Card StackingMost people know what is meant by the phrase “stacking the deck”. It refers to a technique where you cheat in a card game, by arranging the cards in a particular order. The expression has even entered the English language, and can be used figuratively. Misleading your hearers by cherry-picking evidence and arguments to present only one side of a story is also known as “card stacking”, and is frequently used in advertising and politics. But today we’re concerned with stacking cards in a more literal sense. Because card stacking can also refer to the literal stacking of cards into a building-like structure. In other words, it’s when you place cards on top of each other to build what is commonly called a house of cards.
Bryan BergBryan Berg describes himself as a “cardstacker”, hence his official website cardstacker.com. His remarkable credentials are confirmed by the four separate World Records related to cardstacking that he currently holds. ● Tallest House of Freestanding Playing Cards (set in 1992) ● Largest House of Freestanding Playing Cards (set in 2004) ● Tallest House of Freestanding Playing Cards Built in 12 Hours (set in 2016) ● Tallest House of Freestanding Playing Cards Built in One Hour (set in 2018) If those categories don’t sound challenging enough, consider the fact that the third of these (tallest house built in 12 hours) was constructed on a running, fully loaded washing machine! He set the first of these records at the age of 17, with a 4.4 meter tower. He’s bettered several of these records more than once since setting them, and has broken his record for the tallest house around ten times. In numerous instances his record-breaking attempts have been commissioned by sponsors. His 2004 record for largest structure was a new category that Guinness created especially for him, and was a replica of Cinderella’s Castle for Walt Disney World, which took 24 days to build.
The methodWhen most people try building a house of cards, they use the pyramid or triangle shape as the main building block, with the aim of building another layer on top of this. A structure of this sort is notoriously difficult to build, and if you manage to get anything beyond three levels high, you can quite rightly be quite proud of your achievement. Bryan has developed an entirely different technique, however. And given his success, it’s hard to argue with him. Instead of using the classic triangular shape as his base building block, he builds towers using square shapes. It’s a self-taught method, but it’s incredibly effective, and can support an incredible amount of weight. According to Berg, the higher the tower goes, the more solid the lower layers become, due to the physics behind this design. The combined weight of the cards actually makes the structure more stable. Moreover, because he arranges the cards in a grid-like structure, they prevent each other from falling over or bending, further increasing their strength and stability. Here’s a video clip from WIRED that features Bryan explaining his card stacking technique: This repeated geometric pattern is surprisingly simple to learn, and is also the secret behind the large structures Bryan builds. You then cover the basic honeycomb shapes with cards, and go on to build the next layer on top. Once you master this basic concept, you can apply the same pattern for building walls, columns, and beams, which enables you to create variety in shapes. The result is surprisingly strong. In fact, to destroy his creations, Bryan typically uses a leaf-blower. Yes, really – you can even see him do this on video!
Give it a try!Now it’s your turn. Would you like to try your hand at cardstacking using Bryan’s method? It’s not something he’s kept secret, and he’s published a book entitled Stacking the Deck: Secrets of the World’s Master Card Architect which reveals all. But he’s also explained the basics of his method on videos readily available online. In addition to the video clip above from WIRED, you can see another helpful explanation from Bryan about his method in the following video: Key to his success is a simple four card cell structure, which is repeated over and over, in a manner that can best be compared to a beehive or honeycomb shape, or even a waffle. Armed with his basic approach, will quickly be able to take your card stacking skills to the next level. Perhaps you won’t quite be building as elaborate structures as Bryan, who has created a wide range of architectural styles that range from stadiums and churches to pyramids and temples, and even replicas of specific structures like the Empire State Building. But when you try Bryan’s method it is remarkable how much you can achieve. You may be surprised to learn that Bryan even considers himself to be rather clumsy – but his solid design structure and his methodical approach have rescued him more than once.
Final ThoughtsIf you think that you go through a lot of decks a year, spare a thought for Bryan, who estimates that he goes through well over 5,000 decks a year. But Bryan’s achievements also teach us something truly important. While most people are wary of anything that is considered to be “a house of cards” due to its potential to collapse, Bryan shows that it’s possible to make a living from building a house of cards. He’s found a way to turn to the kind of structure that most of us consider a disaster into his bread and butter. So perhaps the lesson in this is that there are times where we shouldn’t shy away from what seems initially difficult, and by persevering, we may sometimes even accomplish something very important. Spending time building a house of cards may even have rewards you never expected. So what are you waiting for – get out those playing cards, and give it a try for yourself! Want to learn more about Bryan Berg? ● Official site ● Guinness World Records – Largest Playing Card Structure Want to see videos with Bryan and learn his techniques? ● How this guy stacks playing cards impossibly high (WIRED) ● How to stack playing cards (WIRED) ● Record holder profile (Part 1) (Guinness World Records) ● Record holder profile (Part 2) (Guinness World Records) ● World’s best card stacker builds insane outdoor card tower (Coolest Thing) Images courtesy of Bryan Berg, and used with permission.
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