Memorizing a Card Stack

I do magic and for some tricks I need to memorize a certain stack/deck order (before the trick) and use that to my advantage. I’m a bit new to mnemonics and so I was wondering how I would even go about memorizing the card value and suit, and pair it with a number (telling me which position in the deck it is).

If you could give me some advice and/or resources, that’d be really helpful!


@justintime1, I’ve collected a number of techniques for playing cards and other techniques for magicians but haven’t made them available unless I can be certain the person is a working magician. Why don’t you private message me with the stack type you are using. I’ll be glad to help if I can.



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In addition to whatever you’re going to learn there, a quick way to memorize the colors in a deck of cards is mentioned in the blog post below. It doesn’t take long to learn, and it sets the foundation for the next step (suits and values).

The free ebook shows how to add the suits and values. The ebook is short and provides quick overviews to the main techniques like the major system and memory palaces.

You might also be interested in this section: #magic-tricks


Thanks so much Josh! This could be useful to add to my arsenal :slight_smile: Also my bad, I forgot to choose the magic trick topic


No need to remember to add tags — there are too many for people to keep track of unless they have been posting here for a while. :slight_smile:

I sometimes add them to posts so that it’s easier for people to find things.


Thanks :slight_smile:

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Please also check out the Magician’s Forom, there is an entire section devoted to memdeck work as it is called by magician’s. I am currently learning the Mnemonica stack and am using a number to peg system and a card to peg system and then linking them. It’s hard work but better than rote memorization and in the end if I forget a number or a card I can work backwards with my mnemonic system if I have one of the two.


Heyy I’m learning Mnemonica as well! Also thanks, I’ll definitely check that forum out :slight_smile:

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The answer in short is that you require a 52 locus (preferably number shape type system) linked to each card position in the Mnemonica stack. So assuming position 1 is the 4C (Four of Clubs), you will translate the 4C into an image (Club 4 = CaR), using the Major System that then links to say an image of a “LIghthouse” which is a pegword for position 1 (number-shape system). If you are going to use the Mnemonica Stack it is equally as important to be able to go from a Card to a Number as it is from a Number to a Card. I also suggest you learn to set up the Mnemonica stack from NDO (New Deck Order) too.

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Is there a Magicians Forum here on Art of Memory? I’m a magician and use memory techniques in my act, but this had passed me by.

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I use the Nikola stack - largely because it was the first one I came across (though it dates back about 100 years now!). I became interested in memory techniques primarily to use in my magic act. I learned how to memorise a stack from one of the late Tony Buzan’s books, Use Your Memory.

I used (and still do) the Major system which, apart from helping me memorise a stack, also allowed me to memorise hundreds of words in a dictionary and hundreds of random words in at least one Harry Potter book. This allows me to perform a number of impressive ‘mind-reading’ effects. I also perform the Knight’s Tour (a demonstration of ‘chess’ memory) - again using the Major system - as well as the standard memorisation and recall of 20-30 objects called out by an audience.

I came to magic late (as I did to memory sports), and decided I was never going to master all the physical sleights. But mastering mental sleights was something I really enjoyed - and still do.

Good luck on your journey. I’ll be 68 next birthday. If I can still do it - you’ll have no trouble! :slight_smile:


@JamesW, it’s great to see some professional magicians using mnemonic systems in their acts and helping other magicians find some support. I think this forum only has the #magic-tricks tag to categorize the posts. Who knows, you might inspire a new magician or two with the posts? I think the techniques here could inspire some new tricks beyond the traditional stacks.

I hadn’t seen the Nikola stack, looked over the Mnemonica stack, and ultimately decided on the Aronson stack because of the videos and books available. I also like that he hung out with Harry Lorayne. But after seeing the systems behind it and even Geoff Williams’ modification of the mnemonic system for the Aronson stack, I decided I could do a little better.

