10 Top "How To" Videos For Getting More Out Of Your Playing Cards

Posted by EndersGame Reviewer on


by BoardGameGeek reviewer EndersGame

PlayingCardDecks is celebrating its 5th anniversary. So to help celebrate, I'm writing some Top 10 lists, and I thought it would be fun to come up with some great ways that you can use your playing cards in a less conventional fashion than what we normally do. After all, most of my readers do own a lot of decks of playing cards. Most of us are good at collecting them, and maybe we even use them occasionally for things like playing card games, card flourishing, or card magic.

But how about we learn some other activities that we can use our playing cards for? Some of the "how to" videos below will teach you essential skills that everyone should learn how to do, like shuffling cards properly. Others will teach you less common skills, like throwing playing cards, which you can use to impress your friends or family. All of them are easily learned and mastered.

So without further ado, let's get started with some "how to" tutorial videos that will help us acquire new skills with our playing cards!

1. How to throw a playing card

Rick Smith Jr is a professional magician, but he's also the holder of three Guinness World Records for throwing playing cards. He set the first one in 2002 for throwing a playing card 72 yards at a speed of 92 miles per hour. His other two records were set in 2015 and 2017, one for throwing a card the most accurately (46 out of 52 cards to a target within a minute), and the other for throwing the highest straight up in the air (70 feet). Rick is so good that he can use a throw a playing card to slice fruit. His impressive skills have been featured a couple of times already on Dude Perfect.

His baseball background helps, but really it's all about good technique. To see what I mean, try throwing a playing card right now. Most people are fortunate to throw a card even just a few meters away. In many cases the card will travel a meter at most, and then tumble embarrassingly down at your own feet. But with the technique that Rick teaches, you will quickly and easily learn how to throw a playing card effortlessly across an entire room. I've seen teenagers pick up this skill in no time at all, and seriously impress with their mad card throwing skills. Give it a try!

What to learn more? See my article: Card throwing with world record holder Rick Smith Jr

2. How to build a house of cards

Have you ever tried stacking a house of cards? I have. And it's much harder than it looks. Usually by the time you get to the second or third level, the whole structure collapses, and you have to start all over. If you manage to get to 4 or 5 levels high, consider yourself well above average. But building a house of cards isn't nearly as hard as it seems - at least, not if you take a leaf out of Bryan Berg's book. Bryan Berg is another individual with numerous world records to his credit, including both the tallest and the largest house of freestanding playing cards. He's built structures nearly 8 meters high, with over 70 levels. He goes through well over 5000 decks of cards a year, and is usually sponsored for his work, which has included large projects such as a replica of Cinderella's Castle for Walt Disney World that took almost a month to build.

Bryan's technique is no secret, and he teaches it openly in some tutorial videos. The key to success is that instead of building with the usual pyramid or triangle shape, you use a grid-like structure based on square shapes. This makes for a much stronger and more reliable house of cards, is easy to learn, and you'll be heading for the ceiling in no time.

What to learn more? See my article: Stacking card houses with world record holder Bryan Berg

3. How to do a riffle shuffle and bridge

Do you know how to shuffle a deck of playing cards properly? You may have the nicest deck of playing cards in the world, but you're going to look like a fool if you don't even know how to handle it properly. You don't want to embarrass yourself by spilling cards all over the floor, resorting to an ugly granny shuffle, or looking like you have no clue what you're doing. So even if you don't go on to develop mad card flourishing skills, at the very least you should master the art of a basic card shuffle.

There are different ways to shuffle cards, but the two most popular methods are the overhand shuffle and the riffle shuffle. Each involves different techniques, and has different advantages. The overhand shuffle is the most common method, and is what most people learn first. It's practical and fast, but it does keep groups of cards together, and magicians take advantage of this to use it to control individual cards while shuffling. The riffle shuffle is more elegant and sophisticated by weaving cards together, and is the kind of shuffle associated with card games and casinos. When done in the hands it can be finished off by letting the two interwoven packets purr satisfyingly together in what is called a "bridge". It will instantly make you look like a professional, and is worth the minimal effort required to learn it.

