Royal Road To Card Magic – A (returning) Beginner’s Advice – Part 1: OH Shuffle Introduction
Guest post by Jack Viktor.
Originally posted on Reddit r/magic
Disclaimer: I’ve been doing card magic for over a decade (on and off). I’m not “good”. I don’t consider myself even close. I’ve watched enough Vernon material to know what good looks like. This is my humble opinion, and I openly accept opinions that disagree and if anyone has advice they would like to add, I would like to try and make this the new standard for study guides.
It’s been 2 weeks and reading through Royal Road has been one tough cookie. Having spent the majority of my time in magic learning from videos, I realized I needed to step into the “real” work and pop my book cherry. And as many a magi would recommend, I started with Royal Road. Some may recommend Card College (and while it’s actually really good), there’s something about wanting to jump right into the book that’s somewhat lacking, BUT I do have recommendations for people that have the book, as it can be a great supplementary read to follow along with.
Really, I just wanted to make my own study guide, and I wanted to tell myself why I should follow it. If you guys like it, I would appreciate some feedback. I know that there have been previous study guides (Opie’s Study Guide), but it felt lacking in the depth of “why” you should follow the books this way. So I would like for anyone that’s TRULY a beginner to understand why this may make you a great magician in the long run.
- Have a new deck and a poop deck when practicing. I fell into the trap of thinking that if the deck wasn’t new, then any mistakes that happened during any of my practices was the deck’s fault. IT’S NOT. It’s yours. Don’t get used to how slippery a deck is going to be when new, but also don’t get used to handling cards like they’re all poop decks. Learn the balance of what your fingers do to the cards, not what the cards do to your fingers. Dexterity comes with time and practice.
- If you have Card College, and you’re a total beginner, learn the first chapter’s worth of material. It’s stuff you’ll naturally get, but it was nice to read and realize “oh, this is actually a really interesting way of thinking about the basic motions of how to handle cards.” Now that I think about it, maybe I should do a post on CC
- Aaron Fisher’s Youtube channel has the BEST ADVICE ON THE OVERHAND SHUFFLE EVER. Not only does he give great tips, He also has a pathways to mastery lecture teaching the shuffle in his own way. He uses a varying finger position (one which i’m trying to adapt) compared to RR, but either one you choose is fine.
- Vernon has pointers in his Revelation Tapes, but you don’t need to know that just yet =P
STEP 1 – YOUR BOOK
- Open it up. Turn every page. And look at the titles of the chapters, the bold words, and the names of the tricks that catch your eye. Take a pencil (if its an actual book and not the free ebook you can find online) and star the things that interest you. Yes, I said write in your book. Make it your own. This will help you so much when you’re bored of reading and want to learn something that “interests” you. Do this throughout the book, and when you’re finished, go back to the beginning and read the preface. This advice should go for every magic book you buy, because you will never ever learn everything in a book, including this one. Does that mean you should ignore the other stuff? No. Sometimes, that other stuff is the cream of the crop. But if you’re like me, impatience is a burden on reading, and the interesting stuff is what keeps you going.
STEP 2 – FIRST THING’S FIRST
- The overhand shuffle will be one of the most useful, if not THE MOST UNIVERSAL TOOL IN YOUR ARSENAL. If ever there were a move that you could learn that would explode your skill level, it would be the overhand shuffle. I mean that. If you really learn this move well, there are literally thousands of moves that will open themselves up to you.
- YOU HAVE TO PUT IN REAL WORK FOR THIS. You will look like an idiot if you can’t learn how to control an overhand shuffle during a trick. If you have to look down at your cards, hesitate, fumble, you’re killing the value of what the shuffle represents. If you drop cards, or let cards fall, or you can’t manage to maintain a rhythm, you don’t know this shuffle. So here’s what you do.
(1) Read the description of the overhand shuffle in book. Don’t learn any of the controls. Don’t learn anything else from that book. In fact, close the book. There is nothing else but this shuffle.
(2) For 48 hours, do nothing but run the cards.
Yeah, I said it. Nothing but run the cards. Do it with a poop deck. Do it with a new deck.
- For the first couple hours, grab your phone, download a free metronome app on your phone, set the tempo to 50 and run the entire deck. That should take you at least a full minute. At this point, you can watch your hands while you do this. Go as slow as possible.
[If you’re using the app I use (Pro Metronome), there should be four “taps” that you use to measure yourself with. Each “tap” should be a moment of action. This means that, for example, on the first tap, your hands should separate, and one card should come off. On the second tap, your hand should come together again in preparation to take another card. So basically, for every 4 taps, you should have drawn 2 cards]
- DO THIS 5 TIMES. If you can run every single card singly 5 times and with control and pace that follows the tempo, move on to the next paragraph.
