Once you learn the basics of holding cards in the proper mechanic’s grip, holding pinky breaks, and doing basic card control…
… you’ll need to master the double lift.
The double lift is an essential sleight of hand move in card magic, and once you learn it competently, it opens up a whole new world of effects you can perform.
I find the double lift is about the separating point between people who “know a few (lame) card tricks” and people who can seriously wow you with a deck of cards.
Lots of people know the 21 card trick, basic key card principles, and maybe even how to do the pinky break, but very, very few people can perform a double lift.
(And perform it well.)
Let’s get into some of the details.
What is the double lift?
The double lift is the act of turning over and displays two cards as one.
For example, the magician might turn over the top card to reveal the 2 of Hearts and then turn it face-down on top of the deck, all the while having secretly hidden that the Jack of Spades (perhaps the spectator’s selection) is truly the card on top.
There are about a thousand different ways of performing the double lift, ranging from the very basic to the very advanced.
Pro magicians study and practice this move more than anything else. It’s that powerful and versatile, and when you can do it in your sleep naturally, effortlessly, and smoothly, well, you can do just about anything.
But even if you’re a total beginner, there are some easy and VERY effective ways of performing this sleight.
I’ll explain the first way I learned below.
Basic double lift tutorial & explanation
The easiest way to start off performing a double is to use a pinky break.
You’ll want to get and hold a pinky break under the top two cards of the deck. This is called your “get-ready.”
(Pinky break tutorial here.)
There are two pretty easy ways to secretly get a break under the top two cards.
Thumb count get-ready
Holding the deck in mechanic’s grip, bring your other hand over top of the cards and rest it casually on the deck.
Use your thumb to “peel up” two cards, either together or one at a time, then release and hold the break with your pinky.
I find it looks more natural to pull the deck down from your thumb rather than pulling your thumb up, but experiment with this in the mirror as you practice.
Don’t make a huge deal out of this. Do it casually while you talk to or engage with your spectators.
You’re not hiding “a move.” It simply looks like you’re holding and maybe fiddling with the cards, at worst.
Push-over get ready
For a more deceptive get ready, consider the push-over technique, which can be done with just one hand.
With the cards in your mechanic’s grip, your free hand provides some kind of misdirection, perhaps gesturing, handing out a prop, pointing, etc.
Use the thumb of your card-hand to push over the top two cards, then insert your pinky as you pull them back square with the rest of the pack.
You can also remove the top card of the deck for display and do a one-card pushover. Hold the break, then return the top card and you’ll now have a break under the top two.
When you first starting practicing the double lift, you’ll be petrified of the double “coming apart” and flashing.
Simply grab the two cards and casually turn them over, the same way you would with one card.
They’ll likely stick together perfectly.
But for getting started, a little extra caution never hurt anyone. So the way I learned my first double lift was to keep my fingers in contact with the edges of the cards at all times.
Use your free hand to grab the top two cards at your pinky break, near the inside edge, thumb at the back and middle finger at the front.
These fingers prevent the edges of the cards from becoming misaligned.
Lift the two cards as one as you pivot the outside edge against your deck-hand thumb.
Rotate all the way around and lay the two cards on the deck, but maintain your pinky break!
To turn the double face-down, repeat the process.
It should look like this:
Advanced double lifts
Honestly, this simple and beginner-friendly double lift will carry you for quite a while.
Eventually, you may want to graduate to slightly more difficult but more-convincing doubles.
Here are some you can explore:
The push-off double lift
In the push-off double, there’s no need to get a break under the top two cards.
You’ll simply use your card-hand thumb to push-off two cards (not one, not three…this takes a LOT of practice to get right), and use your free hand to quickly align the edges as you turn them over as one.
It’s knacky and a little tricky to learn, but damn does it look good.
(I’m not great at this one. The GIF below is done at half-speed so you can see what’s happening. With practice yours will look way better!)
The strike double lift
This is another one I quite like, though it’s also a little tricky and will take lots of practice.
In the strike double, you won’t hold a break, either.
Simply bevel the deck toward your free hand. Your hand comes over and with just one finger, “strikes” the inside edge of the cards and feels along the side just enough to grab two.
Pinch those two cards in your fingers and turn them over as one.
I like the strike double a lot, because when you “miss” and get just one card, or three cards, you can easily adjust. Just be careful of your angles and misdirection.
Pinky count get-ready
If you like using a pinky break as a get-ready for your double, you can do it secretly using your pinky with some practice.
Pull down on the bottom inside corner of the cards with your pinky until two of them “pop up.”
Then insert your pinky and hold your break.
This isn’t so much hard as it requires some serious pinky strength and coordination! You’ll get it with a few hours of practice.
Some applications for the double lift
There are way more uses for a good double than I can possibly cover here, and I would say it’s a staple of maybe half of the best card effects out there.
But you’ll definitely need a good double lift for your Ambitious Card routine — you can show an indifferent card on top of the deck using your double then immediately show the chosen card has jumped up!
The double lift is also great for simple transposition effects and switches — the spectator thinks the card goes one place but it really goes another.
Finally, a lot of packet tricks (tricks using only a couple of cards and not the whole deck) make use of double and triple lifts like the ones shown above.
If you know some basic card control and a double lift, you can create absolutely stunning card magic effects on your own!
Where to learn more (double lift tutorials)
YouTube is full of excellent double lift tutorials.
Here are a few of my favorites: