Playing cards are not just for playing games. The 52 cards plus 2 Jokers could give you plenty of fun in various ways, other than just normal card games. For example, you can do magic tricks and card stacking (house/tower building).
You can perform magic for audiences, and children are absolutely loving them. This requires time, determination, and patience to master. Likewise, playing card stacking is entertaining and demanding. In fact, it is even more challenging, offering you a great sense of satisfaction.
No need to go crazy, as you can start small, say a small pyramid…
Speaking about card stacking, you must mention this legend, Bryan Berg. He calls himself “cardstacker” and owns his official website, talking about his amazing adventure and everything related to card stacking.
Bryan is also a holder of four Guinness World Records:
- Tallest House of Freestanding Playing Cards (1992)
- Largest House of Freestanding Playing Cards (2004)
- Tallest House of Freestanding Playing Cards built in 12 hours (2016) *
- Tallest House of Freestanding Playing Cards built in 1 hour (2018)
* Even more impressive, Bryan was constructing this house of cards on an operating washing machine, fully loaded with stuff.
Sounds impressive? He is such a master in the business. Bryan Berg has broken his own records like ten times!
These all started with his grandfather, who introduced him to card stacking when he was just eight. At 17 years old, he got his first record, it was a 4.4m tall tower.
Bryan studied architecture and has developed his own techniques in stacking cards. He turned professional in 1994 and has since traveled around the world to showcase his card stacking skills to the public.
It is estimated that he may have played through more than 5,000 decks of playing cards each year.
Bryan has an entirely different technique from others. The keywords of his self-taught method are “square shapes”, which can support heavy weight.
His freestanding style is remarkable, using no tape, glue or tricks in building his house of cards. He does not bend or manipulate cards in any way to force them to hold each other.
Basically, the steps of his unique technique are as follows:
- Two cards are placed in a T-shape
- Then, put the third and fourth cards in the shape of a windmill
- The four cards are to form a little square in the middle
The idea is to form a solid foundation at the bottom first, and then build from there. Arranging the playing cards in such a grid-like structure can improve the strength and stability of the entire house or tower. Incredibly, the higher the tower goes, the firmer the lower layers could become.
If you want to know more about Bryan’s techniques, you may check out his book “Stacking the Deck: Secrets of the World’s Master Card Architect“. It shares a complete guide with illustrations about the art of his playing card stacking.
Some Tips in Card Stacking
If you are interested in trying card stacking and want to give it a go, these are some useful tips from Bryan and other experts.
New is more reliable
Older cards may be bent or damaged, and thus may not offer a strong base. It is a nightmare if the structure falls over at any time.
Embossed cards are preferred
They are better for building, due to the supports provided by the firmer edges.
Build on the floor
It is probably a bit harsh to your arms and waist when building on the ground. But, stacking on a table is simply too risky, as it may be shaken or pushed by accident. A little collision or touch could kill everything!
Stop any air movement
Watch out for the air-conditioner and electrical fan! I know the whole operation may get you sweaty, but be careful of any air flowing inside the room. The last thing you want to see if all your effort gets blown away. So, be gentle when opening and closing the door…
Surfaces could make or break it
The surface is crucial, just as in playing jigsaw puzzles. Shiny wooden floorboards are too slippery for the cards to stand steadily. The lack of friction could cause them to shift. Anyone may possibly push the stacks over by accident. Particle board and quality carpets are probably better options.
Keep your children and pets away
Again, just like playing jigsaw puzzles, your kids, cats and dogs could easily take everything down in the blink of an eye. No way you can save it! Should that happen, hold your temper as you cannot get mad at them (doesn’t help anyway). Sorry… try building again!
Switch to another approach/method
If you feel stuck or fail several times, you may consider trying another method. It is not necessarily to adopt Bryan’s method, but it is proven to be effective. By all means, change to another approach and you may pick up a few tricks.
Better use the dominant hand
As everyone knows, steadiness is essential for each step in card stacking from bottom to top. So, let your dominant hand lead the way! If you feel tired, then take a break instead of using the other hand to help… not worth taking a chance here.
However, for the sake of training your other hand, this is actually a pretty good routine.
Relaxed and remain calm
Take a deep breath to calm down, if anything goes wrong or is stuck. Walk away for a while and come back later! Cut the tension, and remember, no pressure…
Don’t surrender too easily
It is no doubt a workout for anyone’s patience in card stacking. You know how to stack the cards, but the mentality is what could make or break your masterpiece, as vital as the techniques, if not more.
Don’t expect to succeed right away
Playing cards look simple, but like many others games, it takes time to learn, exercise and master. It may be frustrating, but it is where the fun comes from. Sure you are going to see progress on the way.
Card stacking is cool and interesting, and is such a good way to work on one’s patience. It combines a great deal of science, physics, and architecture.
In the academic sense, this may be a good activity or lesson for students to learn about building, structures in 3D, problem-solving and organization. Of course, teachers can offer this great opportunity for students to improve bonding and teamwork as well. Needless to say, this is also a game of so much fun and perfect for killing time!
As said in the beginning, card stacking is such a challenge and gives you a sense of accomplishment. When you have built up something, it is incredibly satisfactory and pleasing. It is simply hard to describe in words.