magician card trick

Powerful Marked Bicycle Decks That Use a Stack

Marked Decks for Magicians, Part 4

by BoardGameGeek reviewer EndersGame


Today we are not just living in a golden era of custom playing cards, with a massive range of new releases coming out all the time. We are also living in a golden era of marked decks. Compared with what was available to magicians just two decades ago, we have the luxury of multiple options that they could only dream about.

It is interesting trawling through magic forums and reading old threads from around 20 years ago on this subject. Magicians often had to make their own marked decks, typically using a coded system. When it came to a factory printed marked deck, there were very limited options available. Even compared to just ten years ago, today we have products available to us that the previous generation could never have imagined, particularly when it comes to openly readable decks. We really are spoiled for choice, with a massive range of marked decks to pick from, and new ones hitting the market all the time.

The decks covered in this article are splendid examples of the best of the best. In a previous article I already covered the top marked decks that use the familiar Bicycle Rider Back design, or one of its close siblings, the Bicycle Maiden Back and Bicycle Mandolin Back. The four marked decks I recommended were all reader decks that quickly tell you the suit and value of any given card via easy-to-read marks on the card backs. In order of their release, these were:

● 2005 - Boris Wild Marked Deck ($20) by Boris Wild (Maiden Back)
● 2005 - Ultimate Marked Deck ($40) by Magic Dream (Rider Back)
● 2011 - GT SpeedReader ($14) by Garrett Thomas (Mandolin Back)
● 2017 - Marked Cards ($10) by Penguin Magic (Maiden Back)

In this follow-up article I will cover some Bicycle-branded decks that have more complex systems of markings, because they combine the best of a reader deck with a prearranged stack. This gives you powerful access to even more information, and enables you to perform real miracles. Bear in mind that this guide is especially geared to working magicians. If you're just having fun with friends, a novelty marked deck with a coded system can be fine. But working magicians need something practical, easy to use, and powerful. The marked decks you'll find here are exactly the kind of power tools that professionals are looking for. Here are the three decks that we'll be looking at, again in order of their release:

● 2008 - Gambler's Marked Deck ($33) by Boris Wild & Geno Munari (Maiden Back)
● 2013 - The Code ($30) by Andy Nyman (Maiden Back)
● 2017 - Marksman Deck ($35) by Luke Jermay (Mandolin Back)

marked decks

Inspiration: Automatic Playing Cards (1914) by Theodore DeLand

These modern factory printed Bicycle decks all owe an important debt to Theodore DeLand, whose Automatic Playing Cards was developed in 1913 and first appeared on the market in 1914 under the name "Dollar Deck". It was rebranded as "Automatic Playing Cards" from 1919 onwards when it was published by S.S. Adams. This product is still being actively sold today by Magic Makers, who bought out S.S. Adams, and renamed the deck "DeLand's 100 Dollar Deck". The fact that it is still being published is a testimony to its ongoing success as one of the ultimate trick decks.

marked decks

The innovative feature of DeLand's Automatic Deck is that it combines several magic tools: a marked deck, a stacked deck, and a stripper deck. These are already powerful on their own, but when rolled together into one, they turn a marked deck into a super weapon.

The back design of the DeLand deck consists of a series of circles that hide a clever and powerful marking system. These are coded to correspond to a clock face, with tiny dots indicating values from 1 through 12 depending on where they are located. You can quickly decode this information to determine the value and suit of any card.

But what makes DeLand's Automatic Deck even more powerful is that it also comes in a prearranged stack, namely the Si Stebbins stack. Besides the main marking system, the card backs include an additional coded marking system which combines with the stack to give you all kinds of additional information about other cards in the deck and where they are located. As experienced magicians will know, having the cards in a stack already enables you to do a variety of strong effects, such as naming the location of any given card in the deck. But this is strengthened in DeLand's deck by the fact the deck is marked, and by the wealth of information provided by the many markings on the back of each card.

For example, if a spectator cuts off a random number of cards, you can decode the information on the top card to reveal exactly how many cards the spectator has cut, and how many cards are left in the deck. What's more, you can name the cards on either side of that particular card. Naturally all this requires you to retain the deck in a specific order, via false shuffles and false cuts, but these kinds of card controls are the bread-and-butter of an accomplished card magician anyway.

The DeLand deck is an absolutely amazing deck of cards, and in the right hands it is a powerful tool that can work wonders. Experienced magicians can use it to perform miracles otherwise not possible with sleight of hand, and that will seem utterly impossible to spectators. But because it relies on a coded system, it's not very practical. DeLand also created other decks that incorporated both markings and stacks, and while they are also ingenious, like the Automatic Deck, they lack practicality.

But what if you could have a factory printed Bicycle deck that takes on board some of the secrets encoded into DeLand's Automatic Deck, but turns it into a reader deck? What if you could have a modern deck that employs the clever principles from a century ago, but makes them more usable for today's performer? What if you could instantly get access to all the information you need without needing to decode anything? That's exactly what the three decks featured below do.

marked decks

But first there are a couple of other precursors to mention. The first is the S.U.M. Deck (the acronym stands for: Set Up Marked) by Roy Johnson, which was initially a system he taught in a book that he published in 1988. It made use of Ted Lesley's transfers, but combined this with the Osterlind stack. A factory printed version eventually appeared on Hoyle backs in 2000, while the more recent Phoenix S.U.M. Deck 2.0 uses Card Shark's Phoenix backs and the Mnemonica stack.

Heavily inspired by the S.U.M. Deck was Larry Becker and Lee Earle's Demon Deck from 2004, which also used the Osterlind stack, and their own custom design. The three decks below build on these ideas, but represent factory printed Bicycle decks that combine stacks with a reader system of markings.


Gambler's Marked Deck (2008) by Boris Wild & Geno Munari

Creator: Boris Wild & Geno Munari
Back design: 813 Maiden Back
First released: 2008
Price: $33

The Gambler's Marked Deck is one that most readers won't have heard of before. That's because it was created to be exclusively sold by Houdini's Magic stores in Las Vegas, and was especially geared towards the general public. So it isn't distributed via regular channels, and you won't typically find it at your favourite magic retailer. It is however available online directly from Houdini's Magic.

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This deck is notable for combining three powerful tools together into one deck: it's a marked deck, a stacked deck, and a stripper deck, all rolled into one. As we've already seen, this concept is in itself not new, since it goes back to DeLand's Automatic Deck, which relied on similar qualities. But instead of using a coded marking system, the Gambler's Marked Deck is much easier to use, courtesy of its simple reader marking system.

Another ground-breaking feature of the Gambler's Marked Deck was the fact that it was printed on Bicycle Rider Back stock. Not only did it innovate by replacing DeLand's coded system with an openly readable system, but when it was first released in 2008 it was the first time ever that a Bicycle-branded deck had combined a reader system of markings with a stack. As such this pioneering deck would pave the way for later products which followed it, like The Code and the Marksman Deck, which are marked reader decks that incorporate markings for Juan Tamariz's popular Mnemonica Stack.

The Gambler's Marked Deck doesn't use the Mnemonica Stack, but instead uses the intuitive Eight Kings Stack, which can be found in Erdnase's Expert at the Card Table and elsewhere. To make this system easy to use and learn for those unfamiliar with it, the stack order is listed both on the box flap and the Joker. An instructional card for the marking system and a card locator table is also provided.

Of course you can also ignore the extra information provided on the card backs, and just use this deck as a simple marked deck with a reader system. But the amount of information you can glean from any random card back is significant, and altogether there are several pieces of information you have easy access to just by looking at the back of any given card. The most important of these are: the value and suit of the card itself; a quick indication whether it is red or black; the number of cards in the stack (1 to 52), and the value/suit of the bottom card of the stack.

In addition there's also a subtle one-way element to the design, and the card normally at the top of the stack also is marked with three dots to enable you to easily identify it. This means that like both The Code and The Marksman Deck, the reader system on the backs of the Gambler's Marked Deck can help you quickly identify the cards above and below any cut card, and instantly tell you the number of the cards above any cut card. One additional bonus feature of this deck is also worth mentioning: The barcode on the bottom of the tuck box has an 8 of Clubs card reveal.


