The Seven Strongest Sleights For Card Magic

If you’re interested in learning card magic, you’ll have realised learning sleight of hand is going to be one of the things you’ll need to do in order to advance past the basics of magic with playing cards. In essence, pretty much every single card trick can be done with just seven sleights, or moves. However, there are many, many options when it comes to these “basic seven”. We’ll dig into some of your options in this article.

The Palm

Topping The Deck

Widely regarded as one of the best methods to take a single card from the top of the deck into palm, this was published by Dai Vernon in Further Inner Secrets Of Card Magic, in 1961. It’s since been refined and taught in a multitude of different places.

One Handed Top Palm

The most popular method, which is still in use today, is having the right hand arch over the deck and the little finger press down on the front right corner of the deck. This is credited to John Elrick in The Magic Wand Vol.19 No, 145, p. 48 March 1930.

Bottom Palm

Dating from 1889, this move was first published by Robert-Houdin in Tricks With Cards. As the name suggests, it involves palming a card, or cards, from the bottom of the deck.

If you’re interesting in palming techniques, here are some resources to elevate your game:

Roberto Giobbi Masterclass

John Galsworthy's Experts At The Card Table lecture

Card Control

Jog Shuffle

Probably one of the first sleight of hand moves you’ll learn. It involves performing what appears to be a regular overhand shuffle, whilst secretly being able to control a card, or cards, to the top or bottom of the deck.

Riffle Shuffle Control

Like above, this allows you to control a card or cards to the top or bottom of the deck using what appears to be a regular riffle shuffle.

Hofzinser Cull

During the act of spreading through the deck, you’re able to secretly move a card, or cards, to the top or bottom of the deck.

Diagonal Palm Shift

A card, or cards, are seemingly fairly inserted into the deck. During this action, you can control the card, or cards, to the bottom of the deck, or place them into a palm. Initially published in 1902 by Erdnase. Here’s Ricky Smith showing you what it should look like:

If you’d like to learn more false shuffles:

Learn The Diagonal Palm Shift

Learn All The Controls!

False Shuffle

Zarrow Shuffle

The first taste of this style of shuffle comes from Modern Magic in 1876, it is not credited.

Push Through Shuffle

The cards are inserted, pushed through on the diagonal, stripped out and replaced on the bottom of the deck. This is listed as “False Shuffles - Eighth Method” in Tricks WIth Cards from 1889.

G. W. Hunter Shuffle

First seen in Card Manipulations Vol. 3 from 1934. It was later republished in 1938 in Greater Magic. It is pre-dated by a similar full deck false shuffle that removes the need to count the center run. Catchily titled “To Shuffle The Whol;e Pack WIthout Disturbing The Order Of The Cards, credited to Graham Adams, published in 1934 in Mr S.W. Erdnase - His Book. Those interested in a more modern take on this concept should look up “The Optical Run and Toss False Shuffle” by Jared Kopf from 2016.

Truffle Shuffle

Initially created by Derek DelGuadio, and titled The DelGuadio Shuffle from Genii Vol. 71, No 10, October 2008. It was published as “Truffle Shuffle” in Spain 2011, 2010. More recently, Karl Hein (with permission) combined elements of the “Truffle Shuffle” with his “Heinstein Shuffle” to create “Truffle Shuffle 2.0”.

If you’d like to learn more false shuffles:

False Shuffles And Cuts Masterclass

Learn Truffle Shuffle 2.0

Double Lift

This dates all the way back to The Discoverie Of Witchcraft from 1584. There, it was titled: “To put one testor into a strangers hand, and another into your owne, and to conveie both into the strangers hand with words”. We think “Double Lift” is a snappier name for it. The move enables you to show the top card on the deck and switch it for a different card. Commonly used in routines like The Ambitious Card.

Here’s a great resource for learning

Top Change

Another old one! First seen in 1876 in Modern Magic. “To Change a Card - Second Method”, p.29. It is uncredited. One of the best modern resources to learn this from is David Williamson’s download. Most beginners are scared of this move, but performed with confidence, it is probably one of the most useful moves in card magic.

## False Counts The earliest mention of overcounting false counts comes in *Der Zauberspiegel* (Vol.3, No.1) from 1896. Nowadays, there are a huge variety of false counts: under counting, over counting, and more. Here are some of the most popular false counts today.

Elmsley/Ghost Count

The daddy of all false counts. Invented by Alex Elmsley and published in 1960 in Vernon’s More Inner Secrets Of Card Magic.

Here’s what it should look like:

Ascanio Spread

Although published in some other sources earlier, these were unauthorized. The first authorized publication was in The Ascanio Spread in 1976 by Jon Racherbaumer, Arturo de Ascanio. It is a display of (usually four) cards, although extra cards are hidden in the spread. Fred Kaps named the move, and it hit the magic mainstream during the 1970 FISM

Hamman Count

Created by Brother John Hamman, this is a count designed to display a number of cards, while hiding a packet of cards. First published by Brother John in The Card Magic of Bro. John Hamman.

Flustration Count

First credited to Eddie Taytelbaum as “Super Flustration” in Apocolypse Vol 1-5 (Vol. 4 No.7 p. 512). It was used as a Hindu Shuffle alternative. The first use of it as a count was published in The Collected Almanac (Vol. 2 No. 14, p. 130) by Brother John Hamman. It allows you to appear to show all the cards in a small packet are the same, while you secretly show the same card multiple times.

Learn all the false counts you could ever need here:

Roberto Giobbi's Card Magic Masterclass

False Shuffles And Cuts Project


A peek is a way to secretly ascertain the value of a card. The step peek is one of the most common and happens as you move from a break into a step. First seen in Asti Manuscript, c. 1700, p. 106 of the Pieper translation. Later translated in Gibecière, Vol.8 No.1, Winter 2013, p. 29-234. Arthur Buckley described using the technique to glimpse a riffle-peeked selection in Card Control, 1946, p. 34. Buckley does not credit the move.

For more on this subject:

Card College Making The Cut