3 for 1 Review - Marked Decks

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3 for 1 Review - Marked Decks

Postby Demitri » Oct 5th, '05, 08:59

In response to a request for a review of the Boris Wild Marked Deck, I figured I'd take the time to review three marked decks that I currently own:

Boris Wild Marked Deck

DeKram Deck (aka - European Reader Deck)

Ted Lesley Marked Deck

Since I'm making comparisons - I will have two new categories for the cards, called Subtlety and Ease of Use. These will describe how well hidden the marks are, and how easy they are to read and find in a working situation. Please note how it works

Subtlety: 1-5

1= A blind man can read these
5= X-ray specs without the specs

Ease of Use: 1-5

1= If you have eyes, you can figure this out
5= Was your card a 6 of hearts? Spades? Clubs? Was it even a 6??

1 - Ted Lesley Marked Deck


17.0296 GBP
25.1300 EUR

- Available from: http://www.trickshop.com/lesley_marked.html - Trick Shop


The Lesley system uses a transfer method. If you're reading the product description and thinking "juice" - think again. They say the marks are bold - and they aren't kidding. If the entire back of a single card is shown, the marks can be spotted by practically anyone. To me, that's a drawback, since I like allowing my spectators to get close to the cards.

One HUGE drawback to this, is the marks themselves. With minimal time and handling, I saw the marks beginning to show signs of wear and, in some cases, they were nearly gone. While the marks can work, and this is a nice quick way to get into using marked decks, I find the quality lacking.

Subtlety: 2-3

This is the deck called the "working professionals" deck. Personally I find this misleading. Yes, at a casual glance this system is hard to see, but if your spectator looks for any extended period of time, they can spot the marks. The clever thing about this system, is that the marks CAN be hidden by the performer once the glimpse has been made.

Ease of Use: 1

This is the fastest and easiest to pick up and use. Once you open the deck, you're ready to burn people with this. The nature of these marks requires you to do a bit of work to keep them unseen, but if you can do that (and if you can hold a deck of cards without dropping them, you can), this deck works like a charm.

Overall - Marks are a bit TOO bold for some. The system isn't the most durable one out there, so you'd be replacing or remarking rather quickly. Naturally, this gets a boost by being made on Bicycle Stock.

2 - DeKram Deck (European Reader Deck)


16.4894 GBP
24.3329 EUR

- Available from: http://www.magicmasters.com/store/product.php?productid=8&cat=0&page=1 - Magic Masters


The DeKram deck is a very well made marked deck. Unfortunately, I don't think it's easy to find these days. Penguin Magic USED to sell this deck under the European Reader Deck title, but it's no longer on the US site. You CAN still get it from the UK site, though. Before I go into the positives of this deck, there is one MAJOR point to consider.

This is not on Bicycle card stock. The cards are made by a company called Fournier (though the case may say Master Playing Cards - the backs and faces are the Fournier brand). They have a smooth finish, making them horrific for fanning. They spread well, but that's about it. This is not an XCM-ready deck, nor is it really meant to be. One thing it has going for it is the cards are VERY sturdy. I've had mine for well over a year now, and aside from the typical darkening of the edges, the cards are in almost perfect condition. The edges are as crisp as they were the day I opened the pack, and the cards are easy to handle. While I find this to be a great reason to own a deck, I understand that the very fact that it's NOT a Bike opens it up to suspicion. Suspicion leads to more concentrated examination, which will lead (no matter HOW good a marked system is) to revealing the marks.

But this is where the DeKram has more going for it than the Lesley system. Although I haven't seen a written description, these marks are exactly what the Lesley system promises, yet fails to keep. These marks are easy to read once you know where they are, and they are VERY tough to see. The nature of the back design (which is quite beautiful I must say), makes the marks extremely deceptive. It is also worth noting that the cards themselves are wonderful. They have a nice hand-drawn quality to them, and the court cards have flesh tones on them, making them very striking. These are one of the nicest looking decks I've come across. The quality of this deck is clearly evident.

