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You have likely seen magicians performing either in person or on tv and wondered how on earth do they do that.  If you have ever witnessed a mentalist performing, you have likely uttered the same words.  Mentalism performances are astounding and are bound to leave you both stunned and speechless.  

If you have never witnessed the work of a true mentalist, you are in for a treat.  There are many different tricks of the trade that are practiced by renowned mentalists.  Here are the eight best effects that you may witness in a performance. 

Mental Epic

This is one of the most profound mentalism effects that you may ever witness. This trick is hinged on a series of predictions by the mentalist followed by random answers from the audience. The Mental Epic Effect truly leaves you questioning the mentalist's connection to actual mind reading.  Most mentalists will use this trick or effect as a final act in performance because it completely blows the crowd away.  

The trick is completed by using a board that has six sections.  Three sections are on the top, and there are three on the bottom.  The top three squares are where the mentalist will write their predictions before asking a random question to the audience.  The answer from the audience is written in the bottom square.  When all predications and responses have been recorded, the mentalist reveals the answers.

The answers often match the predictions made by the mentalist, which is always exciting for the crowd to see.  This trick does not involve much equipment, which is why many mentalists prefer it.  A mentalist can use many different boards for this trick.  There are even pocket-size boards that many mentalists choose to use. 

Fortune Sticks

Many mentalists enjoy using this trick with crowds.  Again, there are no bulky props to carry around. You can fit the sticks right in your pocket.  Typically, the sticks come in a carrying case of some sort, which provides protection and portability. 

The premise of this trick is that the mentalist can read the individual's mind participating in the trick.  On each of the three colorful sticks, there are eight symbols or shapes carved or printed.  The participant is to choose one symbol from one stick and concentrate on it.  This occurs while the mentalist is turned around. 

When the mentalist moves his or her hands over the sticks, they will choose the right stick and symbol. 

Q & A

This trick is extremely popular and often leaves the audience spellbound.  The mentalist positions him or herself on the stage facing the audience, but they have a blindfold not to see the audience.  During this time, the mentalist begins guessing questions the audience has.  Not only are the questions guessed, but the mentalist also answers the questions.

The goal of this trick is to make the audience think the mentalist is truly reading minds. This effect is given because the mentalist has found private information out before the questions being asked.  This information is then used to answer the questions being asked accurately.  The mentalist carries this out in a very discreet and mesmerizing method, which allows the audience to be in awe of their talent. 

(Source: Vanishing Magic)

Tri Sight

A mentalist's only materials for this amazing trick are a deck of playing cards and six envelopes.  A random card is chosen and written on before being shuffled into the deck when the trick begins. A volunteer is selected to separate the deck and choose three cards to lay face down on the table.  

Three envelopes lay on the table and contain predictions from the mentalist.  Once the three cards are placed on the table by the volunteer, the mentalist will put the chosen cards into the envelopes without looking at them. Next, the volunteer writes the numbers; one, two, or three on the outside of the envelopes.  

One of the labeled envelopes is placed to the side, while the contents of the others are revealed by matching the numbers.  Each of the prediction envelopes will match the card put into the envelope by the volunteer.  The final envelope revealed will contain the card with the writing on it from the beginning of the trick. 

(Source: Daytona Magic

Materials needed for Tri Sight:

  • At least 6 envelopes
  • Playing cards
  • A marker 

Invisible Deck

Many mentalists prefer to use this trick because all you need to complete is a single deck of playing cards. Although the materials are simple, it is a trick that always seems to wow crowds.  The term invisible deck comes from how participants interact with the mentalist and the cards.

The mentalist will ask an individual to pretend they have cards and asks them to draw a specific card.  Once this invisible portion is complete, the mentalist will use the real playing cards to display the card the participant pulled out with their imagination. 

While this may seem like the ultimate mind-reading display, it involves a lot of planning and card ordering on the part of the mentalist.  There are very specific orders the cards need to be placed in and memorized by the mentalist.  The movement is so fluid because of the memorization that it leaves the participant in awe. 