- Now, keep the tempo at 50, but this time, run the cards WITHOUT LOOKING. If you’re using a deck with Jokers in it, you should be counting 54 cards for every run through the deck. If you’re below that, you’re pulling more than one card down (happens with poop decks). If you’re counting above that, you probably think you’re pulling cards down and you’re really not (this happened to me with new decks). If this is happening to you, GOOD. These are the mistakes people make when they jump directly into trying out tricks after reading the description of the move for 5 minutes.
- Keep practicing without looking at the 50 tempo till you count 5 perfect runs of 52 (or 54). Then increase the tempo by 25. Repeat the initial paragraph. Once you can do the exact same thing at a 75 tempo. Bored yet? Good. Now crank that baby up to 200. Try and keep up without looking down at the cards, and also try and keep count of the number of cards you’ve run.
Did you mess up? If you did it perfectly, then you’re officially pretty decent at the overhand shuffle. If you did, that’s good too, cuz you now know you’re not the big shot you thought you were at 75 bpm.
- Regardless, go back to 50 bpm, run the entire deck singly another 3 times (perfectly of course)…….then put the deck down, and do something else. Yes. Go and do something else. Literally anything else. But you have to leave your deck alone.
- After 15-20 minutes, you come back. Do one run at 50. Do one run at 75 bpm. Do one run at 100 bpm. Do another run at 150 bpm. Do another run at 175 bpm. Do another run at 200 bpm. Then go backwards in the same pattern. Which bpm did you start getting errors? Which one did you start hesitating at? Make mental notes of this. At every tempo, you should now be regularly looking up at the room, and counting in your head.
If you’re making errors, set the metronome back in 5-10 beat increments until you find where you’re not making mistakes, and practice running at those tempos. Remember, it’s not about going fast at this point, it’s about looking like a pro. If you look like a pro at 75, but once you hit 85, you start messing up, you know where to focus your attention.
- Still bored? Try this. Start playing a game where you try and run the deck from 1-52 in consecutive runs. First run, you run one card, square, and put the deck back in dealing position. Then run 2 cards. Dealing Position. Run 3. blah blah blah. You get it. The game gets interesting when you crank the tempo up to around 200 and you push yourself to dealing cards that run DEEPER into the pack, and you have to see if you actually got the count right.
Why am I telling you to do all this? In reality, you’ll never NEED to run an entire deck. You’ll never NEED to run 33 cards and then stop. You won’t. What you WILL need is confidence. You WILL need finger dexterity and stamina. You WILL need an ability to adapt to the harshness of a deck (whether it’s brand new or poop). These exercises are less about teaching you card magic, and more about teaching you to control a deck of cards like it was a part of your body. I could name 5 or 6 different exercises I made up for myself to see if I was truly good at the overhand shuffle. I’ll be honest, I sucked at this when I was just rushing through RR. Everything is easy when you just shuffle blocks, but when you run cards, you learn what pressure is necessary, where to pull the card from, and minute details like why your cards don’t look neat when you finish shuffling, or how both your hands should move in relation to each other.
At first glance, this looks like a lot of stuff to do for just ONE sleight, and for all intents and purposes, it should be. BUT, if you’re really trying to not look like a chump when you handle a deck, doing this will build the type of character you need when learning and analyzing the moves to come.
I plan on continuing this writing while I go through the book. Any questions? Comments?
- If you’re a beginner, and you can’t pull the cards off properly, even after studying RR’s description, Card College has a good description of how the left hand should hold the deck (for right hand dominant individuals) but it’s not very good with the right hand. I really think Aaron Fisher teaches the best way to hold the deck, and his pathways video is simply phenomenal.
- From u/amished in the comments With knowing how many shuffles you regularly do when they’re an honest shuffle will help you practice the correct speed for when you want to control a card. If you can’t keep the same tempo for when you’re doing a dishonest shuffle, then a keen observer might realize that something different is happening if all of a sudden you seem to stumble when you’ve been so smooth in all of your other shuffles.
- The point of this practice is to retrain your hands to work in unison with the shuffle. If you can’t control each card with ease, then you can’t expect any of the controls to come naturally. If you’re at 125-175, then you’ve already passed the stage that this practice was meant to bring you to. You should be practicing more with the mental side of the controls (which is what the another part of this series I was thinking about writing) and learning how to engage during the shuffle.