Remembering Playing Cards

Memory training cards

This is another neat trick, but is fairly simple in operation. Cards are of course somewhat ambiguous (you will by now be getting used to the fact that this is true for much in our world being like that) and so you will have to give them some sort of solid imagery.

Thankfully the world of the mnemonist has com to our rescue here, and there is a well established system.


Because they are so simply and logically created you will find that you will be able to hold the information with around 30 minute of study.

The system combines the phonetic letter and number system together with the first letter of each of the suits to create a new word and therefore memorable object.

Just a word of note before 1 divulge this secret: the court cards.

The jacks are simply pictured as the card suit that they are. So the jack of hears is a heart.

The queens Apart from the queen of hearts (which is simply a queen) the letter of the suit has been substituted for the first letter of the word queen, and then the closest rhyme used. Its clubs but it works!

The kings Similar to the queens, the only anomaly is the king of clubs, which again is the word King. See over for the full details.

AC     –      cat           AH    –      hat          AS   –      suit          AD    –           date

2C      –      can          2H     –      hone       2S   –      sun          2D     –           dune

3C      –      comb      3H     –      hem        3S   –      sum         3D     –          dam

4C      –      cote         4H     –      hare        4S   –      sore        4D     –           door

5C      –      coal         5H     –      hail         5S   –      sail          5D     –           doll

6C      –      cash        6H     –      hash        6S   –      sash        6D     –           dash

7C      –      cock        7H     –      hog         7S   –      sock        7D     –           dock

8C      –      cuff         8H     –      hoof        8S   –      safe         8D     –           dive

9C      –      cap          9H     –      hub         9S   –      soap        9D     –           deb

10C    –      case         10H   –      hose        10S –      suds        10D   –           dose

JC      –      club       JH      –      heart       JS    –      spade      JD      –           diamond

QC     –      cream      QH    –      queen      QS   –      steam      QD    –           dream

KC     –      king        KH     –      hinge      KS   –      sing         KD     –           drink

As usual, decide for yourself as to your own imagery.

So here are a couple of fun things to do with this. First you can memorise whole lists of cards, but to really do well your must do this in under 5 mins, which is considered average, and under 3 minutes to stand any chance against the grand masters. But hey, 5 minutes is still good!

It is quite simple, go through your fave peg list, and associate each card in shuffled order with the peg word.

But how about card counting – that is remembering what cards have already been played in a game so that you are more readily able to calculate the odds of a certain hand being possible.

It is not as hard as remembering every card in play, instead a bit of reverse psychology is used. When a card is played you imagine I ‘destroyed’ in your mind. Now you can do this with imagery – for example run over it in a steam roller, burn it, eat it, tear it up, freeze it, feed it to a tiger, or stamp on it.  Just so long as you distort the card each time. Now, if you are waiting for a certain card to appear instead of having to go through the whole deck or remember a long list of cards, just ask yourself if it has yet been destroyed. If your card is still clear of damage then you perhaps have a winning hand. If you play a number of hands, you may find that it would get confusing to use the same distortion method. So the recommendation is that you should use a different distortion ‘method’ over the course of 7 hands, before returning to the first method. This way you will keep most information in your scratch memory.

A similar trick would be for the audience to remove 5 cards from a shuffled deck. Now go through the whole deck and mentally destroy the cards. Once done lay the cards to one side, and simply go through the deck in SORTED order in your head. Each time you come to a card that you have not mentally ‘destroyed’ you can shout it out. If however you can get this last stage to below 20 seconds (which is doable – the imagination can work quick and sift images rapidly) then after 20 seconds reveal all cards at one time. In this way you could claim that your mind has organized the cards and then ‘thrown out’ the results in one go. Heighten the tension with some suitable clock countdown music.

There are other various things you can do with this. For example if you use a stacked deck you can create your own individual stack, and no one would be the wiser.

Here is a nice trick. Work with a partner on the other side of a stage who knows the system, perhaps even blindfolded. Ask a volunteer to shuffle your deck. Then proceed to switch (using your fave method) the deck for your own stacked deck.

Have someone in the audience call out a number between one and 52. You could do this with a thrown ball, which bounces around a bit. Make out that this is so that it is a truly random selection and that you could have had no influence on the deck at all. The volunteer on stage then counts down the cards to that number. They are asked to look at the card, concentrate on it. You will not look at it so that you can not be seen to be cheating. On the other side of the stage your blindfold partner calls out (after the usual strain!) the card. They know the card of course because it was the number called out by the other volunteer from the audience.

