But don’t call him a card shark. He prefers the term “card mechanic,” he clarified to Manuel Bojorquez in a CBS This Morning segment on last week.
“A mechanic is somebody who can control the outcome of a card game,” he explained in between demonstrations of his deft hand.
Turner’s passion for playing cards was ignited at age seven by Maverick, the classic television program starring James Garner as the titular card cheat. When he was nine, his vision began to deteriorate. In absence of sight, Turner developed a tactile sensitivity that enabled him to identify individual cards by their typically indiscernible weight and feel. This superhuman ability enhanced his skill at card manipulation, an ability he honed by decades of daily practice sessions that stretched anywhere from 10 to 20 hours.
Turner’s career as a card mechanic took off at the storied Magic Castle in Hollywood. It was there, in 1975 that he was discovered by his mentor Dai Vernon, the only man to ever fool Houdini. For four decades he’s entertained audiences at home and abroad, including extended stints at Six Flags Fiesta Texas and Buckhorn’s Saloon and Museum. He’s wowed celebrities including Johnny Carson and Muhammad Ali with his trick dealing, and has been showcased in numerous television specials. In 2010 he appeared alongside Brad Pitt in Tree of Life. Now semi-retired, Turner teaches the art of card mechanics with his assistant and son, Asa Spades — yes, you read that correctly — in area schools.
Today, Turner is considered by many to be the greatest card mechanic the world has ever known. Austin-based filmmaker Luke Korem plans to chronicle Turner’s inspiring career in Dealt, a feature-length documentary that is currently in production. Korem expects to release the film in 2015.