Memorizing a Deck

One of the most spectacular effects a mentalist or card magician can perform is the memorization of a completely shuffled deck of cards. In its purest form, the magician asks a member of the audience to shuffle the cards, after which the magician quickly fans through them and, after returning the deck to the spectator, proceeds to rattle off the cards identities in sequence with perfect accuracy. A simpler effect involves a brand-new deck and no shuffling, but is significantly less impressive.

Although this appears to be a feat of pure memory, there is in fact a gimmick involved. The current fad of a pair of Bluetooth-enabled glasses that incorporate a Web-cam and earphone so that a stooge backstage can photograph and then read the cards back to the magician is all well and good, but to a classically trained mentalist they are a sad, sad, pathetic gimmick for wimps, wannabees, and tent meetings.

The time-honored method of memorizing a deck involves making a little song about the order of the cards. It is a well-known psychological fact that the mind retains music much more easily than it retains, for example, the digits of pi. Therefore, turning a deck of cards into a song allows the performer to remember the order of cards not just for a minute, not just for an hour, but potentially forever.

At this point, an example is in order. Let us say that a shuffled deck is presented to the performer, and that the first three cards are the ace of clubs, the three of clubs, and the two of hearts. The odds are fairly good that in your own experience a different set of cards will be presented, but these cards were chosen as examples only. More complete instructions including the full set of possibilities will be posted to this site in the near future.

To memorize the deck, the performer sings (silently) a little song, incorporating the names of the cards. For example, in this case the performer might silently sing:

Hank Houdini had some cards,
E-I-E-I-O
The first card was the ace of clubs
E-I-E-I-O
With an ace, ace here
And a club, club there
Here an ace,
There a club,
Everywhere an ace of clubs,
Hank Houdini had some cards,
E-I-E-I-O

This would be followed by:

Hank Houdini had some cards,
E-I-E-I-O
The next card was the three of clubs
E-I-E-I-O
With a three, three here
And a club, club there
Here a three,
There a club,
Everywhere a three of clubs,
Hank Houdini had some cards,
E-I-E-I-O

And then:

Hank Houdini had some cards,
E-I-E-I-O
The next card was the two of hearts
E-I-E-I-O
With a two, two here
And a heart, heart there
Here an two,
There a heart,
Everywhere an two of hearts,
Hank Houdini had some cards,
E-I-E-I-O

The song would continue in this fashion for the balance of the deck.

Once you try this, you will find that not only can you recall even the most randomly sorted deck at will, but that you will be unable to free your mind of it for the rest of your life. Because of this, and to avoid confusion, a magician must select a new tune every time a deck is mentioned, unless presented with an order that has been seen before. To not do so is to risk recalling a previous version of the song during a performance, just as Michael Jackson occasionally would accidentally sing the Weird Al version of one of his songs during a concert.

For example, other tunes that might work with the above noted cards might be:

My eyes have seen the glory of the first card ace of clubs, it has trampled down the deck to where the three of clubs is stored, they are all afraid like crazy of the two of hearts's sword, the deck is marching on.

-----

My bologna has a first name,
It's a-c-e of clubs,
My bologna has a second name,
It t-h-r-e-e of clubs.
Oh I love to eat it every day,
And if you ask me why I'll say,
Because the two of hearts is next
For b-o-l-o-g-n-a

-----

Hey, Jude,
The ace of clubs,
Takes the three of clubs,
And makes them better,
Remember, the next card is two of hearts,
Those are the cards,
You must remember.

-----

Ace of clubs, just killed a man,
Put a gun against his head,
Pulled my trigger, now he's dead,
Three of clubs, life had just begun,
But now I've gone and have the two of hearts.

Truly, the possibilities are endless.End of story

The information on this site is intended for use only by those with a sincere desire to learn nothing about magic and is for entertainment purposes only (in other words, don't try this stuff, particularly the dangerous parts). The Magicians Assistance Collective (MAC) frowns upon the use of magic in the formation of religions or to attract a cult following.

Magic is not real. Reality is not magic.

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