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Topic: Non-memorized stacks
Message: Posted by: Tom G (Jul 4, 2010 10:07AM)
Been working with a couple they each have benefits and drawback. The Boris Wild and Charles Gauci's. Are there any others people are working with and would recommend? With both of these systems you can figure out what card is at a certain number or what number in the deck a card named is located. I don't feel I have it to memorize a deck and keep it available...

Message: Posted by: escherwolf (Jul 4, 2010 03:05PM)
Check out Richard Osterlind's Breakthrough system.
Message: Posted by: Vlad_77 (Jul 4, 2010 04:43PM)
On 2010-07-04 11:07, Tom G wrote:
Been working with a couple they each have benefits and drawback. The Boris Wild and Charles Gauci's. Are there any others people are working with and would recommend? With both of these systems you can figure out what card is at a certain number or what number in the deck a card named is located. I don't feel I have it to memorize a deck and keep it available...

Hi Tom,

John Cornelius has a really nice system in his excellent book, written by Lance Pierce. The book is entitled The Award Winning Magic of John Cornelius. The system is very easy to learn.



I wanted to offer a suggestion on how to memorize a deck [b]if[/b] you would ever desire to try. It really is not that difficult. I have seen mnemonic systems, and Juan Tamariz has a really fun way of doing the memory work as well. The method I employed dates back to Aristotle. It is called "The Journey." So for instance, you want to learn the Aronson Stack. What you do is make a story that involves each and every card. Here is what I did and got the stack down quite nicely in four days and was performing very well with it:

1. Write the story. By writing I mean do not word process it. Actually hand write or hand print the story. Muscle memory comes into play here as you write your story. Also, about a million studies have shown that the transference of information from working memory to long term memory is extremely efficient with active engagement of this sort. In addition, recall is [b]excellent[/b]. Ironically, the most inefficient technique is rote memorization. Actors have known this for eons. It is why we rehearse individual scenes time and again. Even in summer stock rehearsal, we do this - albeit in an accelerated manner.

2. Give the cards "identity". Some you will actually name. So, in my story, the spade suit is an Italian family named Spadini. There is Arturo, Tony, Teresa, etc. Some of cards you will name as PLACES or events. Since my story involves a search for jewels to heist from the nefarious Spadinis (don't get offended paesani, I [b]am[/b] Italian. ;) ) The characters in the story visit various clubs. Also, I will use long known names for other cards. So for instance, I have long known that the Nine of Diamonds is called The Curse of Scotland. It so happens that at the end of the night, the diamonds found are cursed :)

3. Read your story aloud as you mark each and every card front and back. Again see note one as to why. As you are reading aloud and marking, you are combining various cognitive processes and you are engaging different areas of your brain.

4. Grab a nice drink and take a break.

5. Go through the cards and again say your story as you look at each card. I should have noted that when you write your journey or story, another powerful strategy is to make the story as personal as you can. Relate cards to events and people you have known.

6. Repeat step five for a day. Eight hours with frequent 5 minute breaks helped me. We learn [b]much[/b] better and retain more when we do not overload. When you are [b]really[/b] comfortable with your story to the point that you can tell it even before the cards come off the pack, you are ready for the next step.

7.Take half the deck and shuffle in face down into the other half. Now, since you have your story down, you will be exercising recall. When you see a card [b]back[/b], identify the card. When you see a FACE, identify its position in the stack. Do this until no matter how much the cards are shuffled you can nail identity and position.

Trust me, if you have the capacity to learn and retain effects, you DO have it in you to memorize a pack of cards. The trick is finding the approach that works for you, to be confident in yourself, and to rid yourself of the word "memorize" because that word has negative connotation. I borrow from Tamariz here in that you are [b]creating[/b] something. Again, numerous academic studies support Master Tamariz's assertion in that we recall what we create more efficiently that any other way. Think of it this way: there are things you have said to people in your life that you remember [b]years[/b] later. You created a statement in a context ... it became a story you created and can recall.

Final example then I will shut me pie hole. ;) I did a thread in another area of the Café asking people to describe where they were and what they were doing when a significant historical even happened. The detail of virtually every story was nothing short of astounding.

Don't underestimate the power of the gray matter Tom. ;)

Message: Posted by: ddyment (Jul 4, 2010 05:44PM)
There's a moderately detailed essay on just this topic [url=http://www.deceptionary.com/aboutstacks.html]here[/url], and it mentions stacks not identified above that will allow you to know the numerical position of every card, without having to memorize same.
Message: Posted by: juggernought (Jul 4, 2010 05:51PM)
Great post Vlad.

