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.