Svengali Deck – The History Behind the Trick

What is a Svengali Deck?

A Svengali Deck is a trick deck of cards. Half of the cards are the same size as a regular deck of cards; the other half, however, are a touch shorter than standard size. These shorter cards all contain the same number and suit on them. This difference allows the user to manipulate the deck of cards without the need of perfecting the “sleight of hand” technique.

Hundreds of tricks are possible with this one deck of “magical” cards. But how did this deck of trick cards get such a strange name and exactly who invented this particular style of trick deck are questions where the truth of the answers are somewhat mysterious themselves…

Svengali Defined

The term Svengali is defined as “a person who manipulates or exerts excessive control over another.” Now, how does that relate to a deck of card tricks? Well, Svengali was a character from a 19th century novel that was a magician. How do we jump from a fictitious 19th century character to a modern deck of trick cards is a bit of a mystery. The name of the deck is as mysterious as the true identity of the inventor of this sleight of hand prop.

Who invented the Svengali Deck?

The Svengali deck came to be during a time when magical tricks and gadgets were not protected by patents or copyrights. For this reason it is with a certain amount of uncertainty that Burling Hull is credited with inventing the Svengali Deck of Cards. He had the Svengali Deck patented in 1909 and they have been a standard part of “beginner kits” for magicians of all ages since that time. Hull is credited with many magical effects including this one that continues to be used today. Wikipedia has an extensive biography on Burling Hull and his numerous accomplishments in the field of entertainment.

How to Use a Svengali Deck

So you want to play with this strange deck of trick cards someone has given you, or you picked up in a novelty store. Great! What’s first!? The deck has to be put together properly for it to work successfully. When stacking your deck of cards be sure that you alternate between one standard size card and a shorter one. Once this is done you are ready to fool your audience.

You can shuffle, dribble or riffle your deck of cards giving the impression that you are using an ordinary deck. They one thing you can’t do with this deck is allowing your audience to inspect it. In every other way, however, it will appear that you have a normal deck of cards with which to amaze your friends with tricks of sleight of hand and magic!

One of the most basic and easiest tricks to try with the Svengali Deck is the ambitious card trick. After having an audience member pick any “random” card, they place it back into the deck anywhere they choose. After placing it somewhere in the middle of the deck you, being the magician that you are, magically move their chosen card to the top of the deck. Voila! Your friends and family members, or maybe that first date you are trying to impress are stunned with your advanced magical skills!

Searching the Internet will provide you will hundreds of magic tricks to be mastered using the Svengali deck of cards. Have fun with your Svengali Deck. Experiment and create your own tricks to keep your audience guessing, and remember…

A magician NEVER gives away his secrets!

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