How to Set Up a Deck of Cards to Tell a Story

By Matt Scheer

Magic tricks fool the eye in order to wow the brain. Card tricks especially take advantage of visual hoodwinking to dazzle an audience. Telling a story with cards is a great way to combine audience participation, engagement, and visual cues into one entertaining package. The cards you pull from the deck describe a character or event in the story. Performers can show off their card skills, story telling abilities, and creativity through these kinds of tricks. The better you practice story telling with cards, the more dazzled your audience and the more complex you can make the story.

Make up a story that has characters corresponding to the face cards of the deck. For example, the kings could represent male characters, queens could represent female characters, and jacks could represent unusual or wild characters, even characters named Jack.

Come up with a plot that you can show through numbers. For example, two men could walk into a bar at 10pm. You can show this by revealing two kings and then a ten card when you perform the trick for an audience.

Arrange the cards in the deck in the order they appear in the story. For example, if your story is about three women taking a trip on the sixth of month to Studio 54, place the three queens on top of the deck, then a six, followed by a five and a four. Continue this pattern all the way through the story. The entire deck does not have to be used. Start with a shorter story that doesn't use all fifty-two cards.

Practice false deck cutting. Deck cutting is crucial in story telling with decks. If you do not cut your deck, your audience assumes you've prearranged the deck to suit the story, which indeed you have. But the fun is when you cut the deck before the audience's eyes and you still pull out the right card for the story to make sense. Start a false deck cut by holding the deck in your palm. Grip the side of the deck with your fingers so the deck does not actually rest on your palm.

Take cards from the bottom of the deck with your other hand, as though you were actually cutting the deck but from the bottom rather than the top.

Hold the stack of bottom cards in your other hand. Move to place this bottom section on top of the original deck as though you were really cutting the deck, but do not lay the bottom section on the top. Instead, turn the bottom section 90 degrees in orientation to the original deck.

While still holding the bottom section at a 90-degree orientation to the original deck, with the same hand grip another section of the original deck from the top and pull it off the original deck. Spin your hand gripping these two new sections 90 degrees to the original. Now your bottom section is in line with your original section, and the last section you just made is 90 degrees to the other two.

Lift the original section of cards over the two new sections, as though you were putting the bottom section back underneath the deck. Place the bottom section you originally cut back underneath the deck. Take the last section you cut and place back on top. This whole process has led to the illusion that you've cut the deck, when in fact you just lifted two sections away from the original deck and placed them back where they were.

Practice false deck cutting until you can do it without an audience realizing you are. Practice telling the story you made up with the arranged cards until you're good enough to false cut a deck and tell a story at the same time.

About the Author

Matt Scheer began writing professionally in 2005. His work has appeared in "The Daily Texan" and "The New York Tribune." Scheer holds a B.A. in English and a B.A. in history, both from the University of Texas. He is also a certified Yoga teacher and Web designer.