Do you have a system for remembering cards?
Whether it’s for bridge, poker, memory competition or just your own personal memory training, it’s fun and rewarding to memorize cards.
Well, let’s look at it from a bird’s eye view
Memory techniques work by dressing up information in costumes. Sound weird or confusing? No worries: One of the best ways to understand this concept is by having a system for remembering cards.
Consider the following when it comes to using memory techniques in your quest for total memory improvement:
Dressing information in costumes is at least 90% of what’s going on when you develop a system for remembering cards (or any information).
Often, this practice is called “association” or “encoding.” Tim Ferriss has used the term “converting” for memorizing a deck of cards, and many other terms abound.
Don’t get caught up in the terminology, however. That risks missing the math, because …
The other 10% of memory success belongs to the Memory Palace and how you use it to store and practice recalling information. Since you need a means that will help you get good at remembering numbers, check out this video:
Since it’s in the storage and recollection practice that helps you guide the information on playing cards into long-term memory, you’ll want to know how to memorize numbers with letters to make the process fast and easy.
When you know how to “hack” your memory, you know that it’s actually in that 10% of the process where most of the memory magic happens. It’s in the process that you’re harnessing the power of the primacy effect and the recency affect. But the memory magic happens only …
If You’ve Got The Skills Needed
For The 90% Under Control
And if you want to get that 90% humming along for yourself in record time, then there is one crazy memory exercise you can do that will completely train your brain so that your memory operates at a shockingly high level.
Sounds Stupid, But Memorizing Playing
Cards Is Still The Best Memory Exercise Ever
I know, I know. Unless you’re a magician or memory athlete, memorizing a deck of cards does sound like a meaningless skill.
Yet, I can tell you with absolute certainty that all of my success with memory comes from, is maintained and continually improved by this seemingly stupid stunt.
And 90% of it involves little more than dressing up each card in a costume using the Major Method.
And to convince you that you should have a system for remembering cards, I’m going to show, you 13 reasons why you should memorize playing cards as part of your memory practice.
How to Memorize a Deck of Cards in 7 Steps
Choose a method for memorizing the cards.
Other systems include the Ben System and the Shadow, which I talked about in detail with memory athlete Braden Adams.
To date, one of the most impressive card memorizers is Alex Mullen. From what I understand, his approach is grounded upon the Major Method.
No matter what you choose, it’s important to understand the rules of association and why such systems help.
As a magician, I’ve always been dismayed by how many teachers talk about rote learning instead of using mnemonics, and that is why you ultimately have to not only pick your system. You also need to pick your teacher.
Let’s assume that you’re going to use the Major Method (sometimes called the Major System). You’ll first want to learn the system:
Once you have a consonant for each digit 0-9, you’ll then assign a number to each suite.
This arrangement goes back to the early days of mentalism, which often uses memorized deck of cards:
Spades = 10
Diamonds = 30
Clubs = 50
Hearts = 80
Now, a lot of people are going to ask, why these numbers? There’s no strict answer, but one reason has to do with the wider availability of words. You also need to run into the next set of ten using this method, so that is only possible if you leave space.
But at the end of the day, you’re trying to reduce the arbitrariness of the choices to the smallest degree.There is always some arbitrary level, but I find that the Major reduces it to the minimum.
For the sake of this tutorial, do your best to place “why” questions aside and just memorize this association. No matter what system you choose, there will be things that don’t immediately make sense – and they don’t have to make sense. They just need to work.
You’ll want to assign each card a number without using the number given to the suites themselves. For example, the spades run like this:
- Ace of Spades = 11
- Two of Spades = 12
- Three of Spades = 13
- Four of Spades = 14
- Five of Spades = 15
- Six of Spades = 16
- Seven of Spades = 17
- Eight of Spades = 18
- Nine of Spades = 19
- Ten of Spades = 20
- Jack of Spades = 21
- Queen of Spades = 22
- King of Spades = 23
Then, when you move to the Diamonds, you start with the Ace of Diamonds at 31.
