Memorizing a Card Stack

Sorry Doug to answer your question raised in your last paragraph (if I am understanding it correctly?) DON’T DO IT!!
For Memdeck work, you need to immediately know what card is in say the 26th position. You also need to know at which position each and every card of your stack resides at. For example, what position is the Ace of Spades in? The best way to do this, is by using a “one-to-one correspondendence link”. Let me assist you by way of demonstrating how best to remember and be able to recall the first 5 cards in the Mnemonca Stack (Juan Tamariz’s stack) using my first 5 pegwords and first 5 cards in the Tamariz stack using the card rhyming method:

  1. Lighthouse - Core = Club 4 or 4 of Clubs
  2. Swan - Owl (Who Who…) = Heart 2 or 2 of Hearts
  3. McDonald’s Golden Arches - Devon = Diamonds 7 or 7 of Diamonds
  4. Windsurfing sail - Key = Club 3 or 3 of Clubs
  5. Hook - wHore = Heart 4 or 4 of Hearts

So it’s merely a game of 52 paired associations (of which I have given you the first five). So Think of a Lighthouse (preferable one you know. In Simonstown we have one called ‘Roman Rock’. Now picture the lighthouse standing in the sea but instead of bricks and mortar, the lighthouse is merely an apple core!! (This gives me Lighthouse = 1 = Core = 4 of Clubs). Or doing things in reverse (which is necessary!!) Where is 4 of Clubs situated? 4 of Clubs = Core = Lighthouse (Therefore I now it’s in position 1). I will leave positions 2, 3 and 4 for you to do. Let me explain how I know that 4 of Hearts is in position 5. Simple: 5 using a number shape is a Building Crane’s Hook (shaped like a ‘5’). Now to link a wHore = 4 of Hearts to the Crane’s Hook. This is where things do get a little bizarre to say the very least. Okay so I see a wHore (Buxom Bottle Blonde in High heeled shoes and mini-skirt with fishnet stockings. Unfortunately for her the Crane driver’s Hook (5) has ‘hooked’ her (no pun intended) by her miniskirt’s belt and she is being unceremoniously suspended upside down from the crane’s hook. From this I know exactly where my 4 of Hearts is (location #5) and I also know exactly what I will find a location #5 (a wHore = 4 Hearts). Sorry for the graphic detail but that’s the gist of what one would do to remember the order of all 52 playing cards to be remembered in either Tamariz’ Mnemonica stack or Aronson stack.

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I realize that I tend to have tunnel vision when it comes to these kinds of things. If I know a system or know of a particular way to use a system I rarely look for others even if they might work better for what I am trying to memorize.

I have been using a basic 1-52 peg system where the numbers one through 51 all get a peg word based on number to letter system. So the number 1 = t, d so “tie” is the word I use, 52 is Lion 5=l 2=n.

I have linked all of these together so in my story of the numbers 1-52 I link 1 to 2 all the way to 52 ( actually have words for all the numbers 1-100 but don’t need them for this after 52.

Then I gave each card a word and linked it to the card position but not to another card. So the number 7 is cow, which in my mind sits in a seat, s is spades t is Ace so Ace of spades. Yes it does work slightly backward but it is a little helpful to have the card words give the suit up front.

So if someone says 2 I know that 2 is Noah and in my story Noah is honing his ark ( picture Noah using a wood plan on the hand railing) so 2 is Noah, hone is 2 hearts.

If you give me either 2 or 2 of Hearts I can work my way back to the other. Right now I am still in the translation phase but hope to be in the automatic zone in another week or so. I have found trainers on this site which are very good and helpful.

If anyone is interested in the system I am using I can give you the sheets with the words for 1-52 and the words for all the cards. Just remember that my system uses card words that start with the suit and then the number.

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Your system is 100% on the money and will work very well. For the 10 value cards: 10H, 10C, 10D and 10S you could use HoSe = Heart Zero, CaSe = Club Zero, DiCe = Diamond Zero and SauCE = Spade Zero. As the playing cards don’t have zeros we can understand them to be 10 of Hearts, 10 of Clubs, 10 of Diamonds and 10 of Spades respectively. For Jacks, Queens and Kings you could continue to use pegwords from the Major System that denote 11’s = Jacks, 12 = Queens and 13 = Kings respectively. So if one looks at Jack, Queen and King of Clubs, they could translate into: Cadet = Club 11 = Jack of Clubs, Cotten = Club 12 = Queen of Clubs and finally Club 13 = King of Clubs (You could just use the “Club” itself as it is a ‘concrete noun’ that is easily visualized or if you prefer to stick to the Major System “Catamaran” would work equally well for Club 13 = King of Clubs.

