Richard Turner (magician)

Richard Turner (magician)

playing card technician. Although an accomplished magician in his own right, Richard does not perform “magic tricks” in the true sense of the term - he has dedicated his life to mastering and demonstrating the moves used by cardsharps old and new to cheat the uninitiated. Richard’s educational, yet entertaining demonstrations have been featured on dozens of television programs in countries around the world, including "That's Incredible", "Ripley's Believe It Or Not", “The 700 Club”, five appearances on Japanese programs, including “World Geniuses” and on Great Britain’s “The Paul Daniels Magic Show” [] . He has conducted motivational lectures for scores of international corporations and government agencies, and created and performed a family entertainment program for school children across the nation featuring a comedy routine co-starring his wife as schoolmarm "Miss Guided", his trusty, if somewhat wacky assistant. Richard’s inspirational programs promote honesty, integrity, loyalty, discipline, perseverance, and foster the ability to overcome obstacles and become the best that one can be.

An expert on all facets of card cheating, Richard performed his 19th Century riverboat gambler’s act as "The Cheat" on a constant basis:

· For seven years, two days a week at Marie Calender’s Restaurant and five days a week aboard the Reuben E. Lee Riverboat-themed restaurant in San Diego, California, once logging 2,190 consecutive days worked;

· Entertained VIPs for four years at Billy Bob’s in Fort Worth, Texas, the world’s largest honky tonk;

· Served seven years as Ambassador and Featured Performer at Six Flags, Fiesta, Texas, where he performed thirty-seven shows a week;

· Nine years at the Buckhorn Saloon and Museum in downtown San Antonio, Texas; and

· Demonstrated his skills at countless business expositions, magic conventions, private parties for the rich and famous and as a Performing Member since 1975 at the Magic Castle, widely revered by professional magicians as the most prestigious venue of its kind (where he was inducted into the Hall Of Fame).

Richard’s audiences have included celebrities such as Jimmy Stewart, Gene Kelly, Johnny Carson, Bob Hope, Mohammed Ali, and Secretary of State Colin Powell, who graciously joined Richard and his wife at one of their school programs. [] The most amazing and inspiring element of Richard’s career is that he auditioned and was hired by his employers without revealing his visual impairment, and never informs his audiences that he is blind!

Richard’s unique card handling ability and incredibly sensitive fingertips so impressed the United States Playing Card Company that they employ his services as a “touch analyst” to evaluate the texture, flexibility and cut of dozens of decks of cards each year, a process that he was performing at the time this writer conversed with him telephonically on the day that this feature was written, May 6, 2008.

Although semi-retired from the exhausting non-stop performing pace of his youth, Richard still manages to find time to appear several weeks a year at The Magic Castle; performs his act and presents lectures to his peers around the world when he chooses to; and obliges friends occasionally by entertaining guests at private parties at the Buckhorn Saloon and Museum in his hometown of San Antonio, Texas.


Richard Turner was born in San Diego in the year 1954, which he dubbed “the year of the full deck" (referring to a standard 52 card deck of playing cards, which contains two Jokers, one of which Richard swears was him). At the age of seven he became infatuated with the television show "Maverick" [] and for an hour every Sunday night, he lived the life of James Garner's affable character Bret Maverick. Richard loved to handle playing cards and, in mastering the skills of the cardsharp he became determined to live the rest of his life, as the singers of the closing theme song to Maverick crooned, "on Jacks and Queens" (despite having no idea at that time what “living on Jacks and Queens” meant). In addition to his wanting to model his life after Bret Maverick, Richard had three other youthful dreams: become an actor; learn to kick like martial artist Bruce Lee; and develop a physique like Charlton Heston in the movie “Ben Hur”.

Tragically, Richard’s eyesight failed at the tender age of nine following his recovery from a bout with scarlet fever. [] . For many years his family believed that it was scarlet fever that robbed his vision, but doctors remain uncertain of the precise cause to this day, offering differing opinions. The doctors agree, however, that the macula (the center of the retina) of each of Richard’s eyes was completely destroyed, preventing forward vision, and the rest of his retinas suffered a condition he describes as a “shotgun pattern” resembling and functioning as if they had been blasted full of holes by a tiny shotgun filled with bird shot. By the age of thirteen, his vision deteriorated to 20/400, twice the level deemed legally blind in the State of California and, over the years, what little vision Richard possessed gradually deteriorated to the point where he presently sees little more than indiscernible shadows, and those only peripherally.

While one would never know it today by looking at his well-muscled physique developed and maintained over the last four decades, Richard Turner described his boyhood self as a visually-impaired, scrawny, asthma-ridden weakling with no other option than to attend a special school for the visually-impaired in Santee, California, called Carlton Hills where, unwilling to accept his impairment, he refused to learn Braille (and never has). Following a series of tragic deaths among family and friends, and other unfortunate events beyond his control young Richard’s rebellious tendencies aimed at his parents and other authority figures escalated and, like many depressed teens feeling sorry for themselves, lost all of his self-esteem and desire to maintain a healthy life-style. At the lowest point in his life he weighed merely sixty-eight pounds.

