The Expert at the Card Table

The Expert at the Card Table, originally titled Artifice, Ruse and Subterfuge at the Card Table: A Treatise on the Science and Art of Manipulating Cards, often referred to simply as Erdnase, is an extensive book on the art of sleight of hand published in 1902 by S. W. Erdnase, a pseudonymous author whose identity has remained a mystery for over a century.[1] As a detailed manual of card sharps, the book is considered to be one of the most influential works on magic or conjuring with cards.

The Expert at the Card Table is the most famous, the most carefully studied book ever published on the art of manipulating cards at gaming tables."

the Foreword by Martin Gardner, p. vii.[2]

The Expert at the Card Table: The Classic Treatise on Card Manipulation
Cover of the 1995 edition.
AuthorS. W. Erdnase
IllustratorSmith, M. D.
Cover artistEd Smith Design
SubjectSleight of hand
PublisherOriginal Unknown
Publication date
1902 (first edition)

Description of the book

Despite his widespread influence on the magician community, the author's identity remains an unsolved mystery. Many believe his real name was E.S. Andrews (S.W. Erdnase spelled backwards). (See Gardner's Foreword, pp. vii-ix.)[2]

Originally the author started selling the book for $2.00 in 1902 and the next year it dropped to $1.00 and he sold the rights. Although the author did not renew the copyright, the book has remained in print since 1902, albeit small private printings on occasion.[3] The influence of this book is such that it has been issued in annotated form;[4] [5] translated into Japanese, German, Spanish, French, Italian and Russian;[3] and issued as a series of DVDs by a professional magician, demonstrating and explaining Erdnase's techniques and methods. A featured show of the story of Expert of the Card Table is also performed regularly by UK magician Guy Hollingworth.[6]

Dai Vernon is credited with popularizing this influential text in the community of professional magicians. Well past ninety years of age, Vernon was fond of quoting from it, with page numbers, when discussing card techniques with his colleagues at the Magic Castle.[7]

In Expert Card Technique, Jean Hugard said of it, "... perhaps no other book in all the list of conjuring books has been so avidly read, so affectionately regarded."[8] Erdnase's glossary of terms was in itself extremely influential, and has been reproduced more or less directly by numerous authors, including Hugard,[8] and Henry Hay.

Film adaptation

A film based on the life of the mysterious author, adapted by German director Hans-Joachim Brucherseifer, is currently in production. The magicians Yann Yuro (S.W. Erdnase) and Alfonso Rituerto (himself) play the lead roles. It is scheduled to be released in November, 2019.


  1. Silverman, Rachel Emma. "Fresh Clues Could Reveal Magic-Trick Writer Who Pulled a Disappearing Act a Century Ago", The Wall Street Journal, August 16, 2000. Retrieved January 13, 2008.
  2. Erdnase, S. W (1995) [1902]. The Expert at the Card Table: The Classic Treatise on Card Manipulation (1st Ed. reprint ed.). Mineola, NY: Dover Publications. ISBN 978-0-486-28597-9.
  3. England, Jason (2007). "The Expert at the Card Table Editions". Retrieved January 8, 2008.
  4. Ortiz, Darwin (1991). The annotated Erdnase. Magical Publications. ISBN 978-0-915181-21-6.
  5. Vernon, Dai (2013). Revelation (Second ed.). Mike Caveney's Magic Words. ISBN 978-0-915181-44-5.
  6. James, Wesley (2007). "Expert at the Card Table by Wesley James" (7 volume DVD). Retrieved January 8, 2008.
  7. Johnson, Karl (2005). The Magician and the Cardsharp: The Search for America's Greatest Sleight-of-Hand Artist (Adapted ed.). New York: Henry Holt and Co. pp. 368 pages. ISBN 978-0-8050-7406-2.
  8. Hugard, Jean (1940). Expert Card Technique: Close-Up Table Magic (Second ed.). New York: Dover Publications, Inc. pp. 448 pages. ISBN 0-486-21755-8.
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