Guide to Marked Decks

There are lots of marked decks to choose from. Each features a more or less different marking system suitable for different types of magic tricks. In this post, we look at the different kinds of marked playing cards.



Marked playing cards are a unique tool magicians can use in their performances. Historically, marked decks have been the secret weapon of cheaters, but we don’t recommend using these in card games. Don't say we didn't warn you if you get caught using a marked deck.

What are marked playing cards?

For those of you who are not familiar with marked cards, let’s start with the basics. Marked playing cards feature secret marks in their back design that tell you the card’s suit and value. This can benefit the magician because they can immediately find out which card the spectator picked.

The different styles of marked decks

Now that we know what marked cards are, we can look at their different types. Two main styles of marked decks are the reader and coded playing cards.

Reader cards have their suit and value explicitly featured on their back design. Coded decks, as their name suggests, have the markings hidden in a more or less complex marking system.

The advantages and disadvantages of reader-style marked decks

Having the information about the card written on its back has pros and cons.

With no system to learn, you can start using these cards straight away. The markings are easy to understand, and you don’t have to worry about forgetting how the system works during your performance.

Since they are easier to see for the magician, it is also easier for the spectator to spot them. This is a thing to keep in mind.

Playing cards with a reader-style marking system

Let’s look at some of the decks featuring a reader-style marking system.

Daniel Schneider’s Black, Edelrot, and Lavender Roses Playing Cards all feature the same marking system, with the card’s suit displayed with its symbol. The GT Speedreader deck also uses this same style of markings.

Pioneers Playing Cards have the card’s suit marked with its first letter. That means C for Clubs, H for Hearts, S for Spades, and D for Diamonds. This type of marking is used in countless decks.

Franco Pascali's Cartelago Playing Cards have a bonus mark for quickly separating red and black cards.

DMC Elites are uniquely marked cards featuring an Optical Marking System developed by Phill Smith. It enables you to identify the card even from a bigger distance. The fifth edition of DMC Elites also includes a mark that indicates the card's position in the Mnemonica stack by Juan Tamariz.

The advantages and disadvantages of marked decks with a coded system

The main reason why many magicians avoid coded decks is that it requires time and effort to learn and get used to using them. But the practice pays off.

Opposite to the reader decks, the coded marking systems are more difficult for the spectators to spot and figure out.

Playing Cards with a Coded Marking System

Which decks have their markings enclosed in a code?

One of the very first to feature a coded marking system was the Nifty Deck by Theodore DeLand. The Centennial Edition, produced by Penguin Magic, expands the original marking system with additional marks working with the Si Stebbins stack.

We can’t forget our own Butterfly Playing Cards. They feature a marking system developed by our founder, Ondřej Pšenička. Thanks to their unique bevel edge marking system, you can quickly locate any card in the deck. 

Created by Ryan Schlutz, False Anchors Playing Cards are among our favorites. Their marking system is easy to learn and provides more information than just the standard suit and value.

Daniel Madison, now popular on YouTube, also created a couple of marked decks. Madison Players by theory11 and Madison Dealers by Ellusionist feature similar marking systems incorporated in Daniel's old personal logo.

Our friend, Harapan Ong from Singapore, created a deck for his Harapan Magic brand that also features a coded marking system. Consider it a love child of Butterflies and Madison Dealers.

NOC Playing Cards by Alex Pandrea, specifically their Pro and Luxury editions, feature a complete marking system hidden in their minimalistic back design. It is a unique marked deck that can serve as a backup when something goes wrong, but we wouldn’t recommend them as your primary marked deck. It is not very practical since you have to scan the card’s back twice.

A completely different type of marking is used in David Blaine’s White Lions Playing Cards. The marking system uses the negative space between the Split Spades symbols. Lawrence Sullivan first tested this marking system on his Sharps Playing Cards.

Tips for Using a Marked Deck

If you want to start performing with a marked deck, get used to its marking system and the position of the marks. You don’t want to search for the markings while being burned by your spectators.

Treat your marked deck as if it was a standard deck of Bicycles. The spectators don’t assume you use a gimmicked deck unless you provide a reason for them to think otherwise. Remember, the markings help you, either for a trick designed for marked cards or in case you need to find the chosen card after a failed card control. Don’t be afraid of them.

And the most important thing. Avoid the single biggest mistake magicians make with marked cards. Don’t stare at the cards! This immediately tells your spectators that you are not using a standard deck.

The Conclusion

As you can see, there are many marked decks available. It is just about finding the one that will suit your style and needs. If you need any help with choosing a marked deck, feel free to send us an e-mail. We'll be happy to help you find the right one.

Vytvořil Shoptet | Design