Here’s how Richard Turner starts his shows: “I’m Richard Turner and I represent why you should never play cards with strangers. I’m not a magician but what I do can appear very magical. I’m what is known as a card mechanic. Slang term: card shark.”
A resident of San Antonio, Richard’s unparalleled card skills have been seen on television and stages across the world, including “Penn & Teller: Fool Us.” Penn even said: “Richard Turner is one of the finest slight-of-hand artists who has ever lived.” (Watch the clip here!)
“Have a healthy disregard for anyone who tells you something is impossible.”
Not many topics came up during our conversation that Richard didn’t have a story about. Staying fit? Richard is a sixth degree karate black belt who hasn’t skipped a workout in decades. Fun hobbies? Richard cliff dives. Comic books? He just so happens to have been namedropped in the 2009 DC Comic “Spirit” as one of the protagonists’ magician mentors.
What makes Richard’s accomplishments even more remarkable is the fact that he has been blind since he was nine.
A New Role
Now in his late 60s, Richard remains at the top of the magic game but is also stepping into a new field: Tech entrepreneurship with the co-founder of Siri Inc.
For a quick look into Richard Turner’s story, check out this trailer to his Documentary, “Dealt”
You’re a world famous card mechanic, a sixth degree karate black belt, motivational speaker and so much more. What makes you so accomplished in so many different fields do you think?
I cannot sit. The director of my documentary “Dealt” would say: “Let’s chill,” and to me that is punishment. “Relaxing” is like being told to sit in the corner. I have to be always doing at least one thing, usually two, at all times. Right now, as we’re talking, I’m practicing variations on a card maneuver.
Here are some stats for you: I started practicing with the cards 61 years ago as a seven-year-old, playing cards for M&M’s. I was the oldest and I didn’t like to lose, so I would deal out hands of poker and I realized that if I gave myself one extra card, my chances of winning would increase by 20%. So, I gained a certain reputation at seven years old, but I chose to be an honest cheat!
For 50 years I practiced cards every day. For at least 25 of those years my average practice time was 14-16 hours per day. The only time I was not practicing cards was when I was working out or sleeping.
How has technology changed your act over the years?
Well, not necessarily my act–but is technology crucial to everything I do? Big time. Sitting in front of me right now is “Jaws,” my talking computer, and what’s called a “Stream” which is a device for the visually impaired where I have thousands of audio books in my collection. I listen to books while I work out and practice.
A lot of older people are losing their sight, and I want them to know that technology is so fantastic. Every day it grows and becomes more friendly. I always thank Adam Cheyer, my co-founder of 52 Productions, because he was the co-founder of Siri Inc. Artificial intelligence has been an equalizer for people who are visually impaired and those who are not.
For example, we used to have a telecom system in our house but now we have Alexas. It was easy to set up and now if I want to talk to wife in the kitchen I just say: “Alexa – drop in on the kitchen.”
Tell me more about 52 Productions, your new tech company! What’s it like starting a new career in a new field in your 60s?
We’re keeping everything very close to the chest, but it is fun. I’m 67, heading into 68. At that age most people would retire. Forget that business! I look at everything I’m doing at any given moment as an adventure.
Generally though, we’re creating gambling and logic games that you can play on any smart device. You’ll be able to play them for fun, with other people. And you’ll be able to do what is called “real money playing.” Of course, our CGP (Conversational Gaming Platform) will be accessibility friendly.
What does aging with attitude mean to you?
One of my philosophies is “take possible out of impossible. Have a healthy disregard for anyone who tells you something is impossible.”
I lost my eyesight at nine and I dealt with that. Now 60 years later, I’m having to deal with “there goes that knee.” Fine! Give me the titanium knee!
Photo credit: Roger Tam