You approach a group of people and after a brief lesson in how facial micro-expressions can give indications of what a person is thinking, you suggest a demonstration.
You point to a deck of cards and ask the spectator to take them out of the box, give them a shuffle if they want; and then pick one of the cards. This is a genuinely free choice – they could be looking at any of the 52 cards in the deck.
You ask them to shout the suit of the card in their head – over and over again e.g.: “Diamonds, Diamonds, Diamonds, Diamonds”. Using the same technique you discussed earlier, you are able to correctly pick up on the suit being thought of.
You then repeat the process with the value of the card – the person is asked to scream the value inside their head e.g.: Seven, Seven, Seven – and yet again you are able to pick up on the number allowing you confirm they were thinking of the “Seven of Diamonds”.
At the heart of Micro, Expression Cards is a simple but effective deception
– and although the method is totally different, it is dressed in the same language and principles used in the more complex Throat Reader. It is therefore my warm-up effect of choice – it’s reliable, entertaining, gets gasps of astonishment, and leads perfectly into what I like to think of as “the real deal” – truly propless mind-reading.
The Basic Secret
The secret is astonishingly simple, but it is disguised in a phenomenally sophisticated manner. Rather than tell you, it is easier to show you with pictures…
You ask the person to pick up the cards. They shuffle them.
Then they fan them.
They select a card from the fan and raise it up so they can focus on the face.
Seems fair right? Look a bit closer… This is a marked deck. Even though the spectator had a totally free choice of card, and even though there is no way you could see the face – the moment the selection has been made, you know what the card is.
That is the mechanics out of the way. What really elevates Micro Expression Cards from simple magic tricks to a demonstration of psychological reading is the way you describe the mind-reading process.
The presentation provided is so convincing and so engaging that your audience will never suspect that you are using trickery. What you are about to read is tried, tested, and proven effective – so just by learning a few lines, you’ll be able to perform this convincingly almost straight away.
Buying or Making a Marked Deck
Buy a Pre-Marked Deck
You can buy marked decks pretty cheaply. If you simply search for “marked playing cards” on eBay or Google you’ll see various styles starting very cheaply. At the time of writing, I can see marked decks on eBay for $3.85 including postage in the USA.
I use Bicycle brand playing cards for my hard work – and since this isn’t the only effect with cards that I do, I want all my decks to look the same. That way, I can easily swap regular decks for gimmicked decks without anyone noticing.
If you want a marked Bicycle deck then expect to pay a little more. Bicycle cards with the basic markings you need can be had from around
$10 from eBay, otherwise you can pay up to $25 for a deck with markings and a couple of other features.
It makes sense to buy your marked deck locally so you don’t have to contend with international shipping. If you are having difficulty or want more specific advice, feel free to shoot me an email telling me which country you are in and I’ll make a suggestion.
Make Your Own Marked Deck
The more economical option, especially if you want a marked Bicycle deck as shown here, is to do the markings yourself. It’s really easy to do and the results really are 99% as professional as one of the pre-printed decks.
So we can read the markings regardless of which way around the cards is, we are going to mark the card in two places on opposite corners. The blue rectangles show the areas of interest.
This area of the card has two sections we are going to mark – a “flower” and a crescent of triangles.
We will fill in certain petals of the flower to represent the value of the card i.e. Ace – King; and fill in certain triangles to denote the suit.
You can use a red Sharpie brand pen to do the coloring. It is almost an exact color match. Otherwise, you will need to find a pen that matches your cards.
Marking the Suit
There are four suits: Spades, Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds – one of the first four triangles is colored in for each suit.
Counting from the left, the first triangle is filled in for Spades; the second is filled in for Hearts; the third is filled in for Clubs, and the fourth is filled in for diamonds. Since there are only four suits, the fifth and final triangle is never used.
Marking the Value
There are thirteen card values: Ace, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, Jack, Queen, King. Because there are more card values than there are petals, we need to be a bit more creative. The end result is still super-easy to use.
If the card is an Ace, then you don’t mark anything on the flower at all. Just leave it as it is.
If the card is a 2, mark the top petal. If the card is a 3 mark the next petal in the clockwise direction. You keep marking petals like this for the numbers all the way up to 9.
If a card is a 10, mark the center circle on the flower.
If the card is a Jack, mark the center circle and the top petal.
If the card is a Queen, mark the center circle and the top-right petal.
If the card is a King, mark the center circle and the right-hand pedal.
That is the marking system complete. Just be sure to use a pen that is a good match for your cards and take your time as you do it. You can use the Joker card to test the color match without risking damage to a ‘proper’ card.
Finally, don’t forget to do the opposite corner!
Won’t People See the Markings?
I guess I should elaborate. First of all, magicians use marked cards all the time. Night after night, show after show – marked decks are flying right under the noses of spectators.
The markings described above are subtle. I’ve used decks with much more obvious markings and even had spectators look for the markings on the cards and not notice them! The truth of the matter is that even when spectators know that it is a “trick” – they are too caught up in the moment for the thought of marked decks to even occur to them.
With Micro Expression Cards – the majority of your audience won’t even think that what they are watching is a trick. Microexpressions are real! We read each other’s micro-expressions every day – it is perfectly logical for you to be a bit better than the average person at it since it is a skill you have nurtured.
You just need to ensure that your script is top-notch. You want your explanation about micro-expressions to be so convincing that they stop looking for answers and simply revel in the experience of having their mind read.
“But Mikey – I’m paranoid, I really think people will think the deck is marked, what should I do?” – Well the answer is to swap the deck in before the trick and swap it out afterward. Do another card effect and show people that the deck isn’t marked. Do a trick, then put the cards back in your pocket, and then when it comes to doing Micro Expression Cards – bring out the marked deck. When the trick is over – put them back in your pocket and if anyone asks to see, show the unmarked one.
Really though – I’d say don’t bother with any of that. Get on and enjoy yourself – with this presentation – “marked decks” will be the last thing on your spectator’s mind!
(You are talking casually in a group and you steer the conversation on to the topic of body language. Exactly what you say will depend on the situation, but you might notice that someone is sat with their arms folded indicating they are being “defensive” or maybe someone is sat twirling their hair suggesting they are being “flirtatious”. The more natural you can make the conversation the better…)
You: I’ve been working on a lot of body language stuff recently – but it gets so complicated, and there is this sort of cross-over point where body language ends and subconscious movement starts.
Like, have you ever noticed that when you are concentrating hard you find you talk to yourself? I don’t mean that you’re going mad, just that things subconsciously slip out if you are totally focused. Like if you are looking for a small town on a big map – your eyes will be scanning looking for it – and totally undeliberately, you’ll be saying the name of the town to yourself under your breathe.
Am I the only one?
(At this stage you will normally get some interaction from the group you are performing to. Just go with it – keep it fun and light-hearted and establish the principle that there is a link between being focused on something and subconscious action.)
You: Thing is, you’ll find that when you are really focused on one particular thing, even if your jaw doesn’t move, and no sound is made – our muscles often twitch in a really similar way to how they would if we were saying the thing we are concentrating on out loud.
What I’m trying to do is master the ability to pick up on those movements. In the psychology literature, they call them “micro-expressions” and some people can pull out some really detailed information with them. It’s basically the perfect tool for mind-reading – as all the information is there providing you know where to look – and of course, if you can get people to concentrate properly.
So for instance, most people make broadly the same movements with their throat, lips, and tongue when they say certain words. Like the word “Top” – there is that sharp sound at the beginning when the person’s tongue strikes the back of their teeth – and it’s impossible to say a “P” without closing your mouth in a sort of mini-pout!
But then you can also look at the eyes – most people know about NLP eye accessing cues, but you can also look at pupil dilation. I was reading something recently about how recalling happy memories make your pupils grow bigger, whereas stressful memories make them tighten up. I guess a lot of it is evolutionary…
(Pointing at someone who looks really interested in what you’ve said, say…)
You: Here, be my Guiney pig – let’s try something. Grab those cards and take them out of the box. Give them a bit of a mix if you want, I don’t want you to think I’ve got them in some order.
(Wherever possible I try to have my cards out already. They could be just sitting in the middle of the table. Otherwise, just hand the cards to the spectator – when they’ve shuffled, hold out your hand and they will give you the shuffled deck…)
You: Before we start – although I said that everyone says things the same way and therefore have the same micro-expressions – that’s not totally accurate, because there is still a bit of variation as a result of our age, accent, life experience, and so on. So we need to do a spot of calibration...
If we just do the main sound groups – can you think of a plosive word for me? Don’t tell me what it is – but something where you have to totally stop the air. Something with a “P” or a “B” maybe. Just imagine it and shout it inside your head.
(It’s good now to try and bring other members of the group in. It is still going to be you doing the mind-reading – but if you create an atmosphere as if you are all doing it together, almost as if you are teaching them – then you keep everyone engaged and ensure they are totally taken in by the presentation. So with this in mind, say…)
You: You lot can help me here… Can anyone see how it works with her? There you see? See how the muscle just under the chin tenses as she imagines the plosive noise. And the lip, just the tiniest bit of quiver. It's good, her plosives seem clear which is good for Clubs and Spades, but the softer sounds, especially in Hearts can be trickier.
(As I say the above, I emphasize the plosive B and P in Clubs and Spades to just make it clear to everyone the relevance of this calibration. Returning to the spectator you ask…
Sometimes you’ll find people really do move all their muscles, so you can be pointing at real movements. Other times they will be pretty still. This isn’t a problem, the whole process is so fast, and if you are pointing your finger around their face – it’s all over too fast to be brought into question.)
You: Can you think of a soft word for me. Something with an extended vowel – either an A or an E - actually. “Year” is a good word, but anything like that – just say it again and again. Really, REALLY focus on saying it.
Now look, do you see how her jaw wants to drop, you see the throat expanding there. And then the top lip, just that tiny movement – like an “R”. I’m guessing that was “Year” that you thought of?
(90% of the time, the spectator will take your suggestion to think of “Year” and so you will be correct. If you are wrong, act surprised as if you are learning something about her unique manner of articulation and find out what the word was – then try to point out some connection between the word and “year” that makes them easily confusable. Now it’s time to start the card portion of the effect. Talking about the cards say…)
You: Now, I want to keep these at arm’s length, I don’t’ know the order and I don’t want to see what you’re looking at.
(You fan the cards, with the faces of the cards pointing away from you and towards the spectator. I sort of half look away as I do this just to subconsciously make the point that I can’t see the faces. I generally find it best if the rest of the people watching also don’t see the card at this point
– it keeps them onside with you as you collectively look for micro-expressions to reveal the card.)
You: Decide on one of the cards. Don’t go for your favorite; just settle on one that you see. Change your mind a few times if you want, but when you’ve decided – pull the card up a couple of centimeters from the fan – you need to be able to clearly see the face so you can visualize it clearly.
(You want this process to be quite quick really – but you also want to drive home the point that the spectator has a genuinely free choice from a shuffled deck. The need to be able to properly look at the face acts as the justification to pull it up (exposing the marking to you), but be ready to lift it a little higher if the spectator doesn’t live it enough.)
You: Now, I need to you concentrate and focus as your life depends on it. Don’t say anything and try not to move.
First I want you to blow the image of the card right up in your mind. Imagine in big bright vivid colors as if it is totally encompassing your field of vision. It’s so big and it’s so bright that it’s almost overwhelming you.
And now keep doing that – but also shout the suit of the card. Really shout it – again and again – and again…
THERE!!! That’s what I was looking for – I knew there wasn’t a strong plosive in there, but the tongue flick for the D in diamonds gave it away. Did everyone else see that?
Now I just want you to think of the value of the card. First just whether it is a high card – by that I mean a picture card – or is it a low card like Ace through Ten? Just shout “high” or “low” in your head – try not to move, but we’re going to try and pick up on it.
(Optionally, now is a great time to further include someone else who is watching. Ask them what they think, stand with your head right beside them so you are both getting the same view. Say..)
You: So think about the letters and sounds in “high” and “low” and look for the movement. And with words like these, the eyes can give you a clue. If we vividly imagine height, our pupils will close a little – height is dangerous and needs focus I guess. What do you reckon…
(Get an answer from the person who is now helping you. They have a 50:50 chance of getting it right – if they do – agree with them and make up a micro-expression that you saw. If they get it wrong, you can either see if someone else disagrees or just disagree with them yourself.)
You: OK, I’m fairly certain this is a number card? Stop me if I’m wrong
– but otherwise, stay silent.
What I want you to do is imagine the numbers 1-10 in a row stretching right across your field of vision. The numbers are all in black – apart from the number of your card. That number is painted with the brightest red you’ve ever seen. I want you to scan your eyes left and right – from 1 to 10 back to 1 back to 10
and so on. Keep doing it – careful not to burn your eyes on your bright red number.
(As you give instruction for the spectator to imagine the numbers across her field of vision – a gesture with your hand from the right-hand side of her vision to the left. From her perspective, this will seem like an instruction to imagine the numbers as if they were written on a page from left to right. Watch her eyes and when she gets to about the position you think the number is – point to that area of the air and say…)
You: It’s definitely around here somewhere. Definitely. I’d say this is a fairly high number, probably a 7 or 8. I’d be guessing I’d say it’s a…. Hold on – I’m just going to say 7,8,7,8 and you’re going to give it away 22.214.171.124.7 - YES, that smile is a bit more than a micro-expression.
It’s 7. The 7 of Diamonds – is that right?
And there you have it! If you practice this delivery so that your presentation is really slick, you will get the most phenomenal reactions!
Just remember to keep the focus on the psychology – not the cards!
Notes on Presentation
Obviously, your exact script will vary a little bit depending on the chard that is being thought of. In the example above, the spectator was thinking of the suit “Diamonds” – we can observe:
That’s what I was looking for – I knew there wasn’t a strong plosive in there, but the tongue flick for the D in diamonds gave it away. Did everyone else see that?
If the spectator is thinking of “Hearts”, we might talk about how we can the spectator’s throat muscles relaxing as they visualize the long ‘ea’ sound in the word. For “Clubs” and “Spades” we can pretend to observe the plosive “B” or “P”. If you see this plosive at the end of the word you know it is “Clubs” if it’s at the start then “Spades”. Likewise, you could make mention of how it looks like the cheeks want to pull apart for the long “A” sound in “Spades”.
When a spectator is thinking of a non-number card i.e. Jack, King, Queen
– I do a very similar presentation. I have them imagine those three cards across their field of vision, with their card in red – they then scan left and right as before.
Alternatively, you could forego this “scanning” process altogether and continue to get the person to shout the value of their card in their head and a micro-expression explanation in the same way as you did for the suit.
The options are pretty endless and you can develop this as you see fit. Just imagine how you yourself say these words and then make a link to a plausible micro-expression that matches.
This is what makes Micro Expression Cards such a good match for Throat Reading. For all intents and purposes, it looks like you are using the same method to the audience – but in fact, Micro Expression Cards is way
simpler. It gives you the perfect opportunity to reveal a card – and then turn up the difficulty with a revelation of a more freely thought-of word.
Doing it for ‘Real’
Even though you tell the spectator to keep quiet, to keep still, and to only shout the card name inside their head – you’d be amazed how often it slips out.
I’ve had several occasions where the person has actually whispered the card name under their breath – and many more occasions where they have silently mouthed the card to themselves before the ‘proper’ visualization process happens.
Likewise, some spectators are good at keeping still and good and keeping a straight face. Others are like leaky buckets – clues are literally pouring out of them! Just by talking about the process you are supposedly using, and saying the names of suits as part of your reasoning – spectators will often react.
If the only thing that concerns you is your performance – look at the marked card and act the rest. But if you genuinely want to practice your people reading skills and spectator management – then don’t read the marking straight away.
Have a stab at doing it for real and if you get stuck – glace at the card marking and redeem yourself!
This sort of practice is also great for improving your ability to think on your feet and spin events in a favorable way. It will stand you in good stead when performing Throat Reading – when you genuinely have no idea of what is being thought of at the start of the process.
Expand the Principle Further
You can easily use this same technique and presentation to reveal other bits of information written on cards.
You can buy blank-faced Bicycle Decks – you could get hold of one of those, mark the backs and then write the names of pop stars on each card. You can then ask a spectator to select a name and reveal it.
For something like this it best to make a crib sheet that associates each name with a card value. So you might say Michael Jackson = Ace of Spades, Prince = 2 of Spades, and so on. This way you can use the same marking method as for the regular cards.
You don’t even need to use playing cards. You can just as easily use any old bits of paper. You just need to find a way to mark them. It could be the way you rip them, the angle the edges are cut, tiny pencil dots, small indentations in one of the edges, etc.
Play about with the idea and just have fun trying various presentations. Only by doing that will you find the technique that gets the best results for you personally.
I’m always happy to help you if you are having problems – and I’d be super-excited to hear about new ways you are using this technique or even just the successes or funny stories that arose from it. Shoot me an email!