The story behind this deck is worth telling, because it's one that few magicians seem to know about. What follows represents what I learned first-hand from Geno Munari and also from Boris Wild, who was also involved with the creation of this deck. Geno is the man behind Houdini's Magic, and he wanted to create a unique and powerful marked deck, geared especially towards the general public that passed through Las Vegas. With Las Vegas being the home of so many professional magicians, it was an ideal market to tap into, since most tourists were already interested in magic, and many of them would have a natural interest in learning some card tricks. This deck was created to be sold exclusively in Geno's Las Vegas shops, which is why you've probably never heard of it before.

The first version of this deck was printed on lower quality stock, with a generic card back design. Geno then involved French magician Boris Wild to help develop the deck further, and to produce a more professional version. Boris was instrumental in producing a new version of the deck that incorporated the reader markings on the classic Bicycle Rider Back. The deck was also printed by USPCC on much higher quality card stock than the original edition. A relatively inexpensive companion book with 101 tips and tricks was also made available, either separately or together with the deck, to help get newbies started with their new miracle deck.

The involvement of Boris Wild was an additional reason for not distributing the Gambler's Marked Deck more widely via magic retailers or via mega distributor Murphy's Magic. Boris didn't want to cause any confusion with his own marked deck, which was published previously and used a different marking system. At that time the Boris Wild Marked Deck was already on the market, and was targeted towards and promoted for professional magicians. Seeing his name on the Gambler's Marked Deck would potentially make buyers think they were getting the Boris Wild Marked Deck instead, which employed a very different marking system and had very different features. In view of that, it didn't make sense to add to the magician's marketplace another marked deck with his name on it.

And so the Gambler's Marked Deck hit the market in Houdini's Magic stores in 2008. It proved to be a huge hit, and quickly became one of their top sellers. Meanwhile the deck continued to fly under the radar for most magicians, simply because Houdini's Magic wanted it to be a product that was exclusive to their shops. They cleverly realized that the market they had with laypeople and with the general public would likely see a higher turnover than if they marketed this multi-purpose marked deck to professional magicians. And they were right, because the decks flew out of the door and were a big success with Las Vegas visitors. Like DeLand's original deck, it had the power to do miracles, but was so easy to use that even beginners could harness some of its powers.

When the time came to reprint this deck around 2010, USPCC had tightened their rules about using their trademarked Rider Backs. The only way for the Gambler's Marked Deck to get reprinted was to use different card backs. The Maiden Back design had just been released by USPCC in early 2012 as an alternative to the Rider Back design, and could be altered and used in marked decks and gaff decks. The Maiden Back design was developed by Theory11, and was specifically created to serve as 
a look-alike to the tried and true Rider Back. Geno Munari and Boris Wild also had some input during the development process of the Maiden Back design.  Boris later then recreated the Gambler's Marked Deck on the new Maiden Backs, and subsequent printings since then have used this back design. It was released in April 2012, just a few weeks after the standard Bicycle Maiden Back decks appeared on the market.

marked decks

Teaching materials

The instructional materials you receive along with the Gambler's Marked Deck are very helpful when learning the ropes of what it can do. To begin with, you get access to a 20 minute online video. This was created by Geno Munari in 2014, so it is somewhat dated in terms of the looks and production quality. The video is fairly basic, but it covers all the essentials about how to read all the markings, and how to use the stripper feature of the deck. You won't really learn any tricks from the video other than how to strip a selected card or strip the aces from anywhere in the deck, or how to instantly sort the deck into red and black by stripping the cards. But you will know how the deck works, including the markings, and be well set to use it.

The 60 page booklet that is included in the package along with the Gambler's Marked Deck itself is a real lifesaver, however. The first 20 pages or so overlap with content from the video, but give greater detail. They explain all the features of the deck, and teach you everything you need to know about the markings, about the Erdnase stack, and how to use a stripper deck. It also reproduces some content from Erdnase's Expert at The Card Table about using this stack.

But the real treasure lies in the fact that fully half of the book gives instructions for performing a large number of tricks: 9 with a stacked deck, 14 with a marked deck, 10 with a marked and stacked deck, 59 with a stripper deck, 1 with a marked/stripped deck, and 8 with a one-way deck. The final ten pages cover tips for shuffling and switching decks, basic moves and sleights like shuffles, cuts, and more, and a few simple forces. It's certainly packed with a lot of material, and while it's especially geared towards beginners, and is heavier on method than presentation, you can certainly get some good mileage from it.


