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Review: Roberto Giobbi's Introduction to Card Magic (currently free)

Mar 15, 2018
Roberto Giobbi's Introduction to Card Magic

A superb free resource teaching the fundamentals of card handling

What is it?

Entitled Roberto Giobbi's Introduction to Card Magic, this e-book is available as a downloadable PDF file from Roberto Giobbi's website. It is an actual book, consisting of more than 150 pages of extensive instruction about the basics. But it does take advantage of technology, by including occasional embedded links that take you to videos which demonstrate the techniques taught in the written text and accompanying photos.

The book came about because Giobbi was at one time asked to make an introductory course for newcomers to card magic. As part of that, he created this e-book in 2012. It was previously selling for €9.95, but Giobbi has just revised and updated the entire book, and for a limited time is making it available for free, in order to promote the art of card magic.

In terms of the content, it teaches all the fundamentals of card handling, such as shuffles, cuts, and much more, as well as some elementary basics about card magic, including half a dozen solid self-working card tricks.


Why should you get it?

Everyone who uses playing cards should read this book. So right from the start, let me tell you some reasons why you should download this and get this book right now. Even if you never do card magic, this is a book that will help improve your card handling skills enormously. So if you own and use a deck of cards, you should read this book, and here is why:

It is not just for magicians. Even though "card magic" is part of the title, and the book does have some magic related content, it is just as much about all the basics of how to handle and use playing cards properly.

It is useful for anyone who handles a deck of cards. Because most of the material isn't about magic sleights, but covers general handling techniques and use of playing cards, it is relevant equally to card gamers and card collectors. Everyone should know how to shuffle and handle a deck neatly and properly, and more.

It will help fix all your bad habits. This book will teach you the right way to do things you've probably been doing wrong for years. Do you really need to be taught how to shuffle and handle playing cards? If you're like me, you've probably got a lot of bad habits that need correcting.

It will make your card handling more elegant, economical, and visually pleasing. Giobbi is passionate about the art of using cards, and taking on board his teaching will really make a big visual difference to the aesthetic look of all your shuffles and much more.

It is expert instruction. Roberto Giobbio is passionate about magic and card handling being a real art that needs to look aesthetically pleasing. He knows what he's talking about, and the direction he gives in this book is reliable, respected, and proven.

It is based on one of the all-time best books on card magic. Much of the material has been condensed and taken from the first volume of Giobbi's Card College 1. That volume of course has a ton of more content, but nonetheless what you have here is proven and time-tested information that you would otherwise find only in a popular published book.

It is vastly superior to the average card handling instruction found online. Many people learn their card handling skills from family or friends, or from tutorials on youtube. Unfortunately, much of this instruction lacks the basics of proper technique and presentation. This book stands head and shoulders above the usual mediocre instruction typically found on the internet.

It is well illustrated. It can be difficult to learn card handling techniques purely by relying on a written description. The good news is that this book has ample illustrations and tons of photos. These do a great job of illustrating exactly how you should hold the cards, and perform the various moves that are taught.

It includes video clips. Throughout the book there are links to youtube videos made by Giobbi that show the move or shuffle that you're learning. So as you're reading, you can click on a link, and get directed straight to a short video clip corresponding to the text.

It is well organized. It covers everything over the course of 14 Lessons, with very clear topics and headings. Everything is presented in a very systematic and well structured manner. This helps us learn the material in a logical way, progress through the content in a proper fashion, and easily find important sections that we want to review or focus on.

It is a miniature course. This book originated as an actual magic course of 14 lessons that Roberto created for youth learning card magic, and each chapter has clearly stated learning goals and objectives. By working your way through this book carefully, you will systematically learn a variety of different skills relating to the use of playing cards. You can progress through it at your own pace, and by the end you'll be an accomplished card handler.

It covers a wide range of topics. We're not talking here about a small e-book, but a detailed book with over 150 pages. It has chapters about the history of playing cards, different types of decks and what to look for, and instruction about basic shuffle and cuts, plus simple flourishes like the ribbon spread and riffle. It also covers ways to elegantly turn over the top card, deal cards, square a deck, and much more. There's even practical sections dealing with topics like proper hand care.

