Geoff Williams Aronson Stack Workshop

Discuss the latest news and rumors in the magic world.
Bill Mullins
Posts: 4495
Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: Huntsville, AL

Geoff Williams Aronson Stack Workshop

Postby Bill Mullins » November 22nd, 2017, 1:28 pm

Our IBM Ring hosted Geoff for a lecture and workshop yesterday. I attended the workshop, and it consisted of Geoff walking us (there were four attendees) through his "Aronson Stack for Everybody".

At the end of it, starting from almost zero, I was able (from memory) to name the Aronson stack number of any card, and name the card at any number from 1 - 52. Note this is not the same as being so conversant with the stack as to be able to perform magic with it -- that will take much more practice, until the numbers and cards are directly associated with each other, without the intermediate step of the peg images.

The process is as follows:
1. Learn Geoff's associations from digits 1-0 to letters (1-t, 2-n, 3-m, 4-r, 5-l, 6-g, 7-k, 8-f, 9-p or b, 0-z or s). For each of these, he gives a way to associate them so you don't have to brute-force memorize this list (for example, an "M" has 3 downstrokes; "Zero" starts with Z; etc.) Note that this is not quite the "standard" mnemonic association set, but is a simplified version with a few changes. (I was familiar with, but not fluent with, the standard set -- this is why I said I was starting from almost zero.)

2. Drill for a while, where Geoff presents words, and you answer back with the number they represent, and he presents numbers, and you answer back with appropriate words.

3. Learn the associations between court cards and letters, and suits and letters:
Jack - J; Queen - H (from Her Highness); King - appropriate suit noun (KS is always a Spade, KC is always a Club, etc.)
Spade = T (a Spade has one tip on top; t=1 in the mnemonic system); Heart = N (Heart has 2 humps on top; N = 2); Clubs = M; Diamonds = R

3. Drill with cards and words, as above. Geoff would guide us to use particular words that show up in his images.

4. Now go to the meat of the system. His book shows, in stack order, pictures that associate stack numbers with playing cards. For example, the first image is a picture of a foot with a jet airliner flying out of a toe. Toe-Jet -> T (stack number = 1) and J-T -> Jack of Spades. The JS is card #1 in the Aronson stack. The pictures are in color and are clear and vivid and memorable. Some are PG-13 or gross (but this is standard practice in such things, to make them easier to recall). There are only 38 pictures, because in a few cases, he's come up with an image that incorporates more than one Stack Number- Card pair. One such image is Ray-Nun-Ton-Lion-Pear. In this image, "Nun" represents the playing card 2 of Hearts in the pair "Ray-Nun" and it represents the stack number 22 in the pair "Nun-Lion". In all cases where an image can be ambiguous like this (where a single word can be interpreted as either a number or card), the image covers it and uses it both ways. In all cases where their is a single pair associated with an image (like the Toe-Jet mentioned above), each word in the pair can only represent a card or a number as appropriate.

5. Drill for a bit. Geoff would prompt with one word of an image pair, and we'd recall the image and give the other word. Or he'd do one word of one of the sets that included a sequence, and we'd give all the remaining members of the sequence.

6. At this point, you know the stack. We took a written test where, for each of the 52 pairs, we'd get one word of a stack #/playing card association, and would have to give the other. The images were vivid enough that it was easy to recall them all, and with the images, you can work out the stack number and card associated. For example, one prompt was Fay. Fay is a waitress, with a bad attitude. She doesn't care if your order is correct. She's chewing gum while she serves you. Fay-Gum. Fay is #8, gum is 6 of Clubs. Another prompt was Club. The club was smashing someone's knee, probably someone who borrowed money and wasn't paying it back. Knee-Club. #2 is King of Clubs.

7. Then Geoff did some work with stacked deck. Some tricks, and he showed some marking techniques that help you manage the stack. And talked some about breather crimps, which he uses to reset the stack to "zero".

The workshop was $50, and lasted 3 hours. In addition to the tutoring, you got a printed copy of the book (70 pages, full color, 8-1/2 x 11 -- it is Print on Demand, but very professional looking), a disc with a PDF of the book (useful so you can print out the worksheets and practice without writing in the book; and so you can put the images on your phone or tablet and practice that way), and a Workshop CD disc that includes: software that drills you on the stack; information on marking a deck to help manage the stack in performance; and assorted tricks using the stack (for example, a clean ACAAN where the [usually] necessary cut/displacement is completely covered and flies by).

If you don't know the Aronson stack and want to learn it, this is a very good deal should you get the opportunity to take advantage of it. If you want to learn the Tamariz stack, go ahead and sit in the workshop, and then buy the equivalent book/disc that Geoff has for the Tamariz stack. It will take some independent work afterwards to learn that stack, but much of the information and all of the techniques from this Aronson workshop will transfer over.

The only downside I can see to Geoff's system is that knowing the standard mnemonic associations between the digits and letters is very useful, and this will screw that up somewhat.

BTW, his lecture is really good as well.

Daniel Z
Posts: 97
Joined: June 17th, 2008, 8:32 pm

Re: Geoff Williams Aronson Stack Workshop

Postby Daniel Z » November 22nd, 2017, 2:00 pm

Hi Bill.
Thanks for the review.
I was uncertain why you say "The only downside I can see to Geoff's system is that knowing the standard mnemonic associations between the digits and letters is very useful, and this will screw that up somewhat."
The equivalences you give are the same one I learned when memorizing the Nikola stack way back when. I always thought the numeric-alphabet relations you mention went back at least to the 19th C (I mean those specific ones in English, not the notion of using that kind of correspondence).

