Thursday Night Roundtable - The Side Steal

Nov 29, 2008
One of the most direct methods for controlling or palming, the side steal is an extremely versatile move. But of course, because of its many applications, it must have inherent flaws. The sound and naturalness of the move are constantly being fine tuned to perfect a move that should be done casually and with subtlety.

It has seen many variations, and was notable enough for Marlo to write an entire chapter of Revolutionary card technique on it. And if anyone here says they don't know the side steal, I will be quite perturbed.

So let's begin our discussion of the misdirection and finer points of the Side Steal.
Jun 1, 2009
Ahh the side steal, once perfected it can be so useful. I work on it from time to time, so its decent at best for me.
Using well slicked cards and a loose grip seems to work the best for me.
The sound is hard to get over, you have to get it out far enough where it wont click, but at the same time not just pull it out where the specators can see it.
Thats all I got right now, I would love to hear other opinions!

Your boy,
Jul 14, 2008
Side Steal is very hard to master and I am still working on it. With misdirection, side steal can be easily accomplished once you put a lot of practise.
are we talking about a side steal into full palm or a side steal onto the top of the pack like marlo's direct side steal for example? Or both?

I just recently began really working on the direct side steal. Up until a couple months ago i only did a side steal into full palm. After watching james brown use the side steal (full palm) as a control to great avail on his dvd "still fancy a pot of jam" a year or two ago i started using it as a control and did it quite a bit. I started analyzing it and realized that i was making this big swooping waving motion with my hand with no apparant motivation. So unless i said "and now i wave my hand", which only makes sense in the context of very few tricks, i had this unnatural motion.

Now, using the side steal into full palm for the purpose of actually palming the card is great. I don't use it a whole lot unless immediately moving my hand to my pocket or wherever im tranporting the palmed card to. I do think that controlling the card to the top and palming the card (via vernon's "topping the pack") is a little more soft and natural looking, at least in my hands.

As far as a direct side steal is concerned, that is what i am working on now. Its a great control of one card when you don't want to move any other cards. I have paul cummins "side steal declassified" which is all about the direct side steal. Im not completely confident with it yet but its comming along.

So, anything you want to talk about concerning the side steal specifically?
Nov 29, 2008
I think simple misdirectino can be used to cover the side steal. Pointing and looking up is all you need, and squaring the cards is enough motivation as long as you have worked on your steal enough so it is decently fast. Pointing with the palmed card in hand and then replacing as the hands come together to spread the cards is pretty effective, its what one of my associates at work uses.

As far as sound, it is importnat ot make sure the card completely clears the pack and is in the same plane as the deck at all times to prevent any corners from clicking off. This takes a bit of practice to get smooth. This is valid for both the side steal to palm and the direct side steal.

Concerning the direct side steal Mr. Ection, I think doing it from a dribble and holding a break is the best. A dribble looks very fair, it provides extra motivation for the squaring action because dribbling is the way to make the cards as unsquare as possible, which wil also provide you a little extra time. Using the left fingers to push the card out of the deck as much as they can along the way helps. I use Marlo's Bold Steal, which is the simplest version of the direct steal and is also the version taught by John Carney in his on demand video about the side steal.
Sep 2, 2007
I tend to delay the side-steal by side-jogging the card as it's inserted, and talking for a bit holding the deck in a casual overhand grip. Then the side-steal can be executed very quickly in the action of transferring the deck to the other hand.
Sep 1, 2007
I must confess that I avoided the side steal for many years, playing with it every now and again for the fun of it. Finally, I decided to take it seriously as it was the best choice of control for a routine I was working on, and found two resources very helpful indeed:

Wesley James' "Enchantments" book contains a very good description of his variation of the Marlo Bold Steal, with some excellent advice on the necessary grips and so on. The other one is an instant download from Mike Close on palming, which again was a great resource.

To echo what has already been mentioned, the important thing is to block the steal well, so that the actions are well covered and natural to execute. I experimented with the dribble before the side steal, but it didn't feel quite right, so I opted for a spread instead. I spread the cards, and have the spectator touch any card they like. Leaving this as the top card of the left hand's packet, I show them the card and then close the spread on top; I find that the recipricol action of closing the spread one way whilst pushing the card out the other way works very nicely, and the need to square the spread is still very much present, which makes the stealing actions well-motivated. If you present this sequence to your leftmost audience member there is no need to misdirect either, however I usually address some kind of a remark ("Are you happy with your card or would you like another one?") as I close the spread, getting eye contact as I execute the steal.

The side steal is now pretty much my control of choice; its fast and very energy efficient. It does take a long time to get comfortable with the move though - I would definitely recommend it as a long term project because it really is a valuable weapon in the arsenal.
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