Today the Gambler's Marked Deck continues to be available exclusively from Houdini's Magic, so you'll have to get it from their website or their store if you want a copy. But it is unquestionably a powerful tool in the hands of laymen and magicians alike.

While it has a lot of markings on the card backs, they're all quite easy to read, which is all very much by deliberate design. Boris Wild wanted to have the cards convey as much information as possible, so that the deck would be a real powerhouse. For a magician who knows how to take advantage of its extra features, this is a true Swiss Army knife, and can accomplish miracles not possible with other marked decks.

marked decks


The Code (2013) by Andy Nyman

Creator: Andy Nyman
Back design: 813 Maiden Back
First released: 2013
Price: $30

The Code was produced by Andy Nyman for Theory11 in 2013. It is a fine example of a specialized marked reader deck, because it gives more information than just the value and suit of each card, and is built around a whole system, namely the popular Mnemonica Stack by Juan Tamariz.

marked decks


Like the other marked decks on this list, The Code can firstly be used like any other basic reader deck, in that it provides each card's value and suit, the latter in this case being indicated with a letter rather than a pip. But because it also incorporates the popular Mnemonica Stack, The Code also includes a built-in system that gives you considerably more information than simply the identity of the card on the reverse side. In addition the card back will also enable you to identify two other important things: (a) the identity of the card above it; and (b) the number of cards above it.

Andy Nyman acknowledges that Roy Johnson's SUM Deck did this years before he did, but at that time without the stack numbers. Despite the use of a stack, there's nothing for you to memorize; Andy himself even admits that he doesn't even know the Tamariz stack. Reassembling a shuffled deck is easy, because the cards are all numbered from 0 to 51, which indicates the number of cut cards above each card.

The markings are very easy to read, and are even larger than those used by The Marksman Deck, but are surprisingly well disguised. The production is from USPCC on Bicycle stock for consistent handling. The Maiden Back design on the card backs ensures an innocuous and "normal" look that won't alert spectators that anything is out of the ordinary. According to Andy, this is the closest you'll find to a Rider Back design which USPCC allows.


Quite frankly, the ability to know the identity of an adjacent card and the exact number of cards above it is a brilliant weapon. One advantage of this feature is that it takes all the heat off your peek, in a very natural way. Now you don't even need to look at the actual card in order to read its suit and value. Your spectator can even remove a random packet and sandwich it in their hand, and in their mind there is no possible way you can know how many cards they have or what card they have cut to. All the heat is on the cards in their hands, and not the cards remaining, so this reduces the risk of getting caught reading the card backs, and is much more deceptive. Of course there are plenty of ways you can justify looking at the remaining deck, for example by moving it on the table.

This also opens up all kinds of new tricks that you can perform. If you're completely new to this concept, and want to experiment with the kind of magical possibilities that this unlocks, try using a marked deck along with the easy-to-learn Si Stebbins stack, which also allows you to instantly know the card above and below any card that is cut to. Knowing exactly how many cards are above a card randomly cut to by your spectator makes things even more impressive, especially when combined with an intriguing presentation.

marked decks

Teaching materials

To help you along with the new possibilities that The Code offers, the deck comes with an instructional DVD that has just over an hour of video tutorials. This video instruction covers techniques and tips, as well as a couple of routines and ideas for presentation.

The first part of the video starts by teaching various natural ways of obtaining a peek, which Andy calls a "sniper". For example, what he dubs as the Sniper, Sniper 2.0, Sniper 3.0, Sniper Dribble, Double Dribble Sniper, are merely all different ways you can obtain the identity of a card chosen by a spectator by looking at the adjacent card. Andy also teaches natural ways of glimpsing the identity of a card by reading the back of that card itself, with methods he calls the Fan Sniper and Ribbon Spread Sniper.

There are two main tricks taught in the instructional video. In "Homicide", a spectator first cuts a packet from the deck and you reveal how many cards he's taken. The process is then repeated and this time you reveal the identity of the precise card he has cut to. In the "Double Deck Routine", you start by giving a spectator a prediction, after which he cuts to a random card. You then read the prediction which indicates the exact number the matching card will be found in a second deck that the spectator has been holding the entire time. Several variations of both tricks are covered, so there's different directions you can take this, and different ideas you can work with according to your own style and presentation. Both tricks are certainly very fooling and strong, and you couldn't do either of them with an ordinary marked deck.