I would like to add that the most powerful stuff that I do uses a memorized deck. Some of the effects that I do using a memorized deck just would not be possible if I had to calculate the position of the card each time.

It's really not that hard work and it is undoubtedly worth it. Think about how long you spend practicing your slights. It only takes a day or so of hard work to know a memorized deck.

If I were you, I would learn Mnemonica (Tamariz's stack). I knew the Aronson stack but I just love the fact that you can shuffle a new deck into order in under a minute.
Message: Posted by: Vlad_77 (Jul 4, 2010 06:52PM)
Thanks Juggernought!

I have Mnemonica and I believe it be a wondrous book. I agree with you that the ability to go into the Mnemonica stack is a [b]very[/b] strong point. I have seen debate over which of these two stacks are "better." I believe there is room enough for these [b]and[/b] other good systems.

I am working on retooling so much of repertoire right now that I may learn the Mnemonica stack. I find it similar to acquiring a second language in that once you have done that, acquiring additional languages becomes easier. Also, it will be fun to create a new "journey."

Message: Posted by: Tom G (Jul 4, 2010 11:34PM)
Thanks Vlad and others. I've tried memorizing, but found I can forget it a thousand times faster. I've seen Michael Close knock people out of their seats using a mem deck. Ah, dare to dream....

Message: Posted by: Steven Keyl (Jul 5, 2010 02:31PM)

Let me share a story in the hopes of enticing you into the world of memorized deck magic...

A few years back I wanted to memorize a stack but didn't know how long it would take for me to have the stack down cold--I simply didn't have the time available to work on it each day in order to commit it to memory.

So what I did was buy Doug Dyment's Mindsights booklet in order to learn the "30-minute stack" AKA Quickstack. This is an algorithmic, formula based stack where you can determine where any card is by applying a couple of very simple rules. However, unlike Si Stebbins it looks quite random and will pass spectator inspection. I loved this because I could start right away with some MD stuff while I continued to work on a truly memorized deck.

What ended up happening was that I memorized the Quickstack (actually, my own stack is slightly varied from Doug's original write-up). So now I have a truly memorized deck built on top of an algorithmic system. There are of course, pros and cons to this stack as with any other.

Since this is a cyclical stack many die-hard MD users dismiss it out of hand. Let me state that if given the chance to instantly change my MD from QuickStack to Aronson or the Mnemonica stack I would NOT do it. There are too many advantages contained in a cyclical stack for me to want to change it. For example, I'm only one faro away from having every card in the deck next to its mated pair. Do you know how many existing magic effects could be significantly streamlined by exploiting this fact? After one more faro, the entire deck is positioned into 4-of-a-kind sequences. I'm sure I don't have to explain how this just might be of use to a magician.

In short, I started with an algorithmic system which I could use at my leisure as I built up to a fully memorized deck. I also wanted to be able to have an "out" in case I drew a blank during performance. As many others have stated in many threads, this is a justifiable concern but is generally groundless. In other words, I have the out but have never once needed to fall back on it. Once memorized, if you perform even once-in-a-while you'll be able to retain the stack.

So if you're on the fence about this you may want to look into Dyment's booklet.
Message: Posted by: BarryFernelius (Jul 5, 2010 08:16PM)

Just for fun, get a pen and a piece of paper. As you sit at the computer, write down the following information:

1. Some Telephone Numbers:
a. Home phone number
b. Cell phone number
c. Wife's phone number
d. Work phone number

2. A few addresses:
a. Home address
b. Work address
c. The street address of the White House

3. Some dates:
a. Your birthday
b. Your wife's birthday
c. Your sibling's birthdays
d. Your children's birthdays
e. Your wedding anniversary date

4. Some years:
a. The year you were born
b. The years you graduated from high school and college (and any advanced degrees)
c. The year that the Declaration of Independence was signed
d. The year that Columbus sailed to the New World.

5. Some information about time:
a. Number of hours in a day
b. Number of minutes in an hour
c. Number of days in a year
d. Number of days for each month of the year.

6. A few more miscellaneous things:
a. Your social security number
b. The names of the planets (eight or nine, depending on your point of view)
b. The PIN numbers for any credit or debit cards that you use regularly


Take a look at the sheet of paper. That's a lot of information. You might have missed an item or two, but for the most part, you had no difficulty with this little exercise. Guess what? Remembering a stacked deck is easier than what you just did.

