Rich Turner: World's Top Card Handler Was Blind But Used Brain in a New Way
Ask any card handler who they think is the greatest card mechanic of all time, and Richard Turner will likely be the first name out of their mouth. He’s so much more advanced than his peers that it prompted one gambling regulator to say this: “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.”
To the layman, Turner’s technical ability seems nothing short of miraculous. He’s been legally blind since he was nine years old, so every one of his achievements has been without the aid of sight. This perception is perhaps Turner’s greatest bluff of all. Because, as he puts it, he didn’t lose two eyes, he gained ten.
In general, visually-impaired people tend to have their other senses heightened, but that’s not a sufficient explanation for Turner’s prowess. He can run his finger down the side of a stack of cards and tell you how many there are in it, and he can identify cards by just their weight and touch.
Something more complicated is going on here.
It boils down to the concept of neuroplasticity — the brain’s ability to rewire itself by forming new neural connections. The brain’s visual center, the occipital lobe, doesn’t just go dark in a blind person, and the other segments of the brain aren’t more finely tuned to make up for it. Instead, other parts of the brain are actually able to “recruit” the resources of the occipital lobe and reroute them to work towards different functions. The other senses are not only more attuned, but they can actually be enhanced.
But, this doesn’t just happen. It needs to be fostered. In the case of Turner, this was ultimately accomplished by spending every waking moment practicing with a deck of cards. By putting in up to 20 hours every day for years honing his sense of touch, he sent a surefire message to his brain that this was a priority for him, and the results followed.
So, with a whopping 20 hours of practice and 37 shows a week for the next six years, you too could become the king of cards.
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