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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Deck the Halls » » Pictorial Review: Virtuoso - 1. Introducing the group, their deck, and their art-form (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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This review is part of a three part series of pictorial reviews about the Virtuoso deck of playing cards:
Virtuoso - 1. Introducing the group, their deck, and their art-form
Virtuoso - 2. The world's first ever deck created just for cardistry
Virtuoso - 3. The evolution of the world's best cardistry deck


Not only is this deck a world first, but I think this review features a first for me as a reviewer - it's the first time I've embedded a few short carefully-selected video clips in my review. That's because some of the things I'm going to tell you about need to be seen to be believed. Like the things that can be done with the cards I'm reviewing today.

Now we all know what a standard 52 card deck of playing cards is for right? The obvious answer is: to play traditional card games like Bridge, Hearts, Spades, and Euchre. Or perhaps some more modern games. But actually there's a whole lot more you can do with a deck of cards besides playing card games. Check my list here for some good ideas: Alternative Uses for a Deck of Playing Cards

Among others, here are some of the possibilities you'll find there:
- cardistry
- magic tricks
- house of cards
- constructed polyhedrons
- artwork
- bookmarks
- card throwing
- bike noise-maker
- costumes


Now you probably recognized most items on that list. Magic? Entertaining. Card throwing? Sounds fun. Artwork? Great idea! But wait ... "Cardistry"? What is that? Have you even heard of "cardistry" before? Before getting into the special Virtuoso cardistry deck of playing cards that I'm reviewing, let me explain what cardistry is all about!

To whet your appetite, check this video of cardistry highlights, which already has a couple of hundred thousand views due to its popularity:


Cardistry is "the performance art of card flourishing". And yes, it's a real thing, and it even has a Wikipedia page on the subject here.

When card tricks became popular in the 19th century, magicians would often do simple card flourishes as a way of demonstrating their skills, to entertain, or to otherwise enhance a magic performance. But cardistry itself is not magic. Certainly many magicians are also very good at cardistry and flourishes, simply because using cards is part of their job, and so they like to play with them in new and interesting ways. But true cardistry doesn't involve any magical manipulation, but is simply a display of skill. So cardistry needs to be carefully distinguished from magic. As a sign at an international cardistry convention made clear: "The first rule of Cardistry Con is: You do not talk about magic. The second rule of Cardistry Con is: You do not talk about magic."

The word "cardistry" is a combination of the words "card" and "artistry". So it's an activity that is about sheer skill and manual dexterity, in which a performer tries to create a beautiful display through the movement of individual playing cards or an entire deck. Cardistry takes an ordinary object that we're all familiar with - a deck of playing cards - and turns it into an art-form. And why art? Because it lends itself to creativity, and it forces you to widen your usual perspective on a deck of cards, and do things with it that you previously have never even thought of, and things that you previously didn't consider were even possible. A WIRED article calls it "card juggling". So it's like juggling, but with playing cards. Zach Mueller, who is a big name in this relatively new art-form, describes it as "kinda like yoyo tricks with cards." Cardistry is about doing things like fanning and cutting cards in a creative way and with a high level of skill, thereby turning it into a performance art. Instead of doing ordinary cuts and shuffles, expert cardists are able to do one-handed cuts, complicated shuffles, turnovers, tosses, and catches, in a way that is a beauty to watch.

Cardistry moves typically have unusual names that reflect their creator, origin, or appearance. There's Kevin Ho's "Flurf", "Off the Hook", and "Racoon", Joey Burton's "Skater Cut", Huron Low's "Firefly" and "Flicker", Daren Yeow's "Rev 2 Twirl", Bone Ho's "Anaconda" and "Tornado Deck Split", Oliver Sogard's "Friffle", Dan Buck's "Vertigo", and many more. Chris Kenner's two-handed "Sybil Cut" flourish, which uses five packets of cards, is a good example of a popular flourish that is the most well-known and recognized move among cardists, and is a common starting challenge that newbies try to take on. But from there, there are all kinds of advanced maneuvers to learn. For a two minute video by WIRED that introduces cardistry, see here.


In the last few years, cardistry has enjoyed a huge boom. What was formerly described as "card flourishing", and considered to be an activity used as a filler in a magic performance, has now become its own separate art form. The kinds of moves that are done have advanced significantly in complexity. And yet anyone can give it a try, because the ingredients are simple: as long as you have a good deck of cards, you're ready to go, you can do it anywhere, and you're limited only by your imagination, creativity, and manual dexterity. But you can also buy decks of playing cards that particularly lend themselves well to cardistry, and that's what this review is about. The Virtuoso deck shown here is the world's first deck of playing cards specifically designed for cardistry, and has a real visual appeal when fanned and flourished. Since cardistry is all about creating a visual impact, creating a playing cards that have carefully designed aesthetic qualities to maximize this appeal makes obvious sense. Since its aim is to create visual appeal through the movement of playing cards, it's a brilliant concept to have a deck with aesthetics that will visually accent every card flourish, from spins, to cuts, to pivots, to fans.

