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Old 17th December 2017, 03:27 PM   #1
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Jim Karol - Amazing Memory or Magic Trick

I just watched a YouTube clip of a Howard Stern radio show episode. In it, Jim Karol performs several feats of mentalism. One in particular caught my eye. He seemingly is able to instantly memorize the order of all 52 cards in a standard deck. Check it out. It begins just before the eleven-minute mark in this video:
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Because Jim Karol makes lots of money with his Memory Master course and lures people to sign up by demonstrating similar feats of mental power, I feel it is time for a closer examination of his claims.

What do you think is happening in the video? Amazing memory or magic trick, or perhaps a little of both?
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Old 17th December 2017, 04:32 PM   #2
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He is recalling a sequence he's memorized well in advance. The deck was prearranged and he never shuffles it. It was just cut a couple times, by taking the top of the deck and putting it on the bottom. When he takes that last look, he's not memorizing the cards, he only has to look at the first card to see where to start the sequence.
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Old 17th December 2017, 04:41 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by phunk View Post
He is recalling a sequence he's memorized well in advance. The deck was prearranged and he never shuffles it. It was just cut a couple times, by taking the top of the deck and putting it on the bottom. When he takes that last look, he's not memorizing the cards, he only has to look at the first card to see where to start the sequence.
Quite correct! Very good. If anyone requires definitive confirmation that this is exactly how it's done, let me know.

Is there much to be gained by paying him money and taking his Memory Master course?
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Old 17th December 2017, 04:45 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Dumb All Over View Post
Quite correct! Very good. If anyone requires definitive confirmation that this is exactly how it's done, let me know.

Is there much to be gained by paying him money and taking his Memory Master course?
a lighter wallet
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Old 17th December 2017, 04:55 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Whip View Post
a lighter wallet
So, he is something of a huckster, no?
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Old 18th December 2017, 03:44 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by phunk View Post
He is recalling a sequence he's memorized well in advance. The deck was prearranged and he never shuffles it. It was just cut a couple times, by taking the top of the deck and putting it on the bottom. When he takes that last look, he's not memorizing the cards, he only has to look at the first card to see where to start the sequence.
Its still quite feat of memory. I'd be lucky to be able memorise a sequence of 20 things, let alone 52. (and before you say "alphabet", that is drummed into you from a very young age. You learn your alphabet the same way you learn your times tables.... by rote.
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Old 18th December 2017, 11:10 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by smartcooky View Post
Its still quite feat of memory. I'd be lucky to be able memorise a sequence of 20 things, let alone 52. (and before you say "alphabet", that is drummed into you from a very young age. You learn your alphabet the same way you learn your times tables.... by rote.
I can't go along with you on this one, smartcooky. There is nothing remarkable about memorizing a sequence of fifty-two cards.

I studied acting in college and during my younger days appeared in many plays, musicals and stage shows. I had to memorize page after page of dialogue and stave after stave of music, not to mention blocking and cues. Then I had to unlearn all of that so I could start to memorize new stuff for the next new show. And I'd say my memorization skills are rather average.

How many songs do you know? Hundreds? It doesn't take much to learn the lyrics of a song. The fact is, all of us use memory and memorization skills all the time, everyday. If I was a professional mentalist and I needed to memorize the sequence of a shuffled, 52-card deck, I betcha I could knock that out in about fifteen minutes, thirty at the most. It would not be an amazing feat by any means.
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Old 18th December 2017, 01:55 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Dumb All Over View Post
I can't go along with you on this one, smartcooky. There is nothing remarkable about memorizing a sequence of fifty-two cards.

I studied acting in college and during my younger days appeared in many plays, musicals and stage shows. I had to memorize page after page of dialogue and stave after stave of music, not to mention blocking and cues. Then I had to unlearn all of that so I could start to memorize new stuff for the next new show. And I'd say my memorization skills are rather average.

How many songs do you know? Hundreds? It doesn't take much to learn the lyrics of a song. The fact is, all of us use memory and memorization skills all the time, everyday. If I was a professional mentalist and I needed to memorize the sequence of a shuffled, 52-card deck, I betcha I could knock that out in about fifteen minutes, thirty at the most. It would not be an amazing feat by any means.
I'd disagree with you, and agree with you. Memory is a skill that can be improved with practice. You say you're not exceptional; you probably aren't, but you have had a lot of practice, and your ability to remember things is probably better than most here (mentalists and actors excepted).
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Old 18th December 2017, 03:27 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by zooterkin View Post
I'd disagree with you, and agree with you. Memory is a skill that can be improved with practice. You say you're not exceptional; you probably aren't, but you have had a lot of practice, and your ability to remember things is probably better than most here (mentalists and actors excepted).
One thing I can say for sure: as I get older, my ability to forget things is exceptional.

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Old 18th December 2017, 04:02 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by zooterkin View Post
I'd disagree with you, and agree with you. Memory is a skill that can be improved with practice. You say you're not exceptional; you probably aren't, but you have had a lot of practice, and your ability to remember things is probably better than most here (mentalists and actors excepted).
Yup - I think practice is the key. And, the 52 card sequence wouldn't be terribly difficult for someone who practices.

I had an accounting prof in college who, on the first day of class, would go around the class and have every one of the 30 or so students say their name and where they were from and he would engage them in brief small talk - for instance, the last time he visited that town, etc.. The whole process took nearly an hour, and he didn't rush, and didn't write anything down. Then, he want back through the class, one by one, but in a different order than before, and stated each students full name and hometown as well as other tid bits he'd heard during the period. It was interesting to watch.

He was no hukster and there were no cheats. He was just well practiced at memorizing.
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Old 18th December 2017, 07:19 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by madurobob View Post
He was no hukster and there were no cheats. He was just well practiced at memorizing.
Indeed, he was.

Were I to attempt what your professor did, I would first require loads of special training and tons of practice. I'd need to study the special tricks that go along with picture memory and I'd need to rehearse my skills many times before ever attempting to try them on an unknown group of people like your professor did.

Contrast that type of memory skill with the one I mentioned upthread about learning the lyrics to a song. Many years ago I learned the lyrics to Frank Zappa's "Dumb All Over." To this day, I can recite the lyrics word for word without even thinking about it. I don't exactly know how many words are in the song but I can assure you it's way more than 52. The time needed to learn the lyrics is irrelevant. Maybe I learned them in an hour or maybe it took me three years. It doesn't matter. The skill I used is one that virtually all of us possess. Even a person with a less-than-average memory skillset has the ability to memorize a song without the need for special training or practice. Would you and Zooterkin agree with me that most people have the ability to memorize the lyrics to a song without needing to acquire special training and practice to do so?

Would you also agree with me that the two types of memory skills mentioned here, i.e. memorizing lyrics over any amount of time vs. memorizing the names, hometowns, and various other tidbits of thirty strangers to accurately recall within one hour, are different?

I would suggest they are different. I would further suggest the skills Mr. Karol uses in his card trick are closer to learning lyrics than they are to the more advanced skills of your professor. In other words, it wouldn't take much practice to do what Jim Karol did.
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Old 18th December 2017, 09:02 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Dumb All Over View Post
Would you and Zooterkin agree with me that most people have the ability to memorize the lyrics to a song without needing to acquire special training and practice to do so?
I can only speak for myself. But, yeah.

Originally Posted by Dumb All Over View Post
Would you also agree with me that the two types of memory skills mentioned here, i.e. memorizing lyrics over any amount of time vs. memorizing the names, hometowns, and various other tidbits of thirty strangers to accurately recall within one hour, are different?
I don't know.

