The 3 piles card trick explained: Easy magic trick tutorial

This is probably one of the easiest card tricks you can find, and all you need are 21 cards. I will explain this trick in detail so you can perform it yourself, and I promise: anyone can do this trick, it’s really easy to learn!

How this card trick works:

With this card trick, you can find the spectator’s card after it’s lost in a shuffled deck. By creating three piles and putting them back together, you will locate the card without even knowing it.

You can learn this card trick in less than ten minutes, and just like with this mind-reading card trick, you don’t need any sleight of hand or complicated techniques!

Let’s get started.

The performance of the “Three pile card trick”

You only need 21 cards for this trick, and you can use any playing cards you like.

A spectator can choose any card he wants, he doesn’t even have to touch it. In case other people are watching, make sure that everyone knows what the chosen card is.

Next, the spectator can shuffle the deck as often as he wants to make sure that his card is truly lost in the deck.

This is when the main part of the trick starts. You deal the cards face up onto the table, creating three piles with seven cards each. It should look something like this:

Three piles done
This is how the three piles should look like

Now, you ask the spectator to show you the pile with his card (without telling you his card, only the pile!). After putting the cards back together, you deal them onto the table for the second, creating the same three piles.

The volunteer tells you the pile with his card for the second time, and you put the cards back together again.

After repeating this for the third time, you can find the spectator’s card without even looking at it.

Here’s how the trick is done.

How you can do this card trick yourself

First, you really don’t need to learn any sleight of hand or sneaky moves. It’s one the easiest card tricks I’ve ever seen, anyone can do it!

To give you a better idea of the trick, here’s a great video I found that explains all you need to know:

"Three Piles" Card Trick - Beginner Magic Tutorial

To get started, you simply have to count 21 cards from any deck and put all the other ones to the side, you won’t need them.

The spectator can actually choose any card, you don’t have to know it, so you can just hand the deck over and let your audience pick any card. Once they’ve made their decision, ask them to shuffle the deck.

You can even close your eyes or turn around, so everyone can see that you can’t know the card.

Quick tip
The great thing about this card trick is that your audience can choose a card and immediately shuffle the deck. You will still be able to find it.

After the cards are handed back to you, it’s time for creating the three piles.

How to find the card using the three piles

You don’t know the chosen card, but don’t worry – you will still find it.

Hold the deck in your left hand and start dealing the cards onto the table, turning them around so they face up. Start with the left pile, put the next card in the middle and the last one on the right.

Creating the three piles 1
Deal the cards onto the table from left to right

Continue this until all the cards are on the table. Since we are using 21 cards, each pile should consist of exactly seven cards.

Creating the three piles 2

This is how it should look like when you are done:

Three piles done
Each pile consists of seven cards

Now, ask the spectator to tell you the pile with his card. Not the card itself, only the pile!

Make sure to place the pile with his card in the middle, between both of the other piles.

Here’s an example:

Let’s say the spectator chose the Ace of Hearts.

Selecting the card

You ask your audience for the pile with the card and they will tell you it’s the one on the right.

When you put the piles together, make sure to place them in the middle like this:

Putting the piles together

There’s nothing else you have to keep in mind.

Put the cards together and start dealing them onto the table again, creating the same three piles in the same order. Start with the top left card, and continue until you are done.

Ask your spectator for the pile with his card again, and put this pile between the other ones.

Repeat the same steps one more time, so you have dealt the cards on the table three times in a row.

If you’ve done everything correctly, the card should now be the 11th card in the deck.

The spectator’s card will always be the 11th card

This card trick is based on math, and the card will always be the 11th card in the pile. Every single time.

If the trick doesn’t work, you have either miscounted, or the spectator didn’t tell you the right pile, which will always ruin the trick.

I would recommend you to try it a few times on your own, so you can see that it actually works and you know what to do when performing it.

It’s a great trick that you can perform without any preparation, it’s easy, fast, and still looks pretty amazing with the right performance.

A few tips for performing this card trick

I say this all the time, but a magic trick is not about how it works, it’s all about how you perform it.

So try to add a little bit of your personality or get creative with the delivery, it will improve this card trick so much!

When the spectator selects the card, you can even leave the room and ask him to shuffle the deck after he selected his card. For your audience, it now seems to be impossible for you to find it again.

Another way to make it more interesting: After you’ve done the three piles and you know that the card is in the 11th spot, don’t just count it out and turn the card around. Ask your spectator to look at the cards and deal all of them onto the table.

When you are done, look him deep into his eyes and tell him that you can read his mind, that you could smell his card, whatever – just get creative and really sell the effect.

By doing this, you can turn this rather simple trick into something magic, even a mind-reading card trick, that looks way better than just finding the card.

By the way, make sure to check out this card-guessing trick as well!

Image sources:
All of the images are my own photos, click here if you want to use them.