The teaching and instruction on the video has received high marks from magicians around the world. You can come up with your own ideas for using The Code besides the routines taught on the video, since the deck is effectively a utility device that can be used in all kinds of ways. The system is certainly easy to learn, and even relative beginners will quickly be able to start performing miracles with this remarkable deck.


There's no doubt that The Code was quite revolutionary when it first came out in 2013, and it made quite a splash in the magic industry at the time. It really took marked decks to a new level by incorporating the Mnemonica Stack and by making this ingenious system accessible to everyone. Proof of its positive reception is the fact that The Code won The Magic Cafe's "Thurston Award" in the year after it was released. And while this deck is not cheap, Theory11 does offer refill decks for around $10, for returning customers who have previously purchased The Code.

The instructional video that comes with the deck will provide you with expert assistance in getting going with this wonderful deck, and teach you how to master multiple ways of glimpsing the markings under well-motivated cover, as well as teach a couple of very strong routines. It really is excellent all round.

marked decks


Marksman Deck (2017) by Luke Jermay

Creator: Luke Jermay
Back design: 809 Mandolin Back
First released: 2017
Price: $35

The Marksman Deck from Luke Jermay and Vanishing Inc Magic takes things to another level yet again. The Marksman Deck doesn't just tell you the value and suit of any given card, but it also has several different numbers hidden in the design that tell you the position of the card in the deck, and a whole lot more - even more than The Code.

marked decks


The deck itself is printed on Bicycle stock with Mandolin Backs, so it looks and handles like a completely normal deck. The size and style of the markings is almost identical to that used by the GT Speedreader, and slightly smaller than those of Andy Nyman's The Code.

So what are the additional markings for? Creator Luke Jermay says that he fell in love with Deland's Automatic Deck over 15 years earlier, so that is the obvious inspiration. He used Deland's deck as a teen, and over time slowly developed his own version of it, adding more marks all the time, and this eventually became the Marksman Deck.

Because the deck incorporates a prearranged stack (Mnemonica order), you do have access to an incredible amount of information just by looking at the back of a single card. Not only can you immediately identify the card above it, but from the markings you also can know the exact position of the card in the deck, including how many cards are above it.

Some critics have said that this is a deck which offers the Mnemonica stack for people who can't be bothered to learn it, which is an overly harsh and unfair assessment. In fact, when he first created his deck, Jermay had initially devised his own ordered stack, and he only opted to use the Tamariz Stack when producing the deck professionally, given how popular it is. In reality tricks with a memorized stack are a whole separate animal, and it is just for convenience that this happens to be the stack used, for the sake of memdeck fans.

But extra markings added by Luke also give you access to more remarkable information: You can reveal the exact number of red and black cards respectively that are above the cut card. And you can name the combined total of their values. Each card also indicates exactly how far away in the stack each card's "mate" is. And there's an additional mark so you can use the deck as a one-way deck. That's a ton of markings, and a ton of information and possibilities! On their own some of these features seem like overkill and unnecessary, but they have been incorporated specifically to facilitate very specific tricks that have been designed around them.


To give you a good idea of what this deck can accomplish, check out the 45 minute performance documentary. You can freely view that online, and it will help you decide whether or not this is for you.

Effectively what each card reveals is the same as The Code, but it gives additional information as well. To be clear though, the Marksman Deck wasn't a reworking of The Code, since Luke had clearly been working on it well before The Code was ever released. But it did come out a few years afterwards, and the markings give you the same information as The Code, except with a whole lot more. Does that make it better? Many magicians consider the Marksman Deck to have superseded The Code due to the extra information it incorporates on each card. But others will argue that The Code gives just the right amount of information needed to make it more versatile than a regular deck, and that the extra features of the Marksman Deck are unnecessary. In addition, the marks on The Code are more subtle than the Marksman Deck, and in the latter they can seem glaringly obvious.

