1-2 How to memorize a deck of cards


To introduce to you the PAO system which can be used for Card Memorization.




In this video, Ben Priodmore, a memory athlete, memorizes a deck of cards in around thirty seconds. When asked by the interview, he explains that he transforms the 52 cards into 26 images. The method you are about to learn transforms the deck into 17 images. This is known as the PAO method. At the very end of this page I will introduce you to my modified method which transforms an entire deck into 13 images. This new method is still experimental; I am in the process of improving it.

By now you should be familiar with the principles of memory training as well as the Journey Method.

In a deck of cards there are 13 ranks (A, 2, 3, 4…J, Q, K) and 4 suits. (Spades, Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds) Any single playing card is intangible. As you have experimented in Memory Test: 2/2, trying to memorize cards by repetition is futile. The PAO system makes the cards tangible: each card is associated with a person, an action, and an object, hence “PAO.” You should be so familiar with these associations such that any of the four elements brings to mind the other three.

At this point you probably know what we are going to do with the associations.

You are to memorize the cards in groups of threes.

Each group generates a single image: the person (representing card A) carrying out an action (representing card B) with an object (representing card C).

Notice 52=3×17+1; there will be one card left over. One card requires little effort to memorize; you may place any of its associations at the beginning or the end of your Journey.

You are to place the 17 images in a Memory Palace along a designated route. The 17 spots along this route must be pre-determined and you must be very familiar with the memory palace itself. The route does not have to be long; I use my garage and my basement. These two places have interesting objects that may interact with the images. For instance, I may picture Hamlet (5 of spades) Dancing (10 of hearts) with an Rose between his teeth (4 of spades) on my pool table. Familiar surrounding makes the memorization process much easier.

*Do not use the same route twice in the same day. Images may jumble together. Reserve multiple routes for the sole purpose of card memorization. If you have trouble “recycling” a route, visit


Once you have your PAO list mastered, memorization is a matter of time. With the PAO method you can easily memorize a deck of cards in under 3 minutes.

Guide to generating a PAO list.

If you have your Dominic system generated, go back to the Dominic System page and read the last section on cards.

If you do not, you have two options:

1. You can generate your Dominic System and associate the 52 cards with 52 two-digit numbers and utilize the PAO associations of these digits to represent the cards.

2. You can generate 52 PAOs just for cards. (This is what I did) But If you want to adopt the Dominic System in the future you may have trouble coming up with names, since certain initials will be taken up by your card PAO list, and linking a card with an unrelated two digit number will likely confuse you.

The benefit of generating a PAO list exclusively for cards is that you may assign characteristics to each rank and each suit, and pick PAOs accordingly. This process is much faster than expanding the Dominic System (for numbers) to card memorization.

Here is my list

Jiming’s PAO card system


AH-carnegie-boxing-boxing gloves




2H-robert lee-blowing trumpet-trumpet



3S-criss angel-levitating-professional camera

3H-penn and teller-juggling-broken wine bottles

3C-houdini-escaping handcuffs-handcuffs

3D-darren brown-concentrating-crystall ball



4C-kennedy-walking back and forth-anti radiation suit

4D-snoop dog-C-walking-gold necklace


5H-ophelia-headstand-crystall heels

5C-romeo-drinking from-wine glass


6S-louis C. Clark-X-X

6H-sarah silverman-shaving-razor

6C-peter chao-nammer squatting-aviator glasses

6D-russel peters-looking through-telescope

7S-poker player-shuffling-poker chips

7H-newton-sleeping-flying apple

7C-barney Stinson-combing-comb

7D-george bush jr.-bicep curling-dumbbells

8S-hitler-heiling-swastika armband

8H-dracula-hanging upsidedown on ceiling-bats

8C-grim reaper-wielding-scythe

8D-bella Cullen-bathing-bathtub full of blood

9S-steve jobs-unveiling-macintosh


9C-da vinci-painting-paintbrush


10S-lana del ray-singing-spotlight effect



10D-beckinsale-flipping-latex suit

JS-Jimmy Fallon-Playing-Guitar

JH-Ellen DeGeneres-Doing pushups-shakeweight

JC-Larry King-hunching over-suspenders

JD-jay leno-carving-pumpkin


QH-kate upton-dougie-popsicle

QC-paris Hilton-pole dancing-chihuahua

QD-kate middleton-crying-bouquet

KS-obama-shaking hand-diaper

KH-elvis Presley-leaning-crown

KC-hughes hufner-X-latex gloves

KD-donald trump-yelling-wig


Ace: leader

Spade – dark heart – mercilessness; unsparing

Heart – hospitality; generosity

Club – exclusivity (President’s Club)

Diamond – “Square Deal” (Teddy Roosevelt) – FDR is an easier face to remember



2: people whose accomplishments are related to the number “2”; duality

Spade – Black – Antagonist

Heart – Robert Lee YMCA in Vancouver; In the American Civil War, Robert Lee, a Union General, joined the Confederates.

Clubs – exclusivity (as you will see, many Clubs are identified with presidents); Truman ordered the dropping of TWO atomic bombs

Diamond – prestige; the many accomplishments of Napoleon certainly qualify him as a capable general



3: magicians/mentalists

Spade – characterizes Criss Angel’s gothic appearance

Heart – The shows of Penn and Teller are usually light-hearted

Club – Houdini is, to many people, the greatest magician in history. He is known for his escape routines.

Diamond – Darren Brown is a “mentalist”; often mentalism is associated with the label pseudoscience –> crystal ball (fortune telling)



4: Death

Spade – the Godfather (movie reference): “The aging patriarch of an organized crime dynasty”

Heart – Good-willed MLK; MLK was assassinated

Club – Exclusivity; Kennedy was assassinated.

Diamond – To characterize Snoop’s “gangster” appearance



5: Shakespearean play lovers (5 and 5 makes 10 [completion])

Spade and Heart naturally pair up

Spade reminds me of Hamlet’s faked insensitivity

Club <-> Romeo; no association really.

Diamond – Dagger (same initial letter)



6: comedians

Spade – Louis C. Clark is extremely racist in his routines

Heart – Female comedian

Clubs – Peter Chao is a Vancouverite youtube sensation; packages himself as a hardcore partier

Diamond – no clear association



7: luck

Spade – Poker player <-> poker face <-> emotionless

Heart – shaped like an apple; apple immediately brings into mind Newton

Clubs – Barney Stinson from “How I Met Your Mother”

Diamond – Bush is X, hence square



8: Hatred

Spade – Explanation needed, really?

Heart – A vampire that’s “alive” and is capable of ‘love’

Club – no clear association

Diamond – Hot vampire i guess…



9: perfect square; geniuses

Spade: Steve Job gave away little of his wealth

Heart: Einstein and his easy-going personality

Club: a paintframe has four sides

Diamond: geometry; Euclid (mathematician)



10: perfection ❤

Spade – Lana Del Ray’s songs are often menalcholy

Heart – personality; you have to listen to her songs to know

Club – Gossip girl; always the star

Diamond – Beautiful actress with amazing personality



Jack: talk show hosts (for no particular reason)

Spade: no particular connection

Heart: personality

Club: Larry King’s experience and old age gives him credit (exclusivity)

Diamond: no particular connection



Queen: Celebrities and actresses

Spade: For her fierce character in Avengers

Heart: She has a big heart

Club: Paris Hilton.. club..

Diamond: She married a prince!



King: top of their fields

Spade: America’s heartless foreign policies

Heart: No explanation required…

Club: No explanation required…

Diamond: No explanation required…



1. Assign people first. Action and objects are much easier to come up with.

2. Do not overuse a particular profession/trait. (for instance, having 10 presidents)

3. Obtain clear mental image of each person. To do this, I browsed through photos on Google. You will find them in the pdf file.

4. Try to come up with actions and objects that relate directly to the person.

5. Make the actions and objects as ridiculous/obscene as possible.

If you have trouble coming up with a PAO list, visit Card Memorization: Easier Ways page.

Otherwise, do the follow drills once you have your PAO list generated.


For the first 5 drills, do not worry about time

1. Memorize all four cards of a certain rank.

2. Run through the entire deck while recalling associated PAOs

-If you can do this under 3 minutes, move on

2. Memorize all thirteen cards of a certain suit.

-Start with 5 and go up only when you feel comfortable

*Aim for perfect recall

3. Memorize 15 cards

4. Memorize 20 cards

5. Memorize 25 cards

Now time yourself and set yourself a target

6. Memorize 30 cards under 5 minutes

7. Memorize 35 cards under 5 minutes

8. Memorize 40 cards under 5 minutes

9. Memorize 45 cards under 5 minutes

10. Memorize 52 cards under 5 minutes

11. Once you are able to memorize an entire deck, cutting down on time is just a matter of practice.


Click here to go back to the Contents page.


2 thoughts on “1-2 How to memorize a deck of cards

  1. Pingback: Update. | Memory Excursion

  2. Pingback: 02 Sept 2012 Notice | Jiming's Memory Excursion

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