Owly Images

cover art of
				'Mathematical Card Magic, fifty two new effects'

Martin Gardner once observed, "Mathemagical mathematics
combines the beauty of mathematical structure with the
entertainment value of a trick"–and who are we to argue?

It was Martin, back in Jun 2000, who first suggested that
Colm write a book on mathematical card tricks, long
before that was a good idea. It finally appeared:

Mathematical Card Magic: Fifty-Two New Effects,
(AK Peters/CRC, 380 pages, 128 illus, Aug 2013)

Foreword by Max Maven.

All photos by Dan Bascelli of Spelman College.

3 min interview about book, 13 Aug 2013:

Author profile at CRC Press.

Chapter sample (linked from NYT, 29 Jul 2013)


Vital Source

Write-ups & Reviews:

Math Horizons
Nov 2014

Mind Your Decisions
Aug 2014

Mathematical Reviews
Apr 2014

Feb 2014

Cornell Alumni Magazine
Jan 2014

MAA Reviews
Nov 2013

European Mathematical Society
Nov 2013

Table of Contents

Quotes from Reviews


Mathematical card effects offer both beginning and experienced magicians an opportunity to entertain with a minimum of props. Featuring mostly original creations, Mathematical Card Magic: Fifty-Two New Effects presents an entertaining look at new mathematically based card tricks.

Each chapter contains four card effects, generally starting with simple applications of a particular mathematical principle and ending with more complex ones. Practice a handful of the introductory effects and, in no time, you’ll establish your reputation as a "mathemagician." Delve a little deeper into each chapter and the mathematics gets more interesting. The author explains the mathematics as needed in an easy-to-follow way. He also provides additional details, background, and suggestions for further explorations.

Suitable for recreational math buffs and amateur card lovers or as a text in a first-year seminar, this color book offers a diverse collection of new mathemagic principles and effects.


  • Includes over 52 self-working magic creations, requiring no sleight of hand skills or understanding of advanced mathematical details
  • Presents 50 new mathemagical principles
  • Illustrates card handling techniques with step-by-step color photographs
  • Rates each effect for ease of performance, whether any setup is needed, how much mathematics is involved, and how well it appeals to a general audience
  • Explains card handling conventions and basic mathematical principles in a helpful introductory section
  • Covers Gilbreath shuffles and generalizations as well as palindromic card magic
  • Addresses the growing area of two-person mathemagic, which uses subtle information theory principles to communicate
  • Contains clever applications of algebra, combinatorics, discrete math, and probability

Quotes from Reviews

Table of Contents

Colm: Cool and Collected by Max Maven

Hit the Deck Running

Tips of the Trade

The Ratings Game


Convention Center

Low-Down Triple Dealing
Three Scoop Miracle-Done Magic Before?
Any Card (and Any Magician)
Triple Revelation
Ace Combination

For Richer or Poorer
Alphabetical Triple Addition
Subtler Bracelet
From Alpha to Omega
Volunteer Four Hours

Poker Powers
Ditch the Dud
Worst-Case Scenario
Full House Blues
Poker with Any Ten Cards

More Additional Certainties
Little Fibs
Consolidating Your Cards
Matching Interest Rates
Any Two Cards (No Fibbing)

Off-Centered COATs
Celebrity Selection
Never Forget a Face
Oddly Enough
My Lucky Number Is Seven

Gilbreath Variations
Easy as Pi
Lucky Number between One and Thirteen
Unadditional Love
Tapped Out

Word Row
The Biggest Names in Magic
Twisting the Knight Away
Easy as Tau (I Prefer Pi)
Intrinsically Disordered

Bligreath and Beyond
Matchmaker Instincts
The Guessing Game
Flushed with Embarrassment
Wholesome Threesomes

Flipping Miracles
I'll Be Lucking Out for You
Coprime Twins
Royal Flush at the Eleventh Hour
Any Mathemagician

Red, Black, Silver, and Gold
Double Location
Top Twenty Hit
What's Black and Red and Red All Over?
Gold and Silver

Slippery Slopes
Ten Soldiers
Slippery Enough
Erdős Numbers
No Drama Queen

Hamming It Down
A Horse of a Different Color
Multiple Personality
And Now for Something Completely Different

The Hidden Value of Cards
Fitch Cheney's Five-Card Twist
Eigen's Value
Ups and Downs
Fitch Four Glory






Table of Contents

Quotes from Reviews

"Reading Colm Mulcahy’s book on mathematical card tricks is a lot of fun. It's clever, instructive, and clear. Learn some tricks. Learn some math. Impress your friends."
— John Allen Paulos, mathematician, author of Innumeracy, A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper, and other books.