Here is a pic of a back and face. (Note to mods - this is the back of a joker, so there are no marks to be found)


Like the new Boris Wild decks I will mention in a moment, this deck has PRINTED marks. This immediately catapults it beyond the Lesley and old-style Wild decks in that the marks are permanent.

Subtlety: 4-5

Very deceptive marks. Unless the spectators are literally STARING at the backs (and they'd still need to be close) they're not going to see these marks. The deck can be handled by the spectator with almost complete confidence.

Ease of Use: 2-3

Because of the "busy" back design - these marks take a while to get used to. However, once you know where they are, it's like reading the face of the card. Quick glances are all that is needed to divine the card.

Overall - I feel this is truly one of the best marked decks I've come across. It loses a few points for the card stock used, but the quality and durability of this deck more than make up for that shortcoming. This deck just LASTS.

One other thing that sets this apart is that both versions I have seen come with a booklet that gives you 10+ effects to start with. This alone makes it worth the buy. You pay a bit more than the Wild deck, but this is really why. I don't own the European Reader, but I think the DeKram routines are fantastic. I use almost all of them in my own work.

3 - Boris Wild Marked Deck


10.77 GBP
15.96 EURO

- Available from: http://www.penguinmagic.com/product.php?ID=1095 - Penguin Magic


This is an update to the previous system which still used the transfers. I never owned the original, so I'm assuming the new marks are identical. Naturally, this deck is superior to the Lesley system because these marks are printed as well, making them permanent. Another huge bonus, is that it's on Bicycle stock.

Probably the biggest benefit that workers will find, is that unlike the other two reviewed here, and most other marked systems - the Boris Wild Deck uses only one mark to allow you to learn the number and suit. This simple method makes the deck all the more deceptive, since now it's only hiding one thing on the card.

This makes the Wild deck likely to be the preferred of the three by most magicians. However, these two benefits notwithstanding, this deck (I think) has its' detractors.

Most notably is the marks. While INCREDIBLY subtle, they're also a little difficult to read. I must admit I haven't had as much time with this deck as the others, so my abilities to read the marks will of course get better. However, that doesn't negate the fact that the placement of these marks are still a bit hard to catch.

I find, at times, the placement and small size of these marks makes them a bit tricky to read on the fly. When you start out with this, it will take a few seconds to spot the mark, which can slow you down and arouse suspicion. With time, this drawback can obviously be overcome.

Without exposing too much of the method, the 1 mark isn't constant. This system also relies on a positional marking theory to work - and as such, gives it a steeper learning curve when you first purchase the deck. Still, practice will negate this.

Subtlety: 5

Of the three, these marks are the hardest to spot. Unfortunately, what's difficult for the spectator, is also difficult for the PERFORMER at times. The added benefit of this deck, with the positional aspect, is that the deck, when mixed well, may actually fool people who try the "at the movies" approach to finding a mark. I would NOT recommend you allow a spec to do this, but if they did it on their own, the deck just might withstand it.

Ease of Use: 3-4 (with time, it becomes easier)

It will take a while to pick up the system and remember it to the point where you can flow effortlessly with them. However, once you do, the effort will pay off with mind-numbing tricks that will even have magicians scratching their heads.

Overall - Solid marking system with a steeper learning curve. You won't be a fast-talking mind reader in minutes, but with practice you'll look like a true mind reader. It's the most subtle of the bunch, and it's also the most innocent looking. You don't need to hide certain parts of the cards, and you don't need to worry that the backs may look "funny". For most people, this is THE marked deck to go with.

Final Thoughts

I was highly disappointed by the Lesley system, and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who is serious about using a marked deck. It's too risky and easy to spot. If I had to choose one, I would go with the DeKram deck, simply because I find it to be the best overall. However, once I have more time to use and practice with the Wild deck, this could take over.


