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.
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
2H-robert lee-blowing trumpet-trumpet
3S-criss angel-levitating-professional camera
3H-penn and teller-juggling-broken wine bottles
3D-darren brown-concentrating-crystall ball
4C-kennedy-walking back and forth-anti radiation suit
4D-snoop dog-C-walking-gold necklace
5C-romeo-drinking from-wine glass
6S-louis C. Clark-X-X
6C-peter chao-nammer squatting-aviator glasses
6D-russel peters-looking through-telescope
7S-poker player-shuffling-poker chips
7D-george bush jr.-bicep curling-dumbbells
8H-dracula-hanging upsidedown on ceiling-bats
8D-bella Cullen-bathing-bathtub full of blood
10S-lana del ray-singing-spotlight effect
JH-Ellen DeGeneres-Doing pushups-shakeweight
JC-Larry King-hunching over-suspenders
QC-paris Hilton-pole dancing-chihuahua
KC-hughes hufner-X-latex gloves
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
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)
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)
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
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
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
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.