I memorised a shuffled deck of cards!

I really didn’t believe that I would be capable of memorising an entire shuffled deck of cards, but today I did it!

It took 35 minutes to memorise the shuffled deck and then 25 minutes to reconstruct the order with a different deck of cards.

Those times would make all the experienced competitors laugh – but they would laugh kindly knowing what an important step this is.

Each card is given a character, action and object. Having memorised that over the last few months, I also need a set of ten empty memory palaces, each with 50 locations. I have most of those now in memory as well. Each group of three cards creates a weird combination of character, action and object, the strange image to be placed in a location in the memory palace. I am very new at the entire process, so thrilled that I managed to fill 17 locations with images for each group of three cards and not forget a single one. Nor did I forget the Queen of Clubs who was left over.

My head hurt terribly after the hour of intense concentration.

American science journalist Joshua Foer trained intensively for a year to win the 2006 United States Memory Championship and write his wonderful book Moonwalking with Einstein, a title drawn from the strange images created. In The Memory Code I wrote:

He set a new US record by memorising a shuffled deck of 52 cards in one minute and 40 seconds. To achieve this feat, Foer trained in his basement with earmuffs and goggles to reduce distraction. Foer talks about how much he enjoyed getting better and better at dreaming up bizarre, weird, raunchy, funny and violent images to store in his memory spaces. My training is not as intense. I could not deal with the pressure of competition nor memorise at high speed. Joshua Foer trained by having fun in his silent basement. I went out and walked the dog.

My precious little dog has since died of old age. And I train in ear muffs in my silent studio. I, too, love making up the weird stories. What I don’t know is if I can ever manage the pressure of competition nor gain enough speed to qualify. Cards feature in only two of the ten events, but I’ll write more about that in future posts.

I am being helped in my training by British memory expert Dominic O’Brien. We both believe that memory loss is not inevitable in later years. At 65, my memory is the best it has ever been. With all my memory experiments, I am gaining hooks to link anything I want to remember. Click on the image below to read more about Dominic’s adventures:

Memory competition could never be described as a spectator sport – a lot of people in a silent room barely moving. This is what it looked like at the World Championships in China in 2015:
Knowing how much work it has taken just to get to the stage of attempting to memorise an entire deck of cards, I understand why there are so few competitors in Australia. This was most of the field of memory athletes receiving instructions in Melbourne in 2016:

In November this year, I will be joining them!

See also Memory Sports: I am hooked.

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About lynne

I am an Honorary Researcher at LaTrobe University. I am the author of 17 books, the most recent being 'Spiders: learning to love them' (Allen & Unwin), 'Knowledge and Power in Prehistoric Societies' (Cambridge University Press, and 'The Memory Code' (Allen & Unwin, AUS; Pegasus Books, US and Atlantic Books, UK). My new book 'Memory Craft' is about how to apply the indigenous memory methods - and many more - in contemporary life. It was published on June 3, 2019.
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