Interview with Card Thrower & Magician Rick Smith Jr

Who is Rick Smith Jr?

When you’re an entertainer, you need to find something that makes you stand out from the rest of the pack. This is also true for performers in the magic industry. With magic man Rick Smith Jr, it’s easy to see that he has what it takes to stand out from your run-of-the-mill magician. To begin with, Rick has three Guiness World Records.

But it’s not just that Rick Smith Jr is a world record holder that makes you sit up and take notice, but it’s especially the kinds of records that he holds. Rick is an expert in throwing playing cards, and holds the record for the furthest distance ever thrown with an ordinary playing card. But that’s just one of the ways he’s made headlines with his card throwing skills. He’s also developed an incredible accuracy with his card throwing, and his insane skills have seen him hit the big time in a “trick shots” collaboration with Dude Perfect, which features his card throwing. The video went viral, and at the time of writing it has around 150 million views! In the summer of 2020 he made a return visit to Dude Perfect, the result being this latest video with even more amazing stunts.

With his unique fusion of magic and card throwing, Rick Smith Jr is in high demand around the world. He’s performed on television many times, for some of the biggest names in the business. Each year he does more than 600 shows for a steady stream of clients, who want to bring his exciting brand of magic and card throwing to their homes, businesses, and events. With a background in marketing, Rick is well placed to serve the needs of corporate customers, while entertaining them with an unforgettable performance at the same time.

Rick has been amazing audiences for around 20 years, and with his remarkable skills and talents, he knows how to use playing cards in a way that few others do. We’re grateful that he was willing to do this interview with us, giving us the opportunity to get a unique insight look at his world, and get some helpful pointers for taking our playing cards to the next level – literally!

The Interview

General background

For those who don’t know anything about you, what can you tell us about yourself and your background?

Well, I’ve been performing magic for over 30 years. I perform close to 600 magic shows a year right now, with my card-throwing being a niche of my act. So I’m not just a card thrower, but I am a professional entertainer. I was an NCAA pitcher in college, and I developed my strength of my card throwing by throwing a baseball 90-plus miles per hour.

What can you tell us about the Guinness World Records you have set?

I have three Guinness Book world records for throwing playing cards. My first world record was set in 2002, for throwing a playing card 72 yards at a speed of 92 miles per hour.

My other two world records were set in 2015 and 2017, one for throwing a card the most accurate, which was 46 out of 52 cards to a target in under a minute. The other world record was for throwing the highest, which was 70 feet and some odd inches straight up in the air.

What does a typical day or month in the life of Rick Smith Jr look like?

Typically, I have been a prize for a fundraising company for the past ten years. I would perform three school shows during the week, Monday through Friday. My weekends, I would travel. I would perform for different companies and corporations around the world, and the school tour thing lasted for ten years. There was 400 shows a year.

An average day: I’ll try to come up with some new material, perform the shows, post on social media, and hang out with family and friends when I can. I work a lot.

What are some of your interests and hobbies outside of magic and throwing playing cards?

Going to sporting events. I was a baseball player, and we’re from Cleveland, so we go to different Cleveland Indian games. I played baseball up until a couple years ago, after I had an elbow injury, where I had to have surgery, which was both baseball and card-throwing-related. So I gave up baseball.

Also four-wheeling, hanging out with family, cooking on the grill – those are my hobbies right now.

Aside from your world records, what would you consider to be your biggest accomplishments, and things you’re most proud of?

I guess my girls. I have a three-year-old, Aubrey, and I have a five-year-old, Averie. Having kids now, it’s changed my life. When I’m not performing, I’m going to dance recitals and taking them for swimming lessons and Little Gym and getting them into sports and baseball and soccer and basketball. So I’m spending a lot of my time with those two, and there’s one more on the way in August. So it’s going to change my life even more, coming up.

Throwing Playing Cards

Throwing playing cards looks amazing, but why should we learn how to do it?

