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Armchair philosopher

How to memorise a shuffled deck of cards in order

A simple mnemonic device for reading cards

This was a post I wrote here on Thinker's Playground a few years ago, before I relaunched the site.

The original post was a little too long, so I've broken it up into separate posts:

This stunt requires you to learn another list of words, fifty-two to be exact; a different word for each card. This list of words works in the same way as the words from the Peg System, each number has a consonant, as does each suit. The consonants for the numbers are the same as those used in the Peg System: T/D = 1, N = 2 and so on.

To identify suits, we just use the first letter from that suit’s name. C for clubs, S for spades, H for hearts and D for diamonds. So the ace of clubs = CT, C for clubs, T for the number 1 (note, it’s always suit first, number last). Think of a word that starts with a C and ends with a T or a D. Cat! Easy.

Here is the complete list of words for each suit according to Lorayne:

Clubs

  • Ace – Cat
  • 2 – Can
  • 3 – Comb
  • 4 – Core
  • 5 – Coal
  • 6 – Cash
  • 7 – Cock
  • 8 – Cuff
  • 9 – Cap
  • 10 – Case
  • Jack – Club
  • Queen – Cream
  • King - King

Diamonds

  • Ace – Date
  • 2 - Dune
  • 3 - Dam
  • 4 - Door
  • 5 - Doll
  • 6 - Dash
  • 7 - Dock
  • 8 - Dive
  • 9 - Deb
  • 10 - Dope
  • Jack - Diamond
  • Queen - Dream
  • King - Drink

Hearts

  • Ace – Hat
  • 2 - Hone
  • 3 - Hem
  • 4 - Hare
  • 5 - Hail
  • 6 - Hash
  • 7 - Hog
  • 8 - Hoof
  • 9 - Hub
  • 10 - Hose
  • Jack - Heart
  • Queen - Queen
  • King - Hinge

Spades

  • Ace – Suit
  • 2 - Sun
  • 3 - Sum
  • 4 - Sore
  • 5 - Sail
  • 6 - Sash
  • 7 - Sock
  • 8 - Safe
  • 9 - Soap
  • 10 - Suds
  • Jack - Spade
  • Queen - Steam
  • King – Sing

For the face cards, we represent the Jack with the suit name. So the Jack of hearts is a giant heart and the Jack of Diamonds is a diamond. The word for queens either rhymes with ‘Queen’ or, for hearts, is a Queen. Similarly, the kings are all represented by words rhyming with ‘King’ except the king of clubs.

It’s worth pointing out, if you decide to change this list to words you’re more familiar with, you should ensure you don’t use any of the words already used in the Peg System as this will cause confusion.

With these Key Images learned, memorising a deck of cards is simple. As you see each card, you associate it’s Key Image with the number in which it appears. We know from the Peg System that Tie = 1 and Noah =2. So if the first card was, say, the eight of hearts (hoof), we form a vivid mental image between Tie and Hoof. If the second card was the Jack of Spades we picture Noah holding a spade.

To recall the cards in order, or to pick out one particular card, simply think of the Key Image for that number and the Key Image for the card will come to you.

For card games, when position is not always important, you could also try this method. As mentioned before, violent, ridiculous and sexual images are far more vivid than others. With this in mind, as each card appears on the table, quickly think of that card’s object and mutilate the object in some way. If it’s the five of diamonds for example, picture yourself tearing a doll’s head off. I know this sounds like a weird thing to do, but it really works.

When you want to find if a card has or hasn’t already appeared, simply think of the card’s object and if you have a very recent memory of mutilating that object, it has already appeared.

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