‘One thing I am struggling with right now is palming playing cards. I know this is no doubt just down to practice, and I haven’t been able to devote much time to it at the moment, but any help/tips would be appreciated!’
Good for you for wanting to develop some sleight of hand. It is possible to do a whole range of close-up magic tricks without having to learn any sleight of hand at all, but seriously, that’s no fun, and sooner or later you’re going to want to add some into the magic you perform. Your question shows me instantly the cause of the problem you’re facing. I’d like to give you some advice about how to fix this.
Before I do this, I should say that I’m not interested in describing the steps required to perform most palming sleights. There’s a huge range of different techniques, and countless books, and videos on the subject of palming playing cards. Just type in ‘how to palm a playing card’ into google or YouTube and you’ll get more tuition videos and step-by-step guides than you could ever need. However, these all tend to miss out a few important points about learning the techniques. They go through the moves of holding the playing cards, and how to position their fingers. But they all seem to miss out how to practice the technique correctly.
Your main problem.
You aren’t committed enough. You have to make a resolution to practice magic. Not just occasional practice when you feel like doing it. You need a consistent structured program of learning over a set period of time. It’s this resistance to practice that stops most people moving past performing only self working magic tricks.
‘Do or not do. There is no try.’ – Yoda
Learning a skill is about devoting your time and attention to improving your ability. There are no shortcuts. That being said, here are some tips which will help speed up the learning process:
I’m not sure from your question whether you are learning palming with playing cards or coins, so let’s look at both:
How to palm playing cards.
I recommend that you do a magic practice drill of 10 minutes each morning and 10 minutes each evening. You’ll need to do this in private to start with until your palm technique becomes subtle enough to perform around people.
Building a good close up magic mirror, and using it regularly in your practice sessions will help you identify any weak spots in the angles of your technique.
The key to mastering palming playing cards is to go unnaturally slow at first. You want to learn the process in a smooth and thoughtful manner. Forget about speed, and allow it to increase naturally by itself. Be aware of the positioning of your fingers. You need to eliminate any gaps and telltale signs that you’re holding a card. Over time, you’ll find that this becomes easier and smoother providing you learn at a slow and constant pace.
Small hands and the placement of the card.
As you go through the motions, stop and examine the placement of the playing card in your hand. Don’t worry if your hands feel too small. It’s very unlikely that the size of your hands will stop you being able to palm playing cards. Some of the most talented card magicians have very small hands. It’s all about placement. Work on getting the playing card ready on the top of the deck and take note of the exact position that allows the card to be easily palmed. Now concentrate on the position of the card in your hand. Working very slowly will allow you to examine whether you are placing the card in exactly the right position. If you go to quickly it will be hard for you to notice when you’re placing the card correctly, or if something needs to be adjusted.
Examine your hands.
Take a moment to relax in front of a mirror and notice how your hands look normally. The first thing you’ll notice is that your hands don’t tend to be extended completely flat. The natural resting position for your hands is with the fingers slightly bent. Now, lift up one arm whilst keeping your hand totally relaxed. Notice how your hand look. That’s the appearance your hand needs to imitate whilst palming a playing card. Don’t skip this exercise, it’s valuable to be able to notice what natural looks like.
Build the motion of palming into a larger gesture which looks normal.
A strange thing about palming is that you’re actually doing something whilst pretending not to be. Because of this, many magicians will hide the small motion of palming a playing card, behind a larger motion of moving their arms or body. This could be pivoting to either the left or right with your body as you make a comment, or address somebody not directly in front of you. Perhaps you could take the deck of cards with your other hand so that the hand that was holding the deck is free to make a gesture. As you practice you will find many larger motions that look natural to you, and the way you move. Think about how these movements can be used at the moment when a palm needs to take place.
Your eyes and body.
Your eyes are one of the most deceptive weapons you have as a magician. If you make eye contact with a spectator they will almost always return your gaze. People will look where you look. It’s very important that you’re not looking at the deck of cards at the moment that you palm a card. If you pay attention to that moment, your spectators will do the same.
The best time to palm a playing card is on the offbeat. That’s the moment of relaxation between two events. Let’s say that you have had a card selected and returned to the deck. At that moment, all the spectator’s attention is focused on the deck of cards. You need to create an offbeat moment. You can do this by looking at the spectator for a second, and making a comment, asking a question, or making a light-hearted joke that requires some kind of reaction. At the moment of their reaction, you have misdirection that you need.
Practice card palming as much as possible, especially when it’s not required.
In the tuition that I run with magicians, one of the most requested techniques is the classic force. It’s a very simple method of allowing a spectator to apparently choose a playing card whilst influencing their selection. Just like palming a playing card, it requires timing to make it most effective. I often advise magicians to practice the technique when it doesn’t matter. Whenever a magician needs to have a card chosen, they can use that opportunity to try out the classic force. In just the same way, whenever you have the misdirection, you could try to palm a playing card, and then return it back to the deck. If it fails, it doesn’t matter. It wasn’t really part of the trick anyway. Over time, you’ll notice how easy it is to palm a playing card during the offbeat moments within a magic trick. This will give you a huge boost to your confidence in the technique.
Use your pocket.
One practice technique that gets good results is to use your pocket to palm playing card. After you have revealed a playing card at the end of a magic trick, you place it in your pocket. Once your hand is in your pocket, palm the playing card as you take your hand out. You could then reach into another pocket which might contain a card to wallet device, such as the 21 production wallet. This all happens in the offbeat as you’re making casual conversation with the spectators. Using a pocket to practice often allows magicians gain confidence in the appearance of their hand whilst holding a card, without having to worry about loading the card into their palm in full view. It also allows them to perform a card to wallet magic trick, without having to worry about palming the playing card off of a deck of cards in full view of the spectators.
How to palm coins.
The great things about coin magic is that the props that you use of available everywhere. In fact, you probably always carry a few in your pocket. I found that in the UK the best coins to practice palming tend to be the UK 50p and the UK 2p coins. Both these coins have good definition on their edges, which will make it easier to palm. Start carrying coins with you everywhere you go. Holding a coin at your fingertips and moving it in and out of palm continually. Practice this way for at least 10 minutes each morning and 10 minutes each evening. You can do this while you go about your normal business. Not only will this slowly build up muscle memory, it will also start to tone and condition your hand.
As you continue to practice, you will notice that you become less aware of the coin in your hand. It’ll become an automatic behavior. You’ll also start to notice that other people quickly become less aware of the fact that you’re playing with coins all the time.
I hope these quick tips will speed up your mastery of palming. There are lots of different ways to palm a playing card. Each magician should find a technique that they feel most comfortable with. The method you use isn’t that important. What makes a magician an expert at palming playing cards is the amount of care and attention they have put into their practice sessions. It’s about how much they really want to learn the technique and are prepared to swap their time and effort for the skill. Most people are not prepared to invest very much time in learning to master the move. They study the technique, but don’t put in the leg work to acquire skill in its performance.
If you really want to learn how to palm, start right away. Pick up a deck of playing cards. Commit to practicing the technique for 10 minutes right now. All you need to do is repeat that over and over again. Keep going in this way for 21 days, and I can guarantee you’ll be completely amazed by the results.
If you have any tips on practicing palming playing cards, or any questions you would like discussed, please leave a comment at the bottom of this page: