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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Shuffled not Stirred » » Memorized Decks: Rote/Memorization vs. Formulas/Rules (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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Scott Cram
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Many memorized deck discussions on here, at some point, turn to the advantages and disadvantages of the various methods of memorizing a deck. Personally, I think this discussion deserves a topic of its own.

I'd like to start the discussion with an excerpt from Simon Aronson's "Memories Are Made Of This" essay:

"Is There a Substitute For Memorization?

"No.

"The reason I've harped on the need for the 52 mental connections (between each numbered position and its respective card) to be 'instant,' 'instinctive' and 'by memory,' is to dissuade you from considering the tempting but illusory wish that perhaps, somewhere, there's a 'crutch' one could lean on forever, that would obviate having to commit a stack to memory. There isn't.

"Some people, exercising inventive inertia, have sought to avoid having to memorize a deck's order, by instead devising an order of cards which is susceptible of one or more mathematical formulas. By applying such formulas, one can (hopefully simply) 'convert' any given numbered position to its respective playing card, or vice versa. Is such a 'formula' a valid substitute for a memorized deck? The short, practical and only realistic answer is: no way!

"Consider for example, the very simple Divided Deck Location described above (p. 5), where the deck was secretly separated into 'high' and 'low' stack numbers, so you could perform locations by finding a 'stranger' card in the divided deck, the one card whose stack number was 'from the other range.' A 'formula' approach would be out of the question, because you'd need to calculate your formula on each and every card just to determine whether it was a high or a low one! And this problem will occur whenever you're searching among a 'group' of cards to discern some particular characteristic (e.g., say, the 'highest' stack number in the group). When the stack numbers jump out at you by memory (just like a color or a suit jumps out at you visually), such a search poses no problem, but for virtually any sophisticated application, you simply don't have the time to start working through separate formula calculations for each card in a group.

"Moreover, for most memorized deck magic, you're already pre-occupied doing too much else, at the very time you'd have to apply the necessary 'formulas.' You'll want to start off by already knowing a card's stack number instantly - because many memorized deck tricks themselves will require you to perform some simple mathematical calculation to that stack number. Formulas would increase the amount of mental gymnastics required and will slow you down. You'll start hesitating, while your mind goes into overdrive. This isn't entertaining or even fooling. If your thinking shows, it's as bad as if your breaks show.

"Formula stacks have their place in magic; some of them are quite inventive. If, hypothetically, a formula stack had other attributes to it which made it worth memorizing in its own right, then I suppose there's nothing wrong with memorizing a formula stack as your chosen memorized order; this might even offer some mental security, in the comfort that if you ever momentarily 'forgot' a stack number, you could use the formula to come to your aid. A formula might, in a few very simple tricks, provide a valid alternative to memorization, but in virtually all of the more complex or advanced memorized deck tricks, a formula is of theoretical use only."

What are your thoughts?
Ian Richards
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I believe that the last paragraph is the key to this issue. Specifically, to what use will the deck be put once its order has been committed to memory? I would argue that a simple effect only requires a simplified learning system -

“A formula might, in a few very simple tricks, provide a valid alternative to memorization, but in virtually all of the more complex or advanced memorized deck tricks, a formula is of theoretical use only."
HiveMind
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I believe that the GOAL is rote memorization. However,
this can be achieved in a number of ways.

One is to do the whole thing the hard way.

Another is to use a system to help you get there.

I think mnemonics are the best way to help you get
there. It is time honored. The greeks memorized BOOKS
worth of stuff, and use mnemonics to calculate large
equations in their heads. The stuff works because it
is the way the brain WANTS to think. Also, it is
totally independant of order, yet you are memorizing
an order in this case, which allows a person to call
up any card or number and get back the information
connected.

Systems are only good to get you to where you really
want to be. It allows you to USE the stack before you
really KNOW it. And by using it enough, and becoming
comfortable with stack work, the mnemonics are no
longer needed. BUT, just in case you have a momentary
brain stutter, you can use menmonics to recall the
item.

:)
"Free will is an illusion." - B.F. Skinner
Nir Dahan
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IMHO there is no replacement to learning the card-position relationship as is. The point is exactly that, to cause the position or card to pop up in your mind when doing an effect.

Moreover, I believe that it is not necessary to even use mnemonics for the memorization process.

I learned the stack (Tamariz) using a simple computer software that quized me thousands of times in a special learning mode that I designed. It took me 3-4 days with 1 hour a day each and the order was inside my head.

I know people who tried different systems and eventually forgot the stack. I am a strong believer in the brute force method in learning a stack, and keeping it in mind.

Nir
HiveMind
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I guess it's important to acknowledge that people learn
differently. Learning experts say to vary how you
take in the info. If you can picture it, hear it
spoken, and speak it back, you have a better chance of
recalling the info because of the way the brain works.
"Free will is an illusion." - B.F. Skinner
Larry Davidson
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Scott,

My comment is that Simon is wrong. I don't mean to sound rude (and I'm a big fan of Simon's), but my statement is based on my real experience versus Simon's postulation.

Formulas used properly are only a method for INITIALLY learning a memorized deck, just like mneumonics are only a method for such initial learning. Just like with a mneumonic system, the formulas dissipate and you can instantly name the position of any card or the card at any position.

I use Martin Joyal's Six-Hour Memorized Deck method, which is formula- or rule-based, and I can instantly name any card or position. I don't have to perform calculations. In fact, years ago at a magic convention I performed a memorized deck effect for Simon using Martin Joyal's stack, and Simon told me that he was very impressed. I don't think he would have been impressed if I had to hesitate and calculate. I performed the same effect for a world-class card magician who I won't name here and he didn't even have a clue that I was using a memorized deck.

Regards, Larry D.
Hank Shand-Handy
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I think it's very simple. If you think something is going to be difficult, it will seem more difficult than it actually is.

Learning 52 things is really not very difficult at all. How many things do you actually know? Impossible to say, but obviously it's an enormous amount. How can learning just 52 more be overwhelming.
Laziness is what really holds you back. Stop worrying about it and get on with it. It's easy, and I mean easy.

What I did was to learn the stack (Nikola) using mnemonics (maybe 20 mins.) then once it was in my head I can go through the whole lot any time I want. Just do it over and over again in your head when you've got a spare minute and eventually it just sticks and you don't have to think about it anymore. You don't even need a deck of cards.

Hank
I'm playing all the right notes but not necessarily in the right order.
Scott Cram
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Now this is what I was hoping for. There's a lot of great discussion going on here! Whenever this topic is brought up as part of another thread, it usually seems too diluted by the main topic.

One quick response to Hank:

Quote:
Laziness is what really holds you back. Stop worrying about it and get on with it. It's easy, and I mean easy.


I'm not lazy. I've been using the Tamariz stack for over a year and a half now. I'm not so much asking for my own edification, rather I'm just creating a forum for the discussion.

Keep up the good discussion!
Neil
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As inexperienced as I am on memorized cards, I can offer some first-hand experience which might inspire fellow magicians thinking of learning a pack for the first time.

I've just started learning the Aronson stack - started last night in fact, and having spent maybe 2 hours in total (probably less), I have learned the first 26 cards and so far have complete accuracy in going from position to card-name for that half of the pack.

It takes me quite a few seconds to make the mnemonic link and I'm shakey the other way around, but it's obvious to me that it isn't difficult - it's just repetitive and requires concentration.

I'm a way off being able to instantly name cards, etc., to the standard required for convincing magic, but that is bound to come from repetition. I've noticed that for some cards (the early ones that get the most repetition) the direct link has been made with no deliberate additional effort.

If you consider the 1000's of repetitions of passes, lifts and palms required to be convincing it doesn't appear all that bad.
Hank Shand-Handy
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Scott:

I wasn't calling you lazy. That was meant generally. I don't think you ever said you were having a hard time memorizing a stack anyway.

