Amaze Yourself With This Step-by-Step Card Trick From an Off Broadway Magician

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Helder Guimarães is not interested, he says, in magic that’s “just trying to entertain.” Instead, the 33-year-old magician and Portuguese native — whose previous New York show, 2013’s “Nothing to Hide,” was directed by Neil Patrick Harris and won acclaim for its sophisticated approach to legerdemain — wants magic that “transcends whatever subterfuge is being used to achieve the results.” And that’s what he’s hoping to achieve here, with his instructions for a card trick he’s designed for readers to execute by themselves. 


Photo: Bobby Doherty/New York Magazine

Step 1
Take any 15 cards from a regular deck. Don’t use the jokers. Divide your 15 cards into three piles of five. Place each card facedown.


Photo: Bobby Doherty/New York Magazine

Step 2
Choose one of the piles, keeping the cards facedown, and shuffle them. Place this pile in front of you. This will be your pile.


Memorize the bottom card. Photo: Bobby Doherty/New York Magazine

Step 3
Pick a different pile of five cards and shuffle them, keeping them facedown. Whenever you’d like, stop shuffling and keep the cards facedown in your left hand. With your right hand, lift some cards from the pile in your left hand. (You should now have a few cards in your right hand.) Look at the face of the bottom card of the pile in your right hand. Memorize this card.


Photo: Bobby Doherty/New York Magazine

Step 4
Place the cards in your right hand on top of your pile, the pile in front of you. Shuffle the remaining cards in your left hand, then place them on top of your pile.


Photo: Bobby Doherty/New York Magazine

Step 5
Pick up the last group of five cards and, keeping the cards facedown, shuffle them. When you’re done, place these cards on top of your pile. You should now have one pile of cards.


Photo: Bobby Doherty/New York Magazine

Step 6
Think of a single-digit number between one and nine. You will use this number to shuffle the cards. Pick up all the cards. Take the top card and deal it on the table. That’s No. 1. If one was your number, stop there. If not, deal the next card. That’s No. 2. If your number was two, stop there. If not, deal cards until you’ve reached the number you’ve selected.


Photo: Bobby Doherty/New York Magazine

Step 7
Now that you have dealt the number you were thinking of, drop the remaining cards from your left hand on top of the pile on the table. Think about this: You shuffled the cards. You selected a card, then kept shuffling. Then you thought of a number and used that number to keep shuffling. There is no way I should be able to know where your card is. But I do.


Photo: Bobby Doherty/New York Magazine

Step 8
Pick up the entire pile and deal, facedown, one by one, nine cards onto the table in a pile. You have six cards left in your hand. Turn these cards faceup. I know that your card is not there! So put those six cards aside. You don’t need them anymore. Remember: You shuffled and selected a card. You thought of a number between one and nine. You selected a card and selected a number. How can I, Helder, know your card? Pick up the pile on the table. Start dealing the cards facedown, and as you deal, count out loud until you’ve reached the number you’d thought of earlier. Keep that card in your hand, but don’t turn the card over!


This is your card. Photo: Bobby Doherty/New York Magazine

Step 9
Think again about what has happened, the elements of randomness that I’ve introduced. Now turn the card over. This is your card, found on your number!

Helder Guimarães’s new show Verso opens at New World Stages on September 29.

*This article appears in the September 19, 2016, issue of New York Magazine.