Math-magic pick a card trick

It's not magic, it's math! Follow these step-by-step instructions and learn how to do the 'pick a card, any card' trick. Master the skill and then amaze your friends with your mind reading abilities.

You will need

  • 15 playing cards.

What to do

Grab a deck of cards and get ready to amaze your friends with this neat trick.

This is a simple card trick for you to play on your friends. And remember, a magician never reveals their secrets, so shhh!

  1. Deal out the 15 cards face up, in three columns of five, dealing one card to each column in turn.
    • Tip: it’s easier to pick up the cards if you overlap them as you go.
  2. Ask one of your friends to pick a card, but not to tell you which one it is. Instead, get them to tell you which of the three columns the card is in.
  3. Pick up one of the columns that your friend did not choose, and make it into a deck.
  4. Then, add the column they did choose to the top of the deck (this is the most important step for your trick to work).
  5. Next, put the third column on top as well.
  6. Deal out three columns of five again, dealing one card to each column in turn. Ask your friend to tell you which column their card is in, and then collect the cards again, making sure you pick up the column they pointed to second.
  7. Deal out the cards a third time and ask your friend to point out the column that their card is in.
  8. Once again, pick up the columns, putting the chosen one second.
  9. Finally, deal out the cards facing down one by one; you can pretend you are getting a vibe from one of them.
  10. The chosen card should be the eighth card in the pile. To perfect your best magicians’ performance, make sure you are keeping count in your head to the eighth card.

What's happening

When the cards are dealt the first time, they make three columns of five. You pick up the chosen column second, so the chosen card is in the middle five cards of the deck.

The second time you deal the cards, the chosen card is in the middle three rows of the three columns. This means when you collect them up again, the chosen card will be in the middle three cards.

The third deal puts those three cards in the middle row of the three columns. So, when your friend picks the column, the card they chose is the third card in that column.

When you pick up that column second, there are seven cards on top of it. So, the chosen card is the eighth card down.


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