As testimony of how big this new art-form is growing, you will find many performance videos and cardistry tutorials on the internet. There are even international gatherings of top performers. Over the last few years, a Cardistry Con was organized as an international convention for cardistry enthusiasts - see the official videos here. The next event is planned for July this year in Los Angeles. Some of the big name attendees have included Dave & Dan Buck (creators of the biggest selling instructional DVDs on the subject, and a huge influence on the art), Zach Mueller (his collaboration video by Kuma Film has over two million views: see Hypnotic Cardistry Kid and also California Cardistry), and the Virtuoso team. Social media and sites like youtube and instagram have really helped popularize and advance the art, because cardists can share their new moves and tutorials and videos with other enthusiasts around the world.

So as a performance art, the art of cardistry has really grown and developed over the years. And at the front lines of this development, is Virtuoso.



Many popular magicians are well known for their ability with cardistry, including big names in the world of card magic like Lee Asher, Lennart Green, and Paul Harris. But in the world of cardistry, one of the biggest and most well-known names is Virtuoso, commonly referred to as "The Virts". Virtuoso, or "The Virts", is a team from Singapore that has now grown to seven in number. Huron Low and Kevin Ho are the co-founders; also on the team are Daren Yeow, Joshua Tan, and Jeremy Tan; more recently two team members, Joyce Lee and Roland Lim, were added as they expanded. When they started together in 2005, Huron and Kevin were just doing cardistry as a hobby, and in 2009 they formed "The Virts" as a group.

These guys are good. Really good. So good that one of their three person cardistry videos from 2012 went viral, attracting the attention of the Discovery Channel, which went on to feature them in a clip here. Entitled "Test Room", the original video now has over half a million views. Today, their youtube channel thevirts has almost 90,000 subscribers. Around the time of the 2015 Cardistry Con, Discovery Channel followed them around and made a 25 minute documentary on the art of cardistry and The Virts in particular - that video can be viewed here. There's also a great 5 minute interview with the team here, which gives some insights into how they got from their humble beginnings to where they are today. Here's the original short feature on The Virts from Discovery Channel:

Their videos alone have inspired many to take up cardistry. But Virtuoso's success also inspired the team to embark on their own venture, by creating a deck of cards designed exclusively for cardistry. And so in 2012 they turned pro, and embarked on a quest to produce a special deck of cards that would please card flourishers around the world. It was quite a risk, since the playing card market was already well established, and geared mainly towards magicians and card collectors. Would it really be feasible to create the first and only deck designed for the art of card flourishing? Was there really a market for this kind of niche-like deck? The typical trend in recent years has been to create decks that add exotic features like gold foil and ink, whereas the Virtuoso deck was stripped down of all such bling, and was deliberately designed to be much more minimalist. Yet the response to the first Virtuoso deck was overwhelming, even beyond what Virtuoso had ever imagined. What's more, the Virtuoso deck has played a big role in advancing the art of cardistry much further than 2012, where it was still somewhat in its infancy, and not yet even known as "cardistry". A big factor in this growth has been the Virtuoso deck. Card flourishers speak very highly of it, and newcomers to the art are finding themselves inspired by its eye-catching design, and so the cardistry community is steadily growing as the word gets out.

So what makes Virtuoso unique is not only their mad skills at cardistry, but also the company they have created, the first in the world to focus exclusively on cardistry, and to produce a produce a deck of playing cards designed purely for card flourishing. It's grown from their own love for the art, and remarkably there has been enough demand for them to turn it into a successful business. As one of the team says, with a sense of ongoing gratitude and amazement, "I shuffle cards for a living."



The Virtuoso Spring/Summer 2016 deck, commonly referred to as the Virtuoso SS2016, is the company's current deck of playing cards.


So what's so special with this history-making deck? Well it's the first in the world designed especially for the purpose of cardistry. That means that the Virtuoso company has given full attention to two main things in particular: aesthetic beauty, and handling/performance for cardistry. But this deck has a whole lot more benefits besides those two, and in my next review, I'll explain just what it is about this deck that makes it so appealing and attractive, and what is unique about the amazing Virtuoso deck.


I've had a lot of fun learning about cardistry in the process of reviewing the Virtuoso deck. The Virts have already inspired many people to take up a new hobby with their cardistry videos. Now with the creation of their own deck, they've inspired even more people to explore and develop this new art-form. With a proven track-record that reflects success and improvement for several years running, they are definitely the leader in this field. And because this is a company birthed from people passionate about the art and who are skilled performers themselves, we can be confident that these guys know what is needed in a good cardistry deck. More on that in my next article, where I run through just what is so good about the Virtuoso deck.


For more information about the SS16 Virtuoso deck featured in this review, and to be notified when the next version releases, visit Virtuoso's official website.

The Virts -


BoardGameGeek reviewer EndersGame - click here to see all my pictorial reviews: => Magic Reviews <==> Playing Card Reviews <==> Board Game Reviews <==
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