How to Memorize a Shuffled Deck of Cards in Less Than 60 Seconds (Plus: $10,000 Challenge)

(Photo credit: Jystyn)

To become a Grand Master of Memory–fewer than 100 in the world can claim that title–you need to satisfy each of the following in competitions approved by the World Memory Sport Council:

• Memorize the order of 10 decks of cards in 60 minutes.

• Memorize 1,000 random digits in 60 minutes.

• Memorize the order of one deck of cards in less than two minutes.

Ed Cooke first hit this trifecta when he was 23. He later came to international attention when he coached journalist Joshua Foer from ground zero to U.S. Memory Champion in one year, a feat chronicled by Foer in the best-seller Moonwalking with Einstein. To win that championship, Foer had to memorize 120 random digits in five minutes, successfully commit to memory the first and last names of 156 strangers within 15 minutes, and (last but not least) memorize a shuffled deck of cards in less than two minutes.

Ed has memorized a shuffled deck of cards in competition in 43 seconds. Of all memory feats, none is a more compressed act of mental athleticism.

I asked him if he’d open the kimono and explain his method, and he very graciously agreed.

It takes around four hours to get comfortable with Ed’s best-of-breed system. With a little practice, you’ll be a third of your way to becoming a Grand Master.

(Im)practically speaking, it’s just freaking amazingly cool. Few people in the world can pull it off, and that’s reason enough to take a weekend or slow evening to try. Instead of watching another bad movie, you can become one of the memory illuminati.

Last but not least, there’s a $10,000 competition at the end if you want to really give this a shot…


I’ve taken to calling Ed’s approach the Bicycleshop, a combination of the brand of playing cards and Photoshop.

We will learn the basics of Bicycleshop with a simple version; let’s call it Bicycleshop Lite. Then we’ll upgrade to Bicycleshop Pro. Learn to use them in that order.


Bicycleshop Lite helps you do two things: memorize the cards and memorize the order of the cards.

Step One: Learning the Cards

First, you convert 52 cards into 52 celebrities.

The mind ignores the mundane and remembers the unusual, whether people (e.g., Lady Gaga) or a sudden motion in the under- brush. The more unusual, the more the brain forms a bookmark for recall.

To make recalling 52 celebrities easier, each suit corresponds to a personality type and each card ( jack, 10, ace, etc.) corresponds to a profession (or category). This means that when you look at a given card, you’ll have two cues to help you remember the celebrity.

The Suits (think: personalities):

Diamonds—rich people

Hearts—people you love

Clubs—tough or crazy people

Spades—amusing or absurd people

The Cards (think: professions):

All even numbers are female and all odd numbers are male, and they’re paired up. You can just remember that, for instance, 9s are powerful men, and the 10s are therefore powerful women. The 5s are controversial males, so 6s are controversial females, etc.

Mnemonic suggestions are included below each “profession” to facilitate the association, but you can create your own. Skim this list once, read Ed’s notes following the list, and then read them over again.

King—Male half of celeb couple

Queen—Female half of celeb couple

Celeb couples are the royalty of the present. Each suit will have its own celeb couple. Contrasting celeb couples—John and Yoko, David Bowie and Iman—can help the pairs stick.

Jack—Religious figures

Jacks are bachelors; religious figures were bachelors.

10 Famously powerful women

9 Famously powerful men

Highest numbers, highest-powered people

8 Famous female physiques

7 Famous male physiques

Hourglass or busty or hunky or ripped—the bodies of your dreams.

6 Controversial females

5 Controversial males

Think of “five” and “effing”; “six” sounds like “sex.”

4 Female movie stars

3 Male movie stars

Think of all those trilogies out there.

2 Sportswomen

Ace Sportsmen

Ace is a term associated with excellence in sports; think of “two” as “deuce” in tennis.

