How to Do the "I Smell a Card" Trick

Learn how to do the "I Smell a Card Trick" from professional illusionist Ben Nemzer in this Howcast magic tricks video.

My name is Ben Nemzer, and I’m a magician. One of my specialties is close-up magic, which is magic with ordinary objects; decks of cards, ropes, rubber bands, and I do that all over New York City. I’m going to teach you some of the basics of magic that you guys can start performing right away. I’m going to teach you how to find somebody’s card using just your sense of smell. Have a look. Would you help me out with a card trick?

Assistant: Of course.

Alright. Go ahead and pick out any card you’d like. Show it to everyone, I won’t look. Excellent, and place your card right on top. Perfect. Will you cut the cards for me? There we are. And again, only if you like, it’s up to you.

Yes, of course.

Now, because you only touched one card, I should be able to find the card that smells just like your hand. Would you mind putting out your hand, just like this, for one moment? I know it’s a little bit silly, but hold on. Got it.


No, it’s not that one. I can tell right away. Nope, not that one. Nope. No. No. No. Hold on, one more. No, definitely not that card. No. No. I can smell it. I’m getting closer. No. No. Ah-ha, this is not your card. Oh, I can smell it from there.

Wow, really?

Oh yeah. What was your card?

It’s so embarrassing. Six of spades.

Sure was, there it is. Thanks for helping me out. Alright, so here is the secret to finding a card with just the sense of smell. For starters, you have your audience pick any card that they like. In this case, she picked the six of spades. Now, while she’s looking at the six of spades and showing it around, I do something very sneaky. I have a look at the bottom card. In this case, the bottom card is the nine of clubs. I have a look at it, very casually, and then I put half of the deck on the table. You’ll notice that I didn’t actually use an entire deck. I only took out half of the deck. You’ll notice that it took a while until I got to her card. This prevents me from having to do this, possibly, over 50 cards. So, it’s always better to do this trick with about half the deck, so this is roughly 26 cards. So, the cards go on the table. I know that the bottom card is the nine of clubs. I have her place her card on the top of the pack, and the nine of clubs goes directly on top of her card. This is called the key card principal. I’m able to tell which card is hers, because I know the one right on top of it is the nine of clubs. You’ll see what I mean in a moment. Now the cards can be cut as many times as we like, that means we take off about half, or a little less than half, or a little more than half. They can only be cut, that means bringing the top, to the bottom. You can’t shuffle, it will ruin the whole trick. Now, I smell the hand, which does nothing, and then I pretend to smell the cards. If the nine of clubs, the card that I’m looking for, is on the bottom, then I know her card is right on top. This time, I actually just got very lucky. You want to check for that, because otherwise you’ll never know that it’s the card. If you’d like to cut the trick short, you can go, ‘Oh, there it is!’ and it’s a very quick trick. Otherwise, you can cut the cards again, and now you know it’s somewhere in the middle. So, as I smell the card, I look at it. Because this is not the nine of clubs, I know for a fact that the next card is not her card. So now I can even smell it without looking at it, and say, ‘Oh no, that’s not it’ and then turn it down. Now that I’ve seen that’s the seven of spades and not the nine of clubs, I know that this one isn’t it. So, no, no, and you keep on doing that until you get to the key card. That’s the card you looked at on the bottom, in this case is the nine of clubs. I keep on going, and I smell and I smell. A big mistake that people make is they go to the key card and go, ‘This is it!’, but it’s not it. It’s always the one after the card that you memorized. I don’t know what it is yet, but I’m going to know that it’s the one after this. I don’t even need to look at it. You’ll remember, I picked it up and I said, ‘I can smell it from here’. Of course, you can’t actually smell the card, you just know that it’s the one after the nine of clubs. And, of course, it is. So, that’s how you trick somebody to think that you can find their card with the sense of smell.