Created By: PaulA on February 2, 2011 Last Edited By: PaulA on March 14, 2011
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Pick A Card

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One of the stock magic tricks.

At its simplest, the magician invites an audience member to "pick a card, any card" out of a deck of cards, and memorize which card it is. The card is then placed back in the deck, which is shuffled, then the magician picks out a card, displays it, and says "Is this your card?"

It's rarely done now without some extra decoration, like the card appearing to leap out of the deck of its own accord, or disappear from the deck and appear in the audience member's pocket, or the correct card number and suit being written in an envelope that was sealed before the trick started.

In fiction, the bare-bones version is a favourite of amateurs trying to impress somebody -- and they almost always fail to get the right card at the end. The would-be magician may be shown flagrantly sneaking a look at the card before putting it back in the deck (which doesn't always prevent him from subsequently identifying the wrong card at the end anyway).

Either way, the amateur clearly has never learned the real trick to this trick (which, as with Saw a Woman in Half, is well enough known that fictional depictions may feel free to discuss it). The clever part is not where it appears to be: it's not that the magician has a secret way of detecting which card the mark has selected, it's that the magician has already decided which card to reveal at the end, and has a secret way of making sure the mark picks the right card.

Examples

  • Seen It a Million Times
  • Penn & Teller have done several deliberately over-the-top variations, such as the one where the number and suit of the card are revealed to be printed on Teller's eyeballs. They also, as habitual lampshaders of the fraudulent nature of stage magic, have a favorite card to make their marks randomly select, the three of clubs.
    • In one of their books they claimed to have contacted every pizza restaurant in the country so that you could order a "P&T Special", which was a pizza with the three of clubs made of pepperoni on it so you could pull the "was this your card switcheroo" thing on your friends. "Was this your card? No? Oh well, I'm only learning. Let's order pizza." pizza comes, friend opens it to discover their card on the pizza
  • In the Midsomer Murders episode "Ghosts of Christmas Past", a boy who wants to be a magician when he grows up does an actually-quite-clever version of the trick while being interviewed by the police about the murder, and his explanation of how he did it (including the fact that he arranged matters to have his own choice of card come up at the end) inspires a Eureka Moment later.
  • The Ring. When Rachel first goes to the Shelter Mountain Inn the manager does this routine with her. The first couple of times she tells him it isn't her card. The last time she tells him that it is her card just to get him to leave her alone.
  • Sir Bagby: When Sir Bagby comes to rescue the magician Snerk from a dungeon, Snerk shuffles a deck of cards and invites Sir Bagby to pick one. Sir Bagby picks a card, looks to see what it is -- it's Go to jail. Miss 1 turn.
  • On Friends Joey is laughably bad at this. He believes he's flipping the card towards himself to check its identity faster than the human eye can follow, and of course it's obvious to everyone how he's "tricking" them.
  • The Adventures of Dr McNinja: The Great Flying Shooting Juan.
  • On Garfield and Friends, Jon tries to do the trick with Garfield, but fails. After taking out every card in the deck, Jon gives up and asks Garfield what his card was. Garfield pulls out the card with the instructions for Pinocle.

Rolling Updates
Community Feedback Replies: 7
  • February 2, 2011
    Arivne
    Film
    • The Ring. When Rachel first goes to the Shelter Mountain Inn the manager does this routine with her. The first couple of times she tells him it isn't her card. The last time she tells him that it is her card just to get him to leave her alone.
  • February 2, 2011
    randomsurfer
    Penn and Teller are quite fond of the three of clubs for this trick. And in one of their books they claimed to have contacted every pizza restaurant in the country so that you could order a "P&T Special,", which was a pizza with the three of clubs made of pepperoni on it so you could pull the "was this your card switcheroo" thing on your friends. "Was this your card? No? Oh well, I'm only learning. Let's order pizza." pizza comes, friend opens it to discover their card on the pizza
  • February 11, 2011
    NateTheGreat
    On Friends Joey is laughably bad at this. He believes he's flipping the card towards himself to check its identity faster than the human eye can follow, and of course it's obvious to everyone how he's "tricking" them.
  • February 12, 2011
    Worldmaker
    The "secret way" is called the Magician's Force, and it basically involves having the mark pick the card that the magician wants him to pick. The most basic form of this trick includes a special shuffling technique that allows the magician to keep that card on the top (or bottom) of the deck regardless of how the deck is subsequently shuffled, so that the magician can then show the top card (or bottom card). In other variations, since the magician knows before the trick even begins which card the mark will pick, he can set things up like an envelope containing a copy of the card, or the aforementioned pizza trick with Penn and Teller.
  • February 12, 2011
    MetaFour
  • February 12, 2011
    TonyG
    On Garfield And Friends, Jon tries to do the trick with Garfield, but fails. After taking out every card in the deck, Jon gives up and asks Garfield what his card was. Garfield pulls out the card with the instructions for Pinocle.
  • March 14, 2011
    INUH
    The Big Bang Theory features an episode in which Howard demonstrates such a card trick that Sheldon spends the episode trying to figure out. He's actually faking it to mess with Sheldon.

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