They seem to me as more of varying degrees of practice rather than different skills. That is, I know the lyrics of *lots* of songs. But, for the most part, I have to sing them - at least in my head - to get the lyrics to come to me. There is something about the connection with melody and cadence that make it easier to remember. Its the same with the myriad number strings I have memorized - bank account and credit card numbers, SS number, phone numbers, etc.... All of them have a particular cadence, and the cadence serves as a sort of mnemonic for me. I assume for others, too. And, I assume these sorts of memory tricksters are simply well versed in using mnemonics to help them remember things.
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Old 18th December 2017, 09:50 PM   #13
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The internet seems to think it's possible, although the most charitable estimate says it takes hours of practice.
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Old 18th December 2017, 10:30 PM   #14
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Let's take it a step further.

Take a look at this video. (This one doesn't allow the YouTube tags.)
Jim Karol on Ellen

Does anyone notice anything interesting that stands out in this version of the trick?
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Old 18th December 2017, 10:57 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by Dumb All Over View Post
Let's take it a step further.

Take a look at this video. (This one doesn't allow the YouTube tags.)
Jim Karol on Ellen

Does anyone notice anything interesting that stands out in this version of the trick?
Dang it. I was just writing up the same post!

YouTube Video This video is not hosted by the ISF. The ISF can not be held responsible for the suitability or legality of this material. By clicking the link below you agree to view content from an external website.
I AGREE


Here's a small hint:

CardSternEllen
1 2♠
2 A♥
3 10♦
4 5♣
5 5♠
63♥3♥
74♠4♠
810♠10♠
96♥6♥
106♣6♣
118♦8♦
12K♣K♣
135♦5♦
144♥4♥
156♦6♦
16J♦J♦
172♣ 
183♣ 
19Q♦ 
209♥ 
219♠ 
227♥ 
238♠ 
24q♣ 
253♦ 
264♦ 
27A♠ 
283♠ 
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Old 18th December 2017, 11:11 PM   #16
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DA, between this thread and the elevation car thread, you are my new forum hero.
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Old 18th December 2017, 11:29 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by Dumb All Over View Post
DA, between this thread and the elevation car thread, you are my new forum hero.
Thanks. We must have had the same idea and been doing the same thing at the same time.

I just got caught up trying to do the fancy formatting.
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Old 18th December 2017, 11:56 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by Dumb All Over View Post
If I was a professional mentalist and I needed to memorize the sequence of a shuffled, 52-card deck, I betcha I could knock that out in about fifteen minutes, thirty at the most. It would not be an amazing feat by any means.
I used to memorize a shuffled deck of cards in ~ 5 minutes, using techniques outlined in books by Harry Lorayne. I could even generally recite the order perfectly, but at a slower speed, days later. Most of the participants in the World Memory Championships started out using the same techniques as are found in those old books (and then taking them to a whole new level - I think the record for memorizing a shuffled deck is under 15 seconds. But no one can do it at the speed that Karol is claiming to do it at - which, as indicated, is using an already memorized deck, but I am sure he is the same techniques to memorize the places where the deck is cut out of order).

As for his course, I wouldn't drop money on it. I don't doubt that it would be effective, as he would teach the same method that others teach, but undoubtedly would be charging much more. What matters is the effort you put in, as everyone uses very similar techniques.

My suggestion - find an old cheap book by Harry Lorayne (all of his books cover similar material), or perhaps one by Dominic O'Brien (I have never read any of his books, but I am sure they are the same thing, just likely with some updated methods). Also the book Moonwalking with Einstein is great.

It has been a lot of years, but I can still do things like tell people what day of the week they were born on within two or three seconds and memorize the names of a classroom of students after having them say their names once. But it probably took me more than 5 minutes to find where I parked my car at the mall earlier today.

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Old 19th December 2017, 05:32 AM   #19
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I wouldn't buy the memory course, either, but not because there isn't some value in it; there may well be a lot of value in it (I don't have it), but this sort of memory help is available through a few select books without spending big bucks. Harry Lorayne, mentioned above, is a great place to start. Some stuff by Derren Brown, too, though his stuff is buried in the midst of other things.

