When you learn magic tricks you will be asked to control a playing card. This is all well and good for the seasoned pro, but what if you are new to card magic, and do not yet have your favourite method?
There are countless ways to control a playing card to the top, bottom or even to a chosen position in the deck. The questions we need to ask ourselves though are which methods in card magic are the most versatile, which are the easiest, which are the most deceptive and finally how many playing card controls do I actually need to perfect.
What follows is a list of our personal favourite card magic controls, listed in priority of difficulty, the easiest being the first, yet in our view, possibly the best card control for its simplicity.
Key Playing Card Control.
The Key card control is a very underused overlooked and underestimated sleight, that, when used correctly can also be most deceptive. The beauty of this card control is that you can move the chosen playing card to the top, to the bottom or even to a specific place in the deck. Also, it requires no sleight of hand. From experience using a key card can not only fool spectators, but magicians as well, because of its simplicity.
The secret to using a key card deceptively in your card magic is to disguise the moment you are looking for the key card, and disguise the cutting of the deck. When using a Key card control, whilst searching through the deck for the key playing card, Spread through showing the cards to a spectator, asking if they have any idea what card was selected. It’s a small touch but takes attention away from your actions. Also, rather than just cutting at the key card, cut a few playing cards in small batches as you search for the key playing card and then cut at the key card. This helps hide the fact that you are looking for a single playing card and then adjusting the order of the cards.
A final tip on the Key playing card: Why not use the back of a playing card? By having one card subtly marked on its back this can be used as a key playing card, and can be used as a very deceptive card control within your card magic.
Marlo’s Depth illusion, aka Tilt
Marlo’s depth illusion is a great way of controlling a playing card to the second card from the top of the deck. Admittedly, the performer has to place the playing card into the deck himself, however, the illusion of the card going into the centre of the deck is perfect, and this control is well worth learning and perfecting as it has many many useful card magic applications.
The Double under cut is quick, convenient, requires no table and also allows control of the playing card to the top or bottom. Admittedly not as simple as the key card control as it requires being competent with the basic card magic. However, this is an ideal control should you wish to start learning sleight of hand. The double undercut will get you used to using your hands in such a way that it becomes inherent that the playing cards are handled lightly and under control.
We now enter the tougher card magic controls. The Cull will take practice to perfect. So, what are the advantages of learning it? Huge advantages! You can control a playing card in plain view to any position in the deck you choose just through the apparent action of spreading the deck. Not only can you control one card, but any number of cards can be controlled through one simple spread of the cards. The cull is an incredible card magic tool worth mastering if you wish to have an invaluable tool in your arsenal.
The Pass is the ultimate card control, yet with no doubt the toughest to master. The overall benefit of the pass is that when performed correctly there is no visible change to the order of each playing card. The selection is returned to the deck, and it is instantly on the top, or the bottom of the deck. The pass is literally invisible, yet for perfection you must be prepared to put in many hours of dedication.
Final thoughts on card control.
Whichever route you wish to use to control a card, here’s some advice. Don’t lose focus on the big picture. To the spectators you should not be trying to control any playing. When you need to control the playing card try to justify it within the magic trick. For example: rather than just going through the deck and then cutting the deck, cover the move with justification. A good example is to go through the deck to remove the jokers. As far as the spectators are concerned the control of a card should not even be part of the magic trick. They should be completely unaware of any card control occurring through your card magic. Your control of the playing cards should be a non event in the performing.
Here are some of our favourite resources for learning not only the controls we have mentioned, but also many other useful card magic tools that will help enhance and build great foundations for your journey with the playing card.
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