No offense intended.

Hank
I'm playing all the right notes but not necessarily in the right order.
Ian Richards
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Could someone who used a mnemonic, rule or mathematical based method of memorizing a deck please give some insight into as to how they now recall the stack numbers and associated names of cards.

I learnt the Aronson stack about two years ago by rote using flash cards with numbers on the back of the cards. As such I only ever knew the card name and stack number. It is my understanding that “after a while” that is all that remains, independent of how the stack was initially learnt.

I agree with the previous statements, that just like practicing sleights, the memorized deck must be recalled from time to time, but overall it is far easier to do this than most people believe.
S2000magician
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I used Aronson's mnemonic system but now I just know that the C7 = 28, for example.
PossumSlimm
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C7=28 is so memorable BECAUSE of the mnemonic link suggested by Simon! Smile I wince whenever the card is name!
p.b.jones
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Hi,
I learn't the Domonic O'brien method (not mine to expose here) but I like it because I do not have to carry a deck in any order just a few mins and I have got any shuffled deck.
Phillip
ddyment
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Aronson phrases it more carefully than most, and at least touches on the real issues. I believe that this whole issue of whether an algorithmic stack (or a rule-based stack) is as good as a "real" memorized deck is simply a false dichotomy, and misses the point of the the exercise. I've previously written in some detail about this, so won't recycle my opinions here, but anyone interested can easily read the essay on-line.

... Doug
"Calculated Thoughts" is available at The Deceptionary :: Elegant, Literate, Contemporary Mentalism ... and More
Ed Oschmann
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It's possible that I'm missing a point, but I believe what Simon was suggesting is that there are formulas that can be used in lieu of actually memorizing a stack. This is not to be confused with a mnemonic or any rule based system which aids (comforts?) in the learning process. A mnemonic system, which Simon does indeed advocate, is a scaffold which is used until it is no longer needed. The passage that Scott quoted from in "Memories are..." is Simon's opinion of formulas that are used in and of itself. NOT a crutch to learn the stack, but a system that is used where memorization is not the goal.
I feel pretty certain that this is where Simon was coming from in this passage.
Hasta, Ed
Martin Joyal
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Well, I guess it's time for me to jump in and give my humble opinion on this subject.

Like Larry, I'm also a big fan of Aronson. In my initial draft of The Six-hour Memorized deck, I even wrote "I recommend three authors: Aronson, Aronson, and Aronson." But someone has to remember that Aronson wrote his Memory Are Made of This in 1999, just when other stacks were showing up here and there. Did he felt his stack was in danger? I hope not. His stack is a very good one, and there will always be magicians who will want to learn it and use it.

Aronson also wrote in The Aroson Approach that the energy and time required by the translations of cards into stack number, as minimal as they may be, are too demanding and too distracting for the magician. And I perfectly agree with this.

In my opinion, and with all my respect to you Scott, the title of this topic is mileading. The question between root/memorization and formula/rules doesn't apply. In fact, you are asking two questions.

======

QUESTION 1:
Do you prefer a memorized deck or a card system (also called a formula based stack)?

A MEMORIZED DECK is nothing else than a stack of fifty-two cards that has been memorized. The cards can be in random order, in new deck order, in new deck order with some faro works, in an order that permits the accomplishment of certain tricks (mostly Poker Deal and Spelling Trick), in an order regularized by some mathemathical formulas, or in an order that facilitates their memorization. In all those cases, as long as all the card's positions are memorized, it is a memorized deck. Among the know memorized decks, are the ones by Aldrich, Aronson, Ireland, Joyal, Marlo, Nikola, McCaffrey, Raven, Rix, Skinner, Steele, and Tamariz.

