The Deck of Cards

The selection of a deck of cards is very important to a magician, and every magician has their favorite. Some prefer Bicycle-brand cards, because an audience is familiar with this brand of cards and will not suspect that it is a trick deck. Others prefer to use off-brand or commercial cards (those given out by an airline, for example), because an audience will know that they are made by a big company and will not suspect that it is a trick deck. Still others prefer tarot cards, because an audience familiar with their serious mystical nature will not suspect that they are a trick deck. And, of course, some magicians like to work with borrowed cards, which also appear to be above suspicion. Unknown to the layman, no matter what cards a magician chooses, it is a trick deck 99% of the time. And the other 1% of the time, it's a fraud 100% of the time.

Some card tricks do not require special cards -- and even if they do -- a magician can always throw the audience off track by using a completely innocuous deck of cards. Mallusionist suggests an Old Maid or Go Fish deck for this purpose. Not only does a deck of cards from a children's game have an air of innocence about it, these decks also have two of every card, effectively doubling the chances of finding a selected card (unless they choose the Old Maid herself, of course!)

Trick decks come in a wide variety. We will now reveal the secrets behind some of the most popular.

Color changing deck. This appears to be a normal deck of cards, but the backs are printed with a special ink which, when rubbed one way, appears to be red and, when rubbed the other way, appears to be blue.

Invisible deck. This deck is used in a trick in which the magician gives out an "invisible" deck to a spectator who then turns a single card over. The turned-over card appears in a real deck the magician then produces. In reality, the deck is not invisible but made of clear plastic. The cards are marked with invisible ink, and the markings can be revealed with lemon juice.

Heat sensitive deck. Ink made from the same stuff that is in mood rings is used so that cards that have been exposed to the heat of a human hand retain brightly colored "fingerprints" for up to an hour, making chosen cards simple to identify.

Marked deck. Ink that is invisible unless viewed through a special green lens is used to paint the value of a card on its back. A magician wearing a transparent green eye shade just has to nod forward and gaze through the plastic visor to see the value of a chosen card or, if the spectator is holding the cards nice and wide, a whole poker hand. (For more on marking a deck, check out our marked deck page.)

Svengali deck. A Svengali deck uses specially designed metal cards and a magnet to make sure that a selected card always rises to the top of the deck.End of story

If you would like a trick card deck of your own, you can find one at Hank Lee's Magic Factory. If you'd prefer a marked deck, visit

The information on this site is intended for use only by those with a sincere desire to learn nothing about magic and is for entertainment purposes only (in other words, don't try this stuff, particularly the dangerous parts). The Magicians Assistance Collective (MAC) frowns upon the use of magic in the formation of religions or to attract a cult following.

Magic is not real. Reality is not magic.

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