Card throwing is the art of throwing standard playing cards. First popularized in the West among stage magicians, the art of throwing cards was called "scaling". In 1997, a segment on "MTV News:Unfiltered", featuring Jon W and the Fellas from Denver, Pennsylvania, introduced card throwing to a new generation. As of 2008, the world record for card throwing is held by Rick Smith, Jr. whose longest recorded throw reached 216 feet at 92 miles an hour.

In October 2005, Chris Linn successfully broke the Guinness World Record for the "most one fingered playing card scales in one minute". To break the record, Linn had to hold a deck of playing cards in one hand and use his thumb to propel ("scale") the cards from the deck a minimum distance of 12 feet. Linn was able to successfully scale 114 playing cards in one minute, beating the previous record of 104 playing cards set by magician Jeff McBride. The record breaking attempt took place at Cedar Point Amusement Park in Sandusky, Ohio.


Card throwing finds origins in Western stage magic and in Eastern martial arts legends and cinema. Eastern martial artists refined the technique of throwing light objects until they could toss them with deadly speed and accuracy, though most of these depictions are wildly exaggerated.

Western card throwing techniques as they are passed among performers today are attributed to stage magicians in the late 19th Century. The exact origins of "flying card" tricks are unknown, but Alexander Herrmann is widely attributed with first including card throwing in a major act. Thurston and Herrmann used cards heavier than today's standard playing cards.

Many magicians commissioned specially printed cards, known as throwing cards, throwouts, scaling cards or souvenir cards to use for these purposes. Generally, such cards featured the image and name of the magician, and often featured optical illusions, mystical images, and text and graphics from other advertisers.

The impressive speed that magicians could throw the cards gave rise to a myth that a card can kill or seriously injure someone if thrown correctly by a person with enough force. However, this myth was tested on the Discovery Channel program "MythBusters", and subsequently debunked. A playing card lacks enough mass to transfer sufficient energy to its target on impact, and even when accelerated mechanically by a powerful electric motor to over 150 mph, it was barely capable of inflicting a paper cut.


There are many different ways of gripping cards, but all of them involve flicking the wrist. Once a person is comfortable with the wrist, he or she can add some arm and body movement into the throw.

The Jay throwing technique

The Jay technique, as taught in Ricky Jay's book "Cards as Weapons" (1977) involves gripping the middle of the card horizontally between the thumb and the middle finger, while the index finger rests on the corner of the card nearest the hand and away from the body.

The wrist is cocked inward at a 90 degree angle, then flicked briskly outward, propelling the card. For distance and power, the technique adds motion of the forearm bending at the elbow straight outwards from a 90 degree angle simultaneous to the flicking motion of the wrist.

The Thurston grip

Howard Thurston, a performing magician, was one of the first performers to introduce card throwing in Western stage acts. In the Thurston grip, the card to be thrown is gripped between the first and second fingers, usually of the left hand.


There are other ways to throw a card, a more popular one involves putting one's pinky finger on the bottom of the card, and ring finger and middle finger on the top of the card. The index and middle fingers go at the far end of the card horizontally, and the thumb rests on the near side. Then, push down with the middle finger, though not to the point at which it bends up, the middle finger should act as one end of a seesaw, with the thumb being the opposite end, and the index finger as the center. Once in this position, flip the card with your wrist so that the opposite side is facing up. This is uncomfortable for most. To now throw it, pull your thumb in rapidly, so it slips off the card, and at the same time, pull your index and middle fingers in rapidly toward your palm. While doing both these things, have the hand with the card up near your head, and move it down in a "C" shape going away from you. At the end of the C, release your thumb. The card should spin, and after practice fly rapidly forward.

One more method involves putting one's thumb on top of the bottom left hand corner of the card, and one's index and middle finger on opposite sides of the top right hand corner of the card. The thrower should push his thumb down and out from the card, and would twirl his index and middle fingers, spinning the card, and propelling it forward. This is one of the most powerful techniques.

One other mildly popular technique is to grip the full deck of cards in the left hand, looping the left hand index finger around the upper-right corner of the top card, and then propelling the top card off of the deck with the right hand. This causes the card to gain large amounts of side spin, which propels them farther.


* "Cards as Weapons", by Ricky Jay.
* "MythBusters" (TV Show), on the [ Discovery Channel]

External links

* [ How to throw playing cards]
* [ Card Throwing Technique]
* [ Museum of Throwing Cards and Related Memorabilia]
* [ Thurston Throw-Out Cards]
* [ Poker Pro Chris Ferguson demonstrates card throwing]

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