My Top Ten Card Effects

Choosing ten card effects to represent your all time favorite list is not an easy thing to do.  So much has been written on the subject of card magic, so many wonderful effects published in the last 150 years, it is an almost impossible dream.

Nevertheless, I thought it would be an interesting experiment to see what I would arrive at.  I allowed myself no constraints in terms of effects, conditions or audience.  Just choose ten effects with cards that would represent my all time classics.

Here is my list.

1. The Three Card Monte:

This is an effect that I carry in my wallet and the story, plot and impact is simply wonderful.  My routine is a hybrid of ideas from S.W.Erdnase, Dai Vernon, Roy Walton and Darwin Ortiz.  I have performed this effect under many different conditionsand it never fails to entertain and register with a powerful impact.


2. The Diary:

One of the biggest problems in card magic is the generic opening of having a card chosen and then revealed in an entertaining manner.  Alex Elmsley decided to incorporate the use of a Diary with a deck of cards to create one of the finest effects in card magic.  This routine is a personal favorite and features in my impromptu and professional shows.

I very often segues into,

3. In the Palm of Your Hand:

This wonderful effect was created by Larry Jennings.

4. 4Play With Foursome:

This effect is non-stop sleight of hand and the final revelation is simply stunning.  The original effect, “Foursome” was created Harry Lorayne and was first published in 1967 in his book “Decksterity”.  The version in the video below is my handling and presentation of “The Awesome Foursome” by Andrew Wimhurst.  Andrew’s version appeared in his book “Down Under Deals”.

This is a great piece of artistic card handling, the effect has 4 climax’s and the audience impact is like an atom bomb.


5. The Slap Aces:

I first saw this effect in 1982 at The Tannen’s Jubilee, it was shown to me by Richard Kaufman.

Richard pointed me in the direction of a wonderful book called, “Dai Vernon’s Tribute to Nate Leipzig”.  ”The Slap Aces” is described in this book and features as part of Nate Leipzig’s stage act.  I love this routine, it is so magical in effect.  In the video below, I have combined the routine with Dr Daley’s “Cavorting Aces” and the stunning climax’ “The One Shuffle Finale” by Edward Marlo.  ”The Slap Aces” is the very first hard-core routine I attempted to master, I was 18 when I first encountered this routine and it has been a constant work in development.






6. The Ultimate Topsy Turvy Aces:

This routine is one of the finest pieces I know of, it represents everything I love about card magic.  A great effect, solid methodology, hard-core technique which justifies the effect and most importantly, the work required is not for the faint hearted.  There are only few card men in the world that I know of who perform this routine.  It was created by Edward Marlo and was first published in his exclusive manuscript “Patented False Shuffle”.  The performance video below is a very special handling from my friend Andrew Wimhurst.

The Devil from Down Under

The Devil from Down Under

Andrew is from Australia and is referred to as “The Devil From Down Under”, because he is a devil when it comes to hard-core sleight of hand.  Andrew’s interpretation of Marlo’s original routine, enhances the dramatic structure without any loss in audience impact.  What makes this routine special for me is the fact that if you had time to perform one routine and chose this as your performance piece, your audience would get the point about you and your ability immediately, you wouldn’t need to do another effect.


7. My Card, Your Card, Everybody’s Card:

WOW WOW…….This effect is simply exquisite, I first encountered the plot in “The Royal Road to Card Magic” when I was 15 years old.  The original idea was first published in 1868 by Robert Houdin in his classic text, “The Secrets of Conjuring and Magic” under the title, “The Metamorphosis”.  The effect is that one card, a Joker, changes into four previously selected cards and then back to the Joker.  What makes this effect so miraculous is that the Joker is held in the hand and changes four times without any apparent manipulation.

I taught my handling of this effect on my  DVD, “The Classic of Michael Vincent” Volume 1.

Here is the trailer for “The Classic of Michael Vincent” Volume 1.

