This is one of those reviews where I really, really want to give it five stars, but even 4 stars is
a bit of a stretch but not too much, so I hope this helps you in your buying, and perhaps Penguin in
their version 2.
First off, I have been a professional graphic designer, specializing in
type and logos, and a semi-professional magician/mentalist with 30+ years marked card experience.
So, while I don't consider myself the Alpha and Omega of either, I've got a bit of a background from
which to speak. And for you hard-core gambling geeks, the answer is yes, I am related...though
marked card's wasn't Dutch's issue.
1. There is no question that the ELITE
stock is the greatest thing to happen to card magic since the invention of the double-backer (one of
which is included)...at least at this price point. I am NOT a manipulation jock, a "cardician", nor
even much of a sleight of hand guy...I'm a mouth with feet...but even I notice how smooth and
perfect this finish is and the bloody things all but Faro themselves. Really, they are a joy to
hold. I can see myself using this stock exclusively from now on.
2. The Markings are in
great places for pro work...these are not for gambling, you are not going to take these to poker
night and not get run out on a rail...it's not that kind of deck. If someone is looking for marks,
you're already burned, work on your routine and learn not to run when not being chased...people
don't look for marks without cause.
3. The price is AMAZING! $5 a deck in bulk means that I
have no problem using these for torn-and-restored, card on ceiling, signed ambitious card, card
warp, or any other mutilation effect...which means they are perfect for my close-up shows where I
tend to destroy a lot of cards. Unlike using a Boris Wild or Ted Leslie deck which cost up to SIX
times as much, these are disposable without considering their price. Open a new deck and move on! At
4. They come pre-stacked in the most widely known memorized stack, which is awesome
(sadly, I learned a different one...but I'm learning this one as fast as I can). I can't fault the
designer for the choice, however, it's a great addition!
I'm really going to
get in the weeds here from a design perspective, but the markings are wrong for several reasons I
hope will inspire an updated version and replacement in the near future.
1. The advantage
of having a new deck in the plastic (as these come shipped) is that no one is going to suspect they
are anything but mass-market cards. However, the omission of a flap sticker is noticeable to anyone
who uses cards a lot. And while I perform for REAL people more than magicians, who I am sure will
notice, I actually got a hairy eyeball from an audience member last week who I found out later was a
pro-poker player. This would be a small addition, but it would help sell their innocence.
2. The thickness of the marks is just a touch too thin. What this means is my 48-year-old eyes
can't make them out at a distance of more than 18 inches...and even then I look like I'm looking. I
can't read these at a glance and that's a problem. Were I 25 again, I might consider this
differently, but I'm not, and many of you reading this likely are not either...so consider this when
3. The font choice for the marks is too stylized. This is really noticeable on
the TOP marks, especially on 10 and above as they are warped to fit the spot. The ACE, for example,
looks like a closed-loop FOUR from a very short distance (the actual FOUR is open, however, so this
is a learnable difference).
4. The position of the markings is adequate, but I have a soft
spot for the Ted Leslie positioning, and I wish it were used rather than the TOP mark position. This
is admittedly a quibble, however, as it is my preference, not an inadequacy of the product.
5. However, the BIG PROBLEM is the choice of using card SYMBOLS. These are simply not good
enough as they don't allow for quick identification when outlined (they are not solid) or
angeld/warped (as they are in order to fit in the TOP position). The Heart and Diamond are, of
course, not identical, but when glancing at them nonchalantly, they are nearly indistinguishable
from each other. That's a problem and one that is known to designers. Leslie got around this by
using CHSD instead of ♣♥♠♦, as the letterforms are much harder to mistake for each other on the fly.
I really, really wish these cards used the letters.
6. THE WEEDS: Another problem with
using the symbols, even without the warping as they are on the SIDE marks is the human brain itself.
Psychologically, people read/view signs and symbols differently. That means your brain has to work
twice as hard to read 3♥ opposed to 3H because it uses two different parts of your brain.
