Named-Card Effects are NOT Always Better than Chosen-Card Effects

By Joshua Jay - Sunday, October 11, 2020

Sometimes a thought-of, named card effect precludes the notion of any sort of force. “I could have named any card,” a spectator might think or even say aloud, in amazement. Other times it might be met with disappointment: “That’s easy because I told you my card.” Context is everything. I’d like to address the misperception that named-card routines are somehow inherently better than chosen card routines.

I’m struck by how many memorized deck routines simply convert chosen-card routines to name-a-card routines without much consideration for whether this improves the effect in the minds of the spectators. For example, nearly every newcomer to memorized deck magic realizes you can do Vernon’s seminal “Triumph” with a named card. But just because you can doesn’t mean you should. A chosen card is (apparently) a secret; a named card isn’t. Much of the drama derived from all card magic comes from the magician’s not knowing a selected card or where it resides in the pack.

I approach this fallacy from this standpoint: chosen-card tricks are easier understood and appreciated by lay audiences. If you’re going to perform a name-a-card trick, the responsibility is yours to communicate why naming a card is, in that context, more impressive to what you’re doing. I think magicians would do well to do less material with thought-of, named cards, and to build up these moments more.

Reader comments:


Tuesday, 13 October 2020 08:08 AM - Reply to this comment

Why would you say something so controversial and yet so brave?

Great article.


Thursday, 15 October 2020 16:18 PM - Reply to this comment

I couldn't agree more!


Thursday, 15 October 2020 17:13 PM - Reply to this comment




Thursday, 15 October 2020 17:26 PM - Reply to this comment

" just because you can doesn’t mean you should."

Totally agree.

Derek Dingle was the master of the kicker and generally in hands they worked. So many tricks have kicker on kicker on kicker that the strength of the original, stand-alone effect, is lost.


Thursday, 15 October 2020 19:32 PM - Reply to this comment

This is a presentation question, that's for sure. I've seen top pros say "Most magicians will ask you to pick a card out (while spreading the deck for illustration), remember it and put it back, and then amazingly find your card(!), so *this* time I want you to just think of a, what was the card you're (only) thinking of?" This type of presentation may imply the impossibility of finding a chosen card when returned to the pack, but ups the game when demonstrating it with *only* a thought-of card (IMO)...


Thursday, 15 October 2020 21:16 PM - Reply to this comment

The is actually research to back up precisely this notion! Take a look at Experiencing the Impossible by Gustav Kuhn.

At the same time, the verbal preamble does a lot to emphasise the impossibility of a named card being known/ found/ missing etc.

For example, consider the difference between the request to 'name a card' and 'consider all the possible playing cards in a deck. Let your mind settle on one. But make sure it's one that you couldn't imagine anyone would guess...'

The psychological context in the latter script is one of absolute freedom (whilst ironically and as a bonus, in this particular case, limiting the participant's choice options!)


Thursday, 15 October 2020 21:18 PM - Reply to this comment

The inherent issue here is an idiographic answer trying to satisfy a nomothetic challenge. Perception is reality. One person’s reality may differ from fellow audience members.
The embellishment of false memories aids in miscalling actual events. As performers we need to think about language construct, actions, reinforcements both non-verbal and verbal, to heighten the level of illusion… remembering at all times that real magic exists - real magic is the misinterpretation of the effect in the mind of the spectator - Chris Dugdale


Friday, 16 October 2020 03:27 AM - Reply to this comment

You need to "find" the card before they tell you what card they are thinking of.

Leave a comment

Log in or sign up to post a comment about Named-Card Effects are NOT Always Better than Chosen-Card Effects.

Back to blog homepage

Similar posts on the blog:

How to Stand Out On Fool Us

How to Stand Out On Fool Us

Vanishing Inc. - Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Category: Articles

Read more

Keep Up With The Latest News

Keep Up With The Latest News

Damian Jennings - Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Category: Articles

Read more

Wayne's World

Wayne's World

Bob Gill - Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Category: Articles

Read more