10 "Must See" Card Magic Videos from 10 Top Magicians

Posted by EndersGame Reviewer on

by BoardGameGeek reviewer EndersGame

It may come as a surprise to learn that collectors are not the biggest consumers of playing cards. In actual fact, the biggest market share of playing cards goes to magicians. That's because a deck of playing cards is an essential tool of the trade for most magicians. And sometimes they will go through a new deck each time they perform, which may be several times a day. Little wonder that magicians tend to buy their playing cards in bulk by the brick (a box of 12), and will usually order multiple bricks of their favourite worker deck, to ensure a ready and plentiful supply.

Certainly magic with playing cards enjoys a long and storied tradition. An argument can be made that it is one of the most entertaining ways in which a deck of playing cards can be used. There are other art forms that use playing cards, such as cardistry. But few things can rival the sense of astonishment and wonder that is produced by a world class magician doing his thing.

I've been writing some Top 10 lists to help celebrate the 5th anniversary of PlayingCardDecks earlier this year. So I figured that it's time to have you join me while we sit back, and see some of the world's best magicians do their thing. I've deliberately not included performances from TV shows like Fool Us or America's Got Talent. Although those videos tend to have the advantage of high production quality, I'll save those for another list. Instead I first want to focus on some signature routines and classic tricks performed by some of the world's best magicians.

You may not even have heard of some of these names before. But the people featured on this list really are some of the very best in the world at what they do. In some instances the quality of the videos may be somewhat lacking, but in some cases it's the best we have. Believe me, it's still worth it. You are going to meet some master magicians, and see some card magic like you've never seen before. In each case I'll briefly introduce the magician, tell you something about the trick in question, and then show you the video, finally pointing you to some other video clips featuring the same performer.

THE ARTISTS

What the magicians in this section all have in common is that they are true artists. They don't rely on an over-the-top persona, or on witty patter and jokes to entertain. Sometimes their performances are completely wordless, and all the astonishment is created by carefully constructed magic, often presented with music, for a completely audio and visual experience that combines to produce unforgettable wonder.

1. Eric Chien - Ribbon Act

Eric Chien (b.1996) originally hails from Taiwan, and now lives in Texas. In 2018 he won the FISM Close Up Grand Prix competition with the routine seen here. FISM stands for the International Federation of Magic Societies, and it is one of the most respected organizations in the magic community. It organizes the World Championship of magic every three years, so being a FISM winner is like winning an Olympic gold medal, and is effectively the highest honour in the world of magic that you can achieve. As further confirmation of his credentials, Eric Chien also won the third season of Asia's Got Talent, and made it to the semi-finals of Season 14 of America's Got Talent.

This particular routine is known as his "Ribbon" act, because one of the key props is a white ribbon, which separates a table into two halves. Depending on which side Eric places cards, they turn blue or red. His vest also changes colour a couple of times, and there's some final twists where the cards transform into coins. There's no words, but a beautiful soundtrack accompanies the performance, and helps create a real sense of story. It's an outstanding performance which turns magic into theater, and is reminiscent of some of the style of Shin Lim's best work. Eric combines superb sleight of hand with an exceptional presentation, and the result is a true masterpiece of magic. It doesn't get much better than this - ever.


See also Eric Chien's The Impossible Assembly.

2. Shin Lim - Dream Act

Shin Lim (b.1991) is a household name after becoming a two-time winner on Penn & Teller's Fool Us, and America's Got Talent. But before that he'd already been recognized as a shining star in the world of magic, by winning first place in the close-up card magic category at 2015's FISM, arguably the most prestigious award in magic. Shin Lim combines flawless technical skill, wonderful showmanship, and genuine creativity, and has rekindled the public's love for magic as an art-form. With his expertise as a piano player as part of his resume, and stirring music accompanying many of his performances, he's every inch the contemporary showman.

In his Dream Act routine, two spectators select and sign cards, which change places, and visually disappear and reappear multiple times. One of the highlights of the routine is when the cards switch places despite one being inside a plastic bag. In the end, even the deck box visually vanishes. The routine is brilliantly choreographed to music, and is enhanced with smoke, and of course, stunning sleight of hand. His "52 Shades of Red" routine is equally stunning.

 For more amazing card magic by Shin Lim, see 52 Shades of Red, and Never Perform the Same Trick Twice, and Not Magic, But Sleight of Hand.

 

3. Horret Wu - FISM Act

Horret Wu (b.1989) is the first magician from Taiwan to be a FISM winner, which he achieved at the 2015 competition. Guess who he tied with for first place in the close-up card magic category? Shin Lim. The two deserve to be mentioned alongside each other, because what they have in common is remarkable technical skill, which they use to produce a dazzling array of visual effects one after the other, performed wordlessly but beautifully accompanied by a musical soundtrack.