Unfortunately, it's still read sequentially and brains don't grab them both at once. Worse, because
you must code-switch from SIGN (3) to SYMBOL (♥) the brain doesn't actually see the suit until you
consciously look for it...it's part of the other symbol on the card (the entire back design is a
symbol psychologically). Now, we're talking nano-seconds longer here, but as any cold reader knows,
nano-seconds can tell you a lot. And while the audience may not realize what you are doing exactly,
they will realize you are doing "something," and that's a problem. If I could change one thing about
these cards with this review, THIS IS IT.
7. There are two places these cards are marked,
and that's great, exept that the SIDE marks are just far enough apart to not be taken in at the same
time...extending the time to read the marks another nano-second or two. For this reason, I have been
focussing on the TOP marks...warp and all...as they are a little faster to read. YMMV.
These cards a major leap in professional marked cards for the price and card
quality. The marking style is a BIG ding however and anyone over the age of 40 (the age macular
hardening usually happens to human eyes) may have issues reading them quickly and undetected. That
said, if you need marked cards for any of your work, that you don't want to baby and keep in
pristine condition, THESE are the cards to get by the brick.
53 of 54 magicians found this helpful.
Lately I’ve been basically collecting marked decks, trying to find the one that works best for me. I
should mention that my eyes aren’t as sharp as they used to be, so I’m concerned about the biggest
giveaway that you’re using marked cards: an awkward, long squinting stare and the back of a playing
There are some really cool features to some of the available decks (like knowing the
next card or how many have been cut from the deck) if you’re interested in using a specific stack.
But I’m an Osterlind stack guy and I’m not ready to put in the work to learn a different system. So
I want a marked deck I can use every day with the stack I already know. And it’s worth mentioning
that all of those other decks retail at 25 to 35 bucks a piece.
With very little practice,
I can read the backs of these cards at arm’s length, yet the marks are well-hidden enough that I
have no problem casually handing them to a spectator. Of all of the marked decks i’ve tried
(including Luke Jermay’s Marksman Deck, Andy Nyman’s The Code and the Ultimate Marked Deck), this
one is the easiest to read and, by far, the most affordable. I’m going to buy a brick and make them
my everyday cards!
The only downside I see, comparing them to some of the more expensive
decks, is that the only information on the backs of each of these cards is the value/suit of that
card. But the values are clear, easy to read and well-hidden in multiple locations. And that is just
perfect for me.
Congrats to Rick Lax for creating the first truly affordable marked deck!
30 of 32 magicians found this helpful.
Oh man, where do I begin? These cards are amazing!! I got the download two days ago and have watched
them both through a couple times. Rick does a great job as always of explaining every little detail
about the cards. There is an added little something to this deck that just goes to show how much
they put into this deck! You won't know what it is until you watch his video but it is an awesome
little surprise! Rick shows his touches on some classic marked card work as well as some added
subtleties from others.
I received the cards and immediately performed one of the tricks
which is to be done from the unopened pack. It went over really well and I followed that with some
of his other tricks taught. They are very simple yet extremely fooling! The tricks can be magical or
make you look like a memory genius! You are told many times, if you don't use this as a marked deck,
no one will know it's a marked deck and that is super important!
The second video with
the awesome instructor Jon Armstrong is great as well! He goes over some dos and donts of a marked
deck and how he uses his. He says if you see him, he always has a marked deck in his hands, and now
with these cards, it's possible for you too!! They are extremely affordable and my biggest
recommendation would be to buy them in bulk. That is the best value you can get for a pack of marked
cards! I can't see myself not having at least one of these decks with me at all times when I'm
performing or just out and about. There are so many tricks out there that can be improved simply by
having a marked deck.
Overall, I am extremely happy with this deck of cards and I know
that you will be too! Rick and penguin have done such a great job with these and have shown how much
they care for us as performers by releasing this amazing deck at such a great price! Products like
this are why I have always been and will always be, a penguin guy!
25 of 27 magicians found this helpful.
