You are encircled by a crowd of angry villagers, and the air is thick with anticipation and undisguised hatred. Your gimmicks have been stripped off you and your prepared stack has been torn apart by the mob. In your hands lies a standard deck of cards – no marked cards, no special setups. It’s just you, the crowd, and 52 possibilities.
You can only perform one impromptu card trick to save yourself, fail and you will be burned at stake! What do you choose?
I’d personally go for Back in Time by Jay Sankey! It’s super fun to do, with a cool plot and, if you present it this way, there’s great moment where it looks like you screwed the whole trick up which would be kinda funny if your life depends on the success of the trick!
If you’d like a collection of the best seven impromptu card tricks, including this one explained in detail click the link below…
Now, let’s get into the meat and potatoes of this guide...
In this article, we’ll explore the topic of impromptu magic. Why is it sometimes so hard to perform magic ‘on the spot?’ How can you make sure you’re never caught out again? What makes for the most impactful impromptu effects? And more…
First of all, what are impromptu card tricks?
Want 24 FREE classic magic books, including Royal Road to Card Magic? CLICK HERE
Impromptu simply can be broken down to being able to perform the trick at any given moment, using any given deck of cards.
They’re are some of our personal favourite style of card tricks, because you can perform them at a moments notice without stressing about elaborate set ups or getting gimmicks into exactly the right position.
Before we get deep into impromptu card tricks, let’s talk about how you can make ALL your magic feel impromptu.
(the book we recommend for learning impromptu card tricks is the Royal Road to Card Magic. You can get a free copy using the link above)!
How To Make ALL Your Magic Feel Impromptu
Let’s discuss an incredibly important rule every magician should follow to make their magic feel organic, impromptu and powerful…
What’s the rule?
Never make the spectator feel like you care about the playing cards.
What do we mean by that?
Many (if not all) card tricks work by learning or manipulating the order, identity or arrangement of the cards in the deck (or a single card.)
So the LAST impression we want to be giving our audience is that we’re taking meticulous care over how we or they are handling the cards.
Laypeople are not stupid.
They can tell if you’re worried about the deck being shuffled, or if you’re taking just a little too much care over how you handle the cards.
They might have no idea what the actual method is, but they’ll feel that something is up.
This raises a question:
If you’re performing an effect that requires a set-up, and the spectator asks to shuffle the cards immediately before you begin…what do you do?
We think the rule we outlined above—never make the spectator feel like you care about the playing cards—takes precedence.
There are many ways you COULD handle this situation, but we would probably just let the spectator shuffle the cards and then go on to perform a different effect.
For us, it’s more important to maintain the atmosphere that all the magic they see is organic and impromptu than it is to perform the effect we had planned.
About a month ago we found ourselves performing a close-up magic show in west Idaho…
The set had gone about as well as we could have asked, and we were getting ready for the finale—an effect called ‘Sense’, created by our good friend Ollie Mealing.
Since this effect is a ‘color sense’ routine, we handed the deck to a spectator and asked her to hold them under a chair so we couldn’t see the cards…
As she put her hands under the chair, she fumbled the cards and the entire deck came crashing down to the ground, cards spilling everywhere.
For a moment, we were frozen.
Fortunately, the method for this effect is so versatile and impromptu that we were able to ‘get ready’ in the mere seconds it took to pick the cards up again and hand them back to the spectator.
This is a great example of the rule we outlined before:
Never make the spectator feel like you care about the playing cards!
If the spectator drops the cards or otherwise does something that prevents you from being able to perform the effect you had planned—the best way to respond is to simply switch effect or method and act as if it was ALWAYS the plan to perform it the way you do.
Thanks to the ingenuity of Ollie Mealing’s ideas, we were still able to end our show with a powerful finale.
Now, let’s talk about the icing on the cake…
About 6 months ago, Ollie Mealing told us about a simple system he uses to create incredibly fooling magic that can be performed anytime, anywhere—with ANY deck of cards.
If you don’t know Ollie, here’s what Derren Brown had to say about his work…
“Magnificent. So rare to be fooled and delighted.”
This system is based on one laughably easy principle that pretty much every magician on earth is aware of.
Ollie shared 8 effects with us, all based on this idea, and we were blown away by their quality and deceptiveness.
Not only are they easy enough that you’ll be able to master them in a half hour or so of practice, they’re so cleverly assembled that they’ve fooled some of the best card magicians in the world.
So when Ollie asked us if we’d be interested in producing a project teaching these effects on his behalf—we were instantly on-board.
We dove into the effects, learned them, and then put our own handling and spin on them.
This project was a JOY to put together, and as soon as we started filming we got incredibly excited about sharing it with you.
Before we show you the performance videos, here are a few ‘parameters’ that are true for ALL of the following 8 effects:
- ZERO forces
- 100% impromptu
- The deck can be PROPERLY shuffled before you begin
- ZERO pre-work
- ZERO gimmicks
- Beginner level sleight of hand ONLY
- The deck can be borrowed
Essentially, the perfect criteria for impactful yet easy impromptu card magic.
Well, we’ve talked enough, let’s show you the effects themselves…
Number 8 Pick: The Dark Side
- Very easy to learn and perform (essentially zero sleight of hand required)
- Devilishly clever in its method (once you know the secret you’ll instantly start thinking of other ways to apply it!)
- Fast to perform (a perfect easy opener)
- The card can be revealed however you like (this was just one performance method!)
Number 7 Pick: Secret Agent
- Nearly impossible to ‘reverse engineer’
- Extremely visual (for a trick that requires basic sleight of hand it creates a very powerful memory for the spectator)
- Well motivated and structured (we weren’t sure how to ‘motivate’ the method, but Ollie’s done a fantastic job of scripting it all!)
