The Pointer Principle

Welcome to “Hidden in the Leaves”, our first in a series exploring the secrets behind Hidden Leaves Playing Cards.

Our first exploration is into an obscure and secret principle called The Pointer Principle. The first known appearance of the principle is found in La Maison académique by Louis de la Marinière, 1654, Paris, p. 176.

The simple secret was heavily exposed in beginner magic books in the 1800s and even appeared in print for the public; having been exposed to Boston newspaper readers in Flag of Our Union, on Dec. 22, 1866 among other papers.

It appears the principle fell out of fashion when playing card pips no longer all faced one-way beginning in the 1850s. The pointer principle seems to disappear from print until 1906 when it resurfaces in Reginald Morrell and Frederick Lloyd's New Magical Sleights and Fakes, 1906, p. 21.

Pointer Principle - Card Magic

The Principle

The ‘pointer principle’ as it has become known, is the one-way principle applied to the faces of the cards. Most magicians are aware of the one-way principle for the backs of the cards, but not as many are aware that some cards are one-way on their faces. And, those that do know about this fact, often never use it. There are 22 cards in total which are ‘one-way’ cards (in a ordinary modern deck): the Ace, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 of Hearts, Clubs and Spades, and the 7 of diamonds (24 if you include the two jokers).

The principle first gained widespread notice when it was published in Greater Magic. Charles Jordan made use of the principle in some of his published effects, as did Annemann and Paul Curry. Hugard and Braue published uses for the principle in both Encyclopedia of Card Tricks and in Expert Card Technique. Most recently, Roberto Giobbi used the principle in one of the effects in his excellent Card College: Light. Joshua Jay also included the principle in his new Joshua Jay’s Amazing Book of Cards. The principle has seen print in magazines such as The Bat, The Linking Ring, The New Conjuror’s Magazine, and Genii. However, I feel that many applications of this principle have been underexplored, at least in print.

- Jeff Hinchliffe

Jeff Hinchliffe is the best magician in Canada today. He has an incredible mind and has written a series of notes on The Pointer Principles filled with his own effects using the principle.


Three of the strongest elements of this principle is it allows fair selection, fair shuffling, and the magic to happen in the spectator’s hands.

The principle has often been exposed in beginner’s books and to the public because of it’s simplicity. Some of the most powerful and effective secrets are woefully disregarded with disdain by the budding neophyte. We offer to correct this mistake through proper education.

The pips in Hidden Leaves are all facing one way with the exception of the diamonds and the court cards. The pips and the court cards are hand drawn to make each card unique. There is fading and bleeding effects incorporated into the artwork to make even the diamonds and court cards be recognizable no matter their orientation. This effectively allows you to use every single card in the deck as a pointer card.

For any tool to be effective in magic, especially this one, it must be disguised. The audience must never suspect, let alone detect the secret. There are a variety of techniques to disguise the pointer principle. You could be using Mnemonica for instance and have cards 1-26 facing one way and 27-52 facing the opposite way. This would allow you shuffle the deck and be able to identify any disorientated cards at a glance. The same thinking can be used to separate the orientation by odds and even, stack work, red/black, 1-7/8-K, and other systems.

  Flag of Our Union , Dec. 22, 1866. An expose of Detection of Cards Chosen and The Obedient Cards.

Flag of Our Union, Dec. 22, 1866. An expose of Detection of Cards Chosen and The Obedient Cards.

We aim to publish and otherwise make available educational and instructional material so that you can develop as a magician.

Mahdi The MagicianComment