How I met your mother

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Here is another business card effect but this one is very different than last post. This one is perfect for a bigger group, and during the routine you give out all of your business cards in a natural way that doesn't feel forced. I really like this routine and I hope you will give it a try.

This effect came to me while I was watching David Williamson’s penguin live lecture. David performs a beautiful effect that uses five playing cards, wine glasses and bills. The effect is stunning and a visual treat. I love the way that the effect looked, however, I had a few problems with the effect for my style of magic. First of all, I mostly find myself in close-up situations for which the effect is hardly suited, second, I couldn’t find an emotional hook that would make the presentation authentic.

After some thinking I decided to change the playing cards into business cards and to let spectators write the name of their mother on the business cards, and that kids is how I met your mother.

The Routine

Five spectators each write the name of their mother on a business card. The five business cards are shuffled and the magician tries to find out whose mother is on which card. This is done by the magician each time turning over the top card and asking each spectator to call out “mom” to the card. The magician does this five times and determines who had which card. To the audience the magician seems to be incorrect and give everyone the wrong card. However, after everyone says “mom” one more time all the business cards change and everyone is holding onto the right card.

What do you need 

Business Cards
You need 5 business cards for this trick

Something to write with
Any pen or pencil will work fine. 


Nail nick the five business cards. To do this hold the card in your right-hand on your finger tips and use the nail of your right-thumb to make an impression on the card. 

Make these impressions at a different spot on each card. In the picture (figure 1) you see the system that I use. (obviously the 1-5 are only there for explanation purposes). In our case make sure that you have 5 cards each marked on their spot. Card number one being marked in the area of the 1, card number two marked in the area of the 2 and so on.

It is important to also mark the fifth card. This is done at the bottom. The reason that you should do this is to be never afraid of having missed a mark (in the case that you would see no mark as five or one).

Put the cards in order from one to five with the one on top and the five on the bottom.

Put this stack in your wallet or your pocket.

How it works

Remove the business cards from your wallet/pocket and hand them out. Handing the first card to the left most person, the second to the person to the right of the first person and so on. Because of this you will later be able to discover which person has which card (Nail nick). So, from left to right it is in order 1-2-3-4-5.

Hand the sharpie to the first spectator and ask him to write the name of his/her mother on the backside of the business card and to then hand the sharpie to the next spectator who will do the same.

As the spectators are writing down the name of their mothers you explain to them how your mother always knew that you were calling her, even if you were in a group with 20 kids. Mothers always know when their kid is calling. 

When everyone has written down the name of their mother on the business cards, you will ask one spectator to gather up all the cards and shuffle them so that you don’t know which card belongs to which person anymore.

When the spectator has finished his shuffling ask him/her to hand you the stack and as you get the stack, spread the cards and put them all in the same orientation. This makes sure that all the nail nicks are oriented towards the same side.

You are now going to peek the bottom card in the following way: hold the business cards in mechanics grip and raise them with your thumb as if you were to do a Charlier-cut. Rotate your palm towards the spectators and explain to them: “in a moment I will turn over the top card and want each of you to say “mom” to the card”. As you explain this you can look at the bottom card and peek that name (figure 2). Remember this name as it is important for later in the routine.

Turn the hand back down into a mechanics grip, grip the whole packet in the right hand as in figure 3 and use the thumb to push all the cards above the bottom card to the left. Your right hand will now carry the bottom card towards the right as you explain: “After you have all called the card” mom", I will guess who’s card it is and give it to the person I believe the card belongs to”.

Place the card back on top and so you’ve transferred the peeked card from the bottom to the top.

Now look for the nail nick to see whose person card is on top. Let’s say that person number five’s card is on top. Remember this and do a double lift, I like to perform Brother John Hamman’s instant double and triple turn over technique (I will explain the move in detail at the end of the routine). Turn the palm towards the spectator again as in figure 2.

Read the name that is facing the spectators out loud and ask each person to say “mom” to the card.

Turn the double back down and hand the card to the person who matches the nail nick. In our example that person five.

Repeat this process of noticing the nail nick, turning over a double, having everyone call out mom, turning the double face-down, and handing the card to the person corresponding the nail nick twice more. 

You are now left with two cards in your hand. Find the nail nick and notice who’s card it is, remember his. You will grip these two cards as in figure 3 and you will use your thumb to push the top card to the left as you flip the bottom card face-up on the pack. Have everyone call this card “mom” again and turn it back face-down.

Hold the cards again as in figure 3 and use your right-thumb to push the top card to the left as you carry the bottom card to the right. While the bottom card goes to the right, pretend to hesitate and finally give it to the person corresponding the nail nick that you just remembered. 

Now look at the name on the final card, making sure that no one else but you see it, and miss call the name for the name that you peeked at the start of the routine.

Say to the last person something among the lines of: “And then by process of elimination [insert peeked name] will be yours”. As you say this you hand them the card.

At this point you want your spectator to reply with “no” if he/she doesn’t do this on their own follow your sentence up with a confirmation “Right?”. 

When the final spectator has said “no” you pretend to figure out that if this card is incorrect, then one more card must be incorrect. So, as you make this clear you ask the spectators who else’s card you got wrong. Everyone will respond with “me” and so you act a bit embarrassed that you had all the cards wrong. 

After gathering yourself you tell the spectators something among the liens of: “you know what? Let’s try this. I want all of you to say “mom” one more time and then turn over your card”. When your spectators do they will all find out that their mom has returned to them.

Bro Hamman Instant Double and Triple turn over technique:

To execute this double lift with five cards you need to hold the cards in a mechanics grip. Now execute block push-off the all the cards above the bottom to the right. As you do this your right thumb contacts the block from above and applies downwards pressure as your left second finger contact the block (fourth card) and applies upwards pressure. This will leave the fourth card in a spread as the block keeps moving to the right. Now with the thirds finger contact the bottom of the block of three cards and apply upwards pressure. Doing this will leave the third card in the spread and you will now be left with a double which your right-hand turns face-up.

This same technique can also be applied to less cards than five. Just execute the same moves until you are left with two cards, this means that sometimes you are using less fingers of the left-hand to apply upwards pressure, depending on the number of cards that you are using.

Final thoughts:

Be respectful towards your audience. You never know what happened to the person’s mom, or what relationship they might be having. Please leave the cheesy magician jokes aside and don’t make jokes about the subject.

Depending on the situation you might want the process of each spectator writing down the name of their mom to be fast. If this is the case than be sure to have multiple sharpies/pens available. The only important thing is that the thing that they write with is the same, otherwise the spectator might suspect that you are reading the ink.

Having five sharpies or pens would be ideal for a formal close-up show.

If desired you can also start the routine without the set-up. If you do this you start with 5 unprepared business cards or any type of paper card. As you hand the cards out you will nail nick the cards according to the same system while you are handing out the cards.

As a final thought, consider to put a line and an X on the business cards as in figure 4 this makes sure that all the names are orientated in the same direction and it will make life a lot easier.


  • Kaufman, R. (1989). Instant double and triple turn over technique. The Secrets of Brother John Hamman. P,11
  • David Williamson Penguin live. 5 Cards and 5 Glasses (Saline Solution)

I want to give a special thanks to Rico Weeland for helping me writing this blog. He also has an amazing instagram which is
Invisible Practice, make sure you give him some love.

The drawings are done by my amazing girlfriend Stella Hanse

Thank you for reading this blog, if you have any questions or feedback please let me know! the fastest way to get in contact is to go to instagram and slide in my dm @dannyurbanus.