(Source: Rebel Magic

Materials needed for Invisible Deck:

  • Playing cards

Kolossal Killer

Mentalists use this trick to really wow their audience. The only materials are cards, a wallet and method.  The mentalist will ask a participant to tell them a card, and they will open their wallet only to find the card the participant chose. 

This is a trick that baffles those watching because it is completed so seamlessly.  There are many variations to this trick that have been used over time. However, the classic method is the most widely used and enjoyed. 

(Source: Wonder Wizards)

Materials needed:

  • Playing cards
  • Wallet 


This card trick requires using one single deck of playing cards with a number on the back of each.  An audience member will choose three cards from the pile and face them face down on the table.  After the cards are placed on the table, a photo of the cards is shown.

As the cards that were placed on the table are lifted, it will be revealed that each of the cards matches the corresponding card in the picture.  This trick typically catches the crowd by surprise because it appears to be a true mentalist trick. 

Materials needed:

  • Playing cards
  • Camera (digital)


Hypnotism is viewed as one of the most entertaining forms of mentalism there is.  It is when a participant seems to lose total control of their mind and body for a very short time, while the mentalist asks them to perform a series of harmless tasks.  

The mentalist is able to achieve this effect by forcing the participant to focus on other things that put them into a relaxed state.  At that point they are able to offer suggestions to the participant that are typically accepted.  This effect is something that takes a very long time to practice and perform. 

What is Force in Mentalism?

If you begin to investigate the tricks employed by mentalists, you will start to see the word force a lot. It is important to know exactly what this refers to in the world of mentalism.  We see the term force to mean when something is done without choice.  Mentalists have a way of “forcing” participants into thinking the way they want them to.

It is important to know that this force is not magical by any means; it is just a way that a mentalist has learned to manipulate a participant's thinking without them knowing any different. (Source: Discover Magazine

Card ForceMathematical Force
As the name states, this is when the mentalist is able to force a participant to choose a particular card during a routine.When using mathematical force, the mentalist will present a number that is mathematically unique, meaning that when put through a series of equations, the answer will always be the same. 

(Source: Mentalism Skills)

Tricks of The Trade

Mentalists are quite phenomenal performers, and many are extremely well known the world over.  This popularity and following did not occur overnight.  There were many years of studying and intense practice that happened before the fame arrived.  When watching a mentalist, you will notice everything is seamlessly done.  This is because they have some tricks up their sleeves that you know nothing about as an observer.  Here are some of the things you may not know about.


This is when a mentalist pushes the participant to make the choice that he or she wants them to make without telling them.  This is usually accomplished by drawing cards and encouraging the participant to choose a specific card. 

Although the participant is given a choice of cards, they are essentially tricked into choosing the card the mentalist wished them to pick.  When the card is revealed as being the same, it is always a crowd-pleaser. 


The art of mentalism relies heavily on the power of suggestion. The mentalist uses the power of suggestion to guide the thinking and choices of the participant. It is truly a craft that needs to be perfected because if a participant knows they are being directed to an answer, the entire act will seem like a farce, and the wow factor will be gone. 

Secret Accomplices 

Mentalists often use secret Accomplices to help them gather critical information from the crowd and participants before the show begins.  This secret accomplice will relay information to the mentalist throughout the show, undenounced to the crowd. 

Often, the mentalist will rely on the accomplice at a specific point during the performance, and the mentalist will call them to be the participant. This is never revealed to the audience, which helps solidify the magic they see taking place before their eyes.

Mental Calculation

Mental Calculation is a large portion of mentalism.  Some many tricks and effects require fast calculations on the part of the mentalist.  This is particularly important when cards are involved.  Typically, they are placed in a specific order based on the trick being performed.  

The mentalist must complete these calculations with ease to ensure the validity of the trick being performed.  If the audience notices faltering or a mistake, it will likely take the credibility of the mentalist away. 

While there are many other things that the mentalist will use to make the show as seamless and magical as possible, these are the most used strategies and tactics.  The interesting thing about these tactics is the ease with which they are carried out. 

