Can you remember it all?

Memorized decks, what a novel concept! I swear, if I didn't read a book on the topic I would probably think that it would be crazy to try to memorize a full deck of cards and then try to get a trick to work with it. I mean, it's 52 whole cards! In order!

I'm only partially joking, of course. I did used to think that memdeck work wasn't really anything special. You have to spend a lot of time memorizing the deck -- and if you want to be really good at it, you'll also be able to know what position a card was at even after the deck was cut. But then, the tricks weren't really that spectacular. A Card At Any Number (ACAAN) with memdeck? You still have to force something, or you have to cut or pass a number of cards. Sure, it could make it easier, but meh.

And then I read the chapter General Observations on the Memorized Deck in The Card Ideas of Simon Aronson. It's funny how simple things that you already know make a ton more sense once you hear it from someone else:

First, how difficult is it to really learn a memorized deck? My experience indicates that it takes about a month, of perhaps 45 minutes practice a day, to feel confident that you really know your stack. When compared with the time needed to master, say, a bottom deal or a center reverse, this short time should probably be considered an asset rather than a liability.
Simon Aronson

He goes on to talk about reciting his stack while brushing his teeth and whatnot, which is probably better than the muscular posing I typically do during the same activity. Then again, no reason I couldn't do all three!

I practice daily, throughout the day. Not memorizing a stack, but sleights and routines. If I'm learning a new routine, that's my primary focus. Sprinkled in between, miscellaneous sleights. But, I haven't added "memorizing a stack" into this daily conditioning and I have really been thinking about it lately.

The Stack, an Index

Don't get me wrong - I'm not writing a "pro's and con's" list here. After a lot of thought and a little research into the topic, I've come to realize that advancing this skill is a beneficial tool to have in my (or your) repertoire even if you only use it for one or two routines.

Ah, but that's just it. Unlike a double lift where it's over-use can lead to it being spotted, a stack is a different creature altogether in that you can do a number of routines back-to-back using the stack and the "sleight" here is purely in your head. Why? Because a stack is an index. By knowing the order of the cards, you know the position of cards.

Flipping my statement above on it's head, you don't need to force a card. You don't even need to have the spectator pick a card - you can have them "think of a card". Pure free will, and yet you have full control over where the card is because you know where the card is. Without ever looking at their faces!

So after you have them think of a card and you make it appear in some fantastic way you can go right into a gambling demonstration and deal the spectator a nice four of a kind while you get a royal flush. And the list goes on! Though, let's be honest, you probably don't want to do too many memdeck tricks back-to-back. Two's probably a good number, but hey, who am I to judge.

Shuffling a Stacked Deck

Oh no, the arch enemy of a stacked deck - the shuffle!

As a magician, you have a decent number of options here. The first is simple... just, don't shuffle the deck. The only reason we shuffle is to give the illusion of having a mixed deck anyways - just, don't shuffle. Will the spectator notice for a single routine that you didn't shuffle? Probably not.

Now, for a real suggestion (since we all know that shuffling is pretty much our default "convincer" move): false shuffles! If you're at a table, you have so many false shuffle options. Zarrow, push-through, pull-through, etc., etc. You can do false cuts and even null-cutting flourishes like Sybil. Do a false shuffle and your stack remains, well, stacked. Most stacks can also survive one or more cuts too (you just may need to do some math to recalculate positions). If you're standing, oh wait yeah, all the same things apply - you still have false shuffles (like a good false riffle) and flourishy cuts.

Faro shuffles are also a possibility - after seven, the deck's back in the original order. Now, you'll have to be able to do a perfect faro of course but this is a way to get the deck into a non-stacked order for a trick or two and then back into your favorite order to knock the spectator out of this world! The only caution I have for this one is having the deck cut while out-of-order would kill the stack.

Another alternative which allows for shuffling is to only have a partial stack. In Mnemonica, partial stacks are discussed and are just as effective as a full-deck stack - they're just limited to a specific portion of the deck. If say, the top 13 cards are in a special order you can just carry that (large) slug through shuffles. Even if the top (or bottom) half of the deck's stacked, you're still able to perform a convincing shuffle of the other half while maintaining order.

So, what happens if you do shuffle the deck? Or, the spectator shuffles it? Easy - something else! If you're like me and are just now learning memdeck stuff and stacks then you already have a decent number of routines built around a shuffled deck. I've always been a follower of the "shuffled deck in use" and impromptu style tricks so if the stack gets destroyed, I can just do something else instead.

Though, I guess it might be worthwhile to mention cold decking too...

What Stack to Use?

Oh boy, now that's a question! What stack indeed...

There are several stacks available, some great and some not. So pick a stack, any stack!

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