How to Count Cards

by thememorypage

1.9 • Playing Cards

It takes a bit of work and practice, but you can memorize playing cards. Instead of trying to remember “7 of spades,” which is largely numerical; a picture “peg word” is assigned to the card — and all other cards — thus making the card easier to remember. For example, if “comb” is the peg word for “7 of spades,” and your partner has played that card and you want to remember it, it’s a lot easier to remember a gigantic comb tapping your partner on the head than it is to remember “7″ and “spades”. Also, once you have assigned peg words to all of the playing cards and have practiced a bit, you can play some very interesting memory games and impress your friends!

Let’s now discuss how we can assign peg words to the 52 playing cards in a standard deck. Before we begin, first you should be familiar with peg words: what they are used for, how peg words are assigned to numbers, etc. If you are not familiar with peg words, please look at the “Peg Words Tutorial” first!

If peg words can be assigned to the numbers 0 to 99, then it follows that we can assign peg words to other things, like each card in a standard deck. There are different ways to do this, and you don’t need to feel that you have to do it a certain way. One book that I read uses a special, distinct set of 52 new peg words, something like H2 = Hen = 2 of hearts, H3 = Ham = 3 of hearts, H4 = Hair = 4 of hearts, etc. There are advantages to this method, but to make things a bit easier, rather than have you memorize 52 more brand-new peg words, it’s possible to use a bunch of the peg words you may have already memorized for 0 to 99. First we choose a digit for each of the four suits:

1 = spade (because a spade has one point)
2 = heart (because a heart has two halves)
3 = club (because a club has three leaves)
4 = diamond (because a diamond has four points)

Next, for the cards 2 through 9 of each suit, we can just use that digit for the card and combine it with the digit for the suit. I put the card value first, then the suit, because in English you say something like “three of hearts”, with the value first and the suit next. (Some systems put the suit first, then the value, which helps keep all of the cards in one suit together, but the disadvantage is that you have to reverse things in your mind.) For 2 of hearts I use 22, for 3 of hearts I use 32, for four of hearts I use 42, etc. When I get past 9, here’s what I use:

10 = 0
Jack = 1
Queen = blank (use the single-digit peg words)
King = use NEW peg words: pad, cart, closet, king
Ace = use pictures of the actual suits (spade, heart, club, diamond)

To clarify: The numbers 1 to 4 have different peg words than 01 to 04, so I use the single digits for Queen and the “zero” numbers for 10. After that, there aren’t any peg words left ending with 1 to 4, so I invented four new peg words for King, and I used the actual words “spade,” “heart,” “club,” and “diamond” for Ace. Originally I used 1 for Ace, but I found it easier to use 1 for Jack because the letter J looks like the number 1 and because the aces have very large pictures of the suit on them.

But you can use whatever works best for you!

Putting it all together, here is my list of 52 playing card peg words:

2 spades = 21 = net
3 spades = 31 = mat
4 spades = 41 = road
5 spades = 51 = light
6 spades = 61 = sheet
7 spades = 71 = cat
8 spades = 81 = fat
9 spades = 91 = bat
10 spades = 01 = seed
J spades = 11 = dot
Q spades = _1 = hat
K spades = pad
A spades = spade
2 hearts = 22 = nun
3 hearts = 32 = moon
4 hearts = 42 = rain
5 hearts = 52 = lion
6 hearts = 62 = chain
7 hearts = 72 = can
8 hearts = 82 = fan
9 hearts = 92 = pen
10 hearts = 02 = sun
J hearts = 12 = town
Q hearts = _2 = hen
K hearts = cart
A hearts = heart
2 clubs = 23 = name
3 clubs = 33 = mummy
4 clubs = 43 = room
5 clubs = 53 = lime
6 clubs = 63 = jam
7 clubs = 73 = comb
8 clubs = 83 = foam
9 clubs = 93 = opium
10 clubs = 03 = seam
J clubs = 13 = dime
Q clubs = _3 = ham
K clubs = closet
A clubs = club
2 diamonds = 24 = Nero
3 diamonds = 34 = mower
4 diamonds = 44 = aurora
5 diamonds = 54 = lure
6 diamonds = 64 = cherry
7 diamonds = 74 = car
8 diamonds = 84 = fire
9 diamonds = 94 = bear
10 diamonds = 04 = Sarah
J diamonds = 14 = tire
Q diamonds = _4 = rye
K diamonds = king
A diamonds = diamond

Once you have a picture for each card in the deck, you can use other memory techniques to memorize useful things. If you want to memorize a sequence of cards in order, you can just like pictures together. For example, for 2 diamonds, 7 clubs and Ace spades, you could imagine NERO picking up a COMB, then, instead of using it on his hair, he uses it to clean the dirt off of a SPADE.

To remember if a card has been played, visually deform the peg word picture in your mind. For example, you could “burn” it. So if you want to remember that the King of Hearts has been played, picture a cart catching fire and quickly being charred black. You will know if a card has been played or not by checking its peg word to see if it has been burned yet or not! When the deck is shuffled, you can switch to a different deformity, such as “freezing” so you don’t get everything mixed up. After a half dozen variations, you can return to “burn” again.

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