You need to make words for each of the numbers. Since 1 = a d or t in the Major, you could make a word like “dot” or “toad.”
I prefer toad because it allows me to pick a specific pop culture reference, namely the Warner Brothers toad:
It’s really important that your choices are logical, concrete and ideally bring to mind a specific pop culture reference.
Once you have a word that you’ve made as concrete as possible, exaggerate the images. If you’ve chosen well, such as in the case of the Warner Brothers toad, the image if already sufficiently exaggerated.
Practice without the cards in hand.
This step is really important. It’s called Active Recall and will train your brain to think of the card and its image without an external trigger.
Get out a piece of paper and start with 11. You’ll soon start to see how helpful the Major is as you go because it lets you guess what your image was. If 1 must be a t or d, then the limited possible words will quickly bring back the word and the image you chose.
Practice with cards in hand.
Shuffle them first, ideally with a combination of overhand shuffles and ladder cuts.
Look at each card, place the image in a Memory Palace and then add the next. Get the images interacting.
For example, my images for Four of Hearts and Eight of Diamonds are the flamethrower used in Mission in Action 2 and the mentalist Max Maven.
(Flamethrowers shoot “fire” which is my word for 84, f+r. Maven is my word for 38, m+v.)
You want to have the images interact with each other in the order of the cards. In this case, I would have the flamethrower igniting Max Maven. Then, Maven would interact with whatever image goes with the next card.
Then, recall the cards, a process that will look like this:
Now that you know what to do, let’s talk about the 13 incredible reasons memorizing cards is such a powerful skill to develop.
1. You Experience Overall Memory Improvement
Obviously, memorizing playing cards improves your overall memory. How could such intense memory practice not improve your memory abilities?
After all, the best way to improve your memory is to use it. I normally say that you should always practice your memory by using it to remember information you can use to improve your life in a substantial way, but card memorization is the one exception.
And since there is ALWAYS an exception to every rule, this one is worth your close attention.
The rest of the points I’m about to share explain in detail why card memory is so powerful even if it amounts to memorizing information you cannot and will not use in any immediately practical situation (outside of card magic).
2. Having A System For Remembering Cards
Improves Your Memory For Numbers
Not only that, but you wind up with a neat way of remembering a lot of different kinds of numbers. So long as you don’t let yourself get overwhelmed with excitement by your super memory powers (like I sometimes do), you’ll have the ability to memorize any number after picking up this simple memory technique.
3. You’ll Get Good At Memorizing Long Lists
After all, what is a deck of cards other than a list of job positions in a unique order? Learn to remember the order of 52 cards and you’ll instantly know how to memorize 52 of anything.
Then there’s Marno Hermann. He memorized 1200 digits of Pi!
And with a few simple expansions and some practice, you can repeat the process or hundreds if not thousands of lists. It’s easy and fun.
4. You’ll Develop Killer Abilities With Memorizing
And Managing Abstractions
People find memorizing concepts amongst the most difficult information types in the world. The symbols on playing cards are downright abstract themselves, so this skill will lighten the load on other abstractions and arbitrary associations you encounter.
One trick is to simply stop convincing yourself that concepts are different than any other kind of information. Training with card memory will teach you how to stop making that mistake because it levels the playing field. Just like a rose is a rose is a rose, so does all information share certain core tendencies.
When we focus on the differences between information and levels of difficulty, we trick ourselves out. When we zone in on the similarities and refuse to privilege information by placing it in hierarchies of difficulty, we win.
5. Remembering Cards Improves Your Imagination
Just about everyone wishes they could be more imaginative. Knowing how to memorize a deck of cards can help your imagination grow on a daily basis. All you have to do is carry a deck of cards in your pocket. Or, if you don’t want your memorize a deck of cards mnemonics linked to a physical deck of cards, you can use a memorize a deck of cards app.
