Mark Frauenfelder is the founder of Boing Boing and the editor-in-chief of MAKE and Cool Tools. Twitter: @frauenfelder. His new book is Maker Dad: Lunch Box Guitars, Antigravity Jars, and 22 Other Incredibly Cool Father-Daughter DIY Projects


21 Responses to “Foolproof card trick your kids will love”

  1. cubby96 says:

    Neat.  I just did the math, and this will always work for three-word sequences of word length [3-9 letters], [2 letters], [5-9 letters].  The ordering of the actions will always put the chosen card in the 5th position.

  2. Why it works:

    At the start, the magic card is third in your nine card stack.  First, you spell out the rank using three (“TWO”,”SIX”,”TEN”,”ACE”), four (“FOUR”,”FIVE”,”NINE”,”JACK”,”KING”) or five (“THREE”,”SEVEN”,”EIGHT”,”QUEEN”) cards to do so, so the magic card is now on the table.  Since you dealt out the cards one by one, the order of the dealt cards has been reversed, so the magic card is now third closest to the bottom of the dealt cards. When you restack the dealt cards into your nine card stack, that makes the magic card seventh in the stack. 

    For example lets assume the nine card stack is initially 7♣ 6♥ 2♣ A♠ 6♦ K♠ 6♣ 8♠ Q♣, so the magic card is 2♣.  So when you spell “TWO” you’ve got 2♣ 6♥ 7♣ in a stack on the table and A♠ 6♦ K♠ 6♣ 8♠ Q♣ left in the stack on your hand, so after you restack them, you’ve got A♠ 6♦ K♠ 6♣ 8♠ Q♣ 2♣ 6♥ 7♣ in the stack on your hand.

    Next, you spell “OF”, which always takes the top two cards, switches their position, and sticks them at the bottom.  Neither of them is the magic card, so this just moves the magic card from seventh to fifth.

    Continuing the previous example, after dealing out the A♠ for “O” and 6♦ for “F”, we’ve got K♠ 6♣ 8♠ Q♣ 2♣ 6♥ 7♣ in our hand and 6♦ A♠ on the table, which we restack to get K♠ 6♣ 8♠ Q♣ 2♣ 6♥ 7♣ 6♦ A♠, leaving the magic card, 2♣ , in fifth.

    Now we spell out the suits.  “CLUBS” is the shortest with five letters, “DIAMONDS” the longest with eight, “SPADES” and “HEARTS” both have six. But since all are at least five letters long, we’re assured that our magic card will be dealt to the table.  And since it was fifth closest to the top before it was dealt, it will now be fifth closest to the bottom of the table stack. Once we combine what remains in our hand with the table stack, it will still be fifth from the bottom, which is the same as fifth from the top since we have nine cards total.

    Continuing the previous example again, we deal out K♠ for “C”, 6♣ for “L”, 8♠ for “U”, Q♣ for “B”, and 2♣ for “S”, leaving 6♥ 7♣ 6♦ A♠ in our hand and 2♣ Q♣ 8♠ 6♣ K♠ on the table.  Once we restack, we have 6♥ 7♣ 6♦ A♠ 2♣ Q♣ 8♠ 6♣ K♠ in our hand with the magic card, , 2♣ , in fifth.

    Lastly, we spell out “MAGIC”, revealing the “C” card. A showy way to get to the fifth card in the deck… which is exactly where the magic card is! Presto, matho, the trick is done.

  3. Nawel says:

    I have to try if this works in spanish.

    • I could tell you if you tell me what the names of the ranks and suits are in spanish, how you say “[Rank] of [Suit]“.

    • Logolepsy says:

      The problem with Spanish (and French for that matter) is that the “Ace” is called “As” which has two letters only. We need three or more letters at the beginning of the trick…

      • Damian Barajas says:

        I gave it a shot in spanish, everything works fine except for the ace, just like Logolepsy said. You can of course play with the words to get that three card count at the beggining, all you have to do is count: “Un-A-S”, thats spanish for  “one ace” and the trick works again!

  4. TheOven says:

    I’ve always spelled TWO with an O.

    • Mark_Frauenfelder says:

      Yeah, I heard that when I was almost done editing it. I didn’t want to start all over. Sorry!

      • TheOven says:

        I keep forgetting that people on the other end of these posts are people. That have the power to reply.

        *I* am sorry. It’s a great trick.

  5. JasonM says:

    I think I have it figured out… I wanted to translate it into Indonesian should work in any language with the following rules
    .
    The numbers have to be 3 or more letters (and less than 9).
    “O-F” has to be 2 letters (this moves the magic card to the middle 5th position)
    Suits have to be 5 or more letters (does nothing to the magic card position)
    MAGIC has to be 5 letters.

  6. Mister44 says:

    Hella cool trick. I’m going to try it out on  my little girl soon.

  7. Panpan says:

    It works in French or Spanish if you either remove the aces from the deck beforehand or find an excuse to restart the trick if an ace is chosen.

  8. Andrew Hartsell says:

    As cool as *I* thought this trick was when I saw that it worked with any card, my daughter was more impressed that I could have *her* pick the pile and look at the card (without my seeing it), then spell out T-I-M-E T-O L-E-A-R-N M-A-G-I-C and reveal her card (sight unseen).

    *shrug*

    • rrh says:

       Interesting. The counting out the name of the card is supposed to impress us with how the numbers will be change depending on the card, but there’s also the instinctive belief that of course it will be harder if you don’t know which card it is.

  9. noggin says:

    Just had a spooky experience. I picked up a deck of cards and followed the written directions above. I chose the King of Diamonds but near the end I realised I hadn’t followed the instructions correctly. I carried on anyway and turned over the final card which was… THE THREE OF SPADES!

  10. A very beautiful trick!
    It would work in Italian also (OF => DI, MAGIC->MAGIA) except for the King, that would be “RE” … too short.
    I will try with “UN RE” (a king) as in the very good spanish suggestion above.
    Thanks for sharing!

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