3 Easy magic tricks to impress friends, family, and strangers


I remember doing a magic show for my family when I was young. I pulled candy out of an empty paper bag by layering two bags and placing the candy between them, showing the empty inside bag, then reaching between the bags to get the candy in the outer bag. It was super obvious, but my parents were happy to humor me by being in the “amazed” magic show audience, and while my brother wasn’t impressed with that trick (“I saw you have two bags there. I know how you did it”), he got candy so he didn’t mind too much.

Now that I’m older, I’d like to be able to have a few tricks that I can do with common objects and regular playing cards, because then when I travel I can do them as an ice breaker.

So… Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls: step right up to read about the Incredible Shelly’s masterful tricks:

{Click to quick jump to your favorite trick, or continue reading to learn them all}

The first trick: I Know Your Card and It’ll Come to the Top of the Deck

My brother was really into card tricks a few years ago, so that’s where I start, because how cool is it to be playing cards and in between games be able to do a magic trick?

I look up easy magic card tricks. My brother’s shown me some in the past, so I try some of the lifts but after I send cards flying everywhere several times, I realize that’s not going to be the type of trick I can learn this afternoon and show people tonight. So I stick to tricks involving less slight of hand and more theatrics and math.

The first is an easy trick that I exaggerate to hide the only part of the trick that’s “tricky” – taking a peek at the bottom card in the deck after you’ve shuffled. When the person picks any card and places it on the top of the deck, you ask them to cut the deck (without shuffling) as many times as they want. It’s easy to identify their card based on the card you saw (your card will be right behind their card).

Since that’s really simple, I decided to distract a bit with some extra drama.

The card can be anywhere in the deck when you look at it, so while you could just flip through and pull out their card, it’s not as impressive as when you can “bring it to the top of the deck.”

Of course, to get it from wherever it is to the top of the deck takes some deliberate card moving, so I make that part of the act. It’s super cheesy, but I have fun with it and that’s what counts. At least, that’s what counts when everyone can totally tell that you’re up to something… 😉

I take sections of cards off the top of the deck and wave them in front of the person, while they’re following my instruction to “think about your card really strongly, so it can speak to the deck.” With each section of cards, I ask, “Is your card in this group?” and then, deciding that it’s not, I repeat until their card is a few away from the top (ideally, the 5th card from the top).

Then I take this section (with their card in it), and say, “Is your card in this section?… It is!” and put it back on the top of the deck.

“Really think about your card,” I tell them. “Send your brain waves to this deck. We’re going to pull the card to the top of the deck.”

They look doubtful at this point.

Next, I show them the top card (4 away from the actual card) and say proudly: “Is this your card?” They look pleased, like they’ve tricked me, and this is where the rest of the trick comes in:

They say, “Not my card.”

“Oh. It isn’t?” I put it on the bottom of the deck. “Maybe you weren’t thinking about it hard enough. Maybe you have to touch the deck. Think about your card and send the thought to your finger. Then tap the deck with that finger.”

They do. It’s not their card (3 away from actual card).

“Maybe one finger wasn’t enough. Think it to your whole hand, and put your whole hand on the deck.”

They do. Once again, it’s not their card (2 away from actual card).

“Maybe that’s still not enough. Put both hands on the deck and think about the card REALLY hard.”

They do. They’re smiling now, knowing something’s up… but, it’s still not their card (1 away from actual card).

“OH! I know.” I can’t help but look like I’m up to something. “Where are thoughts from?” I ask them.

(Hopefully they answer something like “the mind,” “the head,” etc, but if they don’t I just say it for them)

“The brain! Thoughts come from your head! The hands are just too far away. Think about your card and-” I quickly but gently hit them on the forehead with the deck of cards.

“Is this your card?” I say triumphantly, showing the actual card, which has now made its way “magically” to the top of the deck.

There’s genuine surprise (okay, not as much surprise as when I hit them), and maybe a sigh of relief that it’s over, but there’s smiles all around. That’s the part of magic and performing that I like. There’s something very fun about making people smile. 🙂

Back to top?

The second trick: Card Hotel

My more successful card trick (better reactions, bigger surprises, fewer weird stares and patronizing smiles) is much more straightforward, based on math and patterns.

You can even do this one without understanding how the trick is done (that’s how I learn this one). I have a hard time visualizing the instructions, but when I follow it, I end up doing the trick on myself.