6. Memorizing Cards Helps With Language Learning
To be honest, I’ve only used the card memory application to language learning with the tones of Chinese Mandarin.
But darn if this approach to memorizing Chinese tones with the Major Method isn’t a humdinger! Anytime you can put a number or image on how words should be pronounced in any language, you’ll almost certainly find assistance from this skill.
Plus, I’m convinced that regular card practice has developed my speed and agility with coming up with mnemonics for memorizing vocabulary in any language.
7. Card Memorization Improves Your Critical Thinking
Imagine being able to see more angles to different arguments and manipulate information in your mind. It might sound unrelated to card memorization, but I’m confident you’ll find yourself more capable of manipulating ideas once you have this simple skill.
You experience boosts in critical thinking from using memory techniques in general because you’re combining spatial memory with the manipulation of perspectives and scenarios.
When you’re using Magnetic Bridging Figures, for example, you spend time considering what it’s like to act and react from different perspectives.
Plus, you’re continually diving deep into your imagination which makes it easier to penetrate other topics imaginatively. You should find that you start thinking at a more engaged level by default.
8. Memorizing Cards Is A Cool Party Stunt
This reason isn’t as lame as it sounds. After all, when those other dudes are winning bets by balancing quarters on the edges of their beer mugs, you’ll be demonstrating real miracles.
Seriously. People will start looking for mirrors.
They’ll look at the back of the cards to check if they’re marked or gimmicked. Recalling a deck of shuffled cards in perfect order is such a stunning feat to watch that it’s hard to believe what’s happening, even if it’s the hundredth or thousandth time you’ve seen it.
If you’re not doing card memorization as a memory stunt, you can also learn to false shuffle cards and perform magic tricks that play like miracles. Provided that you can pull off false cuts and shuffles (it’s not that hard), tricks that use a memorized decks are probably the most powerful you can ever learn.
9. Card memory is a legitimate sport.
If you aren’t a physical athlete, but have always felt that lust to compete in some area of human performance, card memory is a great option. The memorize a deck of cards world record list is stunning, inspiring and … frustrating. It’s hard to not want to beat it.
And if you ever give it a try, at either a local, national or international level, you’ll meet a lot of cool and interesting people. And if you attend events like the World Memory Championships, you’ll meet absolute masters of the art. Just listen to Tony Buzan talk about that on this episode of the Magnetic Memory Method Podcast.
10. Having A System For Remembering
Cards Is A Transferable Skill
I’ve already got this point covered, but it deserves its own category. You really can use this technique to remember a large assortment of numbers and experience powerful applications in language learning and more.
Having a set of mnemonics for memorizing a deck of cards gives you improved abilities in all areas of memory. And even if you’re already good at memorizing cards, you can always get better.
Alex Mullen may have shocked the world with how quickly he memorized cards, but someone will eventually shock us even more. It could be you and the transferable skills you’ll build along the way will be invaluable.
11. You’ll Experience Untold Waves Of
Accomplishment From Card Memorization
When was the last time you felt proud of yourself?
I mean, really proud?
Be honest and don’t worry if it’s been awhile.
With card memory skills, you can feel proud each and every day of your life.
I know self-pride strikes some people as fickle, but it’s not. The normal need for self-confidence is what extraordinary people use to keep their memory sharp and help fend off “digital dementia.”
I’m in no way claiming that mental exercise medically prevents brain disease, but it’s positively logical to assume there are physical benefits at work.These visualization exercises will help.
12. You Become More Mentally Agile
When You Practice Card Memory
Not only do you experience physical brain benefits, but you strengthen your memory skills across the board. It’s like getting better at skipping rope can make you better in the boxing ring.
Think about your memory in terms of space. You have warm and cozy places of familiarity and outer regions of cold and darkness you rarely visit.