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As a side note: I first came across the Major System for card memorization in a Harry Lorayne Memory Book from around the 1980’s. I am also aware that Tony Buzan explains the method too in his memory books which came out some years after Harry Lorayne’s book. Whether Harry Lorayne devised the system, I don’t know. I know though that the “Major System” itself was around a long time before Harry Lorayne was even born. It’s fair to say though that Harry Lorayne ‘popularized’ the major system in his millions of published books on memory that he had translated into numerous languages though. I am guessing (although have no proof) that Harry Lorayne’s memory books that were translated into the various different languages must have departed from the “pure Major System” as we know it though, as each language spoken has its own unique set of sounds. For those of you who may not know Harry Lorayne was (and probably still is) a master magician. I bought a Harry Lorayne Magic Book before I ever bought any of his memory books!

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So, @fred2, I delved into the project of creating a strict list of candidate keywords based on the rhyming system that you recommended and I feel it makes for the most efficient way to remember a pre-arranged order of cards. I like it.

Here’s the list with my object keywords as well. You can find a Word doc for the same on my github site if you want to modify it, since some of the keywords are from my experience. The five of clubs was difficult!

Playing card keywords (rhyme)

Rules of rank conversion

  • Ace = 1
  • Jokers - numbered one and two

Rules of prefixes

  • Hearts – H, Har,
  • Diamonds – D, T
  • Clubs – C, Cl, K, Kl, no G
  • Spades – S, Sp, Z
  • Jokers – J, Ch

Rules of suffixes

  • Ten - *en
  • Jack - *ack
  • Queen - *een
  • King - *ing

Keywords for suit-rank (rhyme)

