How To Learn The False Shuffle: Step by Step Guide for Beginners

When it comes to basic card control, a good false cut or two is often all you need.

But if you really want to step up your deception game you’ll need to learn a false shuffle.

Before we delve into my favourite technique, the false overhand shuffle, we’ll give you a crash course in false shuffles—and talk about a stunning display of sleight of hand from some of the greatest magicians out there.

How many false shuffles can you really learn?

Now, as far as we can tell, there are three main varieties of false shuffles.

1. Tabled False Shuffle: The cards are riffled together on the table, often followed by a series of cuts. It looks like standard casino procedure…but the cards are never truly mixed.

This type of false shuffle is perfect for magicians who want to project the image of an expert card handler. If you’re performing gambling routines or card cheating demonstrations, this is the style of shuffle you want.

They’re neat, orderly, and once you master them, you’ll certainly feel—and look—like a real card mechanic. Our favourites include the ‘strip out’ false shuffle, the ‘push through’ false shuffle, and the ever-reliable ‘Zarrow’ shuffle.

2. In the Hands Riffle Shuffle: Picture someone picking up the cards and riffles them together without the aid of a table, resulting in that beautiful ‘waterfall’ cascade of cards.

These tend to be quite tricky to pick up but are immensely convincing—it’s incredibly difficult to believe that the cards aren’t being mixed when you can see them interlacing right between someone’s hands.

The ‘truffle shuffle’ has been buzzed about quite a bit, but our current favorite is Guy Hollingworth’s ‘false in the hands waterfall shuffle’, as described in his book “Drawing Room Deceptions.”

3. Overhand Shuffle: And this brings us to the third and final category we’re diving into today—the ‘overhand shuffle.’ These false shuffles are casual and mimic the style in which most people naturally shuffle cards—chopping and dropping cards horizontally from one hand to another.

Since they’re the ‘go-to’ shuffle for most laypeople, they appear very natural and uncontrived. These false shuffles are often a lot easier than the other two types—but don’t mistake ease for ineffectiveness.

They can be extremely deceiving. Ben Earl’s ‘real optical shuffle’ is incredibly powerful yet straightforward, and we think Juan Tamariz’s ‘false butt shuffle’ doesn’t get nearly as much attention as it deserves.

So there’s your ‘crash course’ in the many varieties of the false shuffles.

My favourite (because it’s easy to learn, practical, and looks extremely natural) is the false overhand shuffle. The false overhand looks like a simple overhand shuffle — which is how most laypeople shuffle cards — but allows you to control a card or packet of cards to almost any position in the deck.

Let’s take a look at how to do it and some of the applications of this false shuffle.

What is the false overhand shuffle?

The false overhand is a card control technique designed to look like a fair and above-board overhand shuffle.

The overhand shuffle is a shuffling technique where you strip one or several cards off the top of the deck using your thumb into your non-dominant hand, repeatedly, until you’ve gone through the entire deck.

Normally, it mixes the cards somewhat thoroughly, especially after several rounds of shuffling.

The false overhand shuffle incorporates a small card jog or break to allow you to find a selected card and return it to a desired position in the deck.

False overhand shuffle tutorial & explanation

Here’s how to use the overhand shuffle to retain the top card of the deck:

Hold the deck in your dominant hand with your thumb at the back end and middle and ring fingers at the front.

Your pinky and index fingers should be free on either side of the deck.

Now, using your non-dominant thumb, strip off a chunk of cards from the pack — a little less than half.

Using that thumb again, pull one SINGLE card off of the pack, but injog it slightly — meaning, leave it sticking out noticeably toward your torso compared to the rest of the cards in your non-dominant hand.

Now continue running off cards from the pack into the shuffled pile, one or several at a time, on top of the in-jogged card, until you’ve run through all the cards.

(Pro tip: Shuffle these final cards messily to disguise the jog.)

In your non-dominant hand mechanic’s grip, you’ll have (from bottom to top):

  • A pack of cards
  • The chosen or selected card
  • An in-jogged cards
  • The rest of the deck shuffle messily on top

Now simply use your thumb to grab a break UNDER the in-jogged card as you square the deck and hold it in Biddle grip.

Perform a simple double undercut to bring the selected card back to the top.

In action, it looks like this.

False overhand shuffle gif

You can also skip the double undercut and simply grab the initial packet (with chosen card on top) in your dominant hand while running more cards, holding a small thumb break at the selected card.

When you’ve shuffled off all the cards above the break, simply throw the rest on top.