What to learn more? See my article: The art of shuffling: An introduction to styles & techniques

4. How to do a card trick

Everyone should know how to do at least one decent card trick. After all, you never know when you'll be at a party or playing a card game, and the perfect opportunity is there to entertain others, and instantly become a hit. In contrast, there's few things worse than sitting through ten minutes of tedium, as Cousin Bill tries again to remember exactly how the 21 card trick works. The good news is that you don't need to learn all kinds of sleight of hand in order to produce a miracle, because there are plenty of card tricks that require no tricky moves at all. In the world of magic, these are called "self-working card tricks". A good self-working card trick has the advantage of being easy to learn and perform, letting you focus on presenting it well. And there are some terrific ones out there, which aren't mathematical atrocities that involve lengthy amounts of repeated dealing or counting.

"Gemini Twins" is a true gem among self-working card tricks. It was popularized after it appeared in one of Karl Fulves' books on self-working card magic, and numerous variations exist. You remove two prediction cards face-down from a shuffled deck, and these are used twice to mark the place where your spectator deals from the deck and stops at any point where they wish. When the deck is spread face up, the two prediction cards amazingly turn out to match in colour and value to the exact cards that your spectator stopped at. Despite a simple method that is easy to learn and perform, this is a very strong magic effect.

What to learn more? See my article: Popular self-working tricks for complete beginners in card magic

5. How to do a card flourish

While card magic is about doing something that seems impossible and magical, cardistry is all about pure skill with cards. It's another word for card flourishing, and involves performing skilful moves that are all about looking flashy and visual. Some have described it as juggling with playing cards, and that's a good description. Flashy packet cuts, dribbles and springs, impressive fans and displays, aerials and spins, are all classic examples of cardistry. In recent years cardistry has really taken off with the help of social media and the internet, and nowadays you can even buy decks that are geared specifically to looking good when performing cardistry moves.

The good news is that there's no right or wrong way to approach cardistry, because you can learn whatever you want. So you have complete freedom to explore whatever suits your preferences and taste. Even so it's good to start by mastering the basics and have somewhat of a graduated approach. Don't focus on rushing things, but try to perform the moves smoothly. And keep practicing, because cardistry is perfect for doing "fiddle moves" while you're watching a movie or waiting for a bus. In this instructional video Chris Ramsay will teach you three basic packet cuts: the swing cut, the swivel cut, and the rotation cut. While the rotation cut is a bit more finicky, you'll master the first two in no time, and you'll be surprised how rewarding it is to do these whenever you have a deck in your hands!

What to learn more? See my article: Top moves and flourishes for complete beginners in cardistry

6. How to play the GOPS card game

How about playing a card game with a deck of playing cards? What a revolutionary idea - not - since this is of course the exact reason why playing cards were invented, and is the primary way they are used. But I want to challenge you to go outside the familiar and learn something new. I'm a huge fan of card games, and have tried many, many different ones over the years. Good card games for just two players are particularly in rare supply; at least, few people seem to know them. So let me introduce you to a simple, easy-to-learn and quick-to-play bidding and bluffing game for two players that is particularly excellent.

It's called GOPS, which is an acronym for "Game Of Pure Strategy", to reflect the fact that there's no luck. But don't go thinking that this is a brain-burner, because it's not that kind of game at all. Instead, it's all about bluffing. Here's the basic concept: You're trying to win the 13 Diamonds cards, which are point cards corresponding to their value. They're shuffled and then revealed one at a time. Players each get an entire suit as their hand (Clubs or Spades), and simultaneously play a card of their choice, with the revealed point card going to the highest played card. The player who wins the most point cards wins the game. The tutorial video will teach you the game in just two minutes, and it's far more fun than you might think!

What to learn more? See my articles: 40+ great card games for all occasions and The best two player games with a standard deck

7. How to play the Exit solitaire game

Virtually everyone is familiar with playing Solitaire with cards, because it's been included with the Windows operating system for more than 30 years now. It's saved countless office-workers and secretaries from boredom, and at times it's also caused company productivity to take quite a hit. We probably all know how it works: you're trying to get rid of all the cards in order from Ace through King in each suit, and do so with the help of seven stacks of cards, which you can arrange downwards in value in alternating colours of red and black, and by dealing cards from the stock. There's a good dose of luck, but enough decision making to keep it interesting and addictive. What many people don't realize is that this game is actually called Klondike Solitaire, and that there are hundreds of other types of solitaire games that can be played with a deck of cards, many of them involving more skill, and many of them even more interesting. Klondike is an example of a builder type of game, where you're stacking cards up or down in order of value, but there's a whole genre of non-builder games that work very differently.

