How to Shuffle a Deck of Cards: An Illustrated Guide

by Brett & Kate McKay on July 9, 2012 · 23 Comments

in Gamesmanship, Manly Skills, Visual Guides

Rifle the deck halfway with your thumb to create two stacks. Hold one stack in each hand with your thumbs on the top edges and your middle and ring fingers on the bottoms. Pull back the top of the stacks with your thumbs, creating a small bend in middle of the stacks. The thumbs should just move slowly up the top of the cards' edge, releasing the cards to shuffle them. Start off letting the cards shuffle on the table. When you get better, you can do the shuffle without the cards ever touching the table. The cards are now shuffled. Finish with flair with a cascade. Place your thumbs firmly on the top card in the deck where the two stacks overlap. Maintaining pressure with your thumbs, curl your index, middle, and ring fingers around the bottom edge of the two stacks and bend the cards in an arch. Uncurl your fingers and let the cards cascade down.

Illustration by Ted Slampyak

I’m surprised by the number of men who don’t know how to shuffle a deck of cards. But you shouldn’t have to hand the deck to your grandpa for shuffling next time you’re playing gin rummy. Learn how to thoroughly shuffle a deck of cards just like Gramps, with a bit of flair to boot!

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Lucas July 9, 2012 at 9:23 pm

Another manly post! I’m really liking these illustrations, Ted, Brett, and Kate! I recently taught myself to shuffle a deck properly because I was ashamed that I had to hand it to my mom to shuffle (both grandfathers have passed, sadly).

2 Derek July 9, 2012 at 9:26 pm

The cascade isn’t for show. This method puts a great deal of bend on the cards. The cascade puts bend in the other direction to help keep the cards straight.

3 Zach July 9, 2012 at 9:27 pm

Always shuffle the cards face down. Your grandpa might shoot you for shuffling face up.

4 Shawn July 9, 2012 at 10:35 pm

5 years ago I scolded my wife for not cascading (I’ve always referred to this act as “the ridge”) because I didn’t want my cards bent. She hasn’t shuffled since. :S

5 Paul July 9, 2012 at 10:35 pm

While this illustration isn’t technically wrong there is a much better way to shuffle a deck of cards. Here’s a few things to consider.

1. Steps one and two basically show anyone paying attention what the bottom cards are. While I am thinking of this from a poker stand point this applies to any other card game. Knowledge of where 1 or 2 cards are in the deck (yes, they can be tracked) is a great advantage. Sure, not all card games are played for money but it’s still an unfair advantage.

2. Step 3 is basically a flourish and there’s no need for it if you…

…3. Invest in plastic cards. Why?

a. They do not hold the bend like a paper card will.
b. Small spill? No worries, just grab a paper towel and wipe them dry.
c. They will last much longer than a deck of paper cards.

I was hesitant to make the investment in plastic cards at first but I am glad I did. The difference is night and day.

Here is a much better way to shuffle a deck of cards. Again this video is with poker in mind but it applies to shuffling for any card game.

6 Michael Langford July 9, 2012 at 10:56 pm

Recently, many people have swapped to shuffling like a poker dealer to get far better randomization:

You do not bridge in this (nor really ever take the bottom of the cards off the table far at all).

7 Brandon July 9, 2012 at 10:59 pm

Though shuffling is one of the few things I actually know how to do, I would always welcome cards-related AoM posts!

Keep up the good work.

8 Jaymoon July 9, 2012 at 11:34 pm

Still can’t do it… :(

Guess I’ll just have to go back to cutting the deck a thousand times until someone grabs it and shuffles for me.

9 PASunter July 9, 2012 at 11:53 pm

The intent of a shuffle is to randomly scramble the cards. The poker shuffle is a game of 52 pick up. However, the same results can be achieved by riffle shuffling at least five times.

Great visual. Maybe the Charlier cut next?

10 Andrew July 10, 2012 at 2:06 am

Note that the reason the ‘poker deal’ shuffle doesn’t bridge/cascade is because they don’t bend the cards very much when they riffle, which is quite easy to do on a table, although does require a little practice.

The main advantage of the shuffle shown here is that it can be done without a table, which is probably more important for amateur magicians like myself rather than card players

11 Jake July 10, 2012 at 3:01 am

I’m in the same boat as Lucas, although I knew how to shuffle I never was taught to cascade, and the only family member who knew how was my grandfather who passed years ago. I’ve always wished I would have learned how to play cards from him – this is a great post that brings back fond memories!

12 James July 10, 2012 at 6:43 am

I played some trading card games as a kid (like Magic: the Gathering) and in these, shuffling your own deck is a crucial component to victory – because of this, even the 12 year old kids knew several types of shuffling and had their favourite combination of different shuffles for different situations. Also, the card sleeves with sharp edges made shuffling so much easier, because you could just push the two parts of the deck into each other without bending the cards. Whoever shuffled this way did it only to be able to do the cascade for show.

I still use my old shuffles from Magic to properly randomize a deck of cards after a long game of Canasta.

13 Mike July 10, 2012 at 8:58 am

I brought a deck of cards with me to most of my music and speech competitions in high school. We’d get a group together to play Spoons or Egyptian Rat Race. Since I always had a deck with me, I spent a lot of time on the bus teaching myself how to shuffle like this. It was cool to finally be able to shuffle like the adults.

14 Dan July 10, 2012 at 9:12 am

@Jaymoon, keep practicing! Nothing worth learning is learned perfectly on the first day. I practiced whistling with my fingers for months and months until I perfected it. Now I whistle really loudly and consistently! Keep trying. You’ll get it.

15 Andrew July 10, 2012 at 10:12 am

haha. That’s cool. I have always wanted to know how to do that, especially the cascade bit. Thanks.

16 Keith July 10, 2012 at 10:21 am

I grew up playing various card games with my family, and so I learned to shuffle early on. But I could never get the cascade right (my brothers, parents, and grandparents all do it perfectly). I’ve actually been working on it lately, and I think this will help. Thanks!

17 John July 10, 2012 at 6:11 pm

I had a week of boredom in college one month and I had a deck of brand new cards laying on my desk, this was the week I learned how to shuffle.

18 Christopher Unseth July 12, 2012 at 2:23 pm

What you need a long car ride. Then you can practice to your heart’s content.

19 Ian A. July 14, 2012 at 3:21 pm

OK, but how can I do it so I win every time?

20 Rob July 17, 2012 at 5:46 pm

As a kid, I always preferred the “smear them around the table then put them back together” strategy.

21 adam p October 7, 2012 at 12:16 am

Tsk tsk looks good in the long run ruins a deck of cards. But hey use whatever technique your comfortable with!. I know this sounds strange but if you’re struggling with shuffling get yourself the cheapest crappiest cards you can get your hands and when your watching tv practice shuffling may get a few on the ground which doesn’t matter because the cards you’re using are crap and a few strange looks from friends and family but you will nail it.

22 Roel February 3, 2013 at 2:21 pm

I usually use the “Faro” shuffle, very easy and good shuffle when you get the hang of it. Also very easy to cascade finish.

23 Maciej March 9, 2013 at 3:58 pm

Steps 1 to 4 is easy, but with step 5 and 6 I have always problem

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