If it sounds confusing to read, here’s an excellent tutorial on the overhand shuffle card control from my favorite, 52Kards:

Other uses for the false overhand shuffle

This is my favorite false shuffle because it’s so versatile.

The most obvious and basic way to use it is to bring one card to the top of the deck, or retain the top card while shuffling.

But you can also do some other cool stuff with it, like:

Retain a pack of cards at the top

If you have a small packet arranged at the top of the deck, it’s easy to retain it during a false overhand shuffle.

It’s superior to a false riffle shuffle for retaining more than a small handful of cards at the top.

Control a card to any position

You can use this shuffle to bring a card from the top to the bottom, bottom to top, or from the top to a specific position (like 3rd).

How? Alter the location of your in-jogged locator card.

Run 4 cards on top of the selected card, for example, THEN in-jogged card, then the rest of the deck.

Cut at the in-jogged card and now the selected card will be in the 5th position from the top.

Full deck false overhand shuffle

Yes, you can use an overhand shuffle to retain the entire order of the deck.

Let’s say you break open a fresh deck in new deck order. You can use a full-deck false overhand shuffle and leave the order of the cards undisturbed.

It’s quite convincing and not as hard as you might think.

Check out a full tutorial here.

My favourite variation of the false overhand shuffle…

DISCLAIMER: The Daily Magician now owns Ambitious With Cards, and this is Benji’s pitch on a false shuffle he came up with last summer, so it is of course biased but I do think it is an excellent false shuffle.

The Dolphin Shuffle? Why this shuffle is the most natural-looking false shuffle I’ve ever seen!

The Dolphin Shuffle is an overhand style false shuffle that looks like this…

Actually, let’s play a game…

Here’s another video:

One of the above shuffles is false, and one is real.

Here’s what professional magician and card counter Steven Bridges said when I asked him to figure out which is which…

“I feel like I’m going to need to watch them both 50 times to get ANY idea which is the real one. I’m gonna go with the first one but really that’s a guess. They’re both so convincing, and the card flying out by ‘accident’ is such a great convincer. With false shuffles, if they look a bit haphazard and messy and little mistakes happen…that’s great because it looks like you don’t have control over the cards, or at least you’re not handling the cards in a careful or precise way, which is exactly what you need with a false shuffle. Great stuff, very very fooling!”

Now, I’ll let you in on a secret—the false shuffle is actually the first video.

But as our friend and popular magic YouTuber The Card Mechanic said, the difference is “completely imperceptible.”

The origin of the Dolphin Shuffle—and why it might not be right for you

I started by asking myself the following question:

“When I shuffle cards for real, what does it ACTUALLY look like?”

I sat down and spent a while just giving the cards a real overhand shuffle in the way I naturally would if someone handed me a deck of cards.

See, I think that the best type of false shuffle for you is the one that looks the MOST like the way you actually shuffle cards—because I think your sleights should look as similar to the ‘real thing’ as possible.

So if you rarely use the overhand shuffle, the Dolphin Shuffle might not be right for you.

(however, you will likely benefit from the two bonus shuffles you’ll get with this purchase—the vertical Zarrow and tabled Charlier.)

Personally, I almost always use an overhand shuffle, as we think it’s the most casual and natural-looking way to mix the cards—and unlike tabled shuffles, doesn’t give away our card-handling ability to the audience.

Here’s what my natural overhand shuffle looks like:

I am willing to bet that this is also the ‘go to’ casual mode of shuffling for the vast majority of people (including many magicians.)

Once we had figured out exactly how we actually shuffle cards, we decided to try to invent a false shuffle that almost exactly mirrored that action.

The result is the Dolphin Shuffle.

I later also devised a simple method to create the chaotic image of a single card dropping from the deck while you shuffle.

This shuffle is:

  • Easy (you should be able to pick this up within 10-15 minutes)
  • Visually imperceptible (even when you know how it’s done, it’s incredibly hard to spot)
  • Casual (carefully crafted to mimic the way people actually shuffle cards)
  • Chaotic (the subtlety of a card dropping from the deck sells this shuffle HARD)

Learn The Dolphin Shuffle


If you want to know more about card control, you’ll need an in-depth resource.

There are SO many variations and applications of the false overhand shuffle, this article only begins to scratch the surface (when you pair the overhand with some false cuts and other sleights, you can do amazing card magic). If you’re interested I’d recommend checking out this excellent post that teaches some incredible variations of classic false shuffles…

3 Powerful False Shuffles Every Magician Should Know