Card Memorization Techniques

2 minute read

This page takes off where the Getting Started Guide, How to Memorize a Pack of Cards, and the binary memorization of card deck pages leave off.

The most common card deck memorization methods involve using the Method of Loci. This means you place images for the cards in locations within a Memory Journey (a.k.a., Memory Journey or Mind Palace).

Basic: One Card, One Image


The most basic method is to create one Mnemonic Image for every card (52 images). The images could be persons, objects, cartoons, animals, or other types of visual images. An easy way to do this is use the major system for the numbers:

  • 0 (10) - s/z
  • 1 (Ace) - t/d
  • 2 - n
  • 3 - m
  • 4 - r
  • 5 - L
  • 6 - g/sh
  • 7 - k
  • 8 - f/v
  • 9 - p/b

Combine these with the first letter of a suit (heart/spade/diamond/club) to create words. For example: 2 of spades could be SuN (or NoSe, if you want to flip whether suit goes first or number). 8 of diamonds could be DaFFy (duck) or FooD. Ace (1) of hearts could be HaT. See the Major System for more information on how to create mnemonic images using this type of phonetic system.

For the face cards, you could assign letters that are not used such as J for jacks, C for queens and H for Kings. King of Hearts could be Hula Hoop (2 words, but still works). Queen of spades could be SCissors. Jack of diamonds could be a DJ.

An alternative is to use whoever represents those cards best to you. You can either use this just for the face cards, or for all the cards. For example, hearts could be very lovely people, people that everyone likes. Spades could be very serious and cold people, Diamonds could be very rich individuals and clubs could be very strong people.

You can still achieve very fast speeds with just this method. You can link more than one object per locus, for example 3 objects. This way, you would only need to have a 17 loci journey for a whole deck of cards.


It is not common, but at least a few mnemonists use Mnemonic Peg Systems to memorize cards. Each card is assigned a Mnemonic Image (as in the one-card, one-image system, above), and then attached to a mnemonic page rather than placed in a location in a memory palace.

Intermediate: Compound Images

An intermediate method is called Person-Action-Object System (a.k.a., PAO System). To use it, you create a PAO for each and every card. You encode 3 cards at a time, the person from the first card is doing the action from the second, upon or with the object from the third card. You can either infer the action and object from each person (Ie: Michael Jordan’s action would be dribbling(or dunking) and object is a basketball), OR you can encode all three parts using the same system (usually the major system). This way, MiCKael jordan action could be MaKing (or Mocking) and the object could be MaC-and-cheese Or MaCaroni or a MaCKerel.

It is also possible to use a Person-Action System, though it isn’t as common as the PAO System.

Advanced: Multi-Card Images

Advanced methods encode two cards with every image. This requires either 1352 or 2704 (52x52) total images.

These systems are difficult to succinctly explain, so here are a couple links.

Shadow System

The Shadow System uses the Major System, with there being 3 consonants for each card pair. It can use either 1352 or 2704 images.

The Shadow System is originally explained here. It is also summarized by a different user here. It will later be rewritten on the Shadow System page.

Ben System

The Ben System, created by Ben Pridmore, uses 2704 images for all the card pairs. It uses a consonant-vowel-consonant system.