# Object keyword Card, NDO order Card keyword
1 tie Joker 1 B&W jungle, junk,
2 knee Joker 2 Color chew, Jew,
3 ammo A Spades son, Sonny Bono, sponge, spun, spunk, sun, Sun Myung Moon, Sun Yat-sen,
4 arrow 2 Spades pseudo-, Seuss, sewer, soup, Sooner, John Phillip Sousa, sousaphone, spoon, sue, suet, Sufi, sugo, suit, suitor, super, Superman, surreal, Susan B. Anthony,
5 law 3 Spades cereal, sea, speed, spree,
6 shoe 4 Spades soar, sore, spore, sport, sporting event, sword, sword swallower,
7 key 5 Spades siphon, spy photo,
8 ivy 6 Spades six, six shooter,
9 pie 7 Spades seven, spavin (horse arthritis),
10 dice 8 Spades sate, Satan, spate,
11 tattoo 9 Spades scion, sine wave, sign, sign language, sign making machine, Spinal Tap, spine,
12 tin 10 Spades censor, census, cent, centaur, center, centimeter, centipede, centrifuge, scent, Senate, sender, sentimental, spend, Zen,
13 tomb J Spades sack, sacrament, saxophone, spackling,
14 tire Q Spades scene, scenery, seen, senile, senior, senorita,
15 tail K Spades sing, Sing Sing, single, sink, sinker ball,
16 dish A Diamonds done, dunce, dungeon, ton, tongue, tunnel,
17 toga 2 Diamonds deuce, dew, doo, doodle, dude, duel, tool, toolbox, toot, tooth, toothpick, toucan, toupee, tuba, tube, Tudor, tulle, tune, tuning fork, tureen, tutor, tutti-fruity, two, two by four,
18 dive 3 Diamonds deal, decapitation, deed, deep, deface, demon, derailleur, device, devise, diesel fuel, diesel truck, tea, tea leaves, teak, teal, team, teapot, teat, tee, treat, tree, treehouse,
19 tap 4 Diamonds door, Dora the Explorer, Doric, dormitory, torch, toreador, torpedo, tornado, tort, tortellini,
20 nose 5 Diamonds dive,
21 knot 6 Diamonds Dixie, Dixie cup, Dixon, ticks,
22 naan 7 Diamonds deafening noise, Devin, Devon,
23 gnome 8 Diamonds date, Tate Britain, Tate Modern,
24 weiner 9 Diamonds dine, dining room, dynamite, tine,
25 nail 10 Diamonds den, Denmark, dense, density, dent, dentist, tenant, tend, tender, tenderloin, tendon, tendril, tennis, tense, tent, tentacle,
26 nacho J Diamonds dagger, tachometer, tack, tack hammer, tax, taxidermist,
27 nuke Q Diamonds dean, Dean Jagger, James Dean, Jimmy Dean sausage, teen,
28 knife K Diamonds ding, dinky, tinker, tinkle,
29 knob K Clubs cling, clink, Col. Klink, king, King Kong, kink,
30 maze Q Clubs clean, glean, keen, kino, queen, Queen, Queen Elizabeth, Queen Latifah,
31 mud J Clubs cackle, cacophony, cactus, clack, gag,
32 moon 10 Clubs Ken, kendo, Kennedy Center of the Arts, Kenneth Cole, Kenny G, Kenny Rogers, Kent, Kentucky, Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Fried Chicken,
33 mum 9 Clubs canine, quinine,
34 Hummer 8 Clubs gait, gate, Kate Middleton, Kate Smith, Kate Winslet, Katie Couric, Katy Perry
35 mail 7 Clubs David Geffen, Kevin Bacon, Kevin Costner, Kevin Spacey,
36 match 6 Clubs clicks, kicks, quixotic,
37 mug 5 Clubs Kifuka (city in the Congo which receives the most lightning strikes in the world), Clive Davis,
38 movie 4 Clubs chorale, chorus, coral, cord, cordial, core, Corfu, cork, cormorant, corn, corned beef, cornice, cornucopia, corporation, corpse, corral, Corrie Ten Boom, Corsair, corset, course, court, courtship, courtyard, gorgeous, James Corden, Koran,
39 map 3 Clubs Buster Keaton, cleavage, cleave, cleaver, glee, glee club. Keanu Reeves, keen, keep, keeper, keepsake, Keith Carradine, Keith Emerson, Keith Moon, Keith Richards, Keith Urban, ketogenic diet, key, keyhole, key lime pie, key ring, Key West, quay,
40 rose 2 Clubs clue, coo, cool, cue, kook, Q-tip, queue,
41 rat A Clubs cunning, colon, gun,
42 rain K Hearts herring,
43 rime Q Hearts harlequin, Harlequin novel,
44 aurora J Hearts hack, hacker, hacksaw,
45 roll 10 Hearts hen, Henny Youngman, Henry Mancini, Henry Kissinger, Henry David Thoreau, Henry Fonda, Henry Ford, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Henry Winkler,
46 roach 9 Hearts hiney (rear end), Hawaiian,
47 rake 8 Hearts hate, Haiti,
48 raffia 7 Hearts heaven,
49 rope 6 Hearts hicks,
50 lasso 5 Hearts hive,
51 light 4 Hearts Horatio Nelson, horehound (root beer-like candy), horror film, whore,
52 lawn 3 Hearts Harry Belafonte, Harry Houdini, Harry Potter, Harry Truman, He-man,
53 lime 2 Hearts Dr. Seuss character, Hootie and the Blowfish, owl sound, the Who,
54 lure A Hearts heron, Hun, hundred, hunk, hunt, hunter,
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I’m a magician and I memorise a deck every morning and I can do it in under 3 min. But if you want to use a stack deck to do tricks with i would recommend just use your memory rather then techniques. Just spend the time and It’ll take longer. But it will be better for the tricks. You can record yourself talking the stack order with numbers and just listen over and over again till it is a second nature. It should take about 4 hours.

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First of all, welcome to the forum where we like to talk about the benefits of using mnemonic systems and help others learn them!

I always like to hear of people’s experiences behind their recommendations and I do analysis and personal study to confirm my recommendations. What issues did you experience when using any mnemonic system as opposed to using just your natural memory with a card stack?

