Category: World Records


World-Record card houses

Card Stacking

Most 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.
The phrase “house of cards” has also migrated into the English language, and is used metaphorically to refer to a situation that is highly unstable or volatile, or to anything likely to fail or collapse. It’s not hard to see why it has this meaning. As you’ll know if you’ve ever tried to build one, a house of cards is a very precarious structure that requires a delicate touch and much care. You only have to bump it slightly, or place one card wrong, and the whole structure collapses in an instant. The appropriateness of the image and its wide use in the English language proves that building an actual house of cards with real playing cards is incredibly difficult to do. But there are people who can pull this off successfully, and build card houses of incredible size. In this elite group, one man stands tall – though dwarfed by his card houses. That man is world record holder Bryan Berg.

Bryan Berg

Bryan Berg describes himself as a “cardstacker”, hence his official website 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.
It’s worth mentioning here that the world record for the tallest house of cards has increased significantly since the early 1900s. That’s when record-breaking card towers began receiving attention in the media, and reports indicated that the best structures from that time ranged in size from 15 stories or layers high to as many as 25 stories. In 1972 Guinness listed the highest authenticated claim as being 27 stories high. The 1972 record was absolutely decimated by James Warnock in 1978 with a creation that consisted of an incredible 61 stories, which John Slain managed to increase to 68 stories in 1983. This lasted until Bryan’s record breaking attempt in 1992, which increased the bar to 75 stories. At the State Fair of Texas in 2007 he built a tower that was almost 8 meters high for the current world record. The size was limited only by the ceiling of the room in which it was built, and even then some ceiling tiles were removed to give extra building room into the attic! To give an idea of the amount of cards required, here are some figures for a 7.6m high card tower that Bryan built in 1998. It used over 1500 decks, weighed more than 110 kg, and took more than two weeks to build. Or consider the replica of the Venetian Macao resort hotel which he spent 44 days building in 2010. It was 3 metres tall and 10.5 metres long, used over 4,000 decks (representing over 218,000 cards), and weighed more than 272 kg.
Bryan’s academic background is in architecture, but he insists that it was his love for cardstacking that led him in that direction, not the other way around. He credits his grandfather for introducing him to cardstacking at the age of 8, as an amusing activity between the many card games that his family played. But what his grandfather sparked was a love for building, rather than a specific method. Bryan continued experimenting with different methods, teaching himself different card stacking techniques, and perfecting the art. What he knows about building card houses is simply the result of continued experimentation – although he’s learned a lot about the structural behaviour of real buildings as a result of his expertise with playing cards. Remarkably, his incredible structures are all freestanding, and he uses no tape, glue, or tricks like bending or manipulating the cards in any way. He turned professional in 1994, which gives him the unique position of being the only person in the world that actually earns a full-time living by stacking playing cards. So where does he make his money? He travels around the US and even the world, putting his card stacking skills on show. The instant appeal and visual impact of his remarkable card houses makes Bryan’s creations a real attraction, and this makes his work ideal to feature at the center of a special event, advertising campaign, or museum. For example, in 2005 he built a replica of the New York skyline using 178,000 cards, to represent those whose lives were lost in the 2014 Boxing Day tsunami, a project that gave supporters the opportunity to donate to survivors through several charities. He’s had clients around the world who have sought him out for his work. What he does is arguably a performance art.

The method

When 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.
Two girls assembling their playing card structure.
Here are some helpful tips you should keep in mind, when trying to beat your “personal best”: ● Use new cards. Old cards tend to have bends in them, so it is recommended that you use new or near-new playing cards for the best results. ● Use embossed cards. Most playing cards have an embossed or “air cushion” finish. That is preferable to using cards with a high gloss and smooth finish, because they typically will prove too slippery. ● Build on the floor. It’s tempting to build your structure on a table, but tables invariably wobble. You only need to give your table an accidental bump and your house of cards will come crashing down. ● Avoid slippery surfaces. Don’t build on something slippery, like shiny wood. Particle board can work, or else a non-plush carpet that is tightly woven together. ● Use Bryan’s method. Instead of building with triangles, place the cards on their sides at right angles to each other, forming squares in a repeated pattern. To make the structure self-supporting, lean the cards against each other using the T shapes that this involves. ● Stay relaxed. Tension is your enemy, because your hands will shake if you are tense, increasing the risk of accidentally destroying your own building efforts. That makes it all the more important to stay relaxed. ● Watch your grip. Especially when you’re building on upper layers, Bryan recommends letting the card rest between your fingers rather than holding the card, due to the increased risk of transferring your “shakes” to the structure. ● Don’t give up too easily. Patience is a virtue, and you’ll need lots of it to be successful in building a house of cards. This is a skill you can learn, but don’t expect to become an expert right away. Bryan’s method will help you improve almost instantly, but don’t be surprised to have your structure fall down. Persist, and keep on trying, because like any skill in life, it’s by persevering and by learning from your mistakes that you’ll improve.

