Card deck memorisation - post your times here!



I recite the deck (then again, I can’t find my second deck at the moment so I don’t have much choice - how can a deck of cards just disappear? :slight_smile: )

Are you sure that you don’t want your time recorded (congratulations by the way)? I don’t see why it shouldn’t be - you’ve demonstrated that you had memorised the deck after all.


Hey Richie, I know it seems strange, but to me it feels like cheating lol. Also, if you wanna impress your friends etc, you’re not gonna memorize a deck, then rearrange a new deck (unless you always have two decks). Being able to recite seems more natural and pure lol. Thanks for the option Richie :smiley:

It’s interesting to note that around 2002 I think, in competitions they used to have to recite the deck out, however as more competitors from different nationalities and languages started to participate, become harder, hence standardised the rules by rearranging a deck (Told to me by the mental athlete veterans when I went to the Cambridge Memory Championship :slight_smile:


Thanks for the great tips, Paul D. I think you’re right that I’ve sort of lost the fun of it, and built up some negative feelings about the memorizing. Must have more fun!

One thing I do along the lines of your suggestions is there is a 3 mile walk I do most every day that is one of my journeys. I bring the cards along with me and memorize as I walk by the 18 loci. It’s good for building the base.


Hey Sleightly,
I’ve always just recited the cards as I turn each over. I never even guessed that sorting another deck might be easier. Maybe that’s an answer for my persistent error problem. Thanks.

(Paul D) #25

The 4 people are basically left to right, but more important is that each person is performing a fairly unique action on the next. An example would be Han Solo frozen in Carbonite tips over and pins down Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz. Dorothy has Medusa in her picnic basket who turns Harry Potter flying on his broomstick into stone. Harry Potter then crashes and shatters on the ground.

I use the same system for memorizing numbers. The main thing I like about this is that it’s very flexible when I need to memorize a number in my daily life. I can put any number of images on a single loci without being constrained by a P-A-O format.

Also, when I was developing my personal memory system, the first thing I did was see which characters were most memorable to me. I would practice memorizing strings of images before I assigned them to cards or numbers. If a character was difficult for me to remember, I’d chuck them and try someone else. It also became apparent that it was just as easy for me to remember 4 images to a loci as 3. I decided to use 4 images so I can memorize a deck of cards to 13 loci rather than 17 or 18.

(Paul D) #26

I don’t consider arranging a second deck of cards cheating. If you’re struggling to remember a card it’s definitely quicker to be able to see what’s left in the deck and immediately visualize the remaining images. However, if I get hung up when I’m calling out the cards, I simply cycle through a deck of cards in my head until one pops out at me. Either way, you’re running through images until you find the piece that fits.


I see your drift Paul, but reciting a deck is much harder than rearranging a deck, and I don’t know about you, but like a challenge ;D

(Paul D) #28

I just beat my best time by a few seconds. I memorized a deck of cards in 1:51.90 :slight_smile: Let’s see if I can keep creeping towards 1:30.


Nicely done Paul :smiley:


Nice one, Paul :smiley:


Aaarrrggghhh. So close to the 5 minute mark - 5 minutes 1.66 seconds!!! :slight_smile:

On the plus side I’m now confident that I will be able to do this because I know that I can get faster in some places. For example, I still have to stop and think of the appropriate Person or Action/Object for some cards - once this becomes as automatic as it is for other cards the speed will increase. I also need to become quicker at coming up with imaginative associations between the 2 cards and the location - it is improving but I know it can be better :wink:

How are things progressing for the rest of you guys?


Are you posting your times/scores on the Global leaderboard? I have the top 3 times on cards (JoshToo, GeorgeDRat and Max are all me). I have lots of better scores, but I started feeling guilty about making the Global leaderboard my personal leaderboard, so I stopped posting my scores on the Global. I would love for someone to beat my scores so that I can put up better scores (faster times). I love the competition.


It seemed likely that you carried your moniker over to iCue, and I did figure this was you when I saw the corresponding scores perched atop the leader board (though I of course didn’t know your alter egos). My card scores are nowhere near yours…I have a couple of entries in the top 100, but nothing worth trumpeting. My times are steadily improving: after clocking 3:21 yesterday (48/52), I hit 52/52 for 4:01 today. But my recall is slow (usually 10 min or so) with this program, and since iCue factors the total time into the composite score, my results suffer accordingly. I’m still experimenting with various recall configurations…I’ve played with mental rehearsal after memorization, and straight-up forward recall and reverse recall. I am significantly faster with reverse recall, probably because I accelerate as I pace through the deck and thus the more recent memories are more readily available (but only if I start at the end of the deck and work backwards). This polarity further slows down the recall on iCue since the card entry is more facile in the sensical forward direction.