8. The Ultimate Travelers:

“The Travelers” plot was created by Dai Vernon and first appeared in the classic book “The Stars of Magic”.  The effect is that the four aces are signed by a member of the audience and returned to the deck.  The magician then proceeds to remove the four aces from four different pockets.  There have been many versions of this effect in print and one the finest solutions to this problem is a version called “The Hitchcock Travelers” by my friend Darwin Ortiz.  As a concept, I love the effect of cards appearing in the magicians pocket.  This idea goes way back to Professor Conus in his routine “The Conus Aces”, where the aces appeared in the pocket of a spectator.

“There is nothing new under the sun”.

“The Travelers” represents a huge challenge due to the technical requirements and coming up with a sound dramatic structure which supports the methodology and clarity of effect.   It builds on the work of Dai Vernon, Darwin Ortiz, Alex Elmsley and Tom Stone.  I am very excited about this routine because I feel the visual picture is what Dai Vernon had in mind when he shared his original effect with us.

If you would like to learn this routine, visit my online store for details:


9. The Sting:

In the last few years, I have added a number of gambling routines to my professional repertoire.  I was inspired to do so after many insightful conversations with my mentor Darwin Ortiz.  Darwin helped me to appreciate many subtle distinctions about card magic and gambling related effects.  Gambling routines represent the highest standard a card man can reach in card mastery and card artistry, in my opinion.  This point of view is based on experiencing the impact of high calibre gambling effects on an audience.

The routine “The Sting” is a masterpiece of technical virtuosity and engineering and it took me 15 years of practice, off and on to master.  The reason for this long time frame is due to the fact that I hadn’t embraced any hard-core gambling technique into my arsenal of card  sleights.  It felt like learning sleight of hand all over again, but inside a different context.  Studying under the tutelage of Darwin Ortiz made the journey a little easier but it was challenging. The only thing that kept me going was my intense desire to learn and master this wonderful effect.  The routine is non-stop sleight of hand with a series of multiple climax’s that will leave your audience gasping for air.  This routine begins with a shuffled deck in use and what happens defies logic.  I personally feel this is one of Darwin Ortiz’s finest creations.

The title of this effect was chosen by Darwin because the impact of this routine is identical to what happens at the end of the classic film with Paul Newman and Robert Redford.  The audience experiences being taken for a big con, “The Sting”………

10: The Ladies Looking Glass:

In recent years, “The Multiple Selection”  routine has received a lot of attention and popularity.  The concept is based on a minimum of ten people choosing a card and returning it to the deck.  After the deck has been shuffled, the magician successfully finds all ten cards.  This is a show-stopping effect and well worth the time and effort it takes to master it.  The history for the effect can be traced right back to 1868 in Robert Houdin’s classic book, “The Secrets of Conjuring and Magic”.  The Ladies Looking Glass was the very first multiple selection routine of its kind  to be put in print.  The routine employs eight selected cards, but what happens to the selections and how they are revealed represents the highest standard in card magic.  The effect is pristine, clear and so magical it is a joy to behold.  My version for this ancient classic can be found on my DVD “The Classic Magic of Michael Vincent, Volume 3,” this routine is well worth waiting for.


Compiling this list has been very useful for me because as I look at my list, I can see that while all the effects are powerful in their own right, they all need to be featured inside a specific context.  Some of the effects are best appreciated at close- quarters, while others are better suited in a more formal presentation before a large audience. At the start of this article, I mentioned that I would allow myself a free reign to express myself and point of view about what I thought would be my top ten card effects.  This selection represents to me routines that I will be performing for the rest of my life.  They are the equivalent of mastering and having at my fingertips Beethoven’s “Fifth Symphony”.

I have many more routines I will be discussing in the weeks to come.  This article was detour from my previous discussion on mentoring, in my next post, I will honor my friend Cy Endfield.

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6 Responses to “My Top Ten Card Effects”
  1. Juha-Matti says:

    Quite interesting selections there. I actually would have assumed that Be honest, what is it or Armando Luceros empanada might have made into the list. The first because the presentation in your case seems to be so thought out and later just because it is one killer effect for those of who are aware of it…

  2. Hello Juha
    Thanks for your posting.
    Your evaluation is spot on and guess what? the two items you have mentioned are part of my performing program.
    In the context of the post, I chose the effects in question based on my emotional feelings towards each of the items listed.
    Nothing wrong against the two items you mentioned because they are a part of my extended list, I just had a gut feeling about the routines I listed due to my long experience performing these items for laypeople. Having said that, “The Empanada” is truly an astonishing feat of mental card magic.
    Thank you again for your considered evaluation.