As a very young boy, Richard longed to become an actor and, despite his later ill health, that yearning drew him to the high school’s drama and theater programs, where he acted in several of the school’s productions. Unfortunately, those successes were short lived, and his defiant misbehavior got him expelled from the high school. He was, thanks to lobbying efforts on his behalf by the caring teachers in the Visually Handicapped program, reinstated two months later on the condition that see a psychiatrist once a week. Shortly thereafter, in a purely happenstance meeting, Richard met a small group of Christians, talked with them for several hours, and took their message of hope to heart. Despite the death of his sister at the hands of a drunk driver; his younger sister and brother seemingly following in his rebellious footsteps down the road to trouble; his mother’s packing her belongings and walking out on the family; and his father’s drowning his sorrows in a bourbon bottle, Richard vowed to follow the new voice in his head urging him to turn his life around and aggressively pursue his boyhood dreams.

Several months later, Richard wondered how he would repair his asthma-ridden, visually impaired, 110 pound body after years of emotional and nutritional neglect. His little brother, David, had been taking karate lessons for nine months, and invited Richard to accompany him to the dojo. Richard fully recognized the difficult path he faced in regaining his mental health and physical fitness, but the resurging old dream of learning to kick like Bruce Lee offered tremendous incentive.

Richard began karate lessons in 1971 under the tutelage of Master John Murphy, the United States’ founder of Wado-Kai, a Japanese hard style karate. Sensei Murphy’s suburban San Diego karate school was run by John Douglas, who told Murphy that he had a visually impaired kid who could barely see two feet in front of his face, but still wanted to train. Douglas asked if he thought they could accommodate the boy and, according to Richard Turner’s account, Murphy replied. “If he’s got the heart and can see shadows, we’ll take him.” In addition to the martial arts, Richard learned invaluable life lessons and values that he could not have absorbed earlier in his life due to his defiant attitude and indulgence in self-pity, despite the sincere efforts of his parents to raise him properly. Sensei Murphy would, oftentimes through unconventional and painful methods, teach the concepts of heart, loyalty, honesty, bravery, and keeping face that Richard stills holds dear to his heart and instills in his son.

Sensei Murphy advised Richard that he must establish a fitness regimen to increase his strength and body mass, and Richard found his way to Gene Fisher’s Gym, located about a block from his apartment. Gene Fisher instilled in Richard what would become a lifelong obsession with weight training that, ultimately, when combined with his relentlessly physical karate training, would build the physical strength and skills Richard demonstrated when earning his fifth degree black belt in Wado-Kai karate.

In 1972 Richard auditioned for a small, non-profit San Diego Christian theater operated by television actor Steve Terrell. It was during his six year stint with the “Lamb’s Players” that Mr. Terrell taught him much more than acting; he molded Richard into an effective communicator in spite of his vision problems, teaching him by following voices to look people in the eye and to play, in effect, the role of a sighted person. Mr. Terrell also instilled in Richard the guiding principle that would later define his life: “If you want to be respected, you have to be the best at what you do. Only then will people be willing to listen to whatever you have to say.”

Richard heeded Mr. Terrell’s advice in everything he did but, mostly, in his pursuit of playing card mastery, practicing as many as sixteen hours a day, every day, often between sets in the weight room, a routine that he continues to this day. Unlike most weightlifters who do between eight and ten repetitions per set, Richard’s sets consist of thirteen reps (there are thirteen cards in each suit in a deck of playing cards) and four sets (one for each playing card suit) totaling 52 reps, or one rep for every card in the deck. He works out daily in his professionally equipped home gym and, amazingly, has missed only a few workouts over the last thirty-eight years, building the strength and stamina required to excel in competitions, and for maintaining his overall physical fitness and razor sharp mental focus.

Another turning point in Richard’s life followed his introduction to Bobby Yerkes, the stunt coordinator for the “Wonder Woman” television series who also trained celebrities for the show “Circus of the Stars.” It was through this friendship that Richard gained control over his fears and their asthma-triggering attacks, learning from the master stuntman to swing on the trapeze, walk a tight rope, and take high falls. Recognizing that his goal to earn a Black Belt in karate hinged on sound respiration for ten very physical bouts facing a fresh opponent each round, he vowed that he would not lose his wind. Like everything else Richard did in life, he ignored his impairment, and worked diligently on the flying trapeze. Bobby's client list for circus stunts, with Richard at his side on many occasions, included such luminaries of the day as actress Deborah Raffen; David Nelson (the son of television pioneers Ozzie and Harriett and an accomplished trapeze artist); Richard Hatch (co-star of the television series “The Streets of San Francisco”); young model, Brook Shields; actress and original Mouseketeer Annette Funicello; and an unknown at the time named Jamie Lee Curtis who, like Richard Hatch, was guided by Richard on her first flight. To further overcome fear and conquer his asthma attacks he climbed thousand foot cliffs; tight-roped between tall buildings; climbed 150-foot Sequoia trees; wrestled sharks; and, grasping steel cables and moving hand-over-hand, crossed between peaks high atop a raging river.

