Making It

In 2004, I took a tripod, camera, and a deck of cards outside and filmed every flourish I knew.

After tinkering around with the footage in Sony Vegas for a few days, I assembled something that I was pretty proud of, which I then posted onto Bone Ho’s pre-social-media social media site, The Cheater’s Cheater.

Looking back on it, the video is kinda shitty in its own charming way (Scotty 2 Hotty’s entrance music? What potato did you film this on? And why did you name it after a Blink-182 DVD?), but at the time the kind mods at TCC were gracious enough to feature it on the front page of the site, which gave my 16-year-old self a massive ego boost like no other.

Here I was, amongst the ranks of legends like Harwin and TheRainMan, with 5-star ratings and encouraging comments raining down on me like manna from heaven.

This is it, I thought. I’ve finally made it.

Going from a complete n00b to becoming ‘somebody‘ in the cardistry scene is often the #1 goal for any aspiring cardist. Once you stop dropping cards like a maniac and #gitgud enough to do Pandora properly, where do you go from there? The answer to that question has changed constantly over the years.

After The Cheater’s Cheater got hacked and was shut down, “making it” meant that you snagged a front page feature on Decknique or Along with Decknique’s own featured video section, getting your work posted on The Cuso’s blog meant that you’d become a Cardist of note. The site’s tagline even made that abundantly clear: “If you’re good, you’re on TheCuso.”

Then, it became that you’d reached ultimate legitimacy if you put out a DVD of all-original material. All Hail The Trilogy. Enter Genesis, Monument, Papercuts, and Director’s Cut.

Then, after the advent of the Black Tigers and Smoke & Mirrors, you’d ‘made it’ if you were able to produce your own deck of cards, a process which, for better or for worse, has become increasingly democratized these days.

Then, Cardistry competitions such as Decknique’s CCC, Cardistry Death Match, the World Kardistry Championship, and the International Cardistry Open provided a platform for Cardists to face off against each other and thus, winning first place was the equivalent of ‘making it’ in the eyes of those following said competitions. This fighting spirit continues to live on in the Cardistry-Con Championship, as well as this year’s incredible Fontaine Trials.

Then, once Odd Man Out and Run Rabbit broke the seal, getting a video to go viral was when you knew you’d made it. Knowing that millions upon millions of people have seen Floating Cards and Liquid Paper is especially surreal, considering that getting a couple hundred views used to be a huge deal. Now, even non-viral Cardistry videos from the major brands garner a four-digit view count within the first day of release, due to the increasing amount of new Cardists joining the community every day.

Then, Best Cardist Alive showed up, and the new goal was to get your moves featured on Cardistry’s equivalent of World Star Hip-Hop. Since then, similar accounts have sprung up on Instagram, all vying to be the one-stop-shop for upcoming Cardists of note. Look, Ma – I made it on BCA!

Then came the Cardistry-Con Awards, which introduced 5 categories that the Cardistry community could vote on – Move of the Year, Deck of the Year, Video of the Year, Breakout Cardist of the Year, and Cardistry-Con Champion. In 2018, Anyone Worldwide broke the record by winning 3 of these awards in a row, but as most people would agree, they’d already ‘made it’ long before the Awards results were announced.

These days, “making it” often means being able to do Cardistry for a living, using any one or combination of the examples above.

As I look back at my own achievements in Cardistry: partnering up with my heroes to produce a book and several downloads, going viral with The Virts, organizing several Cardistry-Cons, and being the subject of a Discovery Channel documentary, a single incident stands out in my mind:

I was a special guest at a Fontaine event at RipNDip, and after several hours of jamming with other Cardists, I was approached by a small teenager who said he was a big fan of my work, and asked if I could take a picture with me.

Afterwards, he went to mingle with some of the other Cardists, upon which a lady who identified herself as his mother came up to me with a smile on her face:

“I don’t know if he told you this, but you were the reason he got into Cardistry. He saw your video Liquid Paper and from that point on, he knew that it was something that he wanted to do.”

Before I could respond, she continued, tears in her eyes,

“He used to not be very popular in school… really shy and awkward, to tell the truth. But because of you, he managed to find something that he was really passionate about, and that gave him confidence and the ability to make new friends. Now he’s one of the ‘cool’ kids. As his mother, I can’t thank you enough. Sincerely, thank you.”

Hell, I almost choked up myself. Someone from the other side of the planet saw something that I did, and it changed his life. For the better. I’d certainly come a long way since HFFH.

You should’ve seen her face. She was so proud.

“Making it” in Cardistry changes all the time. But rather than following what’s trendy, we have the liberty to set our own goals and define what ‘being a successful Cardist’ means to us. That can change over time, as we ourselves change as we mature and grow in this art form.

You don’t have to change anyone’s life, let alone your own, but you definitely have the option to.

Perhaps the sweetest victories are selfless in nature.

23 replies on “Making It”

Great read, and an even more touching story. I would say touching people’s lives is the ultimate “making it” story.