    Welcome to my community



  3. John Carey says:

    Hi Mike,

    Here are some of my all time favourites: Vernon’s emotional reaction, Triumph, Bruce Cervon’s perfect speller/lie detector, Psychic stop, Smiling mule, The homing card-card to pocket and deck to pocket, oil and water, Dingle’s collectors royal or otherwise, Marlo’s bluff ace assembly and the one deck do as I do.

    Powerful stuff


  4. Hello John

    Just tried your combination of Dai Vernon’s “Emotional Reaction” and his “Out of sight Out of Mind”.
    Excellent thinking John.

    Your list of favourites is one I can’t argue with, check out the performance of “The Smiling Mule” under my tribute to Roy Walton.
    thanks for your post.



  5. John Carey says:

    Hi Mike,

    Thank you for your kind words on that combination-powerful stuff. Here is one of my takes on the classic stop trick, another all time favourite plot of mine.


    I think we all agree that the classic stop trick can have very strong impact on laymen. Here is a quite solid, tidy approach that revolves around spectator decisions- hence the title. Have a card selected-say 7 clubs and upon return control it 2nd from bottom. I use an under the spread cull for this. Shuffle the cards retaining the selection 2nd from bottom. Table the deck and have your helper cut the deck into 4 fairly equal piles. Keep tabs on where your target packet with the selection is. Now you must force this packet on the spectator. I favour the equivoque from the exclusive coterie in Erdnase for this: Have them touch/indicate 2 packets. If one of them is the force packet, pick up the other 2 packets. If they touch 2 null packets then pick them up and hold face down in your right hand. To finish the deception ask your helper which one of the 2 packets on the table should you pick up? If they indicate a null packet, pick it up and place it with the cards held in your right hand. Should they indicate the force packet, casually toss/drop the right hand cards onto the remaining null packet and place the discarded cards aside.

    Talk about how they are making all the decisions etc. To finish, start dealing/dropping cards one at a time onto the table and ask them to stop you on impulse. Make sure to deal a few before you make this request. When stopped, recap what has taken place, how they made all the decisions and that everything was under their control. Ask for the name of the selection. When they say 7 clubs simply do a block push off and turnover above the bottom card of the packet to reveal their card.

    Hope you can have some fun with this.

    Have a nice day :)


  6. Chris Wood says:

    Thanks for this Mike,
    I enjoy lists and found your reasoning interesting… Although my performing repertoire constantly evolves (I’m always looking at / trying out new effects to see if they may overtake other. Some classics have stood the test of time though and will take some beating! I like effects that are clear, simple and easily understood. Currently my favourites are:

    Ambitious Card – classic for a reason – with the Vernon sucker moves, very entertaining
    Torn and restored – JC Wagner style – I have a solid, commercial reason for not choosing a fully restored version
    Out of Sight Out of Mind – Vernon – such elegant thinking and so clean and impossible for audiences.
    Chicago Opener/Red hot mama – simple, direct and effective
    Vernon’s Cutting the Aces – Stars of Magic – great theatre – Cardini recommended it. What more do you need?
    Frog Prince – Mike Close – Stunning transposition – I do a streamlined version – and EVERYONE wants the card at the end.
    Twisting the Aces – Vernon – the original is so pure, so logical, so complete – why clutter with all the kicker endings out there? (Though actually I do use a kicker from Jennings of a sort sometimes)
    Kitson Miracle – Pat Page – This always knocks their socks off – effect after effect in a non-stop routine!
    Emley’s poker deal/Head to Head poker – This combo fits like they were made for each other… actually Paul Gordon will tell you he created HTH trying to replicate EPD which is why the procedure is identical. The methods are completely different.
    Hard to pick just one more… but currently I’m doing Eddie Fetcher’s Ace routine a lot… :) – unexpected conclusion, followed by multiple location effects.

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