I’ll leave my standing offer, but bow out of any other magic discussion because I don’t do any tricks. @fred2 has the right idea. But I’ve found it’s been taking me weeks to get the right images to make it work well in my head as I’ve practiced the deck. The issue seems to be how to best extend the Major system (if that’s the one you chose) to easily convert court cards to two digits to images. Tony Buzan’s images were difficult for me. And then the system should be able to be adapted to other types of memory feats as well.

I love how you’ve explored many different options for using mnemonic systems in your act. I’ll be reading magic-tricks tagged posts with interest from now on!


Posts about magic tricks can go in the #mental-calculation category. It’s called “mental calculation” to keep the title short, but the description (not displayed clearly at the moment) mentions magic tricks.

Discuss mental speed calculation techniques, mental puzzles, games, brain teasers, and magic tricks.

Because it’s a lot of things in one section, it can be filtered by the #magic-tricks tag.

If you want to have more discussions about magic, start some new topics about it. :slight_smile:

If enough people are interested in the subject, maybe it could become its own category.

Hi Justin,

I’ve also been working to learn the different stacks. As has been pointed out, the Mnemonica stack is very popular. One thing to consider is combining a memorized stack with a cyclical stack, like Osterlind’s Breakthrough card system. If I forget a card, I can calculate what the next card should be.

I’ve memorized the Mnemonica stack. I’d be interested to hear other opinions about the stack and how best to memorize it.


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Doug I’ll let you into a very simple method that requires absolutely no time investment to recall the 52 playing cards. You can actually RHYME every single card (court cards adapted slightly) with concrete nouns as follows: AH = Hun (for one), 2H = wHo (for Two), 3H = He (for Three, think of He-man), 4H = wHore (for four), 5H = Hive for (Five), 6H = Hicks (think Hillbilly bootleggers for Six), 7H = Heaven (for Seven), 8H = HaTe (think of Neo-Nazi Tattoo), 9H = Hine (archaic form of a tuskless elephant for nine), 10H = Hen (for ten), JH = Heart (Jacks all take the noun word of their suits), QH (Princess Di easy enough), KH (Elvis Presley, heart throb). AC = Cun (a unit of measurement approx 1"), 2C Koo (A Brand of Baked Beans in South Africa), 3C Key, 4C Core, 5C Cive (Female MMA Fighter), 6C Kicks (Think of a Penalty Kick in Rugby), 7C Kevin (a nickname for someone who is stupid - most politicians fit the bill nicely), 8C Kate (think Grand Piano = Kate Bush), 9C Kine (old English word for a Cow), 10C Ken (Barbie doll’s boyfriend), JC (a Club, all Jacks take the noun of their suit), QC (Cream - rhymes with Queen/ or Serena Williams will also do) KC = King Henry VIII or Tiger Woods. AD = Done (Think of a Graduate on graduation day with degree/diploma and cap and graduation gown. 2D = Do (Dog Poo = Doogie Doo!) 3D = Dee (Think Kicki Dee in Dungerees). 4D Door. 5D Dive (Scuba Diver) 6D (Dicks think of small wieners on cocktail sticks) 7D Devon (I think of the Fawlty Towers House which is situated in Devon UK. 8D Date (Fruit of a Palm Tree) 9D Dine (Think of a USA Diner) 10D Den (Think of a Wolf’s Den. JD (Diamond) QD (Queen Elizabeth II or Dream) KD (Bill Gates or Drink). AS Sun (for one Spade) 2S = Sue (think of a gavol judge’s hammer) 3S Sea (I think of Durban Beach Front), 4S Sore (I think of a butterfly plaster over a child’s wound), 5S Sive (I think of a friend whose name is Zive), 6S Six (Think of a dice 6 sides), 7S (Seven think of one armed bandit 777), 8S (Satan the devil), 9S (Sign a Stop Sign), Zen (Stones on top of one another Zen-style), JS (Spade), QS (Evil woman or Steam), KS (Adolf Hitler or Sing). Jokers if used could be Chevy Chase and Eddie Murphy. That’s as easy as it gets but of course cards can be coded using either Dominic system or the Major System or a host of any other coding systems too??


