How to memorize playing cards

[This page is a complement to the How to memorize numbers and cards page]

NoteThis article assumes that you already know how to memorize using a memory palace and that you already know how to memorize numbers.

If you aren’t already familiar with those subjects, you should first read:

Want to memorize a deck of cards? You could build a system just for that by doing something along those lines. But what I think would be much more simple and efficient would be to build a system for numbers with at least 100 images for 00 to 99 and use 52 of those images for both cards and numbers. Cards and numbers will then become variations of the same discipline. If you already have a system for numbers, you can learn to memorize cards in just a few minutes. If you don’t yet have a system for numbers and you’re in a hurry to memorize a deck of cards as quickly as possible, you could just start choosing and learning images solely (for now) for the 52 numbers that also happen to represent cards.

Just below are two logical ways to convert cards into numbers. You could make up another if you prefer. One simple solution would be to use something along those lines: 01 to 13 for clubs / 21 to 33 for hearts / 41 to 53 for clubs and 61 to 63 for diamonds. Another way, the one I prefer, is described below:

  • 01, 02, 03, 04 = 10 of spades, 10 of hearts, 10 of clubs, 10 of diamonds
  • 11, 12, 13, 14 = Ace of spades, Ace of hearts, Ace of clubs, Ace of diamonds
  • 21, 22, 23, 24 = 2 of spades, 2 of hearts, 2 of clubs, 2 of diamonds
  • 31, 32, 33, 34 = 3 of spades, 3 of hearts, 3 of clubs, 3 of diamonds
  • 41, 42, 43, 44 = 4 of spades, 4 of hearts, 4 of clubs, 4 of diamonds
  • 51, 52, 53, 54 = 5 of spades, 5 of hearts, 5 of clubs, 5 of diamonds

And so on until the nine of diamonds. I’m sure you noticed that the very first digit gives you the card’s value while the second one gives you its suit. 1 is for spades (one spade), 2 is for hearts (2 bumps), 3 is for clubs (3 leaves) and 4 is for diamonds (4 sides). 2 of spades to 2 of diamonds will be 21 to 24 for obvious reasons. Aces will be 11 to 14 (ace = 1 because it’s the best card or whatever ). For 10 of spades to 10 of diamonds, just imagine that we are removing that first “1” to remember that we will use 01 to 04. Now we still have the jacks, the queens and the kings. Personally I use 16 to 19 for kings, 26 to 29 for queens and 36 to 39 for jacks. Six sort of rhymes with spades, so 6 = spades. I associate 7 with luck and love, so it will represent the hearts. 8 divided by 2 equals 4, so diamonds (4 sides). 9 is clubs for some other silly reason that you can think of (I have one, but it only makes sense in French). So that means that the queen of clubs will be a 29, the queen of hearts will be a 27 while the king of diamonds will be an 18.

You can then start by memorizing just 10, 20 or 30 cards. When you’re ready for a whole deck, for recall it’s easier to use a second deck (placed in whatever order you prefer, usually by suits and aces to kings) that you will then reorder in the same order as that pack you just memorized. It’s also how we do it in competition. With some practice, the recall and reordering phase should take less than 5 minutes*, otherwise it doesn’t count. Click here to see how I do it. When you’ll become a pro, it will sort of look like this (the epic music is optional).

*In a CMSA memory competition or online honorary challenge, the allowed recall time is 5 minutes in the Advanced section and 7 minutes in the Regular section. In most other memory competitions, it’s 5 minutes for everyone. Managing a quick enough recall process is a relatively difficult skill that needs to be practiced.