You wouldn't want to hand out the Marksman Deck for examination, because the increased number of markings also increases the chances that your audience will notice them. There are seven different markings in total, which are mirrored on each card. They're very easy to read, which is what you want, but that also means there's a risk of getting caught. Admittedly this shouldn't be a problem with good audience management. And given the style of magic you'll use this deck for, you do want fairly large markings that are easy to read. The reason these markings are so obvious is to enable you as a magician to read them quickly, and to let you focus on your showmanship and presentation. It won't fool magicians, but because it looks like a regular Bicycle deck, it should go undetected by spectators. And if you perform as taught by the tutorials, any concerns about this should quickly disappear.

There's no doubt that the potential built into the Marksman Deck is mind-boggling, and the firepower that all this brings to the magician's table is pretty incredible. It's been described as an entire show built into a deck, and that's a fair description. That's because the features it incorporates aren't merely bells and whistles that serve no purpose other than novelty. Instead, each one was developed to do a specific job for a specific effect that Luke Jermay wanted to perform, and so effectively they do have their own routine built into them. The Marksman Deck is especially great for mentalism, since that's Luke's preferred style, and many of the tricks he teaches rely on a mentalist presentation.

Combining a marked deck with a stack and putting a memorized stack within easy reach of everyone that uses this deck is a stroke of genius. To be fair, the genesis of these ideas goes back to DeLand's Automatic Deck more than a century earlier, and that was a big inspiration behind the Marksman Deck. But while DeLand's deck uses a coded system that isn't as easy to use, Luke Jermay's deck is not only more user-friendly, but it also can do so much more than all its predecessors.

marked decks

Teaching materials

When you buy the deck you also get access to around 90 minutes of online video instructions that teach you how to use it, and how to perform several strong tricks that utilize the marking system. The basic routine is effectively self-working, because the deck does most of the hard work for you, so that you can focus entirely on the presentation. So even if you've not had any experience with a stacked deck before, this is a great tool that will help you get into the magic very quickly, and open up a whole range of new possibilities for performance.

There are five main tricks taught in the instructional part of the video. With "Intuition", the spectator cuts off a packet, and you reveal the number of cards cut, the number of red cards, and the total value of the pips. For lay people, this is nothing like any other card trick they've ever seen, and completely defies explanation. "Easy to Read" basically involves you reading the mind of your spectator to reveal his card, and covers numerous different peeks. "Dowsing" has the spectator cut to any card, which they keep secret, and you miraculously find the perfect match.

"Card Calling" is presented as an exercise in remote viewing, and you name card after card in a packet removed by a spectator. "Card Memory" is a presentation where you identify a card removed from a shuffled deck (or a card reinserted in a different place in the deck), supposedly by memorizing the entire order of the deck. This last trick can be done with any marked deck, while Easy to Read and Card Calling rely on the any marked deck that has markings for the stack and adjacent card. Intuition and Dowsing are two unique tricks that you won't be able to perform with anything other than the Marksman Deck.

Luke's style won't suit everyone, because he employs a presentational approach that focuses on having psychic powers. His presentations include things like remote viewing, being blindfolded, going into a trance, or using a sixth sense, and you'll often hear him talking about his audience's feelings, emotions, and intuition. But you can certainly modify this to suit your own style. In deciding on the tricks to include, Luke's main requirements were that they had to be fun and easy to perform, with minimal sleight of hand, and which gave the potential for powerful mentalism, with a real focus on psychology and theatrical presentation. I think he succeeded. And because they aren't hard to do, and you can be performing relatively soon after watching the video instructions.

Besides the instructional video, Luke's book Voyages is another resource that covers the Marksman Deck. It was released for separate purchase, and you may need to head to the secondary market to get a copy.


If The Code is a marked deck on steroids, then the Marksman Deck is like The Code on steroids. So if you are just looking for a marked deck that only tells you the suit and value of cards, then this marked deck will be overkill. Then it will give you far more firepower than you'll ever need, and is like taking a machine gun to a wrestling match. So unless you're actually using these extra markings, the Marksman Deck isn't really essential, and it won't suit most magicians looking for a simpler tool to do a smaller job.