As a stage actor for seven years and a professional entertainer performing his character “The Cheat” for thousands of audiences worldwide, Richard Turner has obviously achieved his boyhood dream of becoming an actor.

Even a cursory review of the photos and videos posted on his web site will reveal that he also achieved his second and third goals by learning to kick like Bruce Lee, and developing the muscular physique of Charlton Heston in the movie Ben Hur.

Many of us would be satisfied with achieving three out of four of our lofty, life-long goals but, remarkably, Richard’s enviable career spanning four decades that he accomplished through dedicated practice, self discipline, perseverance, natural ability, and creativity coupled with little more than a deck of playing cards and a poker table clearly illustrates that he also reached his primary dream by “Livin’ On Jacks and Queens.”

=How Magicians, Card Mechanics and Game Protection Professionals Describe Richard Turner’s Abilities= []

In 1978, Ed Marlo, one of the 20th century’s most innovative and influential card magicians [] who coined the term “cardician” to describe magicians like himself who perform only with playing cards, praised Richard’s unique talents as a cardman, actor and entertainer by saying, “Technicians as a rule are not usually good actors or entertainers. Richard Turner is all three.”

In 1987, Dai Vernon, [] the legendary sleight of hand magician affectionately nicknamed “The Professor” by his peers, described Richard Turner as the most skillful card technician in the world, proclaiming, " Having seen countless numbers of card experts execute for over eighty years, I consider Richard Turner to be by far the most skillful. He performs the most difficult moves with the greatest ease. I doubt if anyone can equal him. He does things with cards that no one in the world can do – no one. I don’t care if you go to China, France or Germany, he does things that no one else can do, and he performs them beautifully.”

Author and renowned sleight of hand expert Charlie Miller admiringly stated, “They call me eagle eye Charlie; Charlie sees everything. I can’t see it, Kid - I can’t see it!”

Milt Larsen, Founder and President of the Magic Castle, Inc said, “In my 45 years at the Castle, people repeatedly say of Richard Turner that it is the most astounding act of sheer skill they have ever witnessed.”

On December 12, 2005 world renowned cardman, author and casino game protection expert Steve Forte proclaimed that, “Richard Turner is the real deal! As one of the finest card technicians on the planet, Richard advances the science of card manipulation to heights never dreamed of.”

Card mechanic and game protection consultant David Malek praised Richard in 2006 by declaring, “One of my favorite card men and a world class technician and performer is Richard Turner. Richard is second to none when it comes to gambling demonstrations with cards. He deals seconds, centers and bottoms equally well and runs up cards with lightning speed. On top of all that he is a fifth degree black belt and without a doubt the most physically fit magician I know. We all have a lot to learn from him.”

On November 11, 2006, noted casino surveillance specialist, table game protection expert, casino administrator, accomplished cardman, and professional poker player Ron Conley wrote, after watching Richard demonstrate his abilities in a one-on-one setting, “I was very impressed with your card work, absolutely some of the best I've ever seen.”

Gambling regulatory supervisor and playing card enthusiast Bruce T. Samboy advised in November 2006, after witnessing Richard’s skill during five performances at The Magic Castle and later in private sessions, “The world’s best cardmen practice the moves until they do them right. Richard Turner practices the moves until he can’t do them wrong.”

Lastly, Tony Giorgio, who is a recognized expert in the methods employed by card and dice cheaters observes: “Richard Turner's masterful, magical, manipulation of playing cards is incomparable.”


* FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award
* Rotary Leadership award
* USAF Honorary Commander
* Honorary Inspector, USAF Thunderbirds
* US Navy Honorary Naval Flight Officer
* Golden Lion Award in Magic, from Siegfried and Roy in 1982
* Lynn Searles Award for Excellence in Card Manipulation


* "Fans, Flourishes, and False Shuffles - Richard Turner", DVD
* "Doubled Signed Card Routine", DVD []
* "The Cheat", DVD []
* "Best of the Bottoms", DVD
* “Shifts, Hops and Magic Passes”, DVD
* “The Science of Shuffling and Stacking”, DVD


* [ Official website]
* [ DVD Review: Fans, Flourishes, and False Shuffles - Richard Turner]
* [ Review of "The Cheat" DVD] , "Genii Magazine
* [“Livin’ On Jacks & Queens – Richard Turner"] , By Jason England, "Genii Magazine April 2007
* YouTube []
*Telephonic conversation with Mr. Turner on May 6, 2008

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