By taking on a simple new skill, you bring heat to more parts of your memory. That means new civilizations of information can move in, giving you the chance to practice managing diverse data as part of your personal and professional growth. Just imagine being able to juggle facts in your mind, knowing each one in crisp and sharp detail thanks to the well-lit fires in your mind.
In fact, you’ll be like the expert juggler, each piece of information like a burning torch you can expertly spin through the air and effortlessly catch in a display of memory mastery.
Plus, knowing how to memorize a deck of cards teaches you to create a system for remembering cards based on classic memory methods. Even better: the practice you’ll get creating and using the system helps you create other memory systems.
It’s in this ability to create memory systems out of an understanding of universal principles of memory and methods that you develop amazing powers of mental agility.
13. You Can Excel At Card Games Like
Bridge, Poker And Blackjack
Imagine being able to remember every single visible card in play during a card game. Do you think that would give you a competitive edge?
It certainly would, even though most experts agree that it would only amount to a 2% advantage.
If you know your numbers, then you know that a 2% advantage in any game is huge. And if that game involves bets with money, be it pennies or dollars, your earnings could be huge.
I myself don’t gamble, but I can tell you that the pleasure I take in playing no-stakes games using memory to my advantage is a lot of fun. And it’s always amazing exercise as one of the most powerful brain games you’ll ever play.
Of course, you don’t have to use memory techniques for gambling games. The “memorize a deck of cards game” world is full of non-competitive “find ’em” variations that have no stakes involved whatsoever. You just lay out card pairs and practice remembering locations so you can match and remove them during game play.
Should You Use An App For Memorizing Playing Cards?
A lot of people ask me to recommend my favorite memorize a deck of cards app.
I always tell them to simply carry a deck of cards with them. It’s the best deck of cards app on the planet in my view because it gets the muscles of your hands, arms and eyes involved in card memorization at a much deeper level.
No, I don’t have any direct research to make claims that you get a memory advantage when using a real deck of cards. In fact, using a memorize a deck of cards app, provided it includes such functionality, has the advantage of tracking your results on autopilot.
By the same token, you get equally great results by tracking your results by hand, including developing the discipline of monitoring results based on a tracking system of your own creation. Ultimately, if you take the art of creating a system for remembering cards seriously, you’ll eventually create your own tracking methods anyway.
If you come to rely on a memorize a deck of cards app, you won’t be able to modify its tracking modifications to your needs. But you’ll likely have become habituated to using it, which means you may be less likely to evolve. Or maybe you’ll be more likely to evolve … it could go either way.
One of the memorize a deck of cards app you can try that can give you tracking options if you’re a premium member is the Memrise deck of cards course.
What I like about the course is that you get some good ideas for images for each card. However, you aren’t getting training in the universal principles of memory, nor are you creating your own system. The relationships are not arbitrary, which is good, but they’re also not based on the Major Method, which means that you don’t have functionality beyond the card memorization for numbers.
But as far as a kind of deck of cards memory game, the Memrise deck of cards course is worth taking a look at. It gives you something different to try. However, taking this course risks creating some confusion if you have an existing set of memorize a deck of cards mnemonics in mind. It will also not give you a system for remembering cards in the true sense of a “system” you get when basing your card approach on the Major Method.
By the same token, it can be a great memory challenge to have more than one system for remembering cards in mind. Juggling multiple memory methods and the systems you create from them is for advanced stages of the game, however. It’s best to master one memory skill first and then move on to the next.
Should You Develop A System
For Remembering Cards?
Again, I know it sounds like remembering cards is a useless skill on the surface. However, if you’re serious about memory improvement, you’ll be glad I twisted your arm into learning it.
Once you’ve recalled even just 1/4 of a deck of cards, you’ll be convinced of how much potential your memory holds. This simple feat of memory accomplishment will create energy and inspiration that keeps you moving forward. Once you’ve accurately recalled just a few cards you’ll know just how easy it is to learn, remember and recall anything.
It’s a life changing experience and I can’t wait to hear your story of success with developing your own system for remembering cards!