Study Tools for Mentalism

Like all professions, mentalism requires time spent studying the art of becoming a top mentalist.  While it may be overwhelming to have both a mentor and heavy reading list, it is essential to skill set development.  Here are several books that are popular among mentalists in training.

What Exactly is Mentalism?

Mentalism is a fantastic performance based on the art of illusion.  A mentalist can make the crowd believe they are reading minds.  There are typically very few props used in the performance of a mentalist because most of their trickery comes from the mind and thinking.

Because this type of performance is so heavily rooted in mind and thinking, the overuse of props would take away the nature of the effects being presented to the audience.  

(Source: Katherine Mills)

Origin of Mentalism

The act of mentalism has been around for a very long time.  The beginning of mentalism as a form of entertainment began as early as 1572 (Source: Vanishing Magic).  Of course, at that time, it was not referred to as mentalism as we know it. 

Many people believe mentalism was not always used as a form of entertainment.  There is the belief that it has been historically used to help shape and transform events in history.  While historians may never prove this, it is interesting to think that a form of entertainment could have been so influential. 

Mentalism vs. Magic

It is important to understand that magic and mentalism are two different things.  Most mentalists do not prefer to be referred to as magicians. The main differences between the two are perception and presentation.


The main factor in mentalism or magic is the perception that you give to the audience during the performance.  Magicians provide the audience with a visual representation of the tricks being done with their use of props.  This does not leave the audience deep in thought but curious about the tricks.

Mentalists focus their entire presentation on the brain and making the audience think they are reading minds.  The illusions presented by mentalists leave the audience completely in awe and questioning what they just witnessed. 


Magicians thrive on the visual presentation of their show.  If you have ever been to a classic magic show, you likely remember several props that were colorful and quite showy.  Whether it be the traditional top hat and rabbit or colorful scarves, a magician's props are always memorable.  The presentation leaves images in your mind well after the show has ended.  The outward showmanship of a magician is typically appealing to a younger crowd. 

Mentalists choose not to use flashy props during their shows.  They want the audience to focus on them and the art of illusion they provide with a simple deck of cards or minor props.  There is typically no showiness involved in a mentalist’s performance.  The crowd is often left in awe of the psychological magic they witnessed from the individual performing. 

Well Known Mentalists

As you can see, mentalism has been around for a very long time, even before it had a title.  Just like great magicians, many great mentalists have been practicing for a very long time.  To truly master the art of mentalism, you must be willing to complete years and years of dedicated practice.  You have to commit to training and research and study from the great mentalists that paved the way for the career.  These are some of the most renowned mentalists from the past and present. 

  • Derren Brown
  • The Amazing Kreskin
  • Uri Geller
  • Max Maven
  • Mark Salem

How do You Become a Mentalist?

Becoming a mentalist is not as easy as grabbing a deck of cards and tricking your friends. To become a mentalist, you need to dedicate a large amount of time to studying the art.  There is not a special mentalist school that you can attend. However, there are books you can research and people you can observe to learn the trade tricks. 


The most important thing you can do when you decide to become a mentalist is focusing your time and energy on practicing.  It is important that you not try to perfect several different effects at one time or likely fail.  When beginning, you should get good at effects gradually so you can work on perfecting them.

Find a Mentor.

You can learn a lot from books and online courses, but the best learning will likely come from a mentor that has been there before.  You can ask questions and even practice your skills with them until you have perfected them.  If you find a good mentor, they will likely even give you tips and tricks to help you along the way. 

Learn Techniques

Before you begin diving into the world of mentalism, you want to make sure you learn some of the techniques frequently used by mentalists.  You will need to use these in your performances, so it is important to be familiar with them before training. 

Final Thoughts

Mentalism is a widely popular entertainment option with hundreds of wild effects that drive crowds crazy and leave them scratching their heads.  The effects used by mentalists are intricate and require years of practice before they are perfected to the point of performing for large venues.  When you watch a mentalist, it is important to remember they are not reading your mind, but their effects are creating a magnificent illusion of mind reading.