A CARD SYSTEM (or what some call a formula based stack) is a combination of a fifty-two card stack and a process. This process can be mathematical (ex. Si Stebbins) or mnemonic (ex. Eight Kings). It governs on the one hand the setup of cards in the stack, and on the other a way to know the position or the identity (or both) of each of the card in the stack. Among the know card systems, there is the New Deck, the Eight Kings, the Grouped Value, and the ones developed by Berg, Boudreau, Collins, Cornelius, Dyment, Harding, Hilford, Jones, Joseph, Lusthaus, Osterlind, Reymond, Riser, Si Stebbins, Stanyon (= Yates, = Wild, = Gauci), and Uhrich.

Of course, if someone memorized the 52 card's positions of any of these card systems, he then have memorized a deck.

======

QUESTION 2
When memorizing a deck, what method do you prefer: rote memory, with the help of mnemonics, or with the help of rules?

ROTE MEMORY
The stack-number-to-card correspondences are simply recited out loud until they are learned by heart. For some, this is the best and only method. For others, it has no appeal. According to an article reprinted in Hugard's Montly back in 1948, Samuel Renshaw maintains that methods using mnemonics weaken our capacity to memorize. Fred Braue evan agrees that methods based on mnemonics hinder more than help our memory. As you can see, everybody have its opinion on this subject.

WITH THE HELP OF MNEMONICS
Many years ago, some thinkers came out with the idea of menmonics. Their goal: to help the ones who do not like rote memory. According to Aronson, experience shows that this method takes 30 days, 45 minutes a day. After a while the mnemonics fade away and the knowledge of cards to positions (and vice versa) is instantenous.

WITH THE HELP OF RULES
In 1997, I came up with the concept of rules, with a similar goal in mind: to help the ones who do not like mnemonics. The "numeric alphabet", the fifty-two words associated to stack numbers, the fifty-two words associated to cards, and the fifty-two pictures associated with stack-number-and-card correspondences, are simply replaced by fourteen rules that are easy to learn and especially easy to remember. Based on e-mails I received, this method takes 4 days, 90 minutes per day. Here also, after a while the rules fade way and the knowledge of cards to positions (and vice versa) is instantenous.

======

If you do want to memorize a deck, whatever method you use doesn't matter as long as your goals are reached. Keep this in mind and use the method that best suits you.

Martin
http://www.joyalstack.com/
HiveMind
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Mnemonics are like the secret magic move of
the mind. It is folly to dismiss them wholly
simply out of fear of the unusual. People
use to recite (that means from memory) the
Aeneid and the Iliad, and they used mnemonic
systems to do it.


Any way you get there is of course great, as
long as you didn't want built in routines
or other properties (the ability to turn
a new deck into your stack with a few
shuffles etc)
"Free will is an illusion." - B.F. Skinner
Scott Cram
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A few more comments and responses:

Quote:
On 2003-10-02 13:40, Hank Shand-Handy wrote:
Scott:

I wasn't calling you lazy. That was meant generally. I don't think you ever said you were having a hard time memorizing a stack anyway.

No offense intended.

Hank


I didn't take offense. The way I read the original message, it looked like you thought I was asking the best way for me to learn a memorized deck.

Quote:
On 2003-10-02 12:26, Neil wrote:
As inexperienced as I am on memorized cards, I can offer some first-hand experience which might inspire fellow magicians thinking of learning a pack for the first time.

I've just started learning the Aronson stack - started last night in fact, and having spent maybe 2 hours in total (probably less), I have learned the first 26 cards and so far have complete accuracy in going from position to card-name for that half of the pack.

It takes me quite a few seconds to make the mnemonic link and I'm shakey the other way around, but it's obvious to me that it isn't difficult - it's just repetitive and requires concentration.

I'm a way off being able to instantly name cards, etc., to the standard required for convincing magic, but that is bound to come from repetition. I've noticed that for some cards (the early ones that get the most repetition) the direct link has been made with no deliberate additional effort.

If you consider the 1000's of repetitions of passes, lifts and palms required to be convincing it doesn't appear all that bad.



This post should be required reading for anyone considering memorized deck work. Great thinking, Neil! Wait until you do get to the point where you can - your magic is about to take a powerful turn.