- Fast and fun (it involves the spectator in a really great way and is extremely enjoyable to perform)
Number 6 Pick: Behind The Curtain
- Features an original move that you could use in SO many other performances to powerful effect
- Can be adapted to other modes of performing (we’ll show you an alternate method in the tutorial video!)
- Can be revealed any way you like (this was just one way of performing it!)
Number 5 Pick: Trapdoor
- Probably the second easiest trick of the bunch (you’ll have it down within a few attempts)
- Fools magicians (Ollie Mealing first showed this to Christian Grace who was fooled by it!)
- Disgustingly simple to do!
Number 4 Pick: Blindspot
- So simple you can start performing it the moment the tutorial video ends
- Uses a powerful method that’s truly ‘hidden in plain view’
- All happens in the spectators hands
Number 3 Pick: ?
- Very fooling (we had NO IDEA how this one worked when Ollie first showed it to us!)
- Can be applied to a TON of other routines (we applied the principle to a stacked deck with very interesting results)
- Everything looks extremely chaotic, messy and unplanned
- Makes you look like an expert card handler (when really you’re doing very basic work!)
Number 2 Pick: ??
- Is performed in a very compact manner that makes reverse engineering the method very difficult
- Requires just one easy move to make it all work
- Very motivated
- The reveal can customised to your situation
Number 1 Pick: ???
- Very workable and powerful (can slot into any routine)
- Uses a very well-known sleight in a way we’ve never seen done before
- Can fool magicians!
Now you’re probably wondering, for a project with this many effects—the price tag must be pretty high.
See, most magic companies price individual effects of this quality at around $10 at LEAST.
That would make the total value of this project $80!
(and that’s not even including the bonuses!)
However, we’re selling it for just $29.95!
P.S. If your annoying nephew calls you out on every trick just drop us an email and we’ll have your money back before you can even start getting mad.
FREE Impromptu Card Trick
I want to show you one of my favourite impromptu card tricks called ‘Airwaves’ by the amazing ‘A Million Card Tricks’ that you can learn immediately below...
Why I like it…
- Borrowed deck.
- 100% impromptu.
- Multiple reveals.
- Good spectator involvement.
- Clean handling.
- Strong visual impact.
- Versatile (the trick can be performed with an incomplete deck).
- Simple execution.
This is a fantastic impromptu effect that I think you’ll have an easy time learning, and a great one performing! As I mentioned, most magic companies price individual effects of this quality at around $10 at LEAST which is why it’s so awesome to find that some of the greatest impromptu magic effects can be found online for free! If you’d like a playlist full of impromptu card tricks CLICK HERE!
Impromptu VS. Non-Impromptu
There are pros and cons to both impromptu and non-impromptu (any trick that can’t be performed on the spot, so gimmicked tricks and those that require set ups fall within the category) tricks, so we thought we would spend a bit of time breaking these ideas down.
So without further ado, here you are:
- Perhaps the most obvious pro is that they can be performed at any time, in any location, using any set of regular playing cards.
- They are often less stressful, as you only have one thing to concentrate on, and that is the trick itself, not the set up.
- They are better ice-breakers or conversation starters if you can borrow someone else’s cards- it gives it a more personal connection and feel.
- They take up less space- you don’t have to carry additional items to assist the trick.
- They often give you a greater feeling of accomplishment, as you’ve achieved an effect using only your two hands.
- They are examinable- you can (most of the time) hand back the cards afterward. You have much less to hide, and can prove that you aren’t using gimmicks, which will usually impress you’re audience more!
- They are often more difficult, as they often require you using a more complicated method for a result that a gimmick could solve in seconds.
- As a result of this, they are often more likely to mess up.
- A lot of impromptu tricks don’t deliver the same ‘WOW’ factor that set up or gimmicked tricks can.
- Gimmicked tricks are most often easier, which leaves you with more time to practice other effects.
- They are often longer, as you need to justify giving yourself enough time to mess around with the deck enough to pull them off.
- Some would argue that gimmicked tricks are better ice-breakers, as they are usually more flashy and immediately impressive.
At the end of the day, however, it just comes down to personal preference. Have a play around; experiment with both impromptu and gimmicked tricks!
Some people prefer the natural style of impromptu, others prefer the eye catching gimmicks, but the only way to develop that taste is to go out there and use both!
Finally, for all you magicians who enjoy a good challenge…
If someone asks to see a magic trick…NEVER say no!
Did you know that nearly 30% of people have never seen magic in person?
(source: 526 people polled in ‘What Do Audiences Really Think?’ by Joshua Jay and The College of New Jersey)
In perhaps the biggest and most unreliable extrapolation of all time…
…that would equal roughly 2 and a half billion people across the world that have yet to watch magic live.
This number is of course just an estimate, but it makes a very powerful point:
As magicians, we have the chance to show something to people that they’ve NEVER seen before.
We’re fortunate because unlike many other professionals, we can demonstrate our craft in the most ‘casual’ of settings—from family events to just over the table at a bar.
(when was the last time you saw a ballerina get up on the bar and give an impromptu rendition of Swan Lake?)
As soon as we had this realizatdion, we set ourselves a simple rule:
Whenever someone asks to see a magic trick…we can’t say no!
We haven’t been perfect at following this rule— but it’s been a game-changer for the amount we perform, and it helps us feel like we’re doing our part to help more people witness quality magic in real life.
This is why we think it’s so important to always be prepared to perform strong magic in any situation.
This is why it’s so important to have powerful impromptu magic as part of your repetoire!
Thanks for reading our Complete Guide to Impromptu Card Tricks! We hope you enjoyed it!
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