Foolproof card trick your kids will love

Here's a great self-working card trick to teach your kids. If they are old enough to spell, they will love performing it for their friends. I learned about the trick, which was invented by magician Jim Steinmeyer, on Greg Ross's Futility Closet blog.

Remove any nine cards from an ordinary deck, shuffle them, and deal them face down into three piles. Choose any pile and note its bottom card. Then assemble the three piles into one, being sure to place the chosen pile on top.

Suppose the card you chose is the three of spades. Spell T-H-R-E-E, dealing one card face down onto the table with each letter. Place the remaining cards on top of these five and take up the whole packet. Now spell O-F, and again place the remaining cards on top of these two. Then spell S-P-A-D-E-S and place the remaining cards on top.

Now pick up the packet and spell M-A-G-I-C, dealing the final card face up. It’s the three of spades.

It boggles my mind that Mr. Steinmeyer could invent such a trick! He is the author of a number of books about magic and magic tricks. Of particular interest is his Impuzzibilities series of "Strangely Self-Working Conjuring" books. This is where the above trick first appeared.


  1. 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.

    1. 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…

      1. 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!

          1.  Um no, “Uno AS” is confusing and doesnt “flow” it draws attention to itself as well as being easily misunderstood for bad spanish.

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

      1. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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).


    1.  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.

  6. 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!

  7. 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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