In his winning FISM Act, Wu begins with a deck of oversized cards, and a regular sized deck into which they of course can't fit. The routine then sees him flourishing the cards, producing four-a-kinds that impossibly switch with one another, with multiple magical moments. But the real highlight is in the final stage of the routine, where the oversized cards are magically changed into regular sized poker cards, so that they can fit inside the box. The act tells a wonderful story, and we have the sense that Wu is just as much a spectator to the power of magic as we are. In this video clip there is some non-English commentary which distracts from the performance, but it's still stunning. Also check out his "Memory Fading" ace assembly, and you'll find yourself wondering if this is pure sleight of hand, or just plain sorcery or witchcraft.


For more stunning card magic by Horret Wu, see Memory Fading, and Standing Out.

THE TECHNICIANS

Other magicians are known for their technical proficiency with cards. Many of these performers spend enormous amounts of time in perfecting their craft, and the tricks they perform are the result of real creativity and skill. Few in the world can perform card magic the way that these performers can, given the exacting technical requirements of their routines.

4. Tommy Wonder - Tamed Cards

"Tamed Cards" is one of my all time favourite performances of card magic, and it is by Dutch magician Tommy Wonder (1953-2006). Known for his remarkable abilities in close-up magic, he won second prize at the FISM World Championships of Magic twice, and numerous other awards. The designs and the presentation of many of his tricks are quite extraordinary, and he was highly respected by his peers, and is still much admired despite his passing more than 15 years ago.

This routine is a variation of the well known "Wild Card" plot, but Tommy's presentation and acting skills are superb. He begins with the idea of a spectator needing to select a card at a very precise time, because he apparently has a collection of cards that have been selected by people around the world at that exact time, all the Four of Clubs. But when his spectator selects a different card, Tommy finds himself with a problem, because it doesn't match his collection. Not to worry, he changes his entire collection to match, with some very visual magic. It's a gorgeous performance that is highly entertaining.


For another terrific Tommy Wonder card trick, see Deja Reverse and Elizabeth IV.

 

5. Michael Vincent - Invisible Palm Aces

There are magicians, and then there are master magicians. Michael Vincent (b.1964) most certainly falls into the category of master magician, and is noted for his performing excellence, which combines classical technique, remarkable sleight of hand, and well-constructed magic. When it comes to pure technique, it doesn't get much better than this, and his style and artistry is studied and admired by many. He's a virtuoso who does insanely difficult moves with ease. His handling is amazing to watch, and he is also very well spoken and articulate.

This routine was filmed by Michael at the height of the pandemic, so it begins with some personal reflections about that context. The actual trick begins around 1:30 in. He introduces the concept of an "invisible palm", which he uses to explain the premise that after many years of practice you can force a card beneath your skin. It's truly an astonishing routine with four aces, and the sleight of hand technique is impeccable. This is what magic would look like if it was real. Immediately following the trick in the video, there's some fantastic advice that Michael offers magicians.

Direct link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H6pLTlDxcnE&t=90s

For more terrific Michael Vincent, see The Lie Detector, Lucky Charms, The Sting, The Homing Card, The Power of Faith, Wild Card.

6. Denis Behr - Herbert the Trained Rubber Band

Denis Behr (b.1980) is a magician from Germany, who is supremely gifted and applauded for his remarkable technical skill with cards. He's gained a reputation for "highly technical, smart card magic", and some consider him "the finest card technician of his generation." He's extremely talented, not just as a performer, but as a very clever thinker, and the result is card magic where difficult techniques are made to look effortless, and tricks that are wonderfully entertaining.

The idea of a magician finding a spectator's selected card is an old one, but in this routine Denis lets his assistant do all the work: Herbert, a rubber band that has been trained to find any card. A spectator chooses a card which is then lost visibly in the middle of the deck - while Herbert is temporarily "blindfolded" beneath another spectator's hand, so he can't cheat. The rubber band is then wrapped around the deck, and in an instant the rubber band appears wrapped around a single card in the middle of the deck, which is of course the spectator's selection. The routine ends with Herbert performing another remarkable stunt, where he lifts more than his bodyweight.


THE SHOWMEN

Some magicians are especially loved for their larger-than-life personas, which is a key part of their performing. These are the kind of performers who regale us with witty remarks, and have us laughing or completely entranced by their story-telling. These are abilities that can be learned to some extent, but in many respects you're either born with this skill or you're not. These magicians are truly one of a kind.

7. Bill Malone - Three Card Monte

Bill Malone (b.1958) is an American magician, who is the epitome of a true showman. He has an exuberant personality that is always highly entertaining to watch, and he has a remarkable ability to get his audience to be chanting "Bill Malone!" or giving him a rousing ovation at the end of a performance. He often injects comedic elements into his routines.

The Three Card Monte is an infamous routine due to its popularity with street hustlers. The hustler typically displays three cards, two black and one red, and with money on the line, you simply have to follow and identify where the red card is. The version performed by Bill Malone is especially stunning because it isn't done with fast moves, but very slowly, and is combined with the usual Bill Malone humour.


For more of funny man Bill Malone, see his performance of I Should Have Done It Myself, Ambitious Card, Devilish Miracle, and Sam the Bellhop.

8. Harry Lorayne - Magician vs Gambler

Harry Lorayne (b.1926) is one of the only living magicians from his era, and at the ripe old age of 96 he still lives and breathes card magic. This American living legend is also known for being the world's foremost expert in memory training, and frequently did demonstrations where he would remember the names of large audiences of 1000 people or more. But his first love was card magic. Combined with his natural talent and his charismatic personality as a showman, and a genuine ability to entertain and also to teach, as well as to create and innovate, he quickly became one of the leading names of his time. Millions of his books on memory techniques and on card magic are in print.

Lorayne's classic Magician vs Gambler routine does a great job of showcasing his skill in sleight of hand, as well as his larger-than-life charismatic persona that was typical of his performances. A true story-teller and entertainer, Lorayne tells the story of a bet between a magician and a gambler, in which the magician is challenged to produce a four-of-a-kind after multiple cuts. He almost succeeds, but when the final card turns out to be a miss, only magic can save the day. And the result is truly magical, as cards not only mysteriously change, but then prove to have been in his pockets all along.



For more entertaining Harry Lorayne card magic, see his dazzlingly and energetic Ambitious Card, and the remarkable display of skill in Numero Uno.

9. Juan Tamariz - Neither Blind Nor Stupid

Spanish magician Juan Tamariz (b.1942) is famous in magic circles for his influential Mnemonica system of memorized decks. But he's also widely admired as a showman, and some consider him the greatest living magician. Despite the fact that English isn't his first language, he manages to overcome the obstacles of language by the sheer force of his larger-than-life personality, with an energetic style that few other magicians could successfully pull off. His approach to card magic certainly results in unforgettable performances.

In Neither Blind Nor Stupid, Tamariz has two spectators cut a deck multiple times, and then each select a card and return it to the deck. Could he possibly know anything about their cards? The obvious answer is no, but time and again Juan will say "Yes!" After all, he knows they are on top of the deck. Never touching the cards himself, he has the spectators go through a series of moves to ensure that both cards are impossible lost in two piles, each shuffled by the spectators. And yet in this impossible situation he of course produces the selected cards. But the real beauty of this trick is Juan Tamariz's presentation, which will make you laugh out loud as well as be amazed.


 

THE T.V. MAGICIANS

The final category represents the many magicians who have made their bread-and-butter by TV specials and shows. Many of these have become household names, such as David Blaine, Derren Brown, and Dynamo, and others. Regular shows like Fool Us and America's Got Talent have helped many other performers gain fame. But arguably ahead of them all comes a man who is smooth as silk: David Copperfield.

10. David Copperfield - Grandpa's Aces

David Copperfield (b.1956) is one of the most successful magicians from the modern era. His TV specials have won multiple awards, and he has literally sold millions of tickets to his shows. While he specializes in impressive and large stage illusions, including the Guinness World Record for the largest illusion ever staged, he is also accomplished at close-up magic. His performances typically feature some card tricks, which are usually shown on a large screen whenever he does perform live, so that the entire audience can see what is happening.

His Grandpa's Aces is an ace assembly routine, where three aces vanish from three piles, and reappear in another pile with a fourth ace. The concept is familiar, but Copperfield is known for his sense of storytelling and of the dramatic. With this trick he achieves that with a stirring sound-track, and by setting the tone for the effect by drawing on heartstrings by connecting his performance to his departed grandfather, who is shown in a black-and-white home movie with the young David Copperfield. The performance begins with some pop-out moves to produce the four Aces, which relies on pure sleight of hand. Next come some amazing colour changes, as each of the three aces disappears one-by-one visually in front of your eyes. Then comes the final revelation, as all the three aces reappear to join the final ace - where they apparently were all along.


The version shown above omits the sentimental montage of clips showing Copperfield with his grandfather, and goes straight into the routine itself. You can see the full routine with Copperfield's own commentary, here: Grandpa's Aces (with audio commentary by Copperfield).

Final Thoughts

That completes our list of ten top magicians. By no means is this intended to be an exhaustive list. Many other top magicians belong alongside the great names included here, and some of those I haven't mentioned deserve just as much, or even more praise.

But hopefully by watching the performances shown in these videos, in seeing some of the world's best at the top of their game, you'll already have experienced a sense of real astonishment and wonder.

If you enjoyed the performances shown here, do check out some of the other videos I've linked to for each magician. Their genius will shine even when the video quality doesn't, because these magicians are among the best in the world. Enjoy!

About the writer: EndersGame is a well-known and respected reviewer of board games and playing cards. He loves card games, card magic, cardistry, and card collecting, and has reviewed several hundred boardgames and hundreds of different decks of playing cards. You can see a complete list of his game reviews here, and his playing card reviews here. He is considered an authority on playing cards and has written extensively about their design, history, and function, and has many contacts within the playing card and board game industries. You can view his previous articles about playing cards here. In his spare time he also volunteers with local youth to teach them the art of cardistry and card magic.

 

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Last update date: 11/16/22

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