Now that I think about it, this entire thread should be required reading for those considering memorized deck work.

Quote:
On 2003-10-02 15:08, Ian Richards wrote:
Could someone who used a mnemonic, rule or mathematical based method of memorizing a deck please give some insight into as to how they now recall the stack numbers and associated names of cards.

I learnt the Aronson stack about two years ago by rote using flash cards with numbers on the back of the cards. As such I only ever knew the card name and stack number. It is my understanding that “after a while” that is all that remains, independent of how the stack was initially learnt.

I agree with the previous statements, that just like practicing sleights, the memorized deck must be recalled from time to time, but overall it is far easier to do this than most people believe.


As for the basics of memory, you need to learn how to properly memorize things so they effectively stay in your mind. A good place to start is at the Mind Master website. For a memorized deck, I suggest the following sections, in the following order:

Introduction to Memory Master
Association of Ideas
The Link System
Substitute Words and Phrases
How to Remember Numbers
The Peg System

Once you have that down, you can move on to cards. The traditional way to learn playing cards is taught in Memory Master's "Remembering Playing Cards" section. An alternate system of playing card mnemonics that I found was very quick to learn, was Bob Farmer's Playing Card Mnemonics.

Once you know a set of card mnemonics, and you know a set of number mnemonics, it's simply a matter of making 52 links. You create mental pictures that incorporate the mnemonic for "1" with the mnemonic for your first card. You then do the same for "2" and your second card and so on.

Quote:
On 2003-10-02 17:25, p.b.jones wrote:
Hi,
I learn't the Domonic O'brien method (not mine to expose here) but I like it because I do not have to carry a deck in any order just a few mins and I have got any shuffled deck.
Phillip


It is great to be able to show people that you can take a legitimately shuffled deck and memorize it on the spot. In magic, though, you're usually trying to keep the memorized nature of the deck as a secret.

Dominic's system is powerful. For those not familiar with him, he's an eight time champion of the World Memory Championships. For those interested in his system, a brief description can be found at the Accelerated Learning site of both Dominic's Number System and his Playing Card System.

Quote:
On 2003-10-02 20:09, Ed Oschmann wrote:
It's possible that I'm missing a point, but I believe what Simon was suggesting is that there are formulas that can be used in lieu of actually memorizing a stack. This is not to be confused with a mnemonic or any rule based system which aids (comforts?) in the learning process. A mnemonic system, which Simon does indeed advocate, is a scaffold which is used until it is no longer needed. The passage that Scott quoted from in "Memories are..." is Simon's opinion of formulas that are used in and of itself. NOT a crutch to learn the stack, but a system that is used where memorization is not the goal.
I feel pretty certain that this is where Simon was coming from in this passage.
Hasta, Ed


Thanks for clarifying this! I think this is where much misunderstanding comes from on the issue. This does bring up another question, though.

When you've got a memorized deck, and you know it cold, it doesn't matter how you got there. When you're still at the stage where you need a backup system, though, is the nature of the back-up system important? Can't the brain can work quicker with sensory information faster than it can with rules or formulas. (That's one of my favorite things about Doug Dyment's Quickstack - that there is a mental picture of sorts to keep straight which cards are where.)

Also, my personal preference for recommending the mnemonic method is that you are free to memorize any stack (or, as P. B. Jones was talking about memorizing a shuffled deck on the spot!). You don't have to work out what rules you'll use. Granted, if you're working towards a rule or formula system where those things have already been worked out, then this isn't even a consideration.

By the way, I think we should all thank Martin Joyal and Doug Dyment for coming by, and sharing their experienced thoughts on the memorized deck with us!

(All highlighted text above are clickable links)
Kjellstrom
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You can read about The Six-Hour Memorized Deck by Martin Joyal here: http://www.mastermagic.info/articles.php?articleId=7

Next week I will publish the "secret" of the Self folding bill for free on a password protected page for only magicians !!! don't MISS THAT !
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