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Building a Life Out of Cards

Card Stacker Bryan Berg Brings His Skills to WSOP

If it wasn't for cards, Bryan Berg would have to find a job as an engineer or a professor or some other standard 9-to-5er that makes menLas Vegas Sign Made of Cards, Chips, and Dice grow old quicker than they should. Participating in the World Series of Poker main event also can do that too, and even though he's here in Vegas for it, he isn't playing, either.

Berg is an artist who has been capturing the imagination of people since he was 17 years old and broke the Guinness Book of World Records for tallest freestanding house of cards, a record he has improved on 10 times over the years.

This summer, he built and installed a replica of the iconic "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Sign" that has lit up the Las Vegas Strip since 1959. It hung over the stage at during the Gaming Expo at this year's WSOP.

The sign was sponsored by Loctite Control Super Glue and it was Berg's first go at building an installation by gluing cards and other objects together. He would only do the project if it was clear to the crowd that glue was used to build the sign.

"First of all, when I started this, I didn't even know that cards could be successfully glued together," Berg said.

He's experimented in the past, but found that most super glue is too runny, but since the Loctite Control glue is gel-like, it stayed where he put it. After testing it and determining it would work, Berg decided to break his rule of never using glue and accepted the project.

"I knew right away that I could do it," Berg said.

The art piece is made of 500 decks of playing cards, 1,200 bottles of glue, 1,800 poker chips, and 800 dice, all attached to a semirigid wood frame that needed to be strong enough to make it from Sante Fe to Las Vegas intact.

The trip caused a few of the letters to fall away because the cards ripped that were holding the letters to the sign. The letters, which are made of poker chips, are the heaviest part of the sign.

The expo ends today, but Berg is talking with Harrah's to try to figure out a place to permanently display the piece. He's hoping to have it put in a case behind Plexiglas so that it won't be damaged. If that happens, it should last forever.

The Stacker

When people see the buildings Berg makes out of nothing but playing cards, it natural for them to not to believe that no glue is involved. That's why he plays big bad wolf with a leaf blower and publicly knocks the whole thing down.

He says his grandfather, a huge fan of poker, got him started building houses of cards when he was a kid.

"He's probably playing cards right now at the Legion hall," Berg said.

Even after he broke the world record with a 14-foot, 6-inch tower at the age of 17, he didn't realize that he could make a living stacking cards. Fortunately for Berg, there are plenty of conventions and state fairs that like goofy but impressive stunts like the massive recreation of the Iowa State House he did for the Iowa State Fair.

He now holds two Guinness records, one in a category specifically created for Berg after he recreated Cinderella's castle for Disney. That project took a month and 3,000 decks of cards. It's so large, he had to construct a scaffolding system to build it.

He also holds the record for the tallest house of cards, more than 25 feet high.

Berg has a master's degree in design studies from the Harvard Graduate School of Design and served on the design faculty at Iowa State, where he earned a Profession Degree in Architecture. His education has most certainly helped with the art of card stacking. People like watching Berg do his job for several reasons, he says.

"Cards are goofy things in general. Cards are an ancient game, they go back to antiquity, it's not a new thing," Berg said. "Everyone has tried to build a house of cards. I do it on a level that no one though was possible."

And the sky's the limit for Berg, both literally and theoretically. Berg just tested a way to stack cards that would be able to hold enough weight to build a tower of cards taller than any building in Las Vegas.

And Berg's ready to try it. All he needs is someone to build him an airtight Plexiglas building to hold it.