Oh, absolutely. The story with the Mom is definitely a standout IRL occurrence, but on top of that we also received many e-mails through The Virts with similarly moving stories from those whose lives were touched by our work.

Moving paper around in fancy ways can seem trivial at times, but when the effect it has on people is so profound, it really gives you the motivation to keep giving back to the community that’s already given us so much.

Well you changed my life as well. And honestly I got better (slightly) at magic and Cardistry because of you as well.

That’s really sweet of you to say, Ben. You’re a good friend, and it means a lot to me that I was able to push you in a better direction through my work. Looking forward to hanging out the next time I’m in SG!

I’ve had some noteworthy achievements and features through my cardistry career, but nothing quite compares to the feeling I get when I see someone doing one of my moves or when someone tells me that my videos inspired them.

This is especially poignant coming from you, bro. As I’d said before, my interest in cardistry was waning for a few years before a move of yours invigorated me again. All it took was a couple seconds.

I have sooo much I wanna say but this comment would be way too long. Thank you for this post and please continue to write more essays !! It’s amazing to hear your insight, especially knowing you have been doing cardistry for so long and have been in the community for so long. I view you as a super important key figure in the community and I’m very thankful for you.

One thing I am thinking about is what “making it” will look like in the future as the community and cardistry as a whole evolves. If you were to have written this 10 years from now, how many more “then’s” would there have been ??

Oh, please write as much as you’d like! This site is built for discussion 🙂

Thanks for your kind words, I really appreciate it. It’s good to know that I’m still able to give back to the community through my writing, since it seems like I might have run dry in the area of move creation.

You bring up an especially good point with the idea of ‘making it’ evolving over time. Cardistry is still so young as a hobby/art form, and I’m sure there’ll be ways to prosper within it that most of us can’t even foresee right now due to our limited vantage point. I’ve no clue what the future holds, but I hope that I’m around long enough to catch even more revolutions.

Glad to see that you’re blogging again! Thanks for sharing that story at the end. I wouldn’t expect anything less from you.

Hey Sean, long time no see! Thanks for the kind words about the essay, and I’m glad you liked the ending. Hope we get to cross paths again once this whole pandemic dies down!

The goalpost of Making It has definitely changed so much over time, and will always keep changing. But you’re completely right; of all the things I’ve done in cardistry, the best time I ever have is when I hear that I helped them in some way or other.

I’d like you to know that you are also one of my inspirations. Before cardistry I was running through lots of hobbies that never really affected me the way cardistry has. It’s all because of people like you that I was able to find something I was finally really passionate about. Thank you so much.

Read this as soon as I saw it on your story. Its so crazy how that you’ve talked hours and hours of Cardistry, answered the same questions; which I said before in our interview, but what I didn’t say is despite that you still being something new to every conversation that you have.

I’m looking forward to seeing more content on site. Seems like it’s a project that you’re really going to love and you can see it shine through with such a heart felt anecdote.

On top of that, this was an interesting take on the meta of “making it”. Makes me look forward to seeing what the next topic will be about.

Seeing how cardistry has evolved over the years is really interesting because most cardists started not that long ago and don’t know how it became what it is today. I hope that someday there is a Cardistry History book that could be nice.
Anyway keep blogging man!

It was an amazing read Kev. You changed my life since we first met at Singapore in 2015. You were the first cardist I ever met. I assume back in the day I was in the process of “Making it” haha. I also didn’t know how to mix with people and had a bit of social anxiety at the time. But when we finally met, you made it so much easier for me to communicate and let’s not get to your fart jokes. That jam is something I will never ever forget. You didn’t leave an opportunity to help me ‘making it’ by posting those short videos on your Instagram and releasing those WSLT articles, letting the community know I existed. Believe me, it was really huge for me back in the day.
Since then Cardistry-Cons happened and your presence have been so much fun. What more can I say? From meeting you for the first time to celebrating your birthday together in Disneyland, seeing you sing along with the cantonese Moana is what I call making it.
Much love man, keep these up!
Follow your dreams 👉👈

Amazing read, you are an incredible individual which you have inspired a lot of people including myself. When I was younger I started cardistry only really knew a few cuts and that’s all. I dropped my cards because I really had no one with the same interests and knowledge of the art of at the time was scarce. I went in to do other interest. But ever since this pandemic I started too pick up the cards again. It was just strolling down YouTube I found your vid Liquid Paper. Then I just fell in love with the art again. Keep up what you are doing kevin. You have given me a lot of knowledge and wisdom of Cardistry.

Very cool to see more writing on cardistry. Hopefully people will read it since you have a wide reach. Can’t wait to see what’s in store––who even shuffles like that?

If you ever need a guest post, hit me up. I kinda miss writing for The Split Edge.

Bruh, post more of these please, its amazing… Maybe make a utube video telling these stories?

Has anyone really been able to make cardistry a living without selling decks? The next step would be to make a living without selling any decks or tutorials.

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