Ed explains how this is all put together:

“Having chosen 13 professions/categories and four personalities—just 17 things to learn—you can use your existent knowledge and opinions to fill out a 52-card matrix. The ace of diamonds, on my scheme, is a sports- man (ace) who got rich (diamonds)—OK, Michael Jordan. The jack of spades on my scheme would be a religious figure who’s amusing—the Dalai Lama has a good sense of humor. The six of spades, a humorously controversial woman—Lady Gaga, no question.

“Using this method, it should take less than an hour to fill the matrix out and come to be able to slowly recall the people who now correspond to the 52 cards. Once you have your cast of card-people, go through shuffled decks and practice translating the cards to their images until it’s automatic. This might take another hour to begin to master.”

The next step is to put them in order.

Step Two: Memorizing the Order of a Shuffled Deck

You will now peg 52 cards to locations along a familiar route. It could be a path through your house, the journey from your front door to a favorite pub—whatever you like. Some memory competitors use their childhood homes: Scott Hagwood, who won the U.S. Memory Championship from 2001–2004, uses rooms from luxury homes he finds in Architectural Digest, 10 locations per room. If you choose that approach, you can mentally position yourself at the entrance to each room and move as follows: at your feet, closest left corner, then clockwise to left wall, then far left corner, opposite wall, far right corner, right wall, closest right corner, then two spots on the ceiling.

Choosing 52 locations should take no more than 30 minutes, and then you can start placing your celebrities (cards) at each point. Keep it simple for now, using a longer path if multiple points per room cause overload. Ed starts at his bed:

“For me, a pack beginning with the jack of spades would mean the Dalai Lama standing at the first point on my route—my bed. At the second point, my wardrobe, I’d deposit the image corresponding to the second card, perhaps it will be Michael Jordan—the ace of diamonds.

“Continue all the way through the pack, taking your time and lots of care to imagine each person vividly in their position. Once you get to the end of the route, retrace it in your imagination and you will hopefully encounter all the people in the sequence that you imagined them. You will probably need to go through two or three times the first time you attempt it.”

And just like that, bingo: you’ve memorized your first deck of cards!


Now we upgrade you.

Bicycleshop Lite, while perfectly effective, is a little slow. Fifty-two separate goddamn images! Well, what did you expect for trial software? But it’s the right place to start. Biting off all the features of Bicycleshop at once will just give you indigestion. Now that you’ve taken a ride with training wheels, it’s time for phase two.

Bicycleshop Pro, the next step for power users, has a much more efficient compression algorithm. It builds on top of what you already know, but instead of 52 images, we’ll reduce to 17 or 18 images. This makes it three times as fast. Here’s how it works, in Ed’s words:

“The next step is combining several cards into single images, which we achieve by assigning each card (celebrity) an action and an object. Jordan, the ace of diamonds, might have for an action a slam dunk, and his object a basketball. The Dalai Lama’s action might be praying, his object a Buddha. Lady Gaga’s action might be posing in a meat dress (memory, after all, loves to be disgusted), her object a load of paparazzi photographers (also disgusting).”

By adding this syntactic structure, combinations of three cards now form mini- sentences: the celeb from the first card, the action from the second, and the object from the third.

“For example, in my matrix, ace of diamonds–jack of spades–six of spades becomes Michael Jordan praying to the paparazzi; jack of spades–six of spades–ace of diamonds, on the other hand, translates into the Dalai Lama wearing a meat dress while holding a basketball. The two images, utterly distinct and deeply memorable, could never be confused.”

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is Bicycleshop Pro. Elegant and, with practice, as fast as world champions.

Perhaps you need a little incentive? Try a $10,000 card-memorizing competition – the first of its kind. See the next section for more details.

For the type-A, obsessive sorts: once you get reasonably fluid and want to take racing the clock more seriously, I suggest getting a metronome. This will be your plateau breaker. If you stall and seem unable to memorize any faster, set the metronome for 10%–20% faster than you can currently handle. Force yourself to turn cards at this rate until you stop making errors. For instance, if you’re stuck at 10 cards per minute (1 per 6 seconds) after a few weeks, set the metronome to 20% less time, so 4.8 seconds per metronome click. If a particular card causes hiccups, make a note of it (or draw a pen marking on it) and analyze the reasons later.

Just remember: this is fun, so keep it fun. Enjoy the mind games.

The $10,000 Card Memorizing Challenge — For Beginners Only

Ed can learn 16 decks of shuffled cards in an hour. Let’s get you to your first memorized deck, shall we?

In The 4-Hour Chef, we promised a $10,000 prize to the first person who could from beginner to expert (being able to learn a deck in less than a minute). The rules were “coming soon.” Well, after a few delays, the challenge is ON.

Ed has put together a course on Memrise, complete with video tutorials from the clever and charismatic man himself. The exercises are truly elegant… and effective.

To win $10,000, one of the biggest prizes ever given for a memory challenge of any kind, you have to learn from scratch to memorize a deck of cards in under a minute. This is a 6-week competition — just enough time to do this. All of your training has to take place on Memrise, so we can watch the competition unfold and ensure no cheating or fraud.

So is this really possible? Sure. It takes just a few hours to master the images you’ll need. Then it takes a few more hours to get your head around the spatial memory techniques. From that point on, it’s just a matter of practice for speed.


The competition will take place at

The competition begins now, Feb 6th 2013 and runs until 11.59 p.m. March 20th 2013.

The winner of the $10K will be the first person who legitimately goes from beginner to being able to learn a deck of cards in under a minute, so long as someone does this by March 20th. There will be various other prizes, including limited edition T-shirts and packs of cards for the top competitors who don’t finish first.

To be eligible for the prizes, all your practice at learning card sequences, as well as the achievement of doing it in a minute, should happen in the cards system found here. *The competition *is* the training, and we need to be able to watch everyone’s progress to ensure a fair winner. We’ll also be gathering collective data for the purposes of science and a later wrap-up.

So, let the games begin! Click here for all the juicy details and training tools.

Note: For additional help — two graphs, representing how to memorize all the cards quickly, can be found in the Appendices of The 4-Hour Chef.

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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105 Replies to “How to Memorize a Shuffled Deck of Cards in Less Than 60 Seconds (Plus: $10,000 Challenge)”

  1. Hey Tim!

    Couldn’t be more appropriate timing!

    A friend of mine is setting up a course for young kids to help with life skills and to improve studies.

    We were talking about Mnemonics (Major Mnemonic systems) the other day.

    Will be forwarding this asap 🙂

  2. Hey Tim!

    Wondering how ‘beginner’ you have to be to be eligible? I competed at the 2007 USA memory championship ( but used a method I made up myself and never learned Ed’s method (I’m also @mashmac2 who tweeted at you about the rules not being up a couple weeks ago, so I’ve been putting the time into learning Bicycleshop Pro).

    Can I compete if I learn Ed’s method from scratch?



  3. Very interesting. I think that mental abilities are very important – so why not training memorization techniques! Thanks Tim

  4. Is there a way to change the celebs you are using to associate to different cards? I can change the details but not the main name… e.g. I don’t really think the Obamas are loveable so I put them in the Spades category. Also Flo-Jo has no response from me whatsoever so I want to use Jess Ennis instead… I can’t seem to change this in the competition…



    1. I have this issue with Scarlett Johansson (no response and she’s 4 of hearts). I decided to run with what I have, including the cues. This meant associating a female actress I love (SigOURney Weaver) with fOUR of hearts and then, secondarily, Scarlett Johansson since that name appears during training. I am surprised by how well this works. I am quite happy with learning 26 cards in 4-6 hours today of mixed attention practice.

  5. I’ve been wanting to learn this since reading Moonwalking With Einstein. It seems impossible to memorize a deck of cards, but in high school I memorized the entire I Have a Dream speech to move my history grade from a B to an A, so it’s possible. Looking forward to go through the course.

  6. Joshua Foer’s book truly makes memorization techniques sexy – great, great read.

    Ed had a central role in that book, not only because he’s the founding member of the infamous KL7. I wonder if he ever did develop his own version of the ‘Dominic system’ up to 999 digits, as alluded to in the book.

  7. Wow, this is an amazing opportunity for so many people to actually do something intelligent with their brains. I’ll be paying attention to this one, Tim.

  8. Hi Tim! Is there any way of customizing the associations on the Memrise quizzes? Some of the associations mean nothing to me, and I’d love to replace them with my own categories. (Greek gods and goddesses instead of sports stars, for example, or superheroes instead of physicists.)

    Ed Cooke explains the importance of choosing your own associations, but there doesn’t seem any way to change this on the Memrise site itself. Thanks!

  9. Is there a way to substitute the person 2 card link for something of your own? Like Lady Diana for 6 of hearts?

    That ‘s what Ed is suggesting, but I don ‘t immediately see how to do it in memrise…

    1. I have not figured out a way to do this either. This is a critical tool. A meaningless connection with Taylor Swift, Pamela Anderson, Julian Assange is going to challenge you. If you are Republican, you will have issues with the Obamas. If you are an atheist, You may have issues with Jesus for the Jack. You HAVE to be able to edit not only the mem picture but also the title.

  10. Wait,

    I learned the Bicycle Shop LITE mnemonic reading the 4 Hour Chef and used it to memorize a deck of cards on Christmas (in ~12 minutes)

    Does that mean I’m out of the competition?


    1. Great question! Seems like anyone who was an ‘early adopter’ of Tim’s of is not going to be allowed to compete!!

      I started playing with the technique about the same time, but not actively.

  11. Hi, sounds like a great competition 🙂 However, it seems to me that it’s not possible to change the people I want to associate with each card? Is there a way to do so and I’m just too blind to see it, or is it not possible? If it’s not possible: there should be a feature that allows you to change the people (and not just the images), some of the people I don’t know and some of them I associate with different things. This really puts me off from trying the thing.

    1. philosopher2013, you can upload your own image (and person’s name) by clicking on “Add a Mem” blue link when you start practicing cards (I think step 3). It’s close to the “upvote” button. Cheers!

      1. Thanks for your reply. Now I’m facing a decision to either practice with the pre-chosen people, some of whom I don’t know and some of whom I associate differently (which will make the whole thing unnecessarily difficult), or to do it on my own but without the tool (and probably thus without taking part in the competition?)

        Isn’t this an obvious problem that could easily have been anticipated and avoided? :/ What does everyone else do?

  12. Memrise is great. I’ve practiced over 500 Chinese characters on it. Based on your advice I only practice on lists of verbs and nouns by most frequent in the language. I’m miles ahead of my textbook in my first year chinese class because of this. It’s good to see memrise getting more exposure here.

  13. Brilliant Tim!

    One follow-up question I have is, which card, action, object and location would best be associated with “Tim Ferriss”?

    Best regards,


  14. Well, I guess I’m glad I waited for the announcement to try. Took at look at the terms and conditions, and saw this. I live in Montreal:

    ‘excluding the residents of the province of Quebec, Canada; Italy; Cuba; Iran; Libya; North Korea; Sudan; and Syria’

    That’s quite a list we’re part of 🙁

    I don’t suppose you’d be able to do anything if someone from Quebec was the first to memorize the cards in under a minute?

    p.s. For anyone else living in Quebec wondering why this is so, it’s because the province imposes onerous conditions on anyone who wants to run a contest here:

  15. For everyone (including me) who wants to have different associations with the cards, it looks like there’s a way to make custom courses on Memrise:

    Direct link to the course creation page:

    I figure I’ll make a custom course with my own associations, and once I’m feeling comfortable, I’ll do the contest on the main Tim Ferris memrise page. It might be time-consuming to get everything set up, mind you, if I can even figure out how…

  16. Any chance the videos can be enabled for viewing on mobile devices. Would be nice to work on the course from the ol ipad…

  17. Anyone seen the leaderboard on the competition site? One guy clocked in at 8 seconds!? Am I looking at that right??

    1. In the video, he says one of the guys who was participating INVENTED the challenge, so he won’t actually count as an official winner. I’m not sure how they’ll verify who’s truly a beginner and who isn’t.