Lesley System: 4.5 out of 10

DeKram System: 9 out of 10

Wild System: 9 out of 10

None of them are perfect - but the DeKram and Wild versions are as close as you'll get. I would recommend either or both. Excellent purchases no matter which you choose.

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Postby ThatRandomFool » Oct 5th, '05, 21:48

Thanks a lot for the great review i think I'm going to go with the Boris Wild Deck.

Thanks Again


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Postby Tenko » Oct 5th, '05, 23:43


Thank you for that review, although I have no intention of seeking a marked deck at this moment in time I have to say that your review was the most thorough and interesting review I've ever read on this forum. Well done 8)


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Postby edh » Oct 5th, '05, 23:58

O.K. Here are my concerns. I am an older card handler(compared to the rest of the you guys here, I think). Because I am older I use reading glasses. Can the Boris Wild Deck be used without reading glasses? My vision has deteriorated with age. I can see far, be it a little blurry, but up close forget about it. As I read these posts I have to use my reading glasses. How would the Boris Wild Deck match my needs?

thanks for the info.

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Postby Demitri » Oct 6th, '05, 04:12

Fool - Glad I could help. The Wild deck is certainly an excellent investment. Good luck with it!

Tenko - Thanks for the comments. I'm happy to help out here. This place has been more than helpful to me, I like getting a chance to give a little back.

Unfortunately, edh - the Wild deck may not be your best choice. The marks are small and can easily be lost in the rider back design.

If your vision is sharp with reading glasses, you might be fine - but you'd really have to look at the deck in order to determine whether or not it would work for you.

To be honest, if your vision is highly deteriorated (mine is terrible, hence my need for glasses), perhaps the Lesley system is a good choice. As an experienced card handler (which I'm assuming you are) the larger, clearer marks may be right up your alley.

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Postby Part-Timer » Oct 6th, '05, 09:07

Nice reviews.

I'd give the Lesley system a higher mark, myself. There is one important point, which is that the marks are one-way. That can really help you do some effects without having to read the makrs at all.

I find that it's tricky to get the suit from the Wild system. Once you've put in a bit of practice, it's fine, but if you needed to dig out a marked deck in a hurry for something (I know you shouldn't do this, but it happens), you can end up with a problem. Personally, I think the positioning of the marks could be better, making them easier to read.

I beleive Boris Wild's system evolved from the Lesley one and I agree the former has the edge.

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Postby Charles Calthrop » Oct 17th, '05, 18:08

Excellent and informative review. Thanks.
The DeKram deck sounds identical to the Fournier marked deck I reviewed here some time ago except that the 505 Fournier marked deck does not have flesh shades on the court cards. If so, it's still easily available from Cards4Magic in the UK much more cheaply than the price you give for the DeKram (and, incidentally half the price of the printed Wild deck in the UK. I'm sure your dollar conversions are correct, but in practice the Wild deck sells for £15 here). I still like the Fournier deck and use it often.
I wasn't intimate with the Wild system at the time and, in my review of the Fournier deck, I may have made some slightly inaccurate comments on and comparisons with the Wild system. Now I know the Wild system better I have to say that it has some advantages over the Fournier system. For one, the positioning is such that the marks can be read from a much tighter spread and, as you point out, they are more subtle (although for some this is a disadvantage).
Because they are so much cheaper I tend to get more use out of the Fourniers and use the Wilds when - for whatever reason - only Bikes will do. (I DIYed Wild decks in the past but all 'transfers' have the same inherent problems you mentioned in the review above and when I factor in the value I place on my time I find that in terms of overall cost the printed cards are the better buy).


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Postby Demitri » Oct 17th, '05, 22:40

Part-Timer - Thank you for pointing that out, and I apologize for not clarifying the one-way mark on the Lesley system. I agree it allows you to do more unmarked effects - but I gave it the lower score because it forces the magician to concentrate on hiding the marks more than the other two would. It's still a very effective system - and unless someone is actively looking, it's not easy to spot.

