7 Top Marked Decks Marked Deck Basics What is a marked deck? Shh, don't tell anybody. But it's true that magicians and mentalists sometimes use marked decks. A marked deck is a deck with secret marks on the back of the card, that allow you to identify the value and suit on the opposite side, just by looking at the card back. How does a marked deck work? There are two main types of marked decks that you'll commonly find being produced commercially: reader systems and coded systems. Marked decks with reader systems are what you'd expect: hidden somewhere in the back design, if you know where to look, it will say what the card is. For example, 7S would mean 7 of Spades. With these decks, your job is simply to "read" the back of the card, and you can immediately identify it. Marked decks with coded systems rely on using other codes or clues to indicate the value and suit of the cards. For example a clock face disguised on the card back might have a dot in the place corresponding to the number of the card. How can you identify a marked deck? A quick way to see if a deck is a marked deck is to "take it to the movies", or give it "the riffle test". This involves flipping through the entire deck quickly with your thumb or finger, and watching the card backs closely to see if there are any changes in the design that appear while doing this. Depending on the marking system used, some marked decks will be more obvious than others. When should you use a marked deck? Now that you know about marked decks, don't think that all card magic relies on a "marked deck" or some other "trick deck". Far from it! By far the majority of card tricks are done with an ordinary deck - any deck. Most card magic relies on sheer sleight of hand, skill in handling cards, and a good dose of misdirection and showmanship. But just like a mechanic will have a toolbox with different tools, so there are occasions where a marked deck is exactly the tool that a magician will need. It can certainly be used to perform `miracles' that you simply cannot accomplish with an ordinary deck. When should you not use a marked deck? Don't even think about using a marked deck for card games, especially when playing for money! Here's a word of warning to the wise: a social game gets ruined if you're cheating, and you'll only spoil the experience for yourself and others. It's even worse to do so in a gambling game, because it's really a form of stealing - and eventually it will catch up with you and you'll get caught. But for card magic, it's totally a legitimate tool, because conjuring is all about creating an illusion, and the spectator knows that you are using hidden secrets to accomplish this. Moreover a marked deck won't work miracles on its own - you still need to come up with tricks that are entertaining to watch. Simply staring at the back of a card and telling someone what the card is doesn't make for interesting watching. On the other hand a well-presented card trick is all about being entertaining, and your audience never needs to have any idea that you're using a secret weapon to accomplish your magic. What can you do with a marked deck? To get an idea of what you can do with a marked deck, check out this video where magician Jay Sankey shows a very simple routine you can do. He also explains how you can make your own marked deck with a standard Bicycle rider back deck. What marked deck should I get? You can certainly make your own marked deck, as Jay Sankey explains. But the good news is that there are some fantastic marked decks on the market. The explosion of the custom playing card market over the last decade also means that over the last number of years some excellent marked decks have been produced. You need to decide whether you want a deck with a reader marking system or a coded marking system. You also need to decide on the style of deck that suits your needs, since some people will want a deck that looks very discrete, and as much as possible like an ordinary Bicycle riderback deck, while others will want a deck that looks more classy, luxurious, or even creative. Much of this comes down to personal preference, and you'll have to combine that with whether the marking system is right for you. Which marked decks are covered in this article? In this article I'm only covering marked decks with reader systems, and I'll cover some marked decks with coded systems in a separate article. For someone who has never used a marked deck before, one that uses a reader system will be the easiest to use, and is the best place to start. Even so this is by no means a complete list of all marked decks that use reader systems, since new marked decks and new ideas are coming out all the time. There are many other great candidates that could be considered top marked decks, so I won't pretend that this is a definitive list of the all-time top marked decks. But I will cover some top ones, which are some of my own favourites and which I have personal experience with. An important criteria was also that they had to be decks available for purchase, so I've excluded any marked decks that you can't easily get. Keepers v2 Red The Keepers deck was produced by Ellusionist and is available in several colours, including blue and green. Not all of them are marked decks, but the Keepers v2 Red deck certainly is. The concept of this deck was inspired by the idea of a lighthouse keeper, which also accounts for the lighthouse design on the card backs. The card faces immediately give the suggestion that everything is normal, with the usual artwork we've come to expect in a traditional deck. The number cards and pips are all standard. But there are small exceptions, the main one being a custom Ace of Spades, which features an oversized Spade pip adorned with artwork to match the lighthouse theme of the deck. In addition there are two original Jokers, plus some minor adjustments to the artwork of the Jack and Queen of Clubs. The artwork on the card backs was created with the goal of producing a design that would have the potential to be as classic as Bicycle rider backs. Geared to please the worker magician, the design is elegant but effective, depicting the lighthouse that our keeper inhabits. And of course within the design lies our hidden secret. It's very easy to read, and not likely to stand up to close scrutiny, but this makes it ideal for being able to read quickly and easily. As an extra bonus this deck also comes with a duplicate Queen of Hearts.