It will increase your enjoyment of playing cards enormously. There's material here about the history of playing cards, and everything you can think about in terms of how to use them. If you already love playing cards, you will only love them even more after working through the content of Giobbi's book.

Mar 15, 2018
It is written by Roberto Giobbi. Mr Giobbi is a highly respected writer and teacher, and the author of the famous Card College series, which is considered the Bible of card magic fundamentals, and is the most widely translated series of books in the history of magic.

It it is intelligent and articulate. Unlike a lot of instructors you'll readily find online, Mr Giobbi doesn't have a limited vocabulary learned from the street. He's a well trained academic that has trod the halls of universities and lecture theaters, and it shows in what he writes. He's fluent in multiple languages, and brings an intelligent and informed perspective, with well-chosen words and thoughtful prose.

It is highly commended. A former president (2013-2014) of the International Brotherhood of Magicians, Bill Evans, says that this book "will save you years of wandering about developing bad habits and then spending even more time getting rid of them." He calls it a "masterpiece of beginning card magic." In his expert opinion, "It is the best beginning instructional course in card magic that I have ever seen!" If high praise like that doesn't convince you, nothing will!

It is intended to be a real help to enthusiasts. Roberto Giobbi recognizes that many people are already enthusiastic about using playing cards, and perhaps even passionate about card magic. But often they lack good instruction in basic fundamentals. Out of a real love for the craft, he genuinely wants to help people get off to a good start, and build from a solid foundation.

It is especially useful for magicians. Of course if you are interested in any way in card magic, then you have all the more reason to get this book. More than anyone, the magician needs to know how to handle playing cards properly. And the sections that do cover magic will be of special interest to you. I've been interested in doing magic as a hobbyist for 30 years, and yet I still learned a lot by working carefully through this book.

It will teach you 6 great card tricks. You don't have to be a magician to learn some card tricks, because everyone should at least know one or two great simple card tricks. These are basically self-working tricks, and despite how easy they are to learn and perform, they can pack a real punch.

It is a great stepping stone. Once you've progressed through this entire book and mastered its content, you are well set to take the next step into card magic, if you wish. At this point you will be an accomplished handler of cards first of all, which is the main aim of the book. But with this material under your belt, you are well positioned to move forward into learning sleight of hand magic - with Roberto's own Card College books and videos being the ideal place to turn to next.

It is in PDF format. This means it can be conveniently and easily read on virtually any desktop or mobile device, including when you're on the road. Besides being fully searchable, all the chapters and topics have been hyperlinked, making it easy to navigate to various parts of the document in an instant.

It is free.

Did I mention yet that he's made this available for free? This is a quality resource that deserves to have a price tag attached to it, and yet the revised and updated 2019 edition is genuinely available completely free of charge (for now). You can give Mr Giobbi a donation in appreciation if you wish (which is encouraged), and if you like the book or find it useful in any way, I do suggest you head to the "Donate" link on page 154, which you can use to give a small "thank you" contribution via PayPal. But you can download, read, and keep this e-book at no cost. Roberto genuinely wants to help people get a good foundation in their techniques in using playing cards, and that's why he's made this book available.


What topics are covered?

Here's an overview of all 14 lessons that are included in the revised 2019 edition. This updated version reorganizes some of the content from the original 2012 version, so the chapters are numbered slightly differently, and it has had the benefit of a general overhaul and polish. The table of contents will give you a good idea of the material contained in the book:

Lesson 1: Tools and Instruments
Lesson 2: Getting Acquainted With Your Instrument
Lesson 3: Your First Techniques: Basic Shuffles
Lesson 4: Your First Card Trick: "The Mystery of the Triangle"
Lesson 5: Ordinary Cuts
Lesson 6: A Small Card Miracle: "The Cards Knew"
Lesson 7: More Auxiliary Sleights & Review
Lesson 8: A Few Simple Flourishes
Lesson 9: Audience Management: "The Open Prediction"
Lesson 10: Creating a Program
Lesson 11: Techniques Without Sleights
Lesson 12: Three More Tricks
Lesson 13: The History of Playing Cards & Some Famous Card Conjurors
Lesson 14: Your Next Step


What card handling skills are taught?