Final Thoughts

If 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.
About the writer: EndersGame is a well-known reviewer of board games and playing cards. He loves card games, card magic, and collecting playing cards. This article first appeared on here. ● Official Shuffled Ink website: ShuffledInk ● Make Your Own Custom Playing Cards at: ShuffledInk


Playing Cards World Records

Many of us have our own growing collection of playing cards, and probably the thing that interests us the most is our “personal best” for the number of decks we possess. But playing cards have also been the subject of some fascinating world records. Perhaps some of these will inspire you to new heights with your playing cards!

● Largest (collection): Let’s start with the category that many of you will be wondering about – who has the largest collection of decks, and how big is it? According to the official Guiness World Records, the current record holder is Liu Fuchang of China, with 11,087 different sets of playing cards. Alternatively, if you just collect Jokers, you’ll need to beat Tony De Santis of Italy, who has 8,520 of them – all different! ● Largest (cards): The record for the largest complete deck of playing cards is quite impressive, considering that it required a full set of cards. In May 2016, Claes Blixt put together a beast of a deck that weighed over 200kg, with cards that were 158.4cm high and 104.4cm wide. Much bigger yet is the largest ever human playing card. It was the Ace of Diamonds, and consisted of 600 people at the Turning Stone Resort Casino in 2013.
● Memorizing (single deck): In the early 1990s, the record for memorizing a shuffled deck of playing cards was more than one minute. Ben Pridmore of Great Britain was the first to get this time to under 30 seconds. But his record of around 25 seconds was eventually slashed by Zou Lujian of China at the 2017 World Memory Championships, who managed to memorize a complete deck in just 13.96 seconds! You can increase the difficulty of this by attempting it underwater. Poland’s Krzysztof Kuich stayed underwater without an oxygen supply to memorize an entire deck, which he then arranged in 4 minutes and 27 seconds. The most cards memorized unassisted while underwater is Christian Schafer’s 56. ● Memorizing (multiple decks): In 1993, Dominic O’Brien set a record by memorizing 40 complete decks (that’s 2080 cards altogether!) with only one sighting of them all, and only made one mistake in recalling them. In 2007, Canadian Dave Farrow took around 14 hours to memorize 59 separate decks (that’s over 3,000 cards!) on a single sighting, while the recall took around 9 hours. This record still stands today after more than 10 years. As for the most decks memorized in one hour, that is 37 decks (1,924 cards!), achieved by Munkhshur Narmandakh, also at the 2017 World Memory Championships. ● Holding (cards): Think you can produce a nice fan? To beat the world record for holding the most cards in one hand, you’ll need to beat the incredible number of 326. This was set by Ralf Laue of Germany in 1994. The exacting requirements for this record included the need to have the colour and value of every single card visible, using no aids. Abandoning the “fan” requirement of course makes things much easier, as Jack Webster proved in 2010 by holding no less than 992 cards in his hand at once. ● Holding (decks): Never mind how many cards you can hold in one hand; how many decks can you hold at once, using just one hand? The current record of 55 is held by Kaleb Morgan, which he’s held since November 2015. Surely one of our readers can beat that? This next category also sounds quite beatable: the longest time for balancing a deck of cards on your elbow is claimed by Gasper D’Anna, with 3 minutes and 42 seconds.
● Throwing: There are special techniques you can learn to throw playing cards long distances and at incredibly high speeds. Learning the basics of card throwing is actually not that difficult, while instructional DVDs will teach you advanced techniques. Ricky Jay made a name for himself breaking card throwing records. But if you want to beat the best of the best today, you’ll need to compete with Rick Smith Jr, who is the world record holder for throwing a playing card 65.96m (216 ft 4 in) at a top speed of 92 miles per hour. He’s also thrown a playing card a record 21.41m high. When you’re that good, you actually can slice fruit with a playing card! You can even buy special cards designed for throwing, like the Banshees deck which adds a “sonic scream” when the cards whip through the air.
● Sorting: If you are hyperactive and have a healthy dose of OCD, perhaps this is a record for you to beat: taking a completely shuffled deck, and sorting all the cards by suit and number (Ace through King). In 2017, April Choi apparently managed this feat in a remarkable 18.53 seconds, although according to Guiness the official record is 36.16 seconds, and was achieved by Czech Zdenek Bradac in 2008. Alternatively, try removing all the Spades from a shuffled deck as quickly as you can – Isaac Louie’s record of 11.51 seconds is yours to beat! ● Building: Bryan Berg is quite a record setter, and he holds the current Guiness world record for the largest playing card structure, which he set in China on 2010. It took 44 days to complete, and consisted of 218,792 cards! A replica of several buildings, its measurements were 10.39 m (34 ft 1.05 in) by 3.54 m (11 ft 7.37 in), and it was 2.88m (9ft 5.39 in) in height. Bryan