How many cards in a pack of playing cards?

99 comments on “How to Memorize a Shuffled Deck of Cards in Less Than 60 Seconds (Plus: $10,000 Challenge)”
March 26, 2017 – 07:35 pm
Accessible playing cards[edit]

To become a Grand Master of Memory–fewer than 100 in the world can claim that title–you need to satisfy each of the following in competitions approved by the World Memory Sport Council:

• Memorize the order of 10 decks of cards in 60 minutes.
• Memorize 1, 000 random digits in 60 minutes.
• Memorize the order of one deck of cards in less than two minutes.

Ed Cooke first hit this trifecta when he was 23. He later came to international attention when he coached journalist Joshua Foer from ground zero to U.S. Memory Champion in one year, a feat chronicled by Foer in the best-seller . To win that championship, Foer had to memorize 120 random digits in five minutes, successfully commit to memory the first and last names of 156 strangers within 15 minutes, and (last but not least) memorize a shuffled deck of cards in less than two minutes.

Ed has memorized a shuffled deck of cards in competition in 43 seconds. Of all memory feats, none is a more compressed act of mental athleticism.

I asked him if he’d open the kimono and explain his method, and he very graciously agreed.

It takes around four hours to get comfortable with Ed’s best-of-breed system. With a little practice, you’ll be a third of your way to becoming a Grand Master.

(Im)practically speaking, it’s just freaking amazingly cool. Few people in the world can pull it off, and that’s reason enough to take a weekend or slow evening to try. Instead of watching another bad movie, you can become one of the memory illuminati.

Last but not least, there’s a $10, 000 competition at the end if you want to really give this a shot…


I’ve taken to calling Ed’s approach the Bicycleshop, a combination of the brand of playing cards and Photoshop.

We will learn the basics of Bicycleshop with a simple version; let’s call it Bicycleshop Lite. Then we’ll upgrade to Bicycleshop Pro. Learn to use them in that order.


Bicycleshop Lite helps you do two things: memorize the cards and memorize the order of the cards.

Step One: Learning the Cards

First, you convert 52 cards into 52 celebrities.

The mind ignores the mundane and remembers the unusual, whether people (e.g., Lady Gaga) or a sudden motion in the under- brush. The more unusual, the more the brain forms a bookmark for recall.
To make recalling 52 celebrities easier, each suit corresponds to a personality type and each card ( jack, 10, ace, etc.) corresponds to a profession (or category). This means that when you look at a given card, you’