First of all you'll learn various grips to hold a deck of cards correctly, including the standard dealing position (mechanics grip), straddle grip, elevated dealing position, end grip (biddle grip), and a couple of ways to neatly and elegantly square a deck. Various methods of dealing cards are covered, such as the draw method, stud method (ideal for dealing face-up cards), and sail dealing, which involves spinning cards as you toss them to players on the table.

The two main ways of shuffling cards are taught, starting with the overhand shuffle. Several ways of riffle shuffling are also covered, including ways to do this on the table, in your hands, which can be concluded with the visually pleasing waterfall flourish. Cutting a deck is important to do after shuffling, and you'll learn various ways to do this, both in your hands and on the table, as well as some my personal favourite methods, like the swing cut, swivel cut, and one-handed charlier cut.

Knowing how to dribble cards from hand to hand or to the table is a very pretty move that is included as well. You'll also learn how to neatly spread cards between your hands, including a tidy way to outjog and remove selected cards from a spread. Then there's the ribbon spread, which is an elegant way to show all the cards of a deck across the table in a single sweeping motion. Some small flourishes are also covered, like the riffle, and some very neat ways to turn over the top card in a deck.

Some elementary techniques that are the basis of sleight of hand magic are also covered, such as using an injog shuffle to control the top or bottom stock of a deck, and using a thumb break or little finger break. There's also some instruction about false shuffles and false cuts. But these techniques aren't the focus of the book, and those who aren't interested in performing card magic can easily ignore the few sections that deals with this. The book is more focused on foundational handling techniques, which are relevant for anyone using a deck of cards.


What other topics are covered?

I especially enjoyed Roberto's suggestion for developing what he calls a "practice kata", which is a very practical way of practicing procedures and techniques. Effectively this is a multi-phase practice ritual, that includes a planned number of techniques performed with a deck in sequence, and done multiple times. For example, a very simple "Cut Kata" he suggests involves starting with the deck in dealing position, performing a simple straight cut in the hands, then cutting it to the table, squaring it on the table, then cutting it on the table, cutting it back to the hands, squaring it in the hands, and concluding by doing a swing cut in the hands and and all-round square-up. The concept of katas originates with martial arts, where several techniques are strung together. Giobbi has been employing this technique for practicing card handling and magic for more than 20 years. Linking techniques and practicing them in this way is a method that will be familiar to cardists, and I have adopted it for myself, and found it to be a very practical and excellent way of enjoying and polishing my moves.

I also really enjoyed the chapter that deals with background of playing cards, which covers some of the history of playing cards generally and of card magic. The various aspects of a deck of playing cards is covered in detail in other chapters, including things like the different sizes of playing cards, their finish, their design, and even how to properly open and use a tuck box, and the benefits of using a close-up pad as a surface on which to doing your card moves. Detailed attention is also given to your hands, and how these affect your card handling, as well as how to properly take care of your skin and hands, especially if you have dry or moist skin.

Mar 15, 2018
What other content will interest magicians?

While the focus of the techniques that are taught will apply to anyone handling a deck of cards, there is some content that will especially be of relevance to magicians. Specifically this includes the sections that cover how to get a break, and how to perform false shuffles, false cuts, and glimpses.

In the course of his teaching, Giobbi also has a lot of practical wisdom to share on things like how to make procedures that would otherwise be boring (e.g. counting cards) interesting. His advice about how to approach your learning of magic is also excellent. There's also some terrific content about managing your audience, selecting spectators, and dealing with hecklers, that any performer will find very useful. The chapter about how to create a program of several magic effects strung together is also very valuable, and covers important issues like knowing the difference between trick and effect, and considering important questions like program structure and plot.

The end of each lesson in the book concludes with a "Golden Rule" of magic. The idea of providing such guidelines to help students of magic has a long history in magic, and Giobbi has followed this tradition by formulating 13 key thoughts to help you elevate your magic, with the benefit his own experience over several decades as a performing professional.


What card tricks are included?