As to how difficult it is to memorize 52 cards, as is said above, with practice and memory techniques, one can do it in a few minutes with the right training and practice, though that is not how Karol did it on Stern or Ellen. As DA points out, he has one stack that he has memorized. You can take as long as you like to learn that stack, and it appears that Karol took a deck, shuffled it until he was satisfied that it appeared random, and memorized it. That's how I'd do it, too, but there are even easier ways that I won't go into except to say that in setting up the stack one can make it appear random while in reality the suit and value of one card gives a clue to the suit and value of the next so even if you forget the stack you can get back on track by working the simple algorithm that's built in.

As to the professor who memorized the class names and details, that takes practice but again, not so much as it at first seems. I was at a seminar with thirty people I had never met about six years ago. The seminar leader spent the first half hour instructing us to do something similar. The first person in class gave their name, hometown, job title, and one or two other things. The second person repeated what the first person said then added their own info. The third repeated the info of the first and second then added their own and so on.

By the fifth person, people were stumbling a lot and needing reminders. By the 10th, very few remembered anything of consequence. Perhaps three or four people got about 50% right, but in a stumbling fashion.

At the beginning, I saw that I would be the last person to go so I immediately began employing some techniques I had read about but never used, and I attempted to cement every person's info in my mind. When it got to me, I turned my back on the room and recited all the information without error not quite as fast as Karol in the video but at a steady rate.

Everyone was impressed, and I was pleased with the little validation of the things I'd read.

You have to actively engage to do it, though; you can't half pay attention and expect it to work.
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Old 19th December 2017, 03:27 PM   #20
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That Ellen clip shows two magic tricks. Then on the MemoryMaster website, there is this claim:

Quote:
What sets Jim apart from other mentalists in the world is that MOST of his mental abilities are ABSOLUTELY REAL!
Now, it is absolutely real (and pretty trivial if you really try to do it) that he memorized that deck of cards, it's just that it's a deck of cards that has been memorized previously and reused over and over. He did not take a 10 second glance at it and memorize it -that is a lie. I would say, "misdirection," but he is claiming that his abilities are real.

The second trick on the Ellen clip is a standard implementation of the Invisible Deck. A kid can learn to do that in 15 minutes. Nothing real there either.

The hot tin foil trick on Stern is another standard of magic -although it uses a dangerous chemical so it isn't common anymore (I have heard of non-chemical ways of doing this but they won't have the effect it had on Stern). Also not real unless you count regular old chemical reactions as magic.

I have a problem with magicians passing off what they do as "ABSOLUTELY REAL." Especially when the things they are passing off as real are very standard well known magic tricks.
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Old 22nd December 2017, 09:42 AM   #21
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Originally Posted by Dumb All Over View Post
So, he is something of a huckster, no?
Where huckster = fraudster the answer is a clear "YES!!!"
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Old 22nd December 2017, 09:51 AM   #22
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Old 22nd December 2017, 09:53 AM   #23
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Old 22nd December 2017, 09:59 AM   #24
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Old 8th January 2018, 02:59 PM   #25
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Just to beat a dead horse, memorized deck work is a popular sub-branch of card magic these days. If you're interested in it's use in a magic context, you can get Juan Tamariz's Mnemonica, Simon Aronson's Bound to Please, and Woody Aragon's Memorandum.

Ask for them wherever you buy magic books.
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Old 10th November 2018, 03:29 PM   #26
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The prep-work to memorize a personalized and reliable memory palace and peg system is the hard part. It could take months to lock down. But once in place, any list is trivial to memorize.
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Old 11th November 2018, 04:05 AM   #27
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Originally Posted by smartcooky View Post
Its still quite feat of memory. I'd be lucky to be able memorise a sequence of 20 things, let alone 52. (and before you say "alphabet", that is drummed into you from a very young age. You learn your alphabet the same way you learn your times tables.... by rote.
Not sure why we're using spoilers, but since I don't want to be one...

Eight kings threatened to save one sick jack ...