One of the best non-builder solitaire games is called Exit, or its alternate game Gay Gordons, and was created by card game scholar David Parlett. You set up the game by dealing cards into ten columns of five cards each, plus one column with just two cards. The goal is to eliminate all cards by removing any available pairs that add up to eleven, or a pair of Jacks, or a King/Queen pair. It's super easy to learn, and there's lots of room for planning and decisions because all the cards are dealt face-up. Don't be fooled by the length of this instructional video - the explanation of how to play runs for less than two minutes, and the rest is simply an example of gameplay.

What to learn more? See my article: Popular adding and pairing solitaire games

8. How to make a kirigami card

Almost everyone knows what origami is, but how about kirigami? This is the Japanese art of paper cutting. In its purest form, the goal is to start with a single piece of paper, manipulate it with cutting and folding, and with the final result you should in theory be able to unfold it and return it to its original flat state. No additional components are allowed. So how about if we take a playing card as our starting piece of paper, and use that to create some works of art? Many creators have experimented with creating kirigami playing cards, and one of the best and most prolific today is Scott Dyer.

When you look at the final outcome of a kirigami card, it typically has an impossible look, hence the alternative names "impossible cards" or "wow cards". But not all kirigami cards look impossible, and others simply create a beautiful visual aesthetic, or represent an artistic or creative design. And it's not as hard to learn as you might think. Scott typically creates digital designs on his computer first, which he resizes to match a playing card. He's kindly made available all kinds of templates that you can freely download and use. The example in the video is slightly different from Scott's usual kirigami, and shows how to make a mystery box card he calls "Fireworks".

What to learn more? See my article: Creating kirigami cards with Scott Dyer

9. How to make the hypercard illusion

I've always been fascinated by optical illusions. It's when the eye deceives you, so that what you are observing seems truly impossible. What if you could make your own optical illusion with a spare playing card? Introducing: the hypercard. The hypercard is a concept that can be created using cardboard or paper, but the result is far more effective with a playing card, because the mind gets tricked by your perception of how a playing card is supposed to look.

With the help of some scissors and origami, you'll be able to make your own impossible-looking hypercard with a playing card in only a minute. Seriously - it's that simple to make. All you need to do is make three cuts on the card, and then carefully fold the card in two places as taught in the tutorial. The best way to show off the illusion is to insist that people not be allowed to pick it up, but try to wrap their head around the baffling object that they see. If you use a double-backer card, the result looks even more baffling. For just a couple of minutes work, it's well worth the astonishment that the hypercard can create.

10. How to make a three card burr

Sticking with the arts and crafts theme, this small project is inspired by George Miller's "Three Card Burr". Like the hypercard, it results in a puzzling object that is both satisfying and baffling. It consists of three cards that are interlocked together, along each of the three different intersecting planes. And once the cards are assembled together, the cards lock together and are virtually impossible to pull apart.

You will need to use the following template, which will tell you exactly how to cut the three cards. That part is all quite straight-forward and simple, but the real challenge is to assemble the pieces together to make the burr. That's why this even doubles as a puzzle, because you can try to figure out how to put the cards together on your own. You'll have to do quite a bit of bending and fiddling to make it work, and if the idea of finding the solution on your own doesn't interest you, then just watch the tutorial video and follow the instructions. Either way the impossible-looking result is impressive.

Honorable Mentions

Is there more you can do with a deck of cards? Of course! This isn't an exhaustive list, so I'll leave you with a few more tutorials to inspire you to make the most out of your playing cards.

Especially if you enjoyed making the hypercard and the three card burr, and want a harder challenge, check out George Hart's card constructions. He's created some wonderful polyhedrons made out of playing cards, and some of the instructional videos below are inspired by his work. A fine example is the 3D card star made out of just 12 cards. If you have the patience to make it, the 30 card global sphere is especially impressive. Once you have exhausted the ones on this list, head over to Scott Dyer, who lists a couple of similar projects.

 How to make a playing card flower
 How to make 3D playing card art
 How to make a 3D card star [reference: alternate video]
 How to make a global sphere [reference: template]
 How to make a turbo cube [reference: template]

Have fun!

illusion playing cards

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.


Last update date: 09/20/22


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