Of course there are also some card tricks included, and six different ones are taught in the course of the book. These also help you put into practice some of the card handling techniques you learn. These are all self-working style of tricks, so even beginners can learn and perform them easily. Giobbi also includes some great tips for how to present them so that they are interesting and entertaining.

If you wish, you can even do three of these together as a small routine, and the book also covers the importance of having variety of effects, and how to string together different tricks. There is good variety among the ones that are included, such as effects of coincidence, precognition, prediction, production, and a demonstration of memory. A couple of these are classics of magic, such as the "spectator cuts to the Aces" routine of Belchou Aces, and this book is worth getting for this trick alone! Here's the complete list:

The Mystery of the Triangle: A spectator chooses a card which happens to be a Three. Therefore another three cards are freely selected from the shuffled deck and arranged around the previously chosen card in a triangle formation, creating a Triangle of Mystery. When the other three cards are turned over, they are seen to be the other Threes!

The Cards Know: After someone has scrupulously shuffled the deck, the performer divides it into several small piles, four of which the helper freely selects by laying the four Aces onto them. It turns out that a number obtained from the cards in the four chosen piles corresponds exactly and without fail to the number of cards in the remaining piles.

The Open Prediction: A spectator thoroughly shuffles and cuts a deck of cards. Before anything else is done, the performer writes the name of a card on a piece of paper, so that all may see it – this is an `open prediction'. A second spectator deals the cards face up on the table in a pile, but in the process leaves one single card face down. The predicted card doesn’t turn up. It is seen to be the only card that the spectator had left face down during the dealing process!

Belchou Aces: The shuffled deck is cut by the spectator into four about equal packets and the top card of each packet turned face up. Cards are dealt according to the values of these cards, but in spite of the haphazard nature of the procedure, the four Aces are revealed!

Lucky Cards: In a surprising process of finding their own lucky card, two spectators manage to mysteriously locate the performer’s lucky card, which he had predicted!

A Phenomenal Memory: A chosen card is shuffled back into the deck, which is then ribbon spreads face up on the table. The performer stares at the card spread for fifteen seconds, pretending to memorize them, after which he turns away. The spectator then moves the chosen card from its location in the spread to another part of the spread. The performer turns back, looks at the cards again, divines what card was selected and pulls it out of the spread. An amazing demonstration of memory.

Mar 15, 2018
Where can you get it?

To get this revised and updated 2019 version of the book, simply head directly to Giobbi's own website. After going through the order process, you'll get a download link via email, so the process is hassle free.

Find it here: Introduction to Card Magic (2019 revised version)

As mentioned already, the differences between the 2012 and 2019 editions are not substantial, and are primarily about cosmetic polishing and reorganizing some things. But it is worth noting that the older version was previously sold for €9.95, so Roberto Giobbi is being very generous in making this new version available for free, at least for now. So my advice is to grab it from his website while you can.

And if you are impressed by the e-book and find it helpful, consider supporting Giobbi in some way, either via the "Donate" button on page 154, or by picking up some of his other products. He does have a range of video downloads and other books available on in his webstore. I also suggest checking out the free downloads section of his website, where he has some great articles about various aspects of magic that can also be downloaded for free in PDF format.


Where should you go after this book?

Giobbi also covers this topic at the very end of this book. It is indeed a perfect stepping stone towards intermediate card magic, and some of his own books are the ideal places to go to next.

Card College Light trilogy

For more card tricks, the first place to go is Giobbi's series of three books entitled Card College Light, Lighter, and Lightest. Armed with your new skills in card handling, you are ready to take the tricks of these books and start practicing and performing them almost instantly. Much like the half a dozen tricks covered in the e-book, the card tricks taught in this trilogy of books are basically self-working, with no sleight of hand skills required. Of course the techniques you have learned in shuffling and cutting will be important for some of these, and no magic works completely automatically. But they are relatively easy to learn, with each book containing around 20 gems that Giobbi has carefully curated. I can think of no better place for someone to begin learning card magic, because with these books you get straight into performing some very powerful material. The tricks included are so good that some of them are used by many professional performers on a regular basis.