      And I’m with a lot of you. It’s CRAP not to be able to change the names! I don’t know who half his people are! I may be (intentionally) sheltered from popular culture, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have a great memory that could learn this stuff in a jiffy!

  18. Love this stuff. I’ve been fascinated with memory systems for years. Take a look at “The Art of Memory” by Yates and “The Book of Memory” by Carruthers for a historical perspective. These practices have been around for thousands of years. Interestingly, familiarity with advanced mnemonic techniques can shed light on some rather bizarre looking systems of mystical symbology, and mystical symbolism in general.

  19. Wow, great post. Thanks for the tips, definitely will have to try this. It’s a blast reading your blog, and finally finding someone else who has just as much fun learning about new ideas in sometimes unrelated industries depending on the month!

    I’ll have to let you know how this turns out.

  20. I’m pretty frustrated with the limitation that we can’t change the names. I don’t know if it’s worth a long shot at $10k to try to learn his system just to have to reinvent my own to actually do anything with it during the rest of my life. I’m not going to try to shove someone else’s mnemonic into my memory temporarily just to win a contest when there’s not even any explanation of how cheaters will be caught.

    It’s one of those reasons I have a love/hate relationship with all things Tim Ferriss. On the one hand, the “This is THE way to be awesome at life” thing is the reason for his success, and I respect him for it. On the other hand, it kinda makes it seem like the only way to be great is to BE Tim Ferriss, and I am quite sure I have no desire to emulate him in detail. (For example, I’m a social worker because I WANT to be a social worker. I’d do it if they didn’t pay me. What would be the point of a four-hour workweek?)

    1. Actually, Tim covered why a four hour workweek helps even those who love their jobs. I can’t remember the page reference, but I’ll paraphrase the argument.

      You love your job. Awesome. But there are surely parts of it that are good, some that are *amazing* and others that are just….bleh. Even vocations have dull, tedious work that has to get done so that you can do the good stuff.

      Well, you could be doing the boring stuff more efficiently. Maybe some of it doesn’t have to be done. Maybe some can be outsourced. I don’t know – the details are specific to your field. But you can use the principles to more effectively do the stuff that you’d rather not do, so that you can focus on what you love, and what helps people the most.

      Likewise, you probably have household chores that take time away from stuff you’d rather do. Or maybe your email takes too long (mine still does). A lot of the stuff we do outside of work is actually work, and we’d do well to think about how best to do it (maybe you already have of course).

      Finally, money. I know in my own life there are things I do only because it saves me money, or because I need to earn the money. If I can get more effective at producing money without investing time, I can stop doing those things, and focus on things that bring value to me or others.

      Hope that helps

  21. Thanks again for the opportunity Tim.

    Also, I’m pretty sure the phrase all of the critics of this contest are grasping for is, “Thanks for the chance to win $10,000 Tim.”

    1. No, no, I’m pretty sure it’s, “Thanks for using us as a marketing ploy so you can tell people you gave away $10,000 in a contest to prove the technique works, even though the contest was totally arbitrary from the beginning.” But I suppose that’s rather longer.

  22. It’s interesting that it’s cards- which is doesn’t really have that much practical value. It would be awesome to have this challenge but for something that matters. Like Chinese characters, physics formulas…something at least a bit more applicable instead of an impressive parlor trick that probably doesn’t transfer that well across domains.

  23. I have seen similar techniques before. I have read Moonwalking with Einstein which was a great book, very much worth a read. I will definitely try your technique “The bicycle shop”.

  24. First read this in the 4-hour chef. Been on the site all day training. I’m going after this prize hard. Thanks Tim and Ed.

