My Favorite Card Tricks: Ryan Plunkett

By Alex Robertson - Thursday, October 22, 2020

We asked some of magic's greatest minds to share with us their favorite card tricks. This week is the turn of Ryan Plunkett. You may know him from Distilled or maybe you've been lucky enough to catch him at the Chicago Magic Lounge. Over to Ryan.


When choosing effects to perform, I first consider the performing environment. For the sake of this post, let’s assume I will be performing “strolling magic,” as that is likely to relate to a larger number of magicians reading this blog.

In such a setting, I tend to gravitate towards practical routines that have a high number of hard-hitting magic moments that also automatically reset at the end of the performance. These are the same reasons I like working from a shuffled deck in use and tend to save more involved routines for formal performances. Though there are exceptions, these are my general rules.

A significant chunk of my strolling work has been at the Chicago Magic Lounge, where I have a constant stream of audiences on which to hone material. While I enjoy everything I perform, I’ve developed a particular love for these three routines.

Let’s start with the simplest.

Charlie Miller’s “Think Card Trick” from Magicana

This is Charlie Miller’s version of the infamous stop trick. A card is selected, the deck shuffled, then the cards are dealt one at a time until the spectator calls stop. The card stopped at is the spectator’s selected card. Naturally.

The first time you read the effect, you might be thrown off by how simple it is. You’d be half right. It is simple. Deviously simple. Charlie Miller writes the effect as a mental selection that forces a bank of about seven cards, then the exact selection is further pinpointed. While the free choice is effective, it’s not necessarily required. In a fast-moving environment, I prefer to further simplify the procedure by simply having a card peeked, or selected, and then controlled. This eliminates the need to phish for the selection during the dealing phase. In fact, once the card has been controlled, there is only one move.

It is the simplicity of the method and structure that makes it not just effective but also allows for flexibility in what card controls or subtleties best fit a particular moment.

Don’t underestimate how strong this simple trick is.

Chris Kenner’s “Twister” from Totally Out of Control

Strolling magic can often become a game of speed and momentum. The ability to perform for the largest number of people in the shortest amount of time. However, I don’t want to sacrifice quality for quantity, so I look for routines that are short, but still effective.

This routine is a beautifully constructed combination of two classics, “Twisting the Aces” and “Reset.” The Aces turn face down, then change into Kings one at a time, only to change back into the Aces.

Not only does the handling allow for a high density of magic moments, but it’s also eminently practical as the set-up can be achieved in the action of retrieving the Aces. Once the packet is separated from the deck and the routine proper begins, only five cards in total are used.

I’m continually impressed with the effectiveness of the structure, which allows for so much magic, while never feeling clunky.

Guy Hollingworth’s “A Trick with Psychology” from The Hollingworth Collection

I find it crucial to not only have staple routines in one's repertoire but to also keep things fresh by constantly exploring and testing new material. Hollingworth’s effect fulfills what I’m looking for in an effect but is also a routine I have performed considerably less than the other two. It is a piece I am currently exploring.

A card is peeked, then the deck is shuffled. The spectator removes four cards of different values, with the only rule being that one of them has to be theirs. Claiming to read the spectator’s body language, the performer eliminates the cards, placing them aside until one remains. As the cards are placed aside the audience sees the performer inadvertently eliminate the selection, but when they name their card (say the Five of Hearts), it’s the card remaining in the magician’s hand. As an added kicker, the three eliminated cards turn out to be the Five of Spades, the Five of Diamonds, and the Five of Clubs.

While it might seem like this routine could very easily be confusing, the moments in the effect are crystal clear. The sleights are mostly minimal and happen under the guise of other motivated actions. The effect of finding the selected card feels complete, with the cards changing to the four of a kind taking it to a whole other level.

There you have it. Three routines I recommend and feel are worthy of your time and effort.

Reader comments:


Saturday, 24 October 2020 17:04 PM - Reply to this comment

This is an interesting series, and thanks for sharing this with us. Can you clarify where exactly the Hollingworth item is found? Is it part of the "epilogue"?


Monday, 26 October 2020 12:54 PM - Reply to this comment

Michael - it looks like it is on Disc 3 of The Hollingworth Collection, according to a review in Genii which you will need to Google (I'm not allowed to include a link in this comment)

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