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.
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 TheCuso.info. 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.