  25. I love you TIm Ferris (in a a very platonic kinda way)!!!

    U so rock with amazing, practical skills — not just winning at single, deck dollar blackjack — but like u said spending a bit of time to become extra-ordinary.

    What a concept!!!

    Luv it

  26. Awesome Tim! I was wondering if this contest was on, as in the book it read that it had already started…

    I used a very similar technique for studying coupled with M.E.D concept to Ace the PMP Exam in December… If anyone is interested in learning more how i did it… let me know id be glad to share.

    I look forward to learning to memorize a deck of card now!

    1. Mario – hi, I also couldn’t make it work with some of the original associations, so I created a small script, installable via TamperMonkey plugin for Chrome (or GreaseMonkey for Firefox).

      The script is executed every time page is loaded in the browser and what it does is this: every 1/3rd of a second, it searches for the defined words within the page and replaces them with your associations. Because nothing else except the visual text is changing, exercises work as though you knew the original celebrities 🙂 This allows you to save your learning progress required by the competition rules. So as you go through exercises, there’s a tiny delay before the text is replaced, you can visually see the text changing, but it works for me, so I will not come up with a more sophisticated script.

      If you click on my name on this comment, I linked it up to the youtube demo (watch it fullscreen) & the actual script in the description of the video. Hopefully some of you will find it helpful. Cheers!

      1. Awesome! For those of us without experience with scripts or tampermonkey, do you think you could provide a very quick “click here, do that” tutorial for how to install the script?

        Thanks so much!

      2. Never mind – just saw the video. It was a bit confusing at first, but it totally makes sense on a second watch. Thanks so much!

  27. Tim,

    I am currently a Director of Marketing, in the mid-west, working for a developer of student housing… I am a few weeks away from taking a new job with another developer as a VP. I’d like to discuss the possibility of being a case study of yours with this new transition. Any chance we can discuss?


    Justin Farris

  28. Tim,

    To tackle the issue of beginners for real or not, and to make the challenge so much more useful even for the losers, may I suggest something?

    Why not make us memorize all you think is most important for living our dreams, like a 100 of your mottos?

    My feelings are so negative (humiliation) towards the cards that it reminds me of this movie, “they shoot horses, don’t they?”

    But thanks anyway!

  29. I am starting the memrise but I can’t switch Ed’s names for ones that I will remember, makes remembering more difficult. Taylor Swift, Scarlett Johansen, and others aren’t names or faces I remember easily

  30. Hey Tim!

    Thanks for a great contest and a great idea. I agree with everyone above that being able to change the names of the celebrities on memrise would be great!



    1. Yeah, lol at not being able to change the associations easily(images are easy enough, text seems change seems unavail). Memrise’s info leads me to believe it can be done but doesn’t clearly explain it.

  31. I’m not really interested in memorizing cards, but the hacking language section is interesting. I’m giving the Italian a try. Very cool site.

  32. Yo Tim!

    I met you at the book signing at Panera NYC. Maybe you remember a guy with a guitar, suitcase, and Letters From A Stoic…or maybe you don’t haha.

    Anyway, I’ve been working on the Memrise contest, and the visualization practice has immediately translated to an improvement in my guitar playing. I’m a guitarist, and most of what I do is jazz, or improvisational, which requires a lot of memorization of shapes, patterns, scales, chord voicings, etc. on the guitar. kind of like this:

    Anyway, after a few hours of doing the Memrise contest, I picked up the guitar the next day, and I noticed a HUGE improvement in my fretboard visualization abilities. It feels like at least a 50% improvement. I was practicing some scale patterns, and I could see the shapes of the scale across the whole fretboard, as opposed to just one or two positions.

    I’ve been working on widening my fretboard visualization for a while, and this “Memrise effect” has improved my visualization of the guitar more than the exercises I was using. I never would have thought that imagining celebrities in my neighborhood would improve my guitar skills haha.

  33. What a nifty opportunity! Even if I don’t win the money, I will certainly be able to share a neat experience with my friends. Thanks!

