Pinky Break (Card Sleight): How To & Applications

The pinky break (or, often, just a “break”) was the first card magic sleight I ever learned.

And it’s probably the first thing you should master if you want to get into card tricks and card magic.

Don’t worry, it’s super easy.

What is a “holding a break” in magic, or holding a “pinky break”?

A pinky break is a secret method card magicians use to hold the location of a certain playing card in the deck.

For instance, a participant might choose a card (“Pick a card, any card!”) and replace it back into the middle of the pack. The magician then places the rest of the deck on top of the selected card, seemingly burying it in the deck.

However, if you could see the back end of the deck, or the magician’s view, you’d see that the fleshy part of his pinky was inserted into the cards, just above the selected card.

He’s now able to find the card, use another method of card control to get that card to the top or bottom of the deck, or perform many other sleights or effects.

How to do the pinky break

It’s simple:

  • Have a spectator pick a card
  • Holding the deck in your non-dominant hand mechanic’s grip, lift off about half the pack with your free hand
  • Have the card replaced on top of the packet in your non-dominant hand
  • As you place the rest of the cards on top of the selected card, insert just the fleshy part of your pinky so that the cards don’t square cleanly on top of the chosen card
  • Just the fleshy party! You only need to use a very small amount of your pinky, not the whole finger.
  • Square the deck and hold that gap in place using your pinky break
  • From the front, the deck should appear totally flush — if not, you’re using too much pinky
  • You can use the index finger of your non-dominant hand to cover any gaps or unevenness that may appear at the front of the deck
  • You may also want to apply small pressure with your non-dominant thumb to keep the gap from popping open at the front

Here’s the best video explainer or tutorial I can find on getting and holding a break:

Pinky Break Applications & Uses

The pinky break is pretty much a prerequisite for a lot of card controls.

So if you’re just getting started in magic, one of the first things you’ll learn is:

  • How to get a pinky break above a chosen card
  • How to control that card to the top of the deck (or another location)

Breaks can also be used to prepare for a double lift — as in, getting a pinky break below the top two cards so you can turn them over as one.

You might use a pinky break to mark the location of a card so you can perform the classic force.

And finally, you can transfer a pinky break from your non-dominant hand in the mechanic’s grip to your dominant hand in Biddle grip, transferring the break from pinky to thumb, in order to perform certain card moves from the Biddle grip.