For 2H = wHo you can either thin of an Owl making the Who Who noise or the Bass Drum Skin of the 1960/1970’s Pop Group the Who

This website above uses a similar system of rhyming playing cards to the one I have suggested, although I never developed the idea from the website given above and struck upon it through my own sense of creative thinking. That being said, the website given is well worth a look at by anyone wanting a playing card encoding system that deviates from the commonly used: Dominic and Major Systems

@fred2, tradition is a great influencer when working with mnemonic systems so people tend to recommend what they know. I’ve been working with various digit to sound conversions which then are converted to images because Simon Aronson used that and he used that probably because of Harry Lorayne’s influence.

I’m familiar with the rhyming technique but it loses it ability to adapt after twelve so I had forgotten about it while applying what I knew better. How fortunate it is to use rhyming of zero through twelve for playing cards!

The Major system number keywords have benefits of adaptability and range up to 999. The rhyming conversion has benefits of lesser adapability and one less conversion making it faster for recall and learning as you mentioned, a big plus for performance. So I’m ending my search for better consonant sound conversions and keywords and will be using the rhyming sounds. I want to work with the images though for better visuals for me. Kine doesn’t bring up a cow in my head easily.

Thanks for suggesting the technique. @SpencerR, @justintime1, and @JamesW: I’ll post whatever I decide I like here and not in private.

Now we just need a standard set of number keywords from 1 to 52 to associate with the card images at those positions to make a new image and we’re good to start entertaining. I’ll post my standard items/objects for the keywords also soon.

@fred2, I was considering using odd numbers only converted to people as my peg list that would be associated with two card object/item images. For instance, Tarzan/Thor for one tied to the first two Aronson cards, JS and KC. Any thoughts?

Doug I don’t know whether this would be better suited to your needs? As always thank you for your candid reply. I can also share my images for my number pegs with you too if you are interested? The whole thing where “memory deck” work of magicians differs from say a ‘memory competitor’ is that firstly the magician only needs to remember one Memdeck of an ordered pre-arranged stack of 52 playing cards (e.g. an Aronson stack or a Mnemonica stack, although there are many other types of stacks too which I won’t go into here). A memory competitor on the other hand is interested in all likelihood in being able to remember the most number of randomly shuffled decks of cards in a given time span or to be able to remember a randomly shuffled deck of cards in under 20 seconds? Memory competitors could use a PAO type system, together with a ‘memory palace’ and the memory athlete is not in the least bit perturbed or interested that they don’t know what card is in say the 522nd position? Ben Pridmore has a unique system whereby he encodes playing cards together in tandem and has unique images for each of 2704 possible combinations of two playing card pairs presented. So in short, the ‘stacked deck magician’ and ‘memory competitor’ are facing quite different challenges and obstacles. At all times a “Stacked deck magician” needs to know the exact location (or position) of each and every playing card. When fanned out a Tamariz stack and Aronston stack show no pattern or discernable order and for all intents and purposes they look exactly like what they are purporting to be…(I.e. a randomized shuffled deck of 52 playing cards) which of course they are not!! The gamut of additional card tricks that a magician can pull off using a Memdeck are virtually limitless (google 'jazzing using memdecks if interested further). In other words, the memdeck magician is not merely restricted to the ACAAN effects (any card at any number) type of tricks. I once heard a good analogy that a novice card magician may rely solely on a very limited repertoire of fanning the cards, and having a spectator chosing a card (after having noting say the bottom card (‘key card’), which is thereafter they use to locate the spectators chosen card. The Memdeck magician on the other hand has a full deck of 52 KEY CARDS at their disposal. I’m not giving away too much here as the ‘magicians code’ is not to divulge one’s tricks but the internet is full of the type of information I am giving to interested parties in this post and can be googled by any aspiring magician or person interested in knowing how magician perform certain tricks. So as always the fundamental concept in card memorization is that whatever system one uses it should be ‘fit-for-purpose’ and as I’ve tried to explain here the purposes of the Memdeck magician and Memory Athlete are poles apart to say the very least!!

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