You don’t have to learn how to do it. It’s just something fun to do. Being able to be at a party and being able to take a playing card and be like, “Hey, let me slice that celery in half” – that’s something that I do that no one in the world has ever commonly done. It made me unique as a performer.

I used my baseball background to be able to throw the cards so far, and the accuracy just came with practice. People kept asking me to do different types of challenges, and I kept on testing my abilities. Sooner or later, I was slicing olives being thrown up in the air or taking a cup off of somebody’s head or slicing a vegetable in half.

So if you want to learn it, it’s just a cool skill to have. It’s not going to make you any money, unless you devote your life to it and add it to something that you love to do. Since I loved to be a magician, I wasn’t going to make a living off just throwing cards. It was more of a hobby, and wasn’t something that I was like, “Oh, this is going to be my job. I’m going to be a card thrower.” It just became something that I can showcase in my magic acts, which made my magic acts more popular, which made me more money.

How difficult is it to learn how to throw playing cards for the average person?

The average person can learn how to throw a playing card fairly quickly, with the right technique, the right hold, the right flick of the wrist. Anyone can throw a playing card, just like anyone can throw an object.

Everyone can play a piano and can play Mary Had a Little Lamb, but not everyone can play Beethoven. So if you want to get good with it and confident with it, you’re just going to have to keep practicing it. Doing it well is not something that you’re just going to be able to do instantly. It’s going to take years of throwing and figuring out what the cards can do and what they can’t do. Once you realize what they can do, then you can create the trick shots that you want to create.

What else can you tell us about the process involved in setting your first Guinness World Record for card throwing?

The story with the first world record, the distance world record, comes down to the baseball locker room. In the locker room, before practices, we would goof around. I would perform magic for some of the guys in the locker room. But we would also roll up our socks and throw them across the room and try to hit people. One day, I got hit with a sock, and I didn’t have a sock to throw back, so I grabbed out my deck of cards and took out one playing card, threw it, and gave one of my buddies the worst paper cut of his life. I thought they were going to be mad, but they thought it was the coolest thing that they’ve ever seen. So we practiced throwing a couple cards in the locker room, and that was it for that day.

The next day, one of the other teammates brings in a Guinness Book of World Records. He goes, “Hey, there’s actually a Guinness world record for throwing playing cards, 201 feet, and it’s held by this magician guy named Jim Carroll. I bet you can beat it.” So we called up Guinness World Records. We called up every local news station, every newspaper, everything that you could do. In the year 2002, there was no social media, no YouTube, or anything of that caliber. So if you wanted to get it out there, you went to Associated Press. We went to the Plain Dealer, the News Herald. Basically, we told everybody we were going to break this world record for throwing a playing card, and we had no idea if people were going to show up or not.

What response did you get to your world record attempt and afterwards?

Guinness showed up. Every single news station showed up. Every newspaper showed up. It took about 30 throws because of the air flow in the room, but after I broke the world record, I made the front page of the Plain Dealer. It went to Associated Press and it went viral before viral was a thing. Every news station, newspaper, radio station in the world was contacting me and asking me, “What did you do?” This wasn’t even a stunt, and it wasn’t even “Can you slice something in half?” This was just throwing a playing card 72 yards! It had nothing to do with anything other than throwing a card a long distance.

But the following day, I was in class in college all day after this stuff got published, not knowing what was going on. And all of the voicemails were like, “Hi, this is the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Please give us a call back.” “Hey, this is so-and-so from Ripley’s Believe It or Not. Give us a call back.” “Hey, this is the Steve Harvey Show. We’re doing a TV show called Steve Harvey’s Big Time. We’d love for you to be a part of it. Please give us a call back.” “Hi, this is the Wayne Brady Show, blah blah blah.” I had voicemails from London, BBC, radio, so many different places. I was doing interviews like crazy.

That’s how I got into the card-throwing. It was all a mistake. It was all from throwing a sock, to throwing a playing card, to giving the kid the worst cut of his life, to finding out there was a world record, to breaking the world record, and then getting contacted by media all around the world. It’s crazy.

