How to Memorize a Deck of Cards

How to memorize a deck of cards.


The following is a simple system to memorize a deck of cards. Don’t let the word “simple” fool you, though. This technique is effective. With practice, you can store and recall an entire deck in under five minutes.

Not only is it a fun trick to show other people, but it is also great practice. I always found it fascinating that I could see the improvement in my memory daily. When we workout our memory, we exercise our creativity and imagination. And likewise, an improved imagination helps our ability to memorize things. Practice makes memory!

Memorize a Deck of Cards

You will need two things to prepare for this fun little venture into memorizing cards effectively. First, you must commit the card-codes to memory. Second, you will need a memory palace with fifty-two places to store information. (Click here to learn more about memory palaces.) I reuse the same memory palace for cards. Also, I only use this memory palace for cards.

The Card-Codes

I learned to memorize cards using Kevin Horsley’s card list. It’s a system that made sense to me, and I encourage you to use the same list. Of course, you can substitute any card you wish if you know a different image will work better.

In this system, we create words for cards based on the suit and number. All diamonds begin with d, all hearts begin with h, all spades begin with s, and all clubs begin with c.

The card number provides us with the second consonant of a word. To keep the letter consistent, we will use the major system. For example, the five of diamonds give us d-l. We can use the word “deal” to represent the five of diamonds.

Here is Kevin Horsley's List

A – Date (Ace is 1)
2 – Dan
3 – Dam
4 – Door
5 – Deal
6 – Dish
7 – Duck
8 – Dove
9 – Deep
10 – Dice (10 will be zero, s sound)
J – Diamond (Jacks will always be the image of the suite.)
K – Ding (With kings, we use a word with ‘ing’ in it.)
Q – Dean (With queens, we use a rhyming word.)

A – Hat
2 – Hen
3 – Ham
4 – Hair
5 – Hail
6 – Hash (like hash brown)
7 – Hack
8 – Hoof
9 – Hoop
10 – House
J – Heart (Jacks will always be the image of the suite.)
K – Hinge (With kings, we use a word with ‘ing’ in it.)
Q – Heme (like blood) (With queens, we use a rhyming word.)

A – Sit
2 – Sun
3 – Sam (Uncle Sam)
4 – Sir
5 – Seal
6 – Sash
7 – Sack
8 – Safe
9 – Soap
10 – Seas
J – Spade (Jacks will always be the image of the suite.)
K – Sing (With kings, we use a word with ‘ing’ in it.)
Q – Steam (With queens, we use a rhyming word.)

A – Cat
2 – Can
3 – Camo (camouflage)
4 – Car
5 – Coal
6 – Cash
7 – Cake
8 – Cafe
9 – Cap
10 – Case
J – Club (Jacks will always be the image of the suite.)
K – King (With kings, we use a word with ‘ing’ in it.)
Q – Cream (With queens, we use a rhyming word.)

Putting it Together

I will show you how I put the first five cards together in my memory palace. Once familiar with the process, grab a deck of shuffled cards and practice! You’ll be astonished at how quickly your ability to memorize a deck of cards, and anything else, will improve.

Here are the five cards I have drawn:
10 of spades – seas
King of diamonds – ding
9 of diamonds – deep
Queen of hearts – heme
10 of diamonds – dice

Here is my journey:
I open the door and see that there are some very rough seas. Water comes through my door, so I step back onto the mat in my entrance, where I hear a loud ding. It startles me, so I jump towards the coat rack but fall into a deep hole. I trip, banging my head on the table to my right, and blood (heme) rushes out of my head. I get up and open the closet, where dice keep pouring out.

The route I take is always the same, but the story is always different. Finding all of these items is very interesting and quite fun.

When I started practicing, I sometimes remembered the image but couldn’t recall its associated card. Just take a moment and use the major system to work it out. That’s why we created the image using it. Before long, the association will be automatic.

I hope you enjoy memorizing cards!

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