How to improve the speed memorization of a deck of cards

(Marios Daskalas) #1

Hi. Before I start I would like to give you a short background about me. I started practicing memory techniques approximately 5 months ago when I started reading a book from Dominic O’ Brien called “How to develop a brilliant memory”. I adopted the techniques and philosophy of this book and I came to point where memorization of a deck of cards came to place. I took very slow steps, I started memorizing 10 cards for the first time and I started increment one card per day. After 1 and half month I finished the whole deck of cards and at the current point, my personal best is 27 minutes. Before you say anything I know it’s very slow. But let me tell you the method that I used for memorizing a deck of cards. First of all, I have a journey consisting of 52 steps. Each card represents a person with an action. I want to mention that I try to associate more than one sense per person/loci. For example, if the person is Tiger Woods, I would imagine him holding a golf club and the sound of the club when hitting the ball. So in this case, I combine vision and hearing. This kind of thinking brings me more stability and precision but at the cost of speed. In addition, I would like to say that when I try to memorize a deck of cards, I do chunking. But this I mean, that I try to memorize the first 10 of cards, then I review them, then I memorize the next 10 cards, review them and so on. I can understand that this also cuts speed.

My main goal is to be able to memorize a deck of cards in less than 15 minutes. Any ideas and suggestions are appreciatable.
Note: When I recall the deck of cards, I always recall them and backwards. In the end, I review the deck 3 times.


I’d say try just to think and review less.

When creating images, place and move on to the next, don’t spend too much time with them. Also don’t review them after every 10 cards, sure you can be more sure about the images sticking, but it cuts time a lot. Trust your system and trust your memory, only by doing that you can find where the rough spots lie and how to improve.
If you to cut your speed down to 15 minutes, cut every unneccesary bit it of it. The simpler, the faster.


So I would suggest using major system!
I had an idea for my own journey
spades =1
hearts = 2
clubs = 3
So in a card like seven of spades we would have 17 one for spades and seven for seven that could be a DuCK in major system.
For Jacks , Queens and Kings you will reverse this
you will make J=6 Q=5 K=7
and for example for Jack of spades you will have 61 that could be a jet
This will speed up encoding and you can revise as long as you want you wont get over 15 min

Sincerely, HS!


What I did for memorizing a deck of cards is the following (not necessary the best way, but it worked for me) :

I wanted to learn a deck in less than 2 minutes. So I took a deck, a timer, and I encoded the cards till 2 minutes were up. At the times I didn’t know my encoding very well, so I could only encode 12 cards. The recall was good (only 12 cards…).
So the next day, I took only 15 random cards, not the entire deck and tried to encode it correctly in 2 minutes. I was feeling the pressure, and didn’t have time to encode the last 2 cards, but memorized them as is (king of club, 2 of heart,king of club, 2 of heart,king of club, 2 of heart,…) until I took the recall deck. Then I tried to recall the other cards.
The result was okay. Some bad encoding on memorizing, some during the recall, but nothing forgotten.
The next day I tried 18. That was not a good day… I didn’t have time to encode several cards, so I let go of the last cards. Besides, my images were not vivid enough so I couldn’t recall lot of cards…
I tried again, and again, till I succeeded. The next day I tried 18 again, and did 1 bad encoding while memorizing, so I did 21 the next day.
And that was my method:

  1. (try to) memorize n cards in 2 minutes
  2. if the recall is perfect (or near perfect, or good enough, following the mood) 2 days in a row increment n by 3 cards otherwise, don't change the number
  3. go to step 1 till n = 52
  4. Success!

I think the key for me was to force myself to do more, even though the result was not perfect.
I had a lot of images not vivid enough, and learned to put the image in the loci correctly, with an interaction.
I also tweaked my encoding. I kept on forgetting some actions, so I changed them.

You wrote that each card is a person+an action. But you use 52 loci. So you don’t use a PA system?
If that’s so, you should: that way you would only need 26 loci:
Let say that you have card1 = Tiger wood swinging a golf club and card2 = Jordan dunking and breaking the glass panel cause the dunk was too powerful.
In one loci, you could have:

  • Tiger Wood trying to dunk a golf ball but failing miserably (he didn't jump high enough and every one laughted at him). That's card1, then 2
  • Jordan trying to swing a basket ball in a golf course, but obviously, the ball doesn't fit if the hole, so he loses his temper and hammers the ball into the hole with the club. That would be card2 then 1.
I use a PAO system, and so that's why I increased cards by 3. If you use a PA system, you should increase by 2.

In short, as Mayarra said don’t do review, it’s ok to miss.


Hi Mayarra,

I agree. It reminds me of sub-vocalization and regression those are distracting speed reading as well. I should believe in myself but it seems it also needs more practice. One question, do you think you are using right brain when you count a deck of cards? People says those would come from the right brain but I’m not sure if that is true even it seems it is.


I think I am using the parts of my brain that are important when effectively memorizing a deck of cards using PAO and the method of loci. :slight_smile: Regardless of if that is left, right, up, down, in, out or all the way down in my feet.

(Marios Daskalas) #7

Update: Memorized a deck of cards in 19 minutes.
Previous personal record was 27 minutes.

(Marios Daskalas) #8

Update: Memorized a deck of cards in 17 minutes.