  34. “excluding the residents of the province of Quebec, Canada; Italy; Cuba; Iran; Libya; North Korea; Sudan; and Syria”

    Not open to Canadians? Whatever Memrise … especially when you lump us in with the most of the other countries in this list.

  35. Tim,

    Amazing, another life enriching post!

    On another note, Tim, are you into charity fundraising? Would you have some hints on 4h priciniples used for fundraising? I am running the Boston marathon for the charity America Scores (from zero to Boston in about 10 months) and I am looking for some inspiration to kick-start my fundraiser.

    Thanks & best wishes,


  36. How you are going to choose the winner? There is already a guy who has results like ~1s. (which is somebody’s nerdy joke on your weak side of competition). I want to participate but that leader-board is discouraging…

    1. I’m also a little upset about the leaderboard. There’s no way that someone has memorized a deck in 6 seconds. I’ve been putting hard work into this. I hope I’m not bested by a cheater.

      On the positive side, thanks for including this in The Four-Hour Chef. I’m loving the whole book.

      1. Yeah, that almost has to be the consequence of an act of cheating. It takes many minutes to memorize 39 cards and I’ve failed at 52 so far. Started on Sunday and work a full-time job. I will improve!

  37. Hi

    I’ve got a book to recommend on mnemonics- it’s been my favorite one so far. It’s called Mind and Memory Training by Elwood and it’s almost a century old!

    You can find an online version of it here:

    It’s a lot of fun but I admit I’m not sure how its effectiveness compares to more recent guides since I haven’t read many.

    In regards to the contest, I’ve been crafting my own adaptation that substitutes the popular culture references for video game references. I’m thinking that you can latch your data points on to hyper-experienced game characters (playing hundreds of hours of some games) and regions to ease the visualization process.

    For my first trial, I’ve chosen the popular online knock-off of dota called League of Legends (LoL).

    If anyone is familiar with it; I’ve set it up this way:




    4->Miss Fortune

    5->Fiddlesticks (you could also use Fizz)








    K->Jarvan IV

    Then, for each of the suits, I’ve set it up so that Clubs, Spades, Diamonds and Hearts correspond to each character’s four moves, which have the hotkeys Q,W,E & R in that order.

    Then, with a little practice, I can translate a series of cards into a much more memorable sequence using only 13 characters (for people who have spent hundreds of hours playing this game- of which, I assure you, there are many many).

    So far it seems to work better for me than without it (and I’ve had to look up some of the characters’ moves myself)- which is a good heuristic to follow I think.

    The only problem is I’m deciding what kind of environment I could use to establish the visual location since most games tend to be non-linear these days. Is it better to divide the packets into groups of 3-4 or 5?, which would mean fewer and fewer locations. 3×18 optimal? or is it possible to do 5×10+2?

  38. Tim,

    This method is interesting and I wanted to know if you had a special way to remember Chinese Charaters?

    I’m studying Chinese now and could use any tips you have.



  39. Just started to read the 4-Hour Work Week again and it’s blowing my mind. It has been far too long! I’m still trying to get there, but thanks Tim for the amazing motivation and advice shared in your book!

  40. Are you still considered part of the competition if you’ve used a clone to create your own set of card associations ??? How does that work.

  41. I have to choose different people for my deck-memorization because I’m a different age / different people are controversial/important/sexy/sporty to me than the memrise set’s creator.

    Therefore, will you please beginners like me as valid competitors without completing the training set? I can do it, but it’s likely to mess up my real celebrity-card pairings. From what I’m reading in the terms of the competition, it seems to be required to learn with the given set of celebrity-card pairings, which isn’t sensible for people of varied ages/nationalities/backgrounds.

  42. This is cool, but it looks to complicated for me. I will give it a try although i don’t have high expectations that i will be able to memorize all the cards.

  43. Apparently there are people who can recite every verse of the Sanskrit epic Mahabharata – a work that’s over double the length of the Bible… William Dalrymple has an interesting little section on this in his book about Delhi – City of Djinns.