To paraphrase Jack Goldfinger (entertainment director of the Magic Castle), once upon a time, there were two magicians, one who believed that he never could memorize a stacked deck and another one who believed that he could. They were both right!
Message: Posted by: mtoth2008 (Jul 6, 2010 09:00AM)

I second escherwolf's comment. The Richard Osterlind Break Trough Card System may be what you are looking for. It truely is a SYSTEM where you only need to commit to memory a handful of formulas. I can not think about it for months and with a one minute refresher session use the deck as if I had been using it every day.

A booklet was published on Richard's system by Jeff Busby in 1983 but it is easier to find a copy of a L & L Publishings Richard Osterlind's Mind Mysteries Volume II on DVD which expalins the system in great detail.

Message: Posted by: Dennis Loomis (Jul 7, 2010 04:19PM)
The DAO stack from Doug Dyment's latest book Tricyclic may also be what you are looking for. It is my favorite non-memorized stack which allows you to know the "next" or "previous" card. Find it here:

Dennis Loomis
Message: Posted by: Tom G (Jul 10, 2010 08:44AM)
Well at first I was looking for math stacks. I had learned the Osterlind years earlier, but it's somewhat limited. I was doing well with Charles Gauci's, but occasionally the math would slow me down. So now with all the encouragement I'm taking on Aronson's stack with the help of Stack Trainer. He now offers it as a stand alone program for your computer, if you use it please send a donation.
I'm up to about half a deck. Taking the bulling method. Can't make sense at all of the mnemonic tags, seems like an extra thing to learn and translate. Up to half a deck, probably stick with this a while and get it locked. Does the second half get easier? I will say Joe Williamson's stack trainer is an incredible help. I'm also
taking the cards I've learned, shuffle them, and re-deal the stack.
Message: Posted by: bik0z (Jul 12, 2010 05:22AM)

I guess that you've already read Doug Dyment's valuable essay. I may be too late, but here is just my humble contribution (with your original question in mind).

The (cruel) truth is that nothing can beat a truly memorized deck. With arithmetic-based stacks for example you will never be able to do fast enough and accurate computations with heat on you, unless you practice on a regular basis.

Now, the good news: any cards arrangement or stack can be memorized!

I mean you can decide to memorize a stack based on arithmetic formulas or rules. Even if you don't want to rely on an arithmetic formula to determine the name of a card or its position in the deck, you can still use it as a (different) learning method/device. Different (learning) methods work for different people. See Steven's conclusion in his post above.

Of course, whatever stack and memorization method you choose, you'd better choose one which has a decent apparent randomness, for obvious reasons. (That said, some people will choose to memorize the Si Stebbins stack which has its own advantages, among those is Darwin Ortiz's "Si Stebbins Secret".)

Well, in my humble opinion Bart Harding's "Card System" (which has not been cited, so far) is the most ingenious solutions. (Don't get me wrong, I like Doug Dyment's "Quickstack" very much, too. The way the cards are positioned is really well-thought-out.) Like Richard Osterlind's "Breaktrough Card System", Bart Harding's "Card System" is simply beautiful and it just works. For your information, Evan Reynolds (a Magic Café member) has devised a similar stack called ModStack. He describes his approach in a freely available document.

Other alternatives to the arithmetic approach include: the rules-based approach and what I call the "visual" approach. In both cases, logic replaces computation, which may be a better memorization technique for you.

The rules-based approach has been popularized by Martin Joyal with his "Six-hour Memorized Deck" back in 1997. Another interesting approach is Bob Cassidy's "Ring Stack" published in "Confessions of Dr. Crow" (electronically available from Lybrary.com). Bob Cassidy's system is based on a few words, some basic mnemonics and logic.

The visual approach allows you to visualize the position of every card in the deck. A few years ago Dr. Hans-Christian Solka (a Magic Café member) published his "Mind Map Mem Deck" or m3d stack. I personally like the mind map concept very much. I must mention that a similar principle can be applied to Bard Harding's "Card System" too, though it is not as obvious and easy as in Dr. Hans-Christian Solka's stack...

Death to scarring mnemonics! (Don't Jump! I'm just kidding.)

Last thing: according to some people, if you memorize your deck with the appropriate method(s), you will never forget it. This must be true. Just keep in mind that these people are professional performers who use their memorized deck and maintain their memory on a daily basis.
Message: Posted by: Dennis Loomis (Jul 15, 2010 08:22AM)
There's a ton of useful information on this thread.