I forget the rest. The part I remember represents 8-K-3-10-2-7-A-6-J ... the mnemonic for suits being CHASED. I'm not saying this is the system Karol used. Just that it's ridiculously easy.
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Last edited by varwoche; 11th November 2018 at 04:15 AM.
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Old 11th November 2018, 11:36 AM   #28
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Originally Posted by Dumb All Over View Post
Let's take it a step further.

Take a look at this video. (This one doesn't allow the YouTube tags.)
Jim Karol on Ellen

Does anyone notice anything interesting that stands out in this version of the trick?
Karol isn't using a standard stack; it wouldn't stand up to scrutiny. The interesting part is he doesn't let Ellen jack up his order with a messy cut/shuffle. There are plenty of stacks that use neumonic steps so there is zero memorization needed.
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Old 12th November 2018, 08:46 AM   #29
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Originally Posted by varwoche View Post
Not sure why we're using spoilers, but since I don't want to be one...

Eight kings threatened to save one sick jack ...

I forget the rest. The part I remember represents 8-K-3-10-2-7-A-6-J ... the mnemonic for suits being CHASED. I'm not saying this is the system Karol used. Just that it's ridiculously easy.
You're missing one bit . . . .




Eight kings threatened to save ninety five ladies for one sick jack

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Old 12th November 2018, 08:58 AM   #30
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Originally Posted by Greebo View Post
You're missing one bit . . . .




Eight kings threatened to save ninety five ladies for one sick jack

Thank you! Against my will, my brain has been churning on this in the background ever since I posted.
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Old 12th November 2018, 09:19 AM   #31
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Originally Posted by varwoche View Post
Thank you! Against my will, my brain has been churning on this in the background ever since I posted.
You're welcome - mind you, I got that from a book my Dad had, which at the most recent must have been published in the 1960's
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Old 12th November 2018, 10:15 AM   #32
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Originally Posted by Mr Salk View Post
Karol isn't using a standard stack; it wouldn't stand up to scrutiny.
No. You've missed the point and the trick. Karol is using a clean, standard deck which holds up to scrutiny.
Originally Posted by Mr Salk
The interesting part is he doesn't let Ellen jack up his order with a messy cut/shuffle.
Very true. Anything other than a clean cut would change the pre-set, pre-memorized sequence of 52 cards. However, Ellen can cleanly cut the deck anywhere she likes and, as long as it is clean, her cut will not adversely affect the trick.
Originally Posted by Mr Salk
There are plenty of stacks that use neumonic steps so there is zero memorization needed.
I'm sorry, but no. This trick requires the magician to memorize a sequence of 52 cards. He may take as long as he likes to memorize the sequence: a day, a month, a year, a decade. Rest assured, the memorization process will take much longer than the ten seconds Karol purports to use during Ellen's show. Anyone with normal memory skills can perform this trick. No book needed. No money to Karol necessary. In fact, anyone who reads and understands this thread is able to do the trick now without any further studying. All you need is a plain deck of cards and the time necessary to memorize 52 items in order.

Please review the upthread spoiler by DevilsAdvocate, this one:
Originally Posted by DevilsAdvocate
Here's a small hint:

CardSternEllen
1 2♠
2 A♥
3 10♦
4 5♣
5 5♠
63♥3♥
74♠4♠
810♠10♠
96♥6♥
106♣6♣
118♦8♦
12K♣K♣
135♦5♦
144♥4♥
156♦6♦
16J♦J♦
172♣ 
183♣ 
19Q♦ 
209♥ 
219♠ 
227♥ 
238♠ 
24q♣ 
253♦ 
264♦ 
27A♠ 
283♠ 
Well, it's more than a small hint, really.
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Old 12th November 2018, 11:10 AM   #33
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I assure you i know the point. Not using standard-Stack, the deck is standard. Memorization of stacks generally involves personalized neumonic tricks. No sense wasting your time going at it cold. While one could spend months or years, any memory expert can do a deck in a few minutes. Clearly Karol pre-drilled this stack, but I assume he can peg it rather quickly with the usual methods.
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