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An Introduction to Full-Deck Stacks
This essay discusses two common (but very different)
types of full-deck playing card stacks.

The first is the sequential stack, which permits one to
determine the card following (and, in most cases, that
preceding) any given card. Such stacks are designed to
be “circular” (indeed, they are sometimes termed “rosary
stacks”); that is, the pack may be given any number of
single complete cuts without destroying the sequence.

Examples include the venerable Si Stebbins (a numeric
progression: see analysis below) and Eight Kings (a mnemonic progression: Eight
kings threatened to save, nine fine ladies for one sick knave. = 8-K-3-10-2-7-9-5-
Q-4-A-6-J) stacks. There are mnemonic sequences other than Eight Kings (cf.
Five Trees, Furry Kitten, Hungry Jackass, Jackass Ate, Nine Jacks, etc.), and
numeric progressions other than Si Stebbins (see discussion below), but the
concepts are the same. The basic versions of these classic stacks exhibit a
rotating suit (and thus alternating colour) sequence that is not very desirable,
though there are simple schemes for eliminating this. Arguably the best
sequential stack, however, is Richard Osterlind’s Breakthrough Card System,
which is easily learned and displays no obvious ordering of any kind.

The second type is the memorized deck, in which you simply(!) know the
position of every card, and—conversely —the name of the card at any location.
Clearly, this is also suitable for anything requiring a knowledge of preceding and
following cards, but it enables a much wider realm of possibilities. There is no
“secret”, per se... the stack is simply memorized. There are, however, four
alternative approaches to the learning process.

The first is simply to do so by rote memory. Decide on the pack arrangement you
want to use (ensure that it appears to be random), and just sit down and
memorize it. It’s not as difficult as it sounds, but it’s not trivial either. And some
people do find it beyond their capacity.

The second approach is the use of classical mnemonic tools as a “stepping stone”.
The well-known mnemonic alphabet (T/D=1, N=2, M=3, etc.) can be used to
devise images for each of the 52 positions in the stack. Similarly, images can be
created for each of the 52 cards in the deck. Then scenarios can be imagined,
pairing the card images with their corresponding stack position images. So when
given a card name (or stack position), one can recall the associated images to
reconstruct the relationship, and the corresponding position (or name). This won’t
be truly useful/effective, of course, until you have learned the relationships so
well that you no longer have to think about the images, but can simply (and
instantly) recall the association directly. The most widely-used such stacks are
currently those by Simon Aronson and Juan Tamariz, extensively described in
their respective books, though this solution can be applied equally to any of the
many other published stacks... those by Steve Aldrich, Laurie Ireland, Bob Klase,

Page 1 of 4Introduction to Full-Deck Stacks


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