. This DVD is less about the multiple cuts and more about outrageous balancing, juggling, arm spreads and more.

If you want a look at what the top practitioners are doing with XCM and card flourishes, simply go to YouTube and search on these terms. You’ll see some amazing material to keep you inspired and motivated for a long time.