I came up in a time when the go-to of marked decks was the Deland Automatic Deck; problematic
because of the strip, and difficult because of the marking sizes - problems solved!
should start by saying I am in no way a 'card guy'. I do, however, appreciate a good deck of cards,
gimmicked or no. This deck will replace all my card decks except the stripper and has probably
doubled my force capabilities.
I could not be more pleased with the capabilities of this
deck, the ease of card recognition, and the myriad possibilities it presents. The brick price for
specialized decks is pretty sweet as well... :-)
Give your other card decks to an up and
coming amateur in your local club; you won't need them anymore.
19 of 22 magicians found this helpful.
I have used many marked decks in the past and apart from the Phoenix marked deck, which is not so
subtly marked, it is the easiest deck to read. I wear reading glasses but I am still able to clearly
see the cleverly disguised markings without them. Nice stuff here, team!
My only complaint
is that for some of the routines that I do, I need a SEALED BLUE deck and a SEALED RED deck that are
pre-stacked. This product is not offered in BLUE BACKS... Please! Make them in blue too!!
10 of 11 magicians found this helpful.
I "feel the vibrations" and they are good!!!
I love marked cards...people think we used them
anyway so why the hell not use them all the time...and now you can!
The one thing that stands
out to me about this product is the obvious attention to detail that Penguin has paid to this deck.
The marks are everywhere and ridiculously easy to see. Plus, they are formed in a way that deceives
the eye and integrated into the natural pattern of the Maiden back seamlessly. They are disguised
within the twists and turns of the image so the spectators eye casually passes right by them,
whereas you can see them in an instant.
Another great feature about this deck is the price. I
no longer have to be precious in handling my marked cards. These are so inexpensive that I can use
them as my every day deck. I can toss them around, tear them up and even stick 'em in my mouth and
If you are not familiar with marked deck work, Rick Lax provides some wonderful time
tested effects to get you started that he and his cohorts have structured brilliantly. Rick is a
great teacher and explains everything clearly and concisely. The training is over an hour and all of
it is solid.
I will most definitely use these cards in my shows because they are great quality,
have all the features I could ever want, and most importantly... they barely put a dent in my card
8 of 8 magicians found this helpful.
Finally an inexpensive deck of marked cards. I agree with other comments that there are way to many
marks on the deck - it is overkill! I handed the deck to a friend and within one minute he spotted
the marks. Also the instruction video was so so. I will still be able to use with judicious
handling and proper spectator management. Are they worth the price absolutely- just know the
10 of 13 magicians found this helpful.
I love the though of using only one inexpensive marked deck for everything. But I wasn't sure how
well I'd be able to see the markings so I only bought one pack to find out.
Turns out they
work great with my with old, dry eyes & bifocals, better than anything I've tried so far. I plan on
getting a brick when they come back in stock. (Grand kid has got to learn to cheat some time yo
8 of 9 magicians found this helpful.
Finally someone has found a solution to using marked cards on a regular basis. Marked decks are a
great tool to have on hand for the experienced card guy, but usually are cost prohibitive to use on
a regular basis, being reserved for those "special shows".
Now, there is nothing to fear
on the price tag as well as visibility of the marks (if that was another conviction on using marked
cards (too hard to read or too easy to see))
First, the markings are well placed and are
visible to the magi at an arms length but also well enough for across the table without being found
Second, the two instructional videos are phenomenal. Rick Lax's is about how to read
the markings plus a few effects. Jon Armstrong brings his typical style to a couple tricks in the
My understanding is that there may be a pricebreak by the brick and if so, this may
be the only deck I ever use again. Otherwise, it's still well priced to be used for every gig and
not just those "special" ones.
Printed on Maiden back by USPCC in a full tuck case (that's
marked as well).
7 of 8 magicians found this helpful.
The markings on this deck are great. You can get a peek on several different points on the back.
They are very easy to read when you know what to look for. They are very affordable, however they
probably won't be my everyday deck, I'm cheap. Rick Lax and Jon Armstrong teach some great effects
and tips on using marked cards in the downloads. If your in the market for an affordable marked deck
with a great design that won't draw suspicion, I highly recommend this one.
8 of 11 magicians found this helpful.