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Looks good to me Doug. Would chive not fit in the schema of 5 of Clubs as well? I would however just be tempted to also use the actual nouns designated by the card suits themselves somewhere. It doesn’t really matter where either as everyone’s system is unique to themselves. If you for instance really battle with the 5 of Clubs and that’s the only card value that does not fit the ‘rhyming scheme’ it would be hell of a tempting to use: 5 of Clubs = Club (a Caveman’s Club); 5 of Diamonds = Diamond (the Cullinan Diamond); 5 of Spades = Spade (Seaside beach-type plastic Spade) and finally the 5 of Hearts = Heart (Prof. Chris Barnard as the 1st successful Heart transplant surgeon or even the Heart itself pulsating with blood or maybe less grotesque a valentine’s day chocolate shaped Heart. Truths be told 'grotesque image of a Heart works best for me. Thanks for the update.

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Rote learning in that fashion would just be a step too far for me though. Whilst Juan Tamariz’s book Mnemonica is a well-written go to reference for card tricks using the Mnemonica stack I don’t endorse the methods suggested by Juan Tamariz of singing the deck order to the tunes of nursery rhymes. The Internet too is a breeding ground for some pretty shady techniques to remember to stack order of the Mnemonica stack. There are videos that have been uploaded onto the internet purporting to explain how best to recall a given “Stack” which I would suggest are quite dubious to say the very least. Why anyone would want to punish themselves learning rote when there are far more sophisticated methods to embrace out there to get the job done, I can’t understand? You are correct though that you can learn the stack by sheer rote memory (much the same way most of us learnt our 12 x 12 multiplication tables in primary school) and once whatever stack is learnt (Mnemnica or Aronson or any other) by a magician they should know it 100% inside out. It’s vitally important to know both ways round with the deck. In other words, the card to location and the location back to any given card. One needs to be able to be equally conversant in knowing that (for example) the JD is in position 32, the AD is in position 39 and the 9 of Clubs is in position 44. As well as knowing: Position 43 holds the AC, position 48 holds the QS and of course position 52 holds the 9D. Any magician worth there salt will also know a fair number of methods to perform both ‘false shuffles’ and ‘fasle cuts’ for maximum effect. What fascinates me though is just how many authors there are that will sell you their systems to memorize the order of various stacked decks, when infact everything one needs (in terms of resources) by way of the skills to perform such a feat (i.e. being able to recall 52 random shuffled cards) is all on this forum at no cost whatsoever? Just a passing thought I had.


I’d agree about customization on the strict system that I posted. The fives would be a good fit for a different rule. In my system, the Q of Hearts is more about Alice in Wonderland than a harlequin.

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Doug if you happen to have ‘ready made’ lists of any kind stacked somewhere in your memory they could also be used to great effect in supplying pegwords to the playing cards themselves. An easy list would be say record tracks on LP’s (i.e. the order of the songs as they appear on various record albums). Let me explain further (but first a quick caveat that this system should only be used for playing cards Ace through to 10’s in each suit) as LP records tend not to have more than 10 tracks on them. OK, so let us say I am looking a pegging my Ace of Hearts through to the 10 of Hearts using the Beatles “Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band” as firstly it’s my favourite Beatles Album and secondly and ‘coincidently’ the LP’s title contains the word “Heart”. Track listings of first 10 tracks (although the album has twelve tracks are:

  1. Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band
  2. With a Little Help from my Friends
  3. Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds
  4. Getter Better
  5. Fixing a Hole
  6. She’s Leaving Home
  7. Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!
  8. Within you Without you
  9. When I’m Sixty-Four
  10. Lovely Rita

Using the obvious most “concrete nouns” for the above tracks in sequence gives me the following pegwords (I have given a brief explaination where I feel one is needed next to the pegs):

  1. Pepper Pot = Ace of Hearts
  2. “Friends” TV show DVD = 2H
  3. LSD (Purportedly the song was an acronym for LSD?) = 3H
  4. Golf Putter (I’m getter better at it!) = 4H
  5. Hole in my garage’s roof that needs fixing = 5H
  6. Harp (song makes use of a Harp being played throughout) = 6H
  7. Kite (Benjamin Franklin type) = 7H
  8. Sitar (song makes use of a Sitar throughout) = 8H
  9. Baldheaded man (“When I get older losing my hair…”) = 9H
  10. Meter Maid - (That’s who Lovely Rita is) -10H

You could use further people on the actual picture of the record cover/sleeve which is often rich in imagery to find your Jacks, Queens and Kings. Marilyn Monroe would be an obvious choice for the Queen of Hearts.