As to bikoz's "Last Thing." It is certainly possible to get things into your long term memory. There's lots of stuff we all learn in High School and College which we retain... but I would stop short of saying that you will "...never forget it." Never is a long time, and the stuff in our long term memory needs to be occasionally accessed or it may disappear.

In the fall of 1962, in an Econ 101 class, I was taught this definition of Economics: "Economics is the study of the allocation of scarce means among competing ends where the object is the maximization of these ends." As you can see, it stuck. But, I have brought it up in conversation occasionally during the intervening years. (What's the point of learning something that you are NEVER going to use.)

Yes, I keep on top of the mem-decks I use in my work. First, but by using them, and second by occasional drilling. I suspect that it my not be necessary at all for me to go over the Aronson Stack just to be able to recall the stack numbers and the order of the cards. But, I do want to be FAST. And non-memorized stacks just aren't going to cut it in that department. But they have their uses. And I use stacks other than mem-decks often.

Dennis Loomis
Message: Posted by: Tom G (Jul 15, 2010 08:54AM)
Tons of great information in this thread. Like Dennis I think the non-men stacks might cause me a bit of a pause or obvious concentration. If I used it all the time that might be different, but that won't be the case. I will have to keep
"current" with the Aronson, but with things like "Stack Trainer" available it makes it quite a bit easier. Dennis how many stacks do you know. I've just passed the half way point on the Aronson and can't imagine trying to learn another.
Message: Posted by: Dennis Loomis (Jul 15, 2010 07:28PM)
To Tom G,

Aronson is my "Card" stack of choice, but I also work with Si Stebbins and Eight Kings. I'm playing with Doug Dyment's DAO right now, but haven't used it in a show.

I have committed the Director's Cut stack to memory, and keep adding to what I know about the movies. Sure, I immediately know which movie they are thing of, and the names of the main actor's or two. I know most of the names of the Directors and am working on the rest. For many of the films I can name a lot of other actors, and I have collected and memorized some cute trivia facts which I can throw in. I find that while lots of people aren't fans of playing cards, most people are fans of movies. I don't always use everything I know about the movies, of course.

I like to reveal unexpected things. For example, if someone chooses "Casablanca" I often start by saying... the movie you are thinking of features Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre... but it's not the Maltese Falcon. Of course, also in it were Paul Henreid and Conrad Veidt. But don't forget Claude Reins and that wonderful character Actor S.Z. Sakall. That was his real name, but everybody called him "Cuddles." Of course, the movie featured the singing and piano playing of Dooley Wilson. And talk about music... is there another movie in which you can hear Das Deutschlandliedhe and La Marseillaise sung at the same time? Of course the song everybody remembers was "As Time Goes By." Play it again, Sam. The stars, of course were Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart. From 1942 ... shall we all say it together?... Casablanca. And that's not all. I didn't mention that I've learned six different quotes from the movie... not hard since it's probably the most quoted film of all times. And, another bit of music trivia: only one song was written for the Film... "Knock on Wood."

Believe me, I have a lot more fun when strolling and jazzin with the Director's Cut cards than with the Aronson Stack. Often a spectator knows some interesting stuff about one of the films and I let them "share" or show off. After all, I'm there to see that they have a good time and that means I don't always have to be the center of attention.

And, I have reworked the Children's Alphabet Cards from Creative Magic into my own stack which I have memorized. Sure, I can do it for the little folks, but it's a cute thing for adults as well.

Finally, I know the Symbology stack in case I want to do some ESP work. Each of the 52 distinct symbols relates to a playing card, so I just set it up in Aronson stack order.

Dennis Loomis
Message: Posted by: Dennis Loomis (Jul 16, 2010 02:38PM)
Should have offered: if any of you work with the Director's Cut Cards, I will be happy to share the mnemonics I use to learn the dates of each of the movies. There are only 26 films, so I learned the dates is just a couple of days. (I knew some of the dates already.)

You can send me a Private message, or email me at deloomis@mindspring.com

Dennis Loomis
Message: Posted by: evanthx (Jul 22, 2010 08:44AM)
Bikoz - thanks for mentioning my stack! I'm impressed someone remembered it!

I still have the doc online if it's useful to anyone ...
Message: Posted by: iluzjonista (Sep 2, 2010 10:01AM)
I'm sorry if this is a silly question but is there any way to remember the stack on the fly?