Another… First, use a fan or other method, cards face up, to show that all the cards are different, but personally you are memorizing the 3 cards, an order, BENEATH the top card. Palm off by any lift technique these 4 cards and pass the deck to a volunteer for a good shuffle. Take the pack back replacing the cards on the top of the deck. Place the deck on the table and have the volunteer cut the deck into 2 smaller decks, then tell him that you will take one deck and ask that they touch one. If he touches the deck containing the top 4 cards thank him for choosing the deck and allow him to keep it. If he chooses the other deck then remove it from the table. However you do this, the volunteer must end up with the portion that contains the top 4 cards Now ask your volunteer to remove the top card and place them on the table. As you know these cards you can use them in another illusion, or else reveal them in whatever way you prefer.

And another … Pre-order a packet of any 20 cards and memorize the order of the cards – in this case it is important to use a CIRCULAR STORY METHOD to memorize the order of the cards in that the last card image links back to the first. Now you are ready.

Place a pack of cards on the table and ask a spectator to cut the cards, but not to complete the cut. Next to remove the card they have cut to and place it to one side. Next, they should complete the cut. What this does is to keep the order of the cards still in the story order, except for the one removed. Have the volunteer look at the card and remember it, and then without you touching the pack to place the card back anywhere in the pack. Because you memorized the pack in a circular story, it doesn’t matter where the first cut is made because the order of the cards will, in a circular sense, remain the same. The removed card however should have fallen to the top of the pack in the story, but of course it will now be out of order. So, to identify the chosen card simply go through the memorized pack in order from the first card and see which card doesn’t fit the story. The quick way of course is to realize that card, IMMEDIATELY BEFORE THE CARD NOW ON THE BOTTOM in the memorized sequence of the cut deck is the missing card. If you wish you can just glimpse the base card to name the missing card. Try this trick out with a simple deck of all the hearts in order backed onto all the clubs in order, and watch the movements of the missing card. So in this example if the bottom card is the 2 of hearts, you will know that the moved card is the ace.

And Yet Another…. Palm any 3 cards from a deck and place them in your pocket (though you can do this without the palm and simply place 3 cards in your pocket before the show starts). Ask a volunteer to shuffle the pack as much as they want to and then to deal 4 cards face up onto the table. Ask them to look wit you at the cards on the table and to choose just one card, but not to touch it or to give the game away in any other way. As they are doing this take some time to explain that Derren Brown uses suggestion methods to make people choose the card he want them to, or else is able to ‘read’ the choice of a person by their body language – they must do all they can not to move and you will not influence their choice of card at all. Secretly however during this time of ‘drivel’ you are memorizing the order of the cards top to bottom. Once  they have made their choice you should collect the cards IN THE ORDER IN WHICH YOU HAVE MEMORIZED THEM and place them in your pocket ON TOP OF THE CARDS YOU SECRETLY PLACED THEIR EARLIER. Now ask the volunteer to concentrate on their card… As they do so remove one of the originally placed cards in your pocket – one of the three – and look at it, then place it back in the centre of the pack saying, ‘not that one’. Do the same for the next two cards. Everyone now thinks that you have just one card in your pocket whereas in reality you have the 4 cards dealt by the volunteer, and of course one of them is the choice of the volunteer. Now, with a mystical grin (or a knowing one if you can’t do mystical!) ask the volunteer for their choice of card. As soon as they tell you count down to the correct choice in your pocket and reveal it with a flourish. 3 cards done like this is pretty good … But how about trying 9 cards in the pocket and asking for 10 to be dealt! The hardest part is not the memory of the cards, but rather the counting of cards in your pocket. To aid counting, makes sure all the cards lie long edge upwards in your pocket, and each time you place your hand in your pocket pause, as if feeling for the right card. In reality you rotate the 3rd card of the volunteers choices in your pocket by 90 degrees lie up wards) – on the second ‘dip’ count a further 3 from this rotated card and rotate the sixth card, and on the third time count 4 and rotate the 10th card. This makes identification of the spectators card smoother than counting through all 10 as you will be able to quickly identify your marker cards.


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