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Watch These Cardists Perform Artistic Tricks With Playing Cards

These tricks require all skill, not magic.

These nimble-fingered mavericks turn a deck of ordinary playing cards into a mesmerizing swirl of patterns and tricks. A small, but budding group of cardists (a combination of “cards” and “artists”) have attracted fans for their fluid card spins, twirls, tosses, and flicks.

Cardistry is a kind of performance art that visually captivates audiences with impressive card manipulation skills. Many associate it with magic card tricks, but the two are actually very different. Magic relies on concealment of skills, while cardistry embellishes skills on full display, Dave Buck, a famous cardist, explains to Vanity Fair.

While cardists are adamant about establishing their differences from magicians, the art form does have roots in magic card tricks. In the 19th century, magicians would show their sleight of hand by completing some of the shuffling patterns we are most familiar with, such as the riffle shuffle and the Charlier Cut (splitting the deck with one hand). Cardistry has since branched away and expanded from magic. Cardists have mastered turnovers, tosses, catches, elaborate patterns, card springs, and have even invented new moves.

In the video, a cardistry fan compiled some of the best clips of cardists doing these advanced tricks. Some moves are so complex and ornate that Gambit—the X-Men superhero who flings kinetically charged playing cards—would be awestruck. At the 1:10-mark, a cardist performs a card spring by squeezing the edges of the deck and releasing it to form a steady ribbon of cards. Some experienced cardists have been able to create springs as long as three to four feet.

The growing cardistry subculture supports enthusiasts, hobbyists, full-time professionals, and cardistry schools. This past July, cardists from around the world united to celebrate the craft at the annual three-day Cardistry-Con in Berlin, Germany.   

Cardistry is like card “pornography,” magic historian Jamy Ian Swiss tells Vanity Fair. “It serves no function except as eye candy.”

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