Pick a stack, any stack!

Pick a stack, any stack. Come on, you have so many choices - just take one though, memorizing multiple is just crazy!

lol that's not true at all. You can memorize multiple. Some stacks are actually made so that you don't need to memorize all of the cards in their positions - you just need to know the "algorithm" to create the stack. Others are only partial stacks (where only part of the deck is memorized). And then, you have full deck memorization! Okay, okay - so, maybe we should put a little thought into which one we tackle then aye?

Types of Stacks

Rosary Stacks

A rosary stack is one where the deck of cards is in a sequential order. If you know the pattern of the sequence, you'll be able to determine what the next (or previous) card is at any time. These are also referred to as "Circular Stacks" or "Sequential Stacks," which now that I'm writing it out, sequential sounds more appropriate than rosary... 

But yeah, a great feature about rosary stacks is that they're circular, meaning that the first card in the deck (i.e. the one on top) is the card that comes after the last card in the deck (i.e. the one on the bottom). So you can perform as many complete cuts as you want without ruining the sequence!

Here are a couple of the rosary stacks that I've come across so far:

  • Si Stebbins
  • Eight Kings
  • QuickStack by Doug Dyment
    • There is an updated version of this memdeck stack named QuickerStack which switches things up quite a bit. At the time of this writing, I haven't had a chance to look into it more though - but from what I can tell, it's superb. I... don't know if QuickerStack is a rosary stack or not though but I wanted to mention it regardless.

I'm sure I've come across others, but these are the ones that have stuck with me during my journey so far. Though, to be fair, while I've noted Eight Kings above I honestly consider that specific one to be more of a category of related stacks -- yes, it's a stack on it's own, but let's be fair, it's just a mnemonic.

Memorized Decks

Exactly as the name suggests, a memorized deck is one in which you memorize the position and name of every card in the deck. Whoah.

While the concept is pretty straightforward - you take a deck of cards and memorize the order - it does take effort to memorize the entire deck. Unlike Rosary Stacks which have more or less an algorithm to construct them, with memorized decks you're literally memorizing the deck.

Jumping down the rabbit hole, there are a few memdeck stacks that I want to recommend:

  • Mnemonica
  • Aronson Stack
  • Nikola Card System

I do want to note that while I've been researching this topic, I've come across over a dozen names of stacks that appear in multiple sources. As I haven't read into them, their history, tried to learn them, or weigh their pros & cons, I don't feel comfortable including them here. I'm getting more invested into this topic so I'll definitely be updating in the future!

Partial Stacks

A partial stack is a memorized stack too, but only for a subset of the deck. Maybe it's the first 13 cards. Maybe half of the deck. I don't think I've come across a partial stack that was more than half of the deck, but honestly as long as it's not "all of the cards", it's partial.

I'm staring at my copy of Mnemonica on the shelf, partially remembering that it described a partial stack but I'm too lazy to get up. If I, personally, were to go through the process of memorizing a stack I'd go with the whole deck and if needed, only allow part of it to be shuffled (i.e. the bottom half, for example) which would make the top-half a partial stack, still fully memorized.

There are plenty of partial stacks that exist out there for single routines - but they're routine setup stacks that more often than not don't require you to memorize them for any purpose other than setting up the routine. If you find a good one though, as in, one that can be used for multiple routines then that's a keeper!

Algorithm Stacks

While diving through stacks of stacks, every once in a while I come across one that's almost a rosary stack, but not quite. It has an "algorithm" to make it, but it's not really sequential or circular. Because it has an algorithm though, you also don't need to memorize the whole thing!

The system that I see come up most frequently that fits this is Stay-Stack. It's discussed in Mnemonica and Tamariz shows a routine or two with it which is pretty nice. It's pair-based where the top card's pair is the bottom card, the 2nd card's pair is the 2nd from last card, and so on. As long as the deck stays in that order, the stack survives and some neat routines can be had.

I'm certain there are others that fit this category but this is the only one that's stuck with me so far.

Which Stack to Pick?

Ah, back to the main question! You'll notice above that, I only have a few stacks listed in each category: Rosary, Memorized, Partial, Algorithm. That's because I've only come across a few (okay, so I've come across way more -- but these are the ones I've dove in to).

Si Stebbins, Mnemonica, the Aronson Stack, and Stay Stack are stacks I've seen in a decent number of books and videos so these are the ones that I, personally, have put my time into so far. Why multiple? Because they each have different strengths for different situations.

If you're not read to memorize a full deck yet, pick up Si Stebbins or Stay Stack. These will let you get a taste of the effects that a memdeck routine can really deliver and if it's your cup of tea, shave 5 minutes from practicing the classic pass and try to remember a card or two!

Memorizing a Stack

Now that we have our stack picked out, it's time to memorize it.

Hmm... if only there were songs about stacks to help us remember!

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