No, they’re not weighted, fitted with razor blades on the end like a Bond villain, nor are they actual tricks.
Throwing cards like you see in the big magic shows?
That’s all skill. There’s no deception here; it’s a basic aspect of science.
If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to throw cards, it’s your lucky day. We’re going to break down every little tidbit of information, every morsel that could help you while you’re trying to learn.
Throwing cards have a short, albeit is fascinating history.
Learning about the records that people hold for throwing cards, the ridiculous speed at which they travel, and everything in between is nothing short of fascinating.
Now it’s your turn to add to the legacy of card throwing in your magic act and dare to impress everyone in your audience, however big or small.
Art of Card Throwing
How fantastic would it be to throw up some cardistry moves, shift your deck around, and then—BOOM!—You just threw a card against the wall and stuck it into a target. You pull it off like an absolute legend.
Sounds pretty good, right?
While there’s more than meets the eye with throwing cards, it can be mastered without sacrificing too much of your time. It’s an art, and one that you need to be diligent with for sure, but it comes in handy.
Rick Smith, a well-known magician, has spent a lot of his time breaking the Guinness Book of World Records for card throwing three times over. If someone takes that spot from him, he’s likely to do it again.
While he’s made it an art form, it’s also something that can be quickly explained.
With some of his videos for inspiration and a fundamental explanation of how to get it done, we’re going to give you a step-by-step method to master this art.
Keep in mind that throwing cards aren’t enough to garner the attention of a big crowd; you have to have other card tricks up your sleeve as well.
History of Card Throwing
First, before we get too far into it, I think it’s important to know where this whole thing came from.
If you’re not interested in history, don’t worry; I’m going to keep it brief and you can just jump down a bit to learn about what types of cards you’re going to need.
Back in the 1800s, there were two great magicians, and one of them had a method of playing card throwing that we’re actually going to be learning about today.
The first was Alexander Herrmann, who was believed to be the father of playing card throwing. He would find ways to work it into his live shows because at the time, nobody was doing anything like this.
If you tried to throw a playing card fifty feet and have it stick into an apple, you would have failed; nobody knew what they could do yet.
He went on to marry a woman named Adelaide, who was also a magician, which was super uncommon for that time period.
As a matter of fact, even if you look around today, there aren’t a lot of female magicians, so that’s pretty cool.
One more note is that they didn’t have Bicycle cards back in the 1800s, so he used individually manufactured cards that were a bit heavier, and easier to control. You had more accuracy with them.
But playing card throwing went on to another impressive person by the name of Howard Thurston, who also used this in his magic acts, just with a bit more finesse to them.
While he didn’t know just what they could do, he did push the boundaries of card throwing and keep it all moving forward, even before we had modern-day playing cards.
What Type of Cards do You Need for Card Throwing
If you want to break a world record someday, you’re going to need normal playing cards. Bicycle or Elephant cards will do the trick just fine.
There are cards designed specifically for throwing, but it’s like slapping a handicap on your card throwing game.
They’re good for a bit of fun, but not for someone like you, a magician, who wants to take this seriously. You want to awe and amaze people, and if they see modified cards, they’re not going to be as impressed.
Playing cards are where it’s at. Throwing cards are usually weighted, rigid, made with hard plastic, and feature between four and eight aerodynamic holes in two adjacent corners of the cards.
It takes all the fun out of it.
How do You Flick a Card?
Flicking cards is just the start. When you start out here, you’re basically on the fast track to throwing cards like an absolute beast.
Card flicking can be done in three simple steps.
- Step 1: Hold the deck of cards perfectly evenly and level in your left hand, with the top card slightly sticking out to the side. Make sure your index finger on your left hand is able to gently nudge the top card into place.
- Step 2: Using your thumb to drag the bottom of the card out. Your index finger is just going to work a guide here so that the card can glide across it and keep it in place.
- Step 3: With your right hand, pull back on your middle finger to make it into a tight circle with your thumb. Position your hand so that your right index finger is on top of the playing card, hovering just above it. Release your middle finger and let the card go flying.
Note: if you’re hitting the card and it’s stuttering a bit and not gliding quite so smoothly, that means you were holding it too tight with your left thumb.
Ease up on your thumb a bit. You just need enough pressure to hold the card in place without it fluttering up and down.
How do You Throw a Card Like a Pro?
It’s all in the wrist. I know that sounds pretty basic, but that’s the true answer. Manage your wrist movement without focusing too much on the card, and you’ll do a lot better.
Here’s the thing: you’re a magician, so you know how misdirection works better than most people.
If you focus on the card instead of your wrist and arm, then you’re allowing that card to misdirect you, which isn’t going to be the best way to learn this whole series of magic tricks.
Learning how to hold the card is easy. You’ll quickly find out how hard to grip it, where your middle finger should be, and everything in between. It doesn’t take long to develop that muscle memory.
When you release a card, you’re not just performing a magic trick. You’re making a mathematical physics-based decision, and it’s not always going to go over well.
You’ll practice over and over again until the card goes straighter, and then you’ll pay attention to what you did to ensure the card went straight in the first place, and tweak it accordingly.
I’m not expecting you to measure your distance, your angle, and get into the craziness of throwing cards like Jaime and Adam did on Mythbusters.
You just need to operate on the knowledge that you’re not just throwing skill at the wind, not yet; it’s all decided based on math.