How did your other two Guinness World Records for card throwing come about?

For the other record, I went on this local station in Cleveland – FOX 8 – and I said, “Hey, I’d like to break a world record.” They were like, “Hey, why don’t you break it on our show?” So it was just a morning segment. It wasn’t anything crazy, and I broke the world record on the segment. I didn’t get any press out of it, other than FOX 8 in the morning. I broke the world record, and sent it to Guinness. They approved it, and I got my plaque.

I broke the record for the height on Pi Day, and we ended up getting thousands of people to show up at the Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland, Ohio. We decided to do a magic show, as breaking the Guinness Book world record. I stood at the bottom floor of the science center and hit the ceiling of the science center, and we had people from different news stations there, as well as Plain Dealer, again. It didn’t go viral or anything, and no one seemed to care, other than, “Hey, it’s just the new world record.” But it was an accomplishment. It was right after another surgery that I had on a piece of bone that was in my elbow that I broke that world record.

Do you have your eye on any other records, or do you have any plans to beat the ones you currently hold?

I was supposed to. In April, I was supposed to go to Italy to break a world record for the most cards thrown around a human in under a minute. That’s on hold due to the world situation right now.

What can you tell us about your baseball background, and how has this impacted your ability in throwing playing cards?

My training and ability to pitch is the only reason I could throw cards so well. If you want to break the world record, it’s possible, and I could teach you how to throw a playing card. But the only way that someone’s going to be able to break my world record is they can throw a baseball 90 miles an hour plus. You could flick a card as hard as you want, but if you don’t have that arm speed and that power from your legs and your body to be able to throw a baseball 92 miles an hour, there’s no way in the world that you’re going to get enough power behind your playing card.

I broke the world record in my peak of NCAA baseball. So if I teach a Major League Baseball pitcher how to do it, I can see that they would have a fair chance. But no one’s going to break the record unless they’re an NCAA athlete or higher. I just don’t see it happening. Not to be cocky about it – I’m just saying it’s going to be hard. That day I was warming up by throwing a ball, and then I broke the world record.

The world record has to be set indoors. It has to be set with no wind flow. We had to shut all the air conditioners off. We had to shut all the doors. There was no air flow, and it was weird, because when I first did go break the world record, I kept on throwing 200 feet, 199 feet. It kept on stopping, and then we ended up switching sides, because there was still an air flow, like some kind of vent. We switched sides, and I broke the world record the second or third throw after that. It hit the bleachers and bounced back 15 feet. So maybe I could’ve thrown it a little further, but Guinness took the world record from where the card landed, not where it hit.

Are there particularly memorable experiences you’ve had with your card throwing for TV shows?

America’s Got Talent, the Tonight Show, and Shark Tank were probably my favorite TV shows to appear on. On Shark Tank I was able to perform magic as well as my card-throwing stunts, and it was on a major TV network at a prime time. So they got my magic and my card-throwing out in one episode.

America’s Got Talent was one of the bigger stages that I got to perform on. I never got X’ed, and a lot of people watch that show, so that was another fun one to get recognized from. There were other shows that were fun to be on, like the Tonight Show. They all just have different audiences, and have different reasons for being the best show at the time. With the Ellen DeGeneres show, I got to throw cards with Ellen, and it was a timeframe and different audience that I’d never reached before. The Tonight Show is just a late night show audience, college kids, and was also another group that I’d never reached.

I have a lot of favorite TV shows. Even on Ripley’s Believe It or Not, the first show I ever performed on, I was treated like gold. They flew me to Vegas to film in front of thousands of people, and I got to do stunts for the very first time, ever. I did thinks that I’d never done before for the very first time on TV, and that was so memorable.

Of the many videos online in which you appear, which is your favourite one, and why?

