72 Hours Inside the Eye-Popping World of Cardistry

    At present, few Web sites exist that focus exclusively on cardistry. Those that do, and make money, generally lump in magic tricks and playing cards as part of their business models.

    The Bucks’ businesses, and Art of Play card company, are multi-million dollar enterprises, they say, having sold roughly half a million decks of cards since 2008. Want $295 weighted brass blocks fashioned like playing cards to strengthen your hands? Bucks-branded hand lotion “tailored to the gentleman conjuror.” A $144 deck clip fashioned from abalone shell? You can buy those from the Buck twins. There’s Theory 11, which bills itself as the largest producer of premium designer playing cards. It has 76 unique designs on its roster, including design collaborations with filmmaker J.J. Abrams and the non-profit organization Charity: Water.

    “A lot of new doors are opening,” said Huron Low of the Virts, who just released its spring/summer 2015 designer deck called Virtuoso. “Earphone companies and watch companies want to see product placements [in our videos]. And there’s a lot of focus now on cardistry as a lifestyle brand—caps, T-shirts.”

    I asked Low why cardistry felt like a righteous career path for him, and he likened it to a life in music.

    “We always saw it as more of an art form than pure craft or sport,” Low said. “We’re very much into the idea of the process of refinement, the pursuit of mastery, even though we’ll never get there.”

    By Chiara Marinai.

    “Sick!” “Whoa!” “What the!”

    Eventually, these snatches of superlatives become wallpaper at a convention like this. As the weekend wore on, one couldn’t help but get numbed by the sheer moments of astonishment. Each demonstrated move seemed more impossible than the last.

    I struck up a conversation with young Hudson Tarlow, a 13-year-old from Malibu who fell hard for cardistry only six months ago. The kid has made a ton of new friends this weekend, in addition to meeting in person the ones he knew previously from Skype and Facetime chat sessions.

    When I asked where he saw cardistry going in the future, he thought for a moment. Then he replied, with all the optimism a 13-year-old could muster: “Maybe instead of dancers at a concert, you have cardists.”

    About these kids: They flew in from Belgium, Israel, New Zealand, Singapore, Denmark, and all corners of the United States. The 22 invited speakers roomed in a rented seven-bedroom brownstone, where debauchery, sources say, was had, and graduate-level cardistry was philosophized deep into the night.

    Anna DeGuzman

    By Justin Bishop.

    Every registrant was male except one, 16-year-old Anna DeGuzman from Sacramento, who has a sizable YouTube following and is also frighteningly skilled with cards. (Her mom, Tess, bless her heart, splayed on a couch at the convention all three days, and said she only wished she’d brought her prayer books to pass the time.)

    There wasn’t a geek, dweeb, or nerd in the bunch. Everyone seemed easygoing, many initiated conversations, and most came fashionably attired. (That’s another Buck influence—the brothers sold Dan and Dave-brand T-shirts and tweed caps at their merchandise table.) Of the underage attendees with parental chaperones, nearly every one of these children, according to their folks, are straight-A students in school. There must be a correlation between obsessively honing a skill and discipline in other parts of their lives.

    But say cardistry is a passing fad for a portion of these kids. No matter. Many have already acquired a social skill translatable to the rest of their lives that most of them don’t even realize.

    They all possess firm handshakes.

    Kevin Pang is a staff writer for the Chicago Tribune.

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