also holds the record for the tallest house of cards (he’s set multiple times over the years), which is currently 7.86m (using 1,100 decks!). He has also created the most storeys in a free-standing house of cards, with an incredible 131! The quickest ever to build a three-storey house of cards is Italian Silvio Sabba, who managed to do this in 6.8 seconds in 2012. ● Breaking: Maybe you think it’s more fun to break things down than to build them up. Well this is a category for you: how about tearing playing cards with your bare hands? Bill Clark managed to tear two complete decks in 18.22 seconds. Even more impressive is the achievement of Scott Fraze, who ripped 13 complete decks in 30 seconds, for a televised episode of Guiness World Records: Primetime. Meanwhile Linsey Lindberg ripped 5 brand new decks within a minute in 2015, and is the female record holder.
● Balancing: Fancy yourself at card flourishing and doing card twirls? In 2018, Slovakian Pavol Durdik managed to balance a single playing card on his finger for no less than two hours and 15 seconds! Pavol also holds some other unusual records, including the most cards dealt while balancing an AA battery on a deck (212), the most cards dealt while balancing a table tennis ball on top of the deck (82), the most playing cards stacked on the back of a spoon (313), and the most cards stacked on a hand-held table tennis ball within one minute (36). His record of fitting the most playing cards inside your mouth (256) has since been beaten by Manoj Kumar (265). If you’re a fan of flossing, you might want to challenge Duren Wilson, who managed to hold 64 playing cards between his teeth. ● Cutting: How slick are your cuts? You might want to challenge Sky from Italy, who managed a Sybil Cut in 1.24 seconds, and Kamal Aslam from India, who managed a Triple Z Cut in 1.05 seconds, and 10 consecutive Charlier Cuts in 8.64 seconds. The record holder for the most Charlier Cuts in one minute is held by Polish Marcin Kacmarek, with an astonishing 94. Brian Pankey has numerous records, including a display of the WERM within 2.09 seconds. And how speedy are your card springs? Joshua Robinson of the USA has held the record for the most card springs in 30 seconds since the year 2012, when he performed 17 within half a minute. ● Shuffling: Do you enjoy a good riffle shuffle? How many can you do within one minute? In September 2017, Serbian Strahinja Stamenkovic managed the current record of 31 times. The record for the most riffle shuffles in 15 seconds is 8 times, by Dan Sheikh. ● Dealing: Brian Pankey managed to deal 126 cards using just one hand within a one minute time limit. The record for dealing a complete deck of cards goes to Simon Akerblom of Sweden, who pulled this off in just 14.19 seconds. If you’re good at flipping cards, try taking on the record of Guofinnur Tr of Iceland, who flipped an entire deck of cards one by one in 18.85 seconds. ● Picking up: Fancy yourself as somewhat of an expert at 52 Card Pickup? This is the classic “game” where the entire deck is scattered on the floor, and it’s your job to pick up all the cards. If you want to get the record for this, you’ll have to beat the Swede Alfons Lindsjo, who accomplished this in just 9.25 seconds! ● Guessing: Are you that guy that seems to lose at everything? Well perhaps this is a category for you. Try guessing the suit/value of a playing card, and the idea is to guess as many incorrectlyin a row as you can. In 2015, Mike K incorrectly guessed the suit and number of 391 playing cards in a row, before he finally guessed a card correctly. ● Buying: According to Joshua Jay’s Amazing Book of Cards, the most expensive deck ever bought was a vintage hand-painted deck that dates from 1470. It was bought by the New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art at a Sotheby’s auction in London in 1983, for the royal price of $143,352.
So is this a complete list of all the playing card records there are? By no means! There are some incredible ones that I haven’t even mentioned, like Tai Star’s 7 storey high card tower, which is he stacked while performing a one-handed handstand. This is the same guy who managed a 10 storey high card tower that he balanced on his hand, and a 8 storey high card tower that he balanced on his foot. Then there’s Kamal Aslam’s 60 Charlier Cuts in one minute while riding a motor cycle. Clearly there are all kinds of novel categories, and if you want to take your card skills to record breaking level, try doing your favorite flourishes while spinning a basketball on one finger, juggling two tennis-balls, bouncing a golf ball on a mallet, spinning a toothbrush, or while doing a headstand. Or run a marathon wearing a playing card costume, which is what Lisa Wright first did in just under 5 hours in 2013. This record was subsequently beaten in 2016 by Jennifer McBain, a teacher who ran in just under 3 hours and 19 minutes in full costume, in order to inspire her students.
Want to make some records of your own? If breaking records like these appeals to you, check out the longer list of playing card world records over on Other sources used for this article include the official and Other articles you might find interesting: About the writer: EndersGame is a well-known reviewer of board games and playing cards. He loves card games, card magic, and collecting playing cards. This article first appeared on here. ● Official Shuffled Ink website: ShuffledInk ● Make Your Own Custom Playing Cards at: ShuffledInk