Sarah writes: ‘Could Merchant of Magic give me some advice on how to palm playing cards and improve my top palm.’
‘I do have quite small hands, and I’m using a poker deck, but I don’t think small hands are the problem. I’m reluctant to use a bridge deck as all the decks I use are poker sized…
With the right misdirection, I can get away with my top palm, but not consistently. I’ve tried the method outlined in the Royal Road to card magic, and Dai Vernon’s method, but I still feel that it looks obvious that I’m palming a card and more often than not, I don’t get it into quite the right position and end up with edges showing! I feel I must be doing something wrong!
I understand that misdirection can make all the difference, but can you recommend any resources or suggest any ways that I can improve the technique itself? Thanks very much!’ – Sarah
How to palm playing cards without mistakes
Of course, we can help, there is a tonne of different places to study palming playing cards, I will list a few great DVDs at the bottom of this page.
Firstly, let’s see if there is any advice that may be useful to you…
With regards to the top palm, it’s a bit like a pass, at first it is impossible to do, then it becomes something you can carry out under misdirection, then it becomes something that is invisible. I am glad that you have taken the time to lay a playing card on your hand to see if it is physically big enough to hide a playing card, not many people do this and swear it is the size of their hands and they cannot hide the card. However, usually it just needs an alteration to the position of the cards, or how they hold them that solves the issue, not stretching your hands!
The real secret of how to palm playing cards
First of all, practice as much as you can. When it comes to a sleight that can be helped by misdirection, it usually means that it can be harder to execute and potentially risky (which the top palm certainly is!). It is important to get the muscle memory down so that your hands can do the move without your brain thinking. Unfortunately, this only comes with time and repetition. The key is to be able to perform the move without thinking and whilst being able to do other things, it should become an automatic process like turning on an indicator whilst driving, or moving the mouse for your computer.
How I palm playing cards using the top palm
I don’t have an outstanding palm, but I do know when to misdirect, or I can easily orchestrate the misdirection needed. This is how I get into the moment where I can create some misdirection. Firstly, I top palm with two hands. I can one handed top palm but it is only 75% and I have never drilled it to 100% so I do not do it on gigs usually. I perform this top palm by getting ready into position, so that I am ready to palm. When I am ready with my hands in position I simply ask if they would be impressed if I had predicted what their card would be. The moment their eyes come up to me, I perform the top palm. It happens the moment their eyes move up to me, not once they have locked on me. You can wait until their eyes have ‘arrived’, but you run the risk of being too late and letting them catch up with you and spot the palm. As mentioned, my palming technique is not the best technique in the world as the thumb is a tell tale sign so I use misdirection rather than when being burned, but it is practical.
Spectators that don’t look away
Here is how to deal with an awkward spectator who just won’t look away. If anyone is burning my hands too much, I will tell them to watch harder! This is purely beneficial to me, not them. As they watch closely they will be focused intensely on your hands, I simply wait and make them wait for something… And I do nothing! I then break their concentration swiftly by saying sharply, ‘of course, I won’t do anything if you are looking!’ This is a joke, but it serves a purpose, the first sentence tells them to pull focus (on beat), the more a spectator focuses, the more they relax when their concentration is broken (off beat), this is a very basic explanation of the on beat and off beat. The stronger the On Beat, the stronger the Off Beat.
How to palm playing cards and make it look invisible
If you wish it to be invisible, then I am afraid, this will only happen over time as your fingers and muscles finesse the move. My advice for practicing would be to practice very slowly at first, analyze each move individually and try to see where the pressure in your hands causes an effect to the playing cards. If you can understand why sleights work, it is much better than simply understanding how they work. Again the goal is to have these sleights become an automatic process, which can only happen if it is drilled again and again and again.
Here are a couple of great sources to learn palming:
Here is also a free eBook all about Misdirection Techniques should you wish to learn more about this area of magic.