Choosing three other LP Albums would give you pegwords for the other Suits in question: Clubs, Diamonds, Spades. I think the key here is that any list of 10 items that you can make concrete nouns from would work well to give you the cards from Ace through to 10 in any of the Suits. So if physics or chemistry is your scene why not use the ‘elements of the periodic table’ as memory pegs for playing cards? The period table already has the elements ordered by atomic number so no problem there with Jacks, Queens or Kings just keep going. Using the first 13 elements of the Periodic table an concretizing the ‘elements’ into logical concrete nouns would yield the following for playing card pegwords:

  1. Hydrogen = think of a ‘Water Hydrant’ = AH
  2. Helium = Hot air Balloon = 2H
  3. Lithium = Battery = 3H
  4. Beryllium = Beer (Beer is really yum!) = 4H
  5. Boron = (The Red ‘Baron’ - German Pilot) = Red Plane = 5H
  6. Carbon = Carbon Paper or Car Bomb = 6H
  7. Nitrogen = Warts = burnt off with liquid nitrogen = 7H
  8. Oxygen = Oxygen masks on an aircraft = 8H
  9. Flourine = Flour or toothpaste (Flouride not Flourine) = 9H
  10. Neon = Neon Lights of Las Vegas = 10H
  11. Sodium = Table Salt = JH
  12. Magnesium = a Magnet (Sounds similiar) = QH
  13. Aluminum = Tin Foil Paper = KH

I’ll leave it there!!

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@fred2, thanks for the extra ideas on pegs. I have never thought about album/CD tracks but they would make for auditory reinforcement as well. I’m still a fan of rhyming for playing cards because of the one less conversion that needs to be made helping the speed of recall.

I agree with you 100%, rhyming playing cards gets you straight to the playing card’s suit and value and dispenses with the necessity of decoding from either a Major or Dominic system to arrive at it. Just goes to show that ‘simplification’ trumps ‘major system memory pegs’ (no pun intended). How does Dominic O’Brien suggest you get around the court cards of: Jack, Queen and King. In the major system its easier to derive those peg words for court cards as you are not relying on a person’s name. Any ideas on that point Doug?

@fred2, according to this article on Dominic’s card memorization system he used unique people by category of the suit for the court cards. I usually like Nelson Dellis’s techniques but he uses Person based PAO for his cards since he’s competition minded also.

Thanks for the article Doug. I watched Dominic O’Brien on you tube yesterday doing a playing card memorization session where he selected 10 random cards (face cards included amongst them) and set about explaining his technique exactly as encapsulated in the article you’ve posted. In his demonstration he explained that his QC = Kylie Monogue (as she was the Queen of Night Clubs) and his KD = Bill Gates (Richest man in the World at that stage) and his 7H = James Bond 007 (Heart Throb). He then explained the journey method and how he placed each card at each of the loci in his journey. He kept coming back to the point that one should invoke both left and right hemispheres of one’s brain by asking oneself LOGICALLY what would each of the persons (playing cards) be doing at a particular location. I found it extremely amusing that he had Kylie Minogue (QC) ‘linked’ to his bedroom. He then asked his audience what would Kylie Minogue ‘LOGICALLY’ be doing in my bedroom? He then quickly interjected to say: “Don’t answer that question!”. I thought the Kylie Minogue example that Dominic O’Brien used was very vivid and highly memorable as a training point, so 10/10 for Dominic there he certainly got his point across in a most entertaining way. The more I watch Dominic perform any of his memory feats, the more I marvel at his ‘natural showmanship’.

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Have a look in at 16 minutes

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Thanks for that @fred2! This is a wonderful example of how to put on a demonstration of getting people started with memory training mixing, demonstrations, technique explanation and exercise, humility, and humor.

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Hi Justin, the method I advocate and have taught to other magicians with wonderful results is to have two cast lists (mostly based on the initials of their names using your favoured encoding system). One cast list is your normal ‘number cast list’, the other being a ‘Playing Card Cast’. The number cast members are placed at junctions in a Loci and each one is given the ‘action’ of the playing card cast member. This allows you to go to the junction and see one cast member doing the action of the other. Decoding which number and which playing card is then very straightforward.