To throw cards like a pro, you also have to take a few factors into account. The wind, the environment you’re in (outside versus indoors), and the target that you’re trying to hit.
Can Throwing Cards Kill?
Thankfully, no, they absolutely cannot.
As of right now, the current record for the fastest throwing card ever tossed was about 92 MPH (give or take a decimal), and that’s not enough speed for a piece of paper to kill anyone.
If you’re not totally convinced, the Mythbusters did a whole episode on this back when they were a thing.
They found that even in controlled situations where they can have dominance over as many variables as humanly possible, there’s no way that enough force could be applied to make a card penetrate your skin, let alone cause lethal harm.
Well, Can Throwing Cards Slice Fruit?
Yes! It’s actually a lot of fun to throw Bicycle playing cards at an apple on the counter, and see if you can get them to stick.
Because there is a bit of a light plastic coating on the card stock of these cards (primarily to protect the ink and integrity of the cards), they have enough power and force behind them to actually slide through fruit.
You could have these slice through a peeled banana, stick out of the side of an orange or a lemon, an apple, cucumber—the choices are nearly limitless.
The only thing is that you can’t go through fibrous fruit and veggies like coconuts or dense foods like cabbage.
What Else Can Throwing Cards Cut?
If you’re serious about doing this, the best thing that you could do is get a big old piece of styrofoam, and spray paint it.
You can make your own targets this way, and the plastic edges of these cards are going to stab into the styrofoam and stick straight out. It’s the perfect way to practice accuracy without spending a whole ton of money.
To kick it off, I want to say that there are actually two main methods that people use to throw cards. We’re going to go over both of them.
The Thurston Method
1. Grab the Card Correctly
This is the most common way you’ve seen people hold cards when they go to throw them. The thing is, most folks only get half of this right.
You’re going to position one of the short ends of the playing card between your index finger and middle finger, with the middle finger protruding out slightly.
Do this while your fingers are extended straight.
After the card is sitting comfortably with one corner tucked between those two fingers, you’re going to curl your fingers back like you were making a fist and let the card curl in with you until one of its sides is pressing against your palm.
At this point, it’s natural for your thumb to just sort of levitate there between your index finger and just above the playing card. It’s okay if this happens.
So you’ve grabbed the card right, but you still have to position your wrist. You’ve probably heard “It’s all in the wrist” referenced countless times throughout movies and TV.
Well, here it’s basically law, so stick to it.
You’re going to very gently curl your wrist inward. Not enough to contort it backward, just enough that when you come down with the third step, you’re not going to hurt it by straining a muscle or anything like that.
3. Elbow Whip
Pull back on your elbow, and ensure your card and wrist are positioned appropriately. Once you pull back, you’re basically turning your arm into a whip by pivoting that elbow.
Don’t hold it too tight, just feel the way your elbow, wrist and finger joints are all working as part of one unit right now.
4. Ready, Aim, Fire
Now it’s time to actually throw that card. You want to do a faux movement at first like you’re throwing the card but not releasing.
This is going to help you line up your card with where you want it to go, and after a couple of fake runs, you’ll be able to let the card go.
You want to extend your arm outward while moving the same side of your body as your dominant arm.
So if you’ve been following this with your right arm, you should pivot your entire body to the right, while keeping your feet on the ground. You just want a little bit to give it that extra power.
Release your card as your elbow, wrist, and finger joints all extend straight. The card is going to (hopefully) glide straight ahead without taking a nosedive and just hitting the floor straight away.
Clip and Grip
1. Hold it Steady
While this method isn’t preferred by card throwers, it still has its usefulness. Many magicians believe it’s easier to aim with the clip and grip method, albeit it is less powerful.
Pinch the card between your thumb and index finger of your dominant hand. Your thumb should be mostly near the bottom of the card, right in the center. If you’ve achieved this, hold it tight.
2. Flip Back
Simple enough: you’re going to put pressure on your index finger, which is behind the card so that it folds the card down on the top of your thumb.
You still want to be holding pressure with your thumb so that the card doesn’t slip or fall.
3. Wrist Whip
Similar to our elbow whip, the wrist whip is just going to have a slightly more narrow range of motion.
You’re going to throw from the wrist instead of using your arm and elbow, just like we practiced in the Thurston method.
How do You Know if You’re Throwing Right?
The first sign that you’re doing an excellent job of throwing cards is if they glide horizontally without nose-diving and hitting the floor.
The hardest part is controlling the air underneath the cards, so when you toss cards forward and they fly up in a big loop before crashing to the carpet, that’s because they weren’t thrown accurately.
The best way to tell is simply to do this and monitor your success. If you’re not able to throw the cards properly, try to see if you’re in a good environment to be tossing cards in the first place.
Chances are there’s something in your space like a fan or air conditioner (or central vents) that could be preventing you from proceeding.
If it’s not your environment, just remember that everybody learns skills at different speeds, so it’s okay to keep trying to see where you land.
Throwing Cards Like a Pro
Over 90 MPH card throws; precise throws nearly the length of a football field—it’s pretty insane what people can do with these cards, and now it’s up to you to continue pushing the envelope.
You don’t need to be a wizard to throw cards, you just have to take your time learning the ropes.
My recommendation is to get a deck that you don’t mind ruining because you’re bound to see dents on the corners and destroyed cards before too long.
Keep at it, and eventually, you’ll be able to throw with ridiculous precision that your audience just can’t compete with. You’re going to look superhuman.