With YouTube channels I’ve been able to work with some of the best YouTubers in the world. When I did the first Card Throwing Trick Shots video with Dude Perfect, the video went viral. It trended in the number one spot on YouTube for an entire day. It had over 20 million views in the first week, and we’re over 137 million views now. They got card-throwing out to the biggest audience in the fastest amount of time, and made me the most recognizable around the world for the age group of kids. Kids would recognize me anywhere I’d go, non-magic-related, just because they’re huge Dude Perfect fans.

But Dude Perfect led into other big collaborations with Mark Rober, the mechanical engineer from NASA; with David Dobrik, going to his house and performing trick shots with all of his friends, and with Florian “Venom” Kohler, the pool trick shot artist from Las Vegas. And there’s a whole bunch of others: Carter Sharer, Juggling Josh, Logan Broadbent, the Slow Mo Guys, the Modern Rogue, and Scam Nation. All of these other YouTube channels have just totally launched my YouTube career; I thought that I would have reached 300 million people in such a short amount of time.

What impact did these viral videos have on your career?

I have been able to charge higher fees and I have been more in demand. I’ve got some of the biggest shows of my life since then. I’ve been able to travel to other countries and do my card-throwing and magic in places that I never thought possible. I’ve had a few agents ask to hire me for different events. I’ve done just card-throwing shows, even if they were only ten minutes long. At times I been paid more to do a ten-minute card-throwing show than for my Las Vegas-style magic show!

So yes, it has gotten me out there, and the demand right after that video was so great that I couldn’t handle all the shows. I started working with other magicians and people in my area, and we developed a really good entertainment agency ourselves called the Cleveland Entertainers, where we book different entertainers. When leads come in and I can’t fulfill them personally, we say: “Rick’s not available, but we have so-and-so that would be a good fit for your party.” It is another way to make some extra money, but it also gives a lot of friends in my network some extra shows that they didn’t have coming.

How many takes does it typically take you to accomplish the kinds of feats we see you do in viral videos like your first video with Dude Perfect and others?

Dude Perfect took place in one and a half days. The first day, we started at 11 and ended at 5. The second day we started at 11 and ended at 1:30 or 2:30, because I had to fly back. Most of the trick shots were fast, and didn’t take a long time at all. The only thing that took time in between each trick shot was setting up the cameras. The trick shots that you would think would be the hardest to take place, like the olive slicer where Cody would throw the olive up in the air and I would slice it in half? A lot of people say “That had to take you all day,” but I can honestly do that one out of every six throws. I probably cut that olive six or seven times, just to get the right and perfect camera angle that we needed for that shot.

Making a basket from a full court? Some people say, “Oh that probably took you all day.” Believe it or not, that was my second throw. It happened, and we were done with it. We had set aside 20 minutes to do that shot, but I did it within the first minute.

No one would believe what was the hardest shot of that whole video. It would be the balloon that was hanging on the second level, and I was standing below, and had to throw the card upwards and pop the balloon hanging about 50 feet away. That was the hardest shot of the whole video, because I had to throw upwards at an angle, and I had to hit the balloon, and I had to pop it. So that one probably took the longest – I think we worked on it for 20 minutes. Then we went to lunch, and we came back. Right after lunch, we were about to give up, and then I got it. So 20 or 25 minutes was the longest we spent on any trick shot in that video. But a lot of them were first or second try.

What instructional videos have you produced that we should know about?

If you want to learn some magic and some card-throwing, I have a free tutorial and some more tutorials on my YouTube channel. I also have some behind the scenes of the card-throwing and some in-depth training on a DVD called Velocity, which is available on my website.

What’s the worst injury you’ve experienced as a result of throwing playing cards?

I would say it was the elbow. I tore the UCL in the elbow, and I had to have that replaced. The first time was with a cadaver and that broke. Then the second time, they took my hamstring from my left leg, and they built it into my right arm. They did a figure eight twice to strengthen that ligament strong enough so when I threw a card or ball or whatever I was throwing, I wouldn’t tear that ligament again. But that puts you out six months. I still could do magic and card throwing, but I did it with my other arm.