This is called the Card Hotel. You can make up whatever story you want, so long as it makes sense with the actions and the end result. My cousin made a story about puppies getting lost. I pretty much use the story that’s listed in the instructions I find. Here’s what I do:

First, get all the Kings, Queens, Jacks, and Aces out of a deck. This trick only uses these 16 cards.

“Once upon a time, a group of Kings went to a fancy hotel for a meeting.”
– Put each of the four Kings down next to each other (starting four piles).

“Since they were so nice, they brought along their wives.”
– Put each of the four Queens on top of their King of the same suit.

“And the Queens, because they loved their sons so much, didn’t want to leave them at home.”
– Put each of the four Jacks on the Queens of the same suits.

“And everything in the hotel was nice, so they decided to go to bed early to be ready for the meeting the next morning. Before they went to bed, they made sure they locked the doors…”
– Put each of the Aces down on the Jacks of the same suits.

[You should now have four piles, sorted by suit, with cards in this order from bottom to top: King (on bottom), Queen, Jack, Ace (on top).]

“But somehow, everything got mixed up during the night.”
– Stack all the piles on top of each other, then turn the stack face down, without shuffling the order of the cards.
– Then let the person watching cut the deck as many times as they want, without shuffling.

“Still, once everyone woke up in the morning, everything was the way it was supposed to be…”
– Keeping the deck upside down, put one card in each of the four stacks again.

[Once you’re out of cards, you’ll have four cards in each pile.]

– Turn the piles right side up, one at a time, and you’ll see that they are now grouped so that…

“…the Kings can have their meeting together, the Queens can catch up in another room, the Jacks have a playdate, and the locks (Aces) are sitting unneeded in the fourth room!”

Try this one. It works!

Back to top?

The third trick: Locked Jumping Rubber Band

For the 31 Days of Everyday Adventure challenge activity of “Learn a magic trick and show someone you don’t know,” I wanted to go beyond a card trick, but I didn’t have time to learn an involved or technically difficult trick.

My friend X. recently showed me a bunch of rubber band tricks (he has an entire routine he goes through), so they’re fresh on my mind and seem like they might be easy to learn.

At first I try to learn this one where one rubber band “goes through” another, but it took a while just to understand how to do it, and then I realized I definitely didn’t have enough time to learn to do it well. (It’s definitely one you need to do well.)

Instead, I find an addition to a jumping rubber band trick that I already know (add a second rubber band to “prevent” the first from going over the fingers), because it takes almost no time to do but still looks really cool.

It’s actually one of the tricks X. showed me and it’s the one I remember thinking, “How is that possible?” when I saw it. It’s fun to see it slowed down because I can see that it doesn’t change the trick at all, just looks really impressive!

I plan to show someone at a coffee shop after my meeting, but sadly, I forget because I’m so focused on getting to the next thing on my to-do list!

The next day, although I’m not going anywhere, I do have a Skype meeting, so I give the other person a virtual magic show a few minutes into the call.

It’s not the best response. I’m sure some of it’s because it’s harder to see over the internet/on a small screen, but also because it’s a very lame trick when I do it awkwardly… :/

It definitely needs more practice. I’m slightly embarrassed by the poor performance. This definitely challenged my need for perfection and my fear of failing (and failing publicly!), but I feel proud that I stepped out of my comfort zone and shared something before it was ready/perfect.

And that’s the things about all these tricks. They’re easy to learn, and most of the time I can do them well, but if I can’t, I have to deal with that disappointment right then. It’s small, but it’s good practice for the rest of life when things seem bigger. So… learn some magic tricks and become a better-adjusted human being! Or just do it to spread a little happiness. 🙂

Whatever your reason, these three tricks will be a good place to start.

Do you know any magic tricks? Leave a comment and let me know, or share a video to the Facebook page.


4 thoughts on “3 Easy magic tricks to impress friends, family, and strangers

  1. Pingback: Summer Bucket List 2016 | The Goal List

  2. Rilla Z

    I definitely want to try card hotel. Sounds like I could do that because I, too, am terrible at sleight of hand tricks. I couldn’t see the first three links. It gave me an error for each. 😕 So, thanks for the explanations!


    1. Shelly Najjar Post author

      The card hotel is a fun one for sure! Sorry about the link errors. They’re just supposed to be page jumps but I guess they’re not working. Can you tell me what browser/device you were using for info?



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