Jack Shalom
Posts: 460
Joined: February 7th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: Brooklyn NY

Re: Geoff Williams Aronson Stack Workshop

Postby Jack Shalom » November 22nd, 2017, 2:04 pm

Bill, the mnemonic set you describe in step 1 is the same one I learned many decades ago, and the same one that Simon Aronson teaches. I'm sure there are lots of others like me who learned that system originally, so you're not alone.

Geoff's system to memorize cards, however, is one I haven't seen before. Bob Farmer has some very good work on that.

But the great thing is you're learning a stack which is such a powerful tool. I never understood how people could spend years and years perfecting their Classic Pass (not that there's anything wrong with that) but wouldn't invest a few months to become fluent with a memorized stack.

Bill Mullins
Posts: 4495
Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: Huntsville, AL

Re: Geoff Williams Aronson Stack Workshop

Postby Bill Mullins » November 22nd, 2017, 4:20 pm

The mnemonics that I tried to learn before are these, which I think are more or less standard. The biggest difference between that set and what Williams teaches is that in the "standard", 6 corresponds to j/sh/ch, and 7 has the hard K and G. In Williams, 7 still has K, but G moves to 6. There are some other, minor differences (standard has t and d for 1, Williams has only t, etc.), but they are more like simplifications. Moving G from 7 to 6 is a change that could be a problem, if you don't stay aware of it.

Daniel Z
Posts: 97
Joined: June 17th, 2008, 8:32 pm

Re: Geoff Williams Aronson Stack Workshop

Postby Daniel Z » November 22nd, 2017, 4:34 pm

Hi again Bill.
I see. I learned it as a phonetic code, so regardless of spelling a J is 6 if it sounds like a zh, or sh etc. and a hard g, c ,or k is 7, f would be 8 but so would v. The difference wasn't obvious to me. I thought by 1-t, 6-g and 7-k, 8-f etc you were listing sounds (or lose groups of sounds) not letters. The book sounds cool but is it better than generating your own personal, vivid, shocking, weird, lewd, etc images as suggested by (pseudo?) Cicero in Ad Herennium, et al.

Bill Mullins
Posts: 4495
Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: Huntsville, AL

Re: Geoff Williams Aronson Stack Workshop

Postby Bill Mullins » November 22nd, 2017, 5:09 pm

Daniel Z wrote: I thought by 1-t, 6-g and 7-k, 8-f etc you were listing sounds (or lose groups of sounds) not letters.


Williams teaches it visually, so images are more important than sounds. For example, to recall that 8 and F go together, you link what 8 looks like with what a lower-case cursive F looks like -- both have two loops, one above the other. But by doing that, you lose the link to V, which has the same fricative sound as F.

But if all you are memorizing is 52 cards, you don't need V, so no loss. One thing that is an improvement, I think, is the ability to link J to the 4 Jacks instead of to 6. Jack of Spades is Jet, Jack of Hearts is John (a toilet), Jack of Clubs is Jam, and Jack of Diamonds is Jar. The way Geoff deals with the court cards is a distinct improvement to what Aronson did when he originally wrote up his stack. But the cost is a non-standard set of mnemonics. If you use the mnemonics otherwise, this cost may be too high. If this is all you'll ever use them for, it's fine.

(And there are plenty of other uses a magician could put them too. Corinda has a chapter that uses them, I think. Arthur Benjamin demonstrates the mechanics of his lightning calculator act in several places, and when you are multiplying two three-digit numbers together, you've got to remember some intermediate sums and products. Changing them to words is much easier than simply recalling the digits. About 12 years ago, I saw him work at the Gathering for Gardner, and I still remember some of his key words that he used in his explanation.)

The book sounds cool but is it better than generating your own personal, vivid, shocking, weird, lewd, etc images as suggested by (pseudo?) Cicero in Ad Herennium, et al.


It's better in the sense that someone like me, who never gets off his lazy butt and does the work, now actually has something to learn from. Geoff's images are good, but probably not quite as good as a set you could come up with on your own (Geoff's are PG-13; mine would be at least R). The 80% solution you have now is better than the 100% one that is always off in the future.

Daniel Z
Posts: 97
Joined: June 17th, 2008, 8:32 pm

Re: Geoff Williams Aronson Stack Workshop

Postby Daniel Z » November 22nd, 2017, 8:56 pm

Yes the way he deals with the court cards is very clever. I'd say a definite improvement
I learnt the mnemonic before learning any stack so I didn't have quite the same issues about things like f and v. But I did use the same f-8 shape association, then it was simply that v sometimes could be the same as f.
I know what you mean about the solution that's at hand. What's that old saying, something like perfection is the enemy of good.

Steve Mills
Posts: 311
Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: Saint Charles, IL

Re: Geoff Williams Aronson Stack Workshop

Postby Steve Mills » November 24th, 2017, 9:20 am

Is this the system that he teaches in his Dummies book, which seems to longer be available in electronic form on Amazon.
Let him rave, that men may know him mad.Yul Brynner as Rameses II

Bill Mullins
Posts: 4495
Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: Huntsville, AL

Re: Geoff Williams Aronson Stack Workshop

Postby Bill Mullins » November 25th, 2017, 12:20 am

Yes (although, strictly speaking, it isn't a "Dummies" book beyond the fact that the cover design borrows heavily from the "For Dummies" series of books).

Amazon seems only to offer the book in paper format, but you can get it as a PDF on CD directly from Geoff.


Return to “Buzz”