What do you think the worst damage a playing card could do if you threw it at someone?

It can definitely give you a paper cut, that’s for sure. I think that’s the worst thing you could do. I don’t think you’re going to kill somebody with a playing card, but you can definitely make somebody bleed. You can definitely stick a card into somebody, if you throw it hard enough. But it’ll give you the worst paper cut of your life, so I recommend you don’t throw at people, even though I’ve done it to friends of mine.

If you’re going to have your card battle, you’re going to want to have glasses or a welder’s mask. I have a gauntlet glove. I give people Styrofoam targets to put on, the UFC gloves with targets put onto them. So if I’m doing this in a live show, people are 100% protected, and nothing is going to happen to them.

What advice would you give to someone who is interested in learning how to do card throwing for fun?

If you want to learn how to throw cards for fun, I would just say hop onto my YouTube channel. Check out the different tutorials. Grab some Styrofoam targets, some playing cards, and practice throwing them.

What can you tell us about the card-throwing competition at your shows?

I have a card-throwing competition now that is live for anybody that wants to come to one of my shows, offering $1,000 if they can hit a target three times in a row and stick their cards into the target. People come up, and whoever throws a playing card the farthest gets to throw three cards into the target. I demonstrate that it’s possible right in front of them, and then I give them the same three cards, or three new cards, depending on what they want, and let them try to throw the cards as well.

If they do it, they win the money. If not, they get other prizes. They can win a deck of cards, they can win $100, or they can win the grand prize of $1,000. It’s usually done live, in front of hundreds of thousands of people. No one’s won yet, but I’ve given a couple hundred dollars away, and I’ve given probably 15 decks of cards away for people that have stuck one card into the target. I’ve had a couple good kids out there that are ready to take my money.

Playing Cards

Should we use old playing cards for practicing our card throwing?

I’m pretty much a diva when it comes to playing cards, and I’ve used Bicycle playing cards my entire life. I’ll probably use them forever for practice. But once I throw a playing card and it gets bent, I can’t throw it again. The accuracy and precision comes with a perfectly non-touched playing card. Once oil is on our hands or once the card gets crinkled or once it gets bent or the heat hits it and it starts warping a little bit, I can’t throw those cards accurately. So I would say you can practice throwing or get the technique down with old playing cards. But if you’re going to try a trick shot, to have the accuracy and precision that they’re looking for, you’re going to have to go buy a brand-new deck, never touched by a human.

What type of playing cards did you first use when you started card throwing and magic?

I typically use Bicycle playing cards. I’ve been a Bicycle fan since I broke the world record in 2002.

For magic I always thought Bicycle playing cards were cards that didn’t look like trick cards. They look like the standard deck that everybody has, so when performing magic with them, people didn’t think it wasn’t a trick deck.

What playing cards do you use for card throwing today?

I still throw Bicycle playing cards, but I had special cards when I worked with De’Vo. When he created the Chrome Kings, I thought those would be a really good card to use because of how they looked in slow motion. I started collaborating with De’Vo as much as I could, because the cards that he created were always different than anything else that I saw on the market. He put a lot of work into it, and I used a lot of his different decks on different TV shows when doing card-throwing appearances. People would see those cards, and they got a lot of interest, and they would say things like “Oh, those are really sick-looking cards” or “They look really cool in slow motion.” So I ended up collecting every single deck that De’Vo has created, and I have them hanging in my office on a nice plaque.

We’ve been friends for years, and he finally said, maybe two years ago, “Let’s create a deck of cards just for you.” So we created the Falcons, and that’s what I have now. That’s what I’ve been selling and giving away and promoting for the last year now.

What playing cards have you personally been involved with producing?