Charles - thank you for the price editing. Yes, I was only going by a universal translator, so I had no knowledge of actual regional pricing. My apologies if this threw anyone off.

With the exception of the flesh tones, yes, the Fournier deck is the exact same deck.

I'm glad you all enjoyed the reviews. I hope some of you found it helpful.

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Postby dat8962 » Oct 18th, '05, 01:17


Although not my thing, this was still such a good review and a very enjoyable read from which I, and I'm sure others will have learned a thing or two.

Just like to say thanks!

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Postby Happy Toad » Jan 4th, '06, 00:37

When using the Wild deck, I've found that sometimes light is an issue, so if you think performing under dimmed lights might be something that you do regularily you may want to take that into account. In good light I find most of the marks fairly easy to spot, it's just the ace and for some reason the 7s that I find a bit tricky.

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Postby Zero000 » Jan 4th, '06, 00:42

useally the 10 tricks me sometimes. yeah i agree with happy toad. when theres werid lighting, its really hard to spot the marks


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Postby katrielalex » Jan 4th, '06, 09:13

I'm not sure if it 'counts' in this context but Beyond ESP 2 has a very clear and very hard/easy to spot (;)) system of marks...of course, I don't have any of the other decks so I can't compare.


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Postby The Last Deck on the Left » Jan 4th, '06, 09:38

katrielalex - Do you find the Red cards easier to read than the Black cards?

I don't know why, but I find the Red much easier! I also had a couple of mistakes when using the black deck, so I think it's now turned into a psychological thing :? ! I do think the Black cards look better though - I don't know why - they just seem create a better image for this style of magic!

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Postby aporia » Jan 19th, '06, 15:20

When I first bought the deck I compared the backs to a standard set of bikes and was impressed that I could not divine the marks. I looked through the deck and couldn't spot them. I was impressed.

However, after handing the cards to a friend who didn't know that they were marked he managed to spot the marks for the Jacks: he wasn't set up to look for the marks, he was just fondling them after my trick.

I do think that the marks used for the jacks, queens and kings are a little too obvious and would have preferred something more subtle; abstract shapes or a slight change to the base pattern may have been a better choice as they would have been harder to detect, though I accept that they may have been harder to use.

In the International Magic DVD that accompanied my pack, Boris explained the genesis of his marked deck and explained how to create the marked deck. Though I suspect that creating one's own deck using his methods would produce an inferior product (and require much more than his estimated "40 minutes") I may well resort to preparing my own jacks, queens and kings. Either that or replace the jacks with unmarked cards and remove the queens and kings from the pack: a risky strategy.

I would recommend the IM DVD in which Boris shows his hand at the 2000 IM convention. Most of the tricks demonstrated by Boris require the use of the marked deck (I'm not sure that it'd be a useful to someone without such a deck), they give a good idea of how he uses it and hence points one in the direction of how to make best use of his deck. Boris is obviously intimate with his creation and it's apparent that in line with most tricks one needs both good handling and practise to be fluent. One also needs good light and eyesight.

My initial assessment, I feel, is valid: most of the marks are reasonably subtle, their positioning makes the deck useful for a table spread and once one knows the key they are actually quite easy to spot (ah, I thought how obvious). Now I have an unmarked deck on the table when I use the BW deck, taking both packs out at once and then casually move the BW deck away while performing a different trick with the normal deck seems to direct inappropriate attention away from the backs of the BW deck.

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marked deck

Postby henrry » Feb 11th, '06, 12:45

Boris wild system was dissapointment for me. Because marks are too much visible to spectator i you ask for me. Depends ofcourse spectator and magician.

Because Boris wild dissapointment me, i decide to hand mark my own deck. I use Bob Farmers Blob-o-vision system to read value of the card. And for card suit i use my own little system.

This system is so invisible for spectator, that my friend took 10 minutes to spot the marks!!!

Ofcourse this system is going to take time for practising, because the marks are so smal and you need to do some calculations to read value of cards.

Read about Blob-o-vision system and do your own marked deck!

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