Sidebar: When I can’t quickly extract the card from memory, I quickly “flip” through the characters mentally. I’m always amazed at how easy it is to resurrect a memory this way, and with great confidence to boot.

I find the iCue program very helpful (particularly since I can only practice when I’m putting my little one to bed, and am huddled in a corner in his dark room!), but the ticking timer drives me to distraction. I even emailed the author to see if that could be an option to toggle off, but no response. So I just cover it up with my thumb. Out of sight, out of mind.

After I built my PAO framework, I relied heavily on the random numbers mode in iCue. I set up for 54 numbers at a time in blocks of 6 to match my PAO binning, then steadily worked to improve memorization time and recall fidelity and fluidity. I have stacked the random numbers leaderboard much more respectively (I’m “Me”, quite literally) and since I’ve used this practice extensively through daily practice, the board tracks my improvements accordingly.

Quite a bit more than you asked, but it is good to connect with a familiar name across different memory environments!



protein - I’ve added your new time to the board

josh - care to add yours?


Are international intruders accepted? :wink:

My best at a competition is still 40,59s from the World Championships 2006 (omg… 2006? …).
Last year I had to realize that “close” is just not good enough when I had stopped after just 28s and had recalled 50 cards correctly.

In very few runs in training I got under 25 seconds. I am not even sure, but I think my personal best was 24.23 seconds.

My system is very simple. 52 images. 52 loci.
My images are a mixture of persons and objects. Its based on the system of Steffen Bütow.
Each of the four colors represents a theme:

Diamonds - Circus
Hearts - Human/Health
Spades - Nature
Clubs - Violence/Law

And then the images are found via visual associations (2 of spades is a swan, 3 of spades a flying bird, 8 of spades a snowman) and for the characters: J always equals a young male character (Clown, baby, …), Q a female character (dancer, mother…), K an older male (ringmaster, gardener, …).

I am using this system since 2002. This year I learned a Ben-System with 2704 images (52*52) which I will use for the marathon card events at the upcoming competitions. For Speed Cards I stick to this simple one.

Mabye this can help to motivate people just to start using a 52 images on 52 loci system, because in my opinion far too many people worry about having at least a PVO or even a ben system before they even start.


Hi Boris,

Everybody is welcome - the more the merrier.

Thanks for taking the time to add a detailed description of the system that you use. May I ask why you have studied the ben system for multiple decks but plan to keep using the simple system for single decks? That is, why would ben be quicker for multiple decks but not a single one?


Nelson has some competition :wink:


The problem with a system with just 52 images is, that they repeat a lot in the longer disciplines. In the last years I usually got pretty low scores on the Hour Cards and 30 minute cards events, because I could not recall the decks perfectly.

When I try to memorize lets say 20 decks in an hour, I had 20 clowns, 20 babies, 20 mothers… While memorizing this images seemed to be clear, but at recall I had lots problems with the interferences. I usually had some gaps but could fill them because I had seen the images too often.

I hope with the Ben system and just a few repetitions, I will be able to fill the gaps much easier. If I have got for example 6 cards left, going through the combinations allows me to detect, in which combinations those cards appeared and that should make it easy to get them in the correct gaps.

The disadvantage is obv.: Knowing all 2704 images is much harder. I am just not fast enough to get a time under 1 minute with them. So I stick to the old system with speed cards. That it is possible to speed that system up can be seen by the performances of Ben and Simon, but I am not there yet.


Haha yes I do. I don’t even come close to what the guys outside of the US can do. And I’m fine with that :slight_smile:

What’s up Boris, nice to see you on this forum! I’ll see you in Germany (and UK next week?).


Hey Nelson,

It’s not as if you are suddenly slow at the process - you are still way ahead of most of us (and way, waaaayyy ahead of me! :wink: ). I would imagine that it’s nice to have somebody else up there at that level to compete with.

Would you share with us a little more detail about the technique that you use? For example, are the people that use famous actors, sportsmen, friends and family or a mixture? Do you split them so that there is a category for each suit (actors are hearts, sportsmen are clubs etc), as Boris does? Thanks.