But for the dedicated performer willing to put in the minimal effort required to learn the system and the routines built into them, the Marksman Deck will enable you to perform insane miracles that you simply can't do with an ordinary marked deck. It is really built for the kinds of tricks that Luke Jermay performs and teaches, but wow, are they ever impressive!

marked decks


Final Thoughts

One other Bicycle-branded deck that I haven't mentioned is Maiden Marked Playing Cards. Like the others in this list, it also incorporates markings with information about a stack. It includes similar information to The Code (including the identity of the adjacent card, and the stack number). But it uses an unusual graphical method of designating information about values and suits that makes it harder to read. So it's not a reader deck in the usual sense, but is very close, and that's why I will just mention it in passing for completeness, without further comment.

The additional information offered by all these decks, in going well beyond your normal marked reader deck, will seem like overkill to the average magician. Decks like these are really only worthwhile getting if you intend to take advantage of the fact that they allow you to tap into the potential of a prearranged stack like Mnemonica, or the extra information that their markings offer. They are effectively high-powered Swiss Army knives that incorporate multiple tools. So if you are looking for a simple bread knife, and have no use for a prearranged stack or all the extra information about adjacent cards and more, you are probably better off buying one of the cheaper marked reader decks that just provides the suit and value of the cards.
But the real strength of marked decks like these lies in the built-in superpowers that their additional markings give you. With their help, you can accomplish levels of wizardry simply not possible with a regular marked deck, especially if you enjoy mentalism. Admittedly, along with this comes the need to put extra work into mastering the markings and the stack - although the markings themselves are very easy to read and learn. And it's a lot less effort than memorizing a complete deck stack from scratch. It may even help you learn the Mnemonica stack, and if you've been holding off learning a memorized stack due to the sheer hard work involved, these decks will allow you to tap into the potential of a memdeck without the usual entrance requirements.

It's not just the advantages of a stack that these high powered marked decks offer, however. Knowing the value and identity of an adjacent card is already powerful information, because it makes it so much easier for you to get the glimpse you need to identify a card, because you don't actually need to look at the card in question, but can safely look at its neighbour instead. And particularly in the case of the Marksman Deck, there are additional features geared to very specific effects that can truly astound spectators.

It won't come as a surprise that specialized decks like these typically come with a higher price tag than a more generic marked deck. But that's because they come ready-made with routines and presentations that you will quickly learn and soon perform. Another disadvantage of these decks is that you will need to be able to master some false shuffles and false cuts, to enable you to maintain a completely stacked deck.

But the extra expense and extra effort required will be more than rewarded with the kind of marvels you will be performing. And at some stage in your performance you can always let your spectator shuffle the deck, and you can still use it as you would any other marked deck. No matter which of the above decks you choose, if you put in the effort to explore their true potential, you won't be disappointed.

Where to get them: The three decks covered in this article can be found here:
 Gambler's Marked Deck by Boris Wild & Geno Munari (Maiden Back)
 The Code by Andy Nyman (Maiden Back)
 Marksman Deck by Luke Jermay (Mandolin Back)

See a complete range of other marked decks over on here.

marked decks

Previous articles in this series (Marked Decks for Magicians - A Definitive Guide):
● Part 1: Why do magicians use marked decks?
● Part 2: What is the best marked deck for card magic?
● Part 3: The Best Factory Printed Marked Bicycle Decks

Acknowledgement: It is important that I provide readers with thorough and reliable information. So I want to acknowledge the assistance of many people I corresponded with when researching and writing these articles, especially numerous individuals who were personally involved in creating these decks. They kindly provided me with answers to specific questions I had along the way, and also reviewed relevant parts of the text to ensure that the information I included was up-to-date and accurate. I especially want to acknowledge the input of Kevin Reylek, who is an expert on the subject of marked cards, and whose assistance was invaluable. Kevin was extremely helpful in ensuring the accuracy of many fine details, and very generous in pointing me in the right direction and in providing me with the information I needed.

About the writer: EndersGame is a well-known and highly respected reviewer of board games and playing cards. He loves card games, card magic, cardistry, and card collecting, and has reviewed several hundred boardgames and hundreds of different decks of playing cards. You can see a complete list of his game reviews here, and his playing card reviews here. He is considered an authority on playing cards and has written extensively about their design, history, and function, and has many contacts within the playing card and board game industries. You can view his previous articles about playing cards here. In his spare time he also volunteers with local youth to teach them the art of cardistry and card magic.




Last update date: 06/08/22

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