"Mathematical Card Magic is filled with many original ideas that will keep mathematicians and magicians busy for a very long time."
— Arthur Benjamin, Harvey Mudd College, and author of Secrets of Mental Math: The Mathemagician's Guide to Lightning Calculation and Amazing Math Tricks

"Colm Mulcahy has produced a stimulating collection of novel card magic tricks that not only form a wonderful introduction to important ideas in combinatorics but also contain some very nifty magic effects as well. By reading this book, the reader will be well rewarded in both disciplines."
— Ronald Graham, University of California, San Diego, and co-author of Magical Mathematics

"In the early 1900s there began a new blossoming of mathematical magic, via such brilliant inventors as Charles T. Jordan, Stewart James, Robert Hummer and Martin Gardner. You'll meet the above-mentioned people, plus many other worthwhile thinkers, in the book that you are about to read. Colm Mulcahy has joined those ranks. His bi-monthly Card Colm has appeared on the website of the Mathematical Association of America since 2004 … If you have been a Card Colm reader, you already know the quality of his imaginative output. You will find much of the best material from that column here in this collection, revised and improved. You will also encounter a wide variety of previously unreleased material, with some lovely surprises."
— From the Foreword by Max Maven, Magician and Mentalist

"… fantastic [book]! There are so many principles and ideas in it that it is one of those rare books that I will continually look through, study, and use as a reference for as long as I do card magic (which means the rest of my life)."
— Mark Setteducati

"Colm has invented many important and practical mathematical principles and tailor-made them for card magic. He ’ s a skilled teacher and creator, and with his book in hand you ’ ll be able to construct lots of new effects. A must for your magic library."
— Lennart Green, 1991 World Champion in Card Magic, Sweden

"Printed on glossy paper with many colour illustrations, it is not only fun, but also a pleasure to read. The apprentice magician will have a lot to practice on but even the professional magician will find many things to think about while mastering this wonderful calculus of the card deck."
— A. Bultheel, KU Leuven, The European Mathematical Society

"Successfully combines two of my great loves – math and magic – in a way that avoids the monotony that is characteristic of most math-oriented card tricks. I’m enjoying this book immensely."
— Mark A. Ratekin, Senior Vice President, Consulting Services, Walker Information

"This is an amazing volume! Prof. Mulcahy has left one mystery for his readers to solve: Is it a really good math book, using card tricks to explain the math, or is it a really good magic book, using math to explain the magic? Either way, there ’ s not a wrong answer to this question."
— S. Brent Morris, PhD, author of Magic Tricks, Card Shuffling, and Dynamic Computer Memories

""It's a great book even if, like me, you are a complete math moron. There are very few really good books on this subject and this is one of them. Also, physically, this is a very handsome book: thick paper and color throughout. A great job all round"
— Bob Farmer

"In this delightful book, the author of the bi-monthly online articles Card Colm for the Mathematical Association of America shows just how magical mathematics can be. The mathematics ranges from simple to deep and the magical effects range from subtle to stunning. Most of the mathematical principles underlying the effects are original, and many are appearing in print for the first time in this book. I ’ m looking forward to using this material to intrigue and inspire young people to learn both mathematics and magic!"
— Neil Calkin, Department of Mathematical Sciences, Clemson University

"This is an amazing book! Like a magician ’ s well-stacked deck of playing cards, the 13 chapters are packed with 52 punchy effects guaranteed to amaze and amuse. Each chapter deals generously with mathematicians and professional magicians alike. Bursting with new effects, the chapters detail the method and Colm ’ s favoured presentation — each is ‘ pick up and use ’ perfect — but also provide a springboard for readers ’ imagination to create their own presentations. Those with a more mathematical interest won ’ t be disappointed either; reading further into each chapter is a fascinating exploration of the mathematical questions underlying the effects. This is a magic book that will get you thinking and entertaining in equal amounts, in essence a perfect shuffle."
— Peter W. McOwan, Vice Principal Public Engagement and External Partnerships, Queen Mary, University of London

"Colm not only provides lucid exposition of how certain mathematical principles work, but he also clearly describes subtle performance pieces that entertainingly illustrate them. Then, to boot, he drills down as to why they work. In other words, he gives you the ‘ body ’ of everything, plus its ‘ x-ray. ’ Highly recommended."
— Jon Racherbaumer, Preposterist and Author

Table of Contents


Chapters by Colm in other books

"Mathemagical Miracles"

in Expeditions in Mathematics-The Second Book of BAMA Talks,
--pages 25-30, Mathematical Association of America, Mar 2011

"Mathematical Idol"

in Mathematical Wizardry for a Gardner
--pages 155-164, A.K. Peters, Apr 2009

"Horses In the Stream and Other Short Stories"

(as Earnest Hammingway) in Homage to a Pied Puzzler
--pages 233-247, A.K. Peters, Feb 2009

"Low-Down Triple Dealing"

in A Lifetime of Puzzles
--pages 29-34, A.K. Peters, Nov 2008

"Fitch Cheney's Five Card Trick and Generalizations"

in The Edge of the Universe-Celebrating Ten Years of Math Horizons
--pages 273-276, Mathematical Association of America, Aug 2006

"All You Need Is Cards"

(as Brain Epstein) in Puzzlers' Tribute: A Feast for the Mind
--pages 179-190, A.K. Peters, Jan 2002

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