  44. Just happened upon this, not likely to make any reasonable progress in 8 days! hehehe…

    However I have to wonder, how is it that doubling or tripling the amount of things to remember is supposed to making memorizing the card group easier? I mean, you have the one task of memorizing the cards. But then you want add on memorizing 52 people, which card you’ve attached to each of those 52 people AND where each of those people are standing along a familiar path? Seems exceedingly counterproductive.

    1. Hmmm.. but in a sense it’s like saying:

      Memorize this number: 13579111315171921

      Is it faster to memorize this number like it is, or by memorizing one rule. It’s the first 11 odd numbers (1-21)

      Not the best example, but it works.

  45. Hi Tim,

    I would like to study for 2 weeks to learn a new technical skill was wondering if you could suggest any food/supplements/etc for increase mental performance and memory for short term use?

  46. This is awesome! Wish I would have seen it earlier. I’ve always been interested in memory trick like memorizing a deck of cards, but (although I’m only 22) I’m notorious for having a bad memory.

  47. Hahahah wow this looks awesome!!! I’m gonna have to come back to this post and dedicate a good while to doing this.

  48. I’m having trouble with the pegging. I have 13 locations in my apartment that I’m using for the first suit. But I often forget which person was standing where. I try to make it more memorable by employing actions, which other memory tricks utilize. That worked fine the first time. But now that I’ve tried this 10+ times I’ve run out of unique actions. There’s not that many things the Ace of Hearts ie Obama, can do on my couch.

    Any way around this?

    1. When I first started out I would have actions that would be performed at each location by whoever was in that location. One guy would be on the balcony, the next would be locking the first guy outside and then I would imagine them both. One celeb would be pushing the button on the microwave, the next would be melting inside. I had many of these type of things, I don’t use them anymore but they were helpful to me when I was just starting out. So rather than trying to come up with different actions for Barack every time he is on the couch, I would just always imagine the person on the couch pointing a remote control at the TV.

    2. I know you posted a while ago, but just read your posting and thought I’d reply anyway. What I’ve found is that I need to use a different Memory Palace after a while. I’m lucky to live in Montpellier and there are some great walks that I do regularly that go past things like Laser Quest, a pool hall, a train station, pubs, a post office, etc. I’ve found walks through Montpellier to be really helpful in creating original actions. If you use another city, or varied stretch of the countryside, I’m sure you’d find it helpful.

      [Moderator: link removed]

  49. This is AMAZING! Went on the couurse and was on it for 30 mins before I got the Hang of it and I managed to remember 39 cards in 35 mins!!!

  50. Hi Tim,

    I know this post is old however, I did a search today on how to memorize cards and got to your site.

    I read through the post, it’s great, I’m going to take learn to memorize a deck of cards under 1 minute, I’m suck at memorizing things so I gotta give this a try 😉



  51. Tim,

    how do you break the 1 minute mark ?

    I have been doing mnemonics for a year with Major Sytem and of course deck of cards. I use PAO which I my fastest recall for card names is 49 seconds but most of time 56 sec. That time is simply recall of card, doesn’t include association of 3 cards together to create new image or to place image in my locis… I stay stuck at 4min 30 sec for 1 deck.

    How to get pass that stumbling block; I can’t find info anywhere on web…


  52. Hi Tim!,

    This post is really interesting. To try this sure one should have good mental abilities. Sure I will try memorization techniques!



  53. First of all I want to say excellent blog! I had a quick question in which I’d like to ask if you do not mind.

    I was interested to know how you center yourself and clear

    your thoughts before writing. I’ve had difficulty clearing my mind in getting

    my ideas out there. I truly do take pleasure in writing however it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are usually lost simply just

    trying to figure out how to begin. Any recommendations or hints?


  54. Hey Tim.

    I’d love you to look into ‘Aphantasia’ – the inability to create mental imagery. It is something my brother and I both have and I think it is what makes this style of memory impossible for us.