Card College books

If you're ready to take a serious crack at learning the techniques and sleights of card magic, there is no better place to go than Giobbi's Card College series, which consists of five volumes. Volume 1 & 2 belong together, and cover all the basics of sleight of hand magic. Volumes 3 & 4 also go together, and cover more advanced material. Volume 5 completes the series with more tricks, although the first four volumes also include tricks that put the techniques into practice. This series can rightly be considered a Bible of card magic, and its credibility is confirmed by the fact that it has been translated into multiple languages - in fact the most languages ever for a serious work on magic.

Card College videos

For further video-based instruction, there are two options to be aware of:
a) Card College 1 & 2: The Complete Course is a video course based on the first two books in Giobbi's Card College series, and was created to be a complete course in intermediate card magic. It consists of 23 lessons that cover all the fundamentals of card magic, and is available directly from Giobbi's website as a digital download. Each lesson costs €5 each, or you can get all of them as a package for a discounted price of €49.95. With around 8 hours of running time, I've personally found it to be fantastic. I also love the fact that each lesson includes one or two tricks, so you're not just learning the techniques, but immediately getting to put them into practice with some great card magic as well. You can download the first lesson on Fundamental Techniques for free here. This video lesson runs for over 30 minutes, and covers a lot of similar content to the e-book, so I highly recommend picking that up as well, and watching it in tandem with your study of the e-book.
b) Card Magic Masterclass is a more advanced video course. This is effectively a sequel to the more elementary Card College 1 & 2 video course, and is geared towards those who already have sound working knowledge of card magic. This was released only recently, and corresponds to much of the material from the rest of the Card College books.

The Card College Light trilogy is very accessible for just about anyone, despite the fact that it teaches some very strong card tricks. I would only recommend the Card College books and videos to serious students of card magic. The Card College 1 & 2: The Complete Course video would especially be the ideal next step for anyone who has read through and mastered this Introduction to Card Magic e-book and wants to continue their journey.



Perhaps there is one final question that you're wondering about: why am I taking the trouble to write this review of Roberto Giobbi's Introduction to Card Magic? Simply because like Mr Giobbi, I'm passionate about playing cards and about card magic. And besides, I love to write about my passions, and to help others. I deeply appreciate Giobbi's many contributions to the art of magic, especially the high calibre of his written work. I only wish that I'd the benefit of finding this great material at the beginning of my own journey into playing cards and card magic. And now as a result of his generosity, and because of his love for the art, we have a terrific opportunity to learn from someone who is among the best of the best. More people need to know about this great opportunity and this wonderful resource, and I'm happy to step up to try to spread the word about it.

All this makes it obvious that I'm very impressed with this e-book, and recommend it most positively and enthusiastically. Unlike a lot of other teaching that passes for instruction these days, this is something that is truly reliable, artistic, and sound, and worthy of careful reading and study. You are almost certain to gain a great deal from reading through this entire book, and it's hard to believe that Mr Giobbi is making this available to us free of charge. Despite all his many contributions to the world of magic, he's not a multi-millionaire, but is simply doing this out of his love for the art, and to help others, and for that he deserves our enthusiastic support and applause. And if you do benefit from this resource as I have, then like me, please tell others about it, or consider sending him a donation of thanks, or perhaps purchase some of his other videos or books directly from him. I know that he is appreciative of all the support he gets - and he deserves it. Thank you Mr Giobbi!


Related links:
Roberto Giobbi: Official website and official webshop
Free e-book: Roberto Giobbi's Introduction to Card Magic (2019) - the book covered in this review
Free video: Fundamental Techniques - Lesson 1 of Card College 1 & 2: The Complete Course
Other books: Card College Light Trilogy, Card College Volumes 1-5
Other videos: Card College 1 & 2: The Complete Course, Card Magic Masterclass

Mar 15, 2018
Update: This book was only free for a limited time, and the revised 2019 version is now selling for €6.95. That is still very cheap, considering the excellent content, and that the 2012 version was selling for €9.95.

Even for €6.95, I highly recommend it, especially for people looking to start out with card magic, develop their card handling skills, and get going with some self-working card tricks.

Where to get it:
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