In 1997, when I was 10, David Blaine’s first special “Street Magic” aired and it completely entranced me.
I had always been fascinated by magic. I’d watch any magician that appeared on TV and I never missed a “Masked Magician” special.
But Blaine made learning magic suddenly seem so possible.
Fast forward about 23 years and I’ve been performing magic as a hobby pretty much my entire life.
If you’re young or interested in taking up magic as a new hobby, what’s the best way to start learning card tricks?
The best way to learn card tricks depends on your starting age and skill-level. Younger kids should start with magic kits to have fun and nurture their love of magic and performing. Slightly older kids can begin with a few tricks decks and gimmicks that are easy to perform.
Anyone old enough to really dive in and master sleight of hand should begin with the classic books of card magic and then use either YouTube or online video courses to supplement their card mastery.
From there, you can always add to your arsenal by purchasing more instructional videos and individual effects.
Let’s take a closer look at how to get started as a beginner at any age.
(If you’re a teenager or adult looking to learn magic, skip right ahead to the Classic Books section.)
For the very young (under 8 years or so): Start with a magic kit
It’s really hard to 5, 6, and 7-year-old kids to work with cards.
They might have an interest in card magic, but chances are their hands and coordination skills will have to develop a little further before they’re able to really dive in.
But not to worry! There are still plenty of ways you can nurture their interest in magic.
For kids under 8 who want to learn magic, I would start them off with an age-appropriate magic kit.
For really little kids, Melissa & Doug have plenty of great magic sets and individual tricks that children can do.
My own daughter absolutely loves the “flower from wand” trick (see it on Amazon here).
They also have a fantastic 12-piece set (Amazon link) featuring a few easy-to-master tricks.
Later, she graduated to a full-on magic kit and was able to master some of the tricks pretty well, and she had a lot of fun trying.
Older kids in this age-range will need a little more. Look for a magic set with a number of different tricks for them to practice and one that uses props of a higher-quality.
You can find a good magic set for kids of any age and skill level.
The goals here are to:
- Nurture their love of magic
- Give them experience performing
- Establish magic practice habits
- Build their confidence
It won’t be too long before kids in this age group are ready for more!
For kids 8-11 or so: Trick decks and gimmicked effects
Children in this age range are starting to be able to handle a deck of cards and understand the different types of cards in a deck.
However, advanced sleight of hand may still be difficult for them.
They’re reaching the point, though, that “kiddie” magic kids will likely bore them.
This is a great time to introduce them to a few real card magic tricks that don’t require much sleight of hand.
I would recommend letting them experiment with some classic trick decks like:
You can grab almost all of these on Amazon or any online magic retailer.
Better yet, your kids will LOVE it if you take them to a local magic shop and let them walk around.
I was obsessed with the magic shop when I was around 11-13.
Ask the shop owner if they can recommend any good tricks for your child to buy, learn, practice, and perform.
This might also be a good time for kids to learn a few self-working card tricks that don’t require any difficult card moves.
The 21 card trick is a classic that anyone can do.
Or grab them the classic Karl Fulves book “Self-Working Card Tricks” on Amazon.
The goals for a person learning card magic at this age should be:
- Develop some basic card handling skills & dexterity
- Take performance and showmanship to the next level
- Really solidify practice habits and stop thinking of magic props as toys
Again, it won’t be long until kids of this age are ready to get into the real deal of learning card magic and sleight of hand.
Beginners over 11: Classic card magic books
Most experienced magicians will agree that if you’re wondering how to learn card tricks from scratch, it’s best to start with books.
There are a handful of books from legends of card magic that are, basically, the Bibles of magic!
These are required reading and you shouldn’t skip them.
Yes, it’s easier to learn from videos, but the books have so much more meat, theory, and lasting impact.
I implore you, if you’re a beginner, to read at least one of the following (both on Amazon):
Either of these will give you a strong foundation, from how to hold cards, to mastering basic sleights, and finally will teach you a number of great tricks to perform.
As you get more advanced, try Expert Card Technique, which will teach you most of the sleight of hand you’ll ever need to know, plus some advanced routines.
Finally, you’ll want to check out Expert at the Card Table. This is an all-time classic book on advanced sleight of hand and gambling cheats that every magician has read a dozen times.
The goals of learning magic at this stage are:
- Perfect basic card handling and sleight of hand
- Pick your favorite go-to tricks
- Become a good performer and storyteller
- Develop routines you can use for different situations
These books will teach you almost everything you need to be a great card magician, but your education doesn’t end there.
For extra instruction & visual aid: YouTube
At this point, you’ve learned the basics and probably have a number of great card tricks you can pull out whenever you need them.
Now’s the time to master any tricks moves you’ve been struggling with and keep your education going.
For this, YouTube can be a great resource.
I still recommend you start with books, but if you’re having trouble understand the specifics of the double lift or can’t quite perfect the Marlo Tilt, seeing it on video is an immense help.
These are two high-integrity guys, both great teachers, who want to make magic more accessible for people without simply exposing secrets.
Check them out!
Your goals at this stage:
- Master difficult sleights most amateurs can’t do (a perfect double lift, advanced passes, false deals)
- Learn new and interesting effects
- Pick up ideas and tips to elevate your performances
To take your skills to the next level: Online video courses and individual effects
If you’ve made it this far, you’re probably quite the card magician.
You can wow people at a party and knock their socks off when they’re expecting you to do some lame card trick everyone knows!
The only difference between you and a professional magician is:
- A ton of practice
- Mastering the art of performance
- Coming up with your own effects or unique style
And, of course, you can just be like me:
Someone who loves magic and performs it occasionally, but follows and studies it often as a hobby.
But your education still isn’t done!
I have two suggestions for you:
A magic course: If your skills are still a little rough around the edge, ditch the random YouTubers and go with a great, comprehensive, A-Z card magic course to clean up your game.
I love The Foundations of Card Magic from 52Kards. It’ll get you up and running in no time.
Master the material in that course and you’ll be way ahead of the game.
You’ll also want to continue expanding your arsenal of effects.
Browse online magic shops and look for the latest releases from your favorite magicians. A lot of great effects are purchased as one-off instruction videos from places like Penguin Magic or Ellusionist.
Magic is an ever-evolving art and innovators are constantly raising the stakes of what’s possible. Stay on the cutting edge!
You can also expand into other areas of magic this way, if you’d like.
Learn coins, sponge balls, or regular-items magic and see how you like it!
So that’s it — that’s how you learn to become a great card magician.
That’s your roadmap.
Whether your goal is to become a working professional, a magic inventor, or just a lifelong hobbyist — we all start out the same way.
And we all have the same love for the craft of magic.
If you’re an experienced magician, tell me about how you got started in the comments below!
And before you go, you might like some of my guides to my favorite, classic card tricks.