What is Cardistry? Cardistry can best be described as "the performance art of card flourishing", and it's what happens when you manipulate a deck of playing cards to create a visually pleasing display by cuts, pivots, spins, twirls, and other moves. If you're new to cardistry, check out this great freestyle cardistry demonstration by Andrei Jikh (link), and this amazing Fontaine Fam video (link). While there is a long history of card flourishes having a close connection with card magic, over the last decade cardistry has really developed into its own independent art-form, and is now riding a growing wave of popularity that is completely separate from magic altogether. There is some cross-over, but the only real thing that cardistry and magic have in common is the tool of choice: a deck of playing cards. But even that is changing, because recent years have seen a growing number of custom decks being produced purely for cardistry, with attention to visual designs and colours that look great in fans or cuts. Many of these new decks are altogether unsuitable for card magic or card games, but really do help bring card flourishing to the next level. Our digital age means that cardists around the world can easily share videos, and this has really helped cardistry grow and evolve rapidly. New moves and ideas are constantly emerging, and there's a large number of exciting talent that shares their skills and teaches their moves online on youtube and instagram. The cardist community is vibrant and active, and in recent years an international cardistry convention has quickly become an annual and important event on the cardistry calendar. The support of big names like magicians Dan & Dave Buck has contributed to its growing success, and it typically is a meeting point for the world's best cardists and the world's best cardistry decks. So how can you get started in cardistry, and where should a newbie begin? This article aims to help get the complete novice going on a journey into this exciting new world, with some tips and suggestions. Your Deck 1. Use a quality deck that handles well. Any worker needs good tools to get the job done, and the same is true with cardistry. You will see lots of videos with flashy decks, and we'll get to talking about those in a moment. But the most important thing you need is a quality deck that handles well. You can always improve the looks later, but as a beginner, what's most important is good handling. Don't use an inferior knock-off deck from a dollar store, because the cards won't slide smoothly and consistently, and it will only cause frustration and disappointment. The next points on this list will help you identify what kind of deck you should get. 2. Use an embossed (air cushion) deck. Cheap doesn't always mean bad, because you can buy quality decks at a relatively low price. But you want to avoid cheap and nasty decks that are touristy souvenirs, or budget items from a dollar store or corner shop. Playing cards are made out of paper, and what you want is paper that has embossing. This means that it has tiny bumps with little air pockets between them, which will make your cards flow smoothly and evenly over each other - essential. Playing cards with a completely smooth finish won't fan or spread evenly, and their handling will be very inconsistent. Most quality playing cards will be embossed with an air cushion style finish. 3. Use a Poker sized deck. A lot of souvenir decks are bridge sized, and these are also the type of cards many people will have in their home. But they're called bridge sized cards for a reason. It's because they have been optimized for the traditional card game of bridge, which requires players to hold a hand of 13 cards. As a result, bridge cards are narrower than Poker sized cards. While you can do cardistry with bridge sized cards, it is much better to do card flourishes with wider Poker sized cards. These larger width cards will handle more consistently and allow you to do things that you simply can't do with bridge sized cards. 4. Use a Bicycle deck. The best place for a beginner to start is with a standard Bicycle rider-back deck produced by the United States Playing Card Company (USPCC). Alternatively get a Tally Ho Fan back deck, which is also produced by USPCC, handles exactly the same, and is a top choice for many cardists. These decks meet all the above criteria, and will handle just beautifully, without breaking the bank. The only real difference between these decks and the fancier higher end cardistry decks is the artwork on the cards, more exotic tuck boxes, and sometimes the brand name. But there's no need for you to start learning with a higher end expensive deck that only differs in looks. If you are just looking to explore card flourishing, almost any Bicycle deck will do just fine. Even many experienced cardists will save their expensive decks for special occasions, and practice with a Bicycle or Tally Ho deck. A standard Bicycle rider-back deck will typically only cost a few bucks, and handles just as well as any customized deck designed purely for cardistry. 6. Use a newer deck. You don't need to have a brand new deck to do cardistry. In fact some cardistry moves (e.g. cuts) will actually be slightly easier that a deck that has been worn in slightly, and where the cards aren't too slippery. But you should avoid using a deck that is completely worn, because an old, tattered, and miserable looking deck is just going to make your life as a cardist a whole lot harder. The cards won't handle consistently, and instead of sliding over each other smoothly and evenly, they'll catch or clump together. Do expect your cards to wear out over time, and that's the reason many cardists buy decks in "bricks" (a dozen at a time). For cuts and combos you'll usually want something a little more worn, but newer decks will make things like faro shuffles and fans easier and more even. 6. Look after your deck. There's no point in throwing money away by being especially hard on a deck. Some basic rules about deck care will go a long way to ensuring that your playing cards go the distance. Some important tips include the following: Make sure you have clean and dry hands. Practice over a soft surface like carpet rather than over cement or the outdoors, which will cause cards to get bent and dirty. Avoid moisture and humidity, and don't leave your deck lying in the sun. Bend the cards both ways, and if they get warped put them under some heavy books or in a card clip. 7. Optional: Use a cardistry deck: Certainly you can buy specialized decks of playing cards that particularly lend themselves well to cardistry. One of the most well-known cardistry decks is the Virtuoso deck, which was the first deck created specifically for cardistry, and has come out in several versions. Decks like these have a visual design that automatically makes some of your basic moves look amazing. This can make the whole cardistry experience more enjoyable, and will help motivate you to stretch yourself and try new moves.