I developed the whistle for the Banshee throwing playing cards. Banshees were created by Murphy’s Magic, while the whistle was created by me. So Banshees and Banshees Advanced are playing cards that you can throw that have a measuring system. I used the Chrome Kings that De’Vo developed for most of the first video for Dude Perfect. In my second collaboration video, I used my new Falcons, which have a gold and silver edition. We just released a cool Kickstarter for the Falcon Razor deck.

Do you need a special deck of cards like the Banshees or Chrome Kings for card throwing?

A brand new Bicycle-quality card is fine. I use all the different cards for different reasons. The Chrome Kings looked amazing in slow motion, and I liked the way that they looked. When we used 10,000 frames per second, it looked like a blade was coming right at the vegetable that I was throwing at. The Banshees were heavier, so when I did the long distance bottle-breaker on Dude Perfect, the Banshee card was the thickest card I had at the time that was strong enough to be able to break the sugar glass. The Falcon throwing cards which De’Vo and I created last year are a little bit thicker, the thickest stock that USPC has ever printed on. So my Falcon deck is the only deck that is printed on that stock, which gives it an edge over other cards, because they are a little bit heavier than your typical Bicycle playing card.

Bicycle cards are perfect to practice with. I’ve used them to break my Guinness Book world record. I feel that if someone wanted to break a world record for distance, that they would need to use a card like the Bicycle playing cards and not a Falcon playing card, because a Falcon would almost be considered cheating, because it’s definitely a heavier card, and the heavier card will definitely throw farther than your typical card.

What are some of the other qualities we should know about your personal Falcon Throwing Cards?

There’s a marking system on them, not for magic, but for card-throwing. There’s a star measuring system for how far you would throw a card into a target.

There are gimmicks that are built with the silver Falcons and the gold foil of the gold Falcons. There’s a double backer in the silver Falcons. There’s two Jokers with a gimmick card, where you can force a card in the falcon’s talons for the regular deck. Then there’s a new reveal card in the new silver edition.

Other than that, it looks almost like a blade when you’re throwing them in slow motion, so they look pretty cool when you hit them with the high-speed camera.

What playing cards do you use for performing magic?

My magic deck is still Bicycle. I still prefer them over any other deck that I’ve used for performing magic, unless I’m at a really high-end event and I want to have a fancy deck of cards. I will browse my collection and grab one of De’Vo’s earlier decks. I’m not against other companies though, and I have decks from David Blaine, Art of Play, and Theory 11. I probably have thousands different decks of cards, if not more. Some decks of cards, other magicians give to me. Some decks of cards, I’ve received as gifts. So I like playing cards all around.

Are you a playing card collector at all yourself, and if so, what can you share about your personal collection?

I have a lot of decks of cards, but I don’t have all the rare decks. I have never got into collecting like some of my friends who are professional card collectors. I do have some rare decks, like some decks from World War I and II. And I have lots of the different Bicycle brand decks. But my biggest collection is De’Vo’s collection. That was the one series of cards that I wanted to make sure that I had every deck. So I do.

Magic

When did you first get involved in magic and what first sparked your interest in it?

I was seven years old. I always did card tricks. My dad knew one card trick, my uncle knew a coin trick, and that was what really sparked my interest – being able to handle cards and being able to do one-handed cut and shuffle the cards and be able to do little tricks, where I could do some betting things with family and friends. That’s how I really got into card magic. The coin trick was just the scotch and soda trick, and that was the trick that my uncle knew and taught me. He ended up giving me the coins to be able to perform that trick for my friends. So that got me interested to it.

Back in the day we also had World’s Greatest Magic every Thanksgiving. That sparked an interest from illusions to close-up magic to all those other things that just got me into magic even deeper.

How have your own performances and shows changed since you first became involved in magic?

I’ve made myself more of an entertainer. I’m not the best or most technical magician in the world. But I feel that I’m a good entertainer. I’m out there performing and doing things that are not easy to figure out, but they’re also fun. They’re not drawn out, and they’re exciting.

I try to create some magic tricks that would fit in with my card-throwing For example, there’s my own version of a card stab and instead of using a knife I do this: I have someone select a playing card, lose it in the deck, throw the cards in the air, and then I throw a playing card and pin their sign card to a board.

I also create tricks that fit in with my personality, which is just have a good time, make sure the audience is having a good time, and keep people entertained. I’m always there to talk with my audience. And if people see me at a show, I’m the same person that they would see if I was just walking down the street. Those are the people that got me into magic, and I’m always there for those types of people as well.

How has technology impacted the magic industry over the last couple of decades, and is this good or bad?

I think it’s enhanced the magic community a ton. I use technology magic in my act now, and I don’t see a weakness in it yet, other than someone thinking that it might be an app. But if you can use somebody else’s cell phone or somebody else’s technology in their hands and end up doing something with their props, you can sometimes just get rid of that whole idea of “That was an app” or “That was something that had to do with technology.” If you’re a good storyteller, you can kind of work around that.

Do have any good stories you can share about an epic “fail” that you experienced?

I haven’t really had any card-throwing things gone wrong, aside from not hitting the target the first time. But I did have one epic fail. At the end of my shows, I would throw playing cards as far as I could, for example at an outdoor show in the summertime. If it was a kids’ show, I’d tell the kids: “Whoever catches this card wins a deck of cards, one of these Chrome Kings” (or a Bicycle deck or whatever I had at the time). I would throw the card as far as I could or as high as I could, and outside it would definitely travel sometimes farther than world record distance because of wind and things like that.

Well, one day, I had two kids run into the card at the very same time, and they kind of ran face-to-face, ran into each other. The one kid’s tooth popped right out. So that was an epic fail. I was pretty upset about that. But they went to the hospital, and they got the tooth back in, and I never heard from that family again, even in a bad way. But I felt bad.

I guess the first show ever I ever did in my entire life was an epic fail as well. I was 15 years old. I thought flash paper and smoke powder and sparkle dust type of stuff that was flammable would be a cool idea to set on fire in somebody’s living room. Well, it started sparkling and sparkling and sparkling, and it never stopped until it hit the floor and then burned a nice quarter-inch hole in their carpet. This was a housewarming party for their first house that they ever bought. Now they have a quarter-inch burn hole in the middle of their thing! 20 or more years later, they come up to me, and say: “That burn hole is still there, and we love that you’re performing still. We tell everybody that you did it.

What advice would you give to a young person just starting to learn card magic for the first time today?

Just practice. Don’t necessarily practice in front of a mirror. It’s good to practice your angles, but practice on your family. Practice on your brother or your sister, your aunt or your uncle. The more that you’re out there, performing these tricks on people, the better you’ll get.

I’ve seen some of the best magicians in the world technically who can show the most incredible card move that I’ve ever seen in my entire life, but they don’t have the courage to walk up to a real person and perform that trick. Even though they would blow me away technically, they don’t have the social or people skills. So develop your people skills. It’s going to help you with school. It’s going to help you with presentations in college. It’s going to help you with anything. The more that you can be in front of people and the more that you feel comfortable with people, the better you’ll get with your act. People will see that you’re comfortable, and they’ll like you as a person, as well as your act.

Do you have any thoughts and opinions on cardistry?

I think cardistry’s pretty cool. I have a lot of friends that do cardistry. I know De’Vo was one of the first to do extreme card manipulation, and he popularized it. Then it became cardistry, and then the Buck twins made it a little bit more popular, which is great.

Back in the day all of those fancy card moves were used as performance pieces. Nowadays they’re used as things added to enhance your performance. While you’re performing a trick, you do a little bit of cardistry in the middle of it, finish your trick, and you’re done. It just gives you something you can do with cards that no one else can.

What has been your experience with social media, and what role do you think it plays for your career?

I never liked social media. I hated that kind of stuff. But I guess I followed just on what everybody was doing. I thought, “I don’t want to be left behind too far. I’ll post here and there.” Now I have an audience of over half a million people. It’s not a lot yet, but it’s getting there, and it’s growing every day. I’m getting sponsors from different companies, and I’m doing sponsored posts. I’m becoming an influencer. I’m making money on YouTube. I’m making money on Instagram. So I’m going to continue to do that, because, as of right now, during this time in the world [COVID-19 crisis] it’s the only way for an entertainer to make money.

Final thoughts

Do you have any goals or accomplishments that you would still like to achieve in your lifetime?

That’s a tough one. Just keep performing. I feel like I’ve accomplished so much, so young. I would love to build up my YouTube subscribers. I would love to continue that and present card-throwing, magic, and tutorials to the younger people out there in the world, give them a place that they could learn and collaborate with others. I would like to just continue doing what I’m doing, collaborating with different artists, making different trick shot videos, trying to always get better. That would be the goal, never to let it get stale, never let it get old.

I had a mentor as a kid when I went on Ripley’s Believe It or Not say, “Enjoy your 30 seconds of fame, because it’s not going to last more than a couple of weeks.” When that mentor said that to me, I was like, “Well, I’m going to prove him wrong.” I’ve been doing card-throwing now for 18, 19 years, making a significant living off that and off my magic. So it’s been going on for 18 years. Ricky Jay did it his whole career. I think I can keep enhancing it and making it better, keeping it popular.

What should we know about Magic Gives Back, which you founded and are the director of?

Magic Gives Back is a platform that I created for my Las Vegas-style magic show. Originally for ten years I was performing at 400 schools a year, as a prize for a local fundraising company. Kids would sell magazines, cookie dough, and wrapping paper and I was the prize for their reward. Instead I basically made Magic Gives Back, the ultimate family night, as a fundraiser. I grabbed 15 of my closest friends, from lighting engineers, sound engineers, to special guest entertainers to dancers to assistants, built some of the best illusions from big magic builders in Las Vegas, like Magic Ventures, and I have tons of different illusions from around the world. We put all that stuff together.

We ended up going into schools, offering them 50% of the profit. So instead of kids selling magazines and cookie dough, they would sell tickets to the show. They would be the promoters to the show, and then we would bring that show to their facilities, their auditoriums. In one night, we could raise anywhere from $20,000-$40,000 and split the money, with the school perhaps doing absolutely nothing. And we had a sold-out show and were able to perform our Las Vegas Dallas show without ever having to spend any money on advertising. So it was a win-win for everybody.

Where can people go to see you perform today?

Most of my shows are private. We do probably 15 Magic Gives Back shows a year. Just say keep an eye out on my social media. If there are public appearances, I put them on Instagram or Facebook or Twitter, and if they want to come to a Magic Gives Back big show, the next shows will be in the spring, 2021.

Conclusion

There’s no doubt that Rick Smith Jr is a unique individual with a remarkable set of talents. He has shaped himself into an entertainer like no other. His path to the record-setting top has been shaped by a few key events, especially his baseball background, his first world record, and his Dude Perfect collaboration video. But he’s also not afraid of hard work, as his busy schedule of 600+ shows a year makes clear. He’s honed and polished his craft, enabling him to do things with playing cards that nobody else in the world can do.

But even if we’re not about to contest Rick Smith Jr for his world records, that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun with playing cards in unusual ways. So why not grab a deck of playing cards and give card throwing a shot yourself!

Where to learn more? Check out Rick Smith Jr’s resources here:
– Rick Smith Jr: Official site, Magic Store, Magic Gives Back
– Social media: Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, Instagram, Youtube
– Videos: Promo video, Card Throwing Highlights
– Dude Perfect videos: Card Throwing Trick Shots, Card Throwing Trick Shots 2
– Tutorials: Free Card Throwing Tutorial, Velocity DVD
– Custom decks: Falcon Razor (Kickstarter), Falcon Throwing Cards, Chrome Kings, De’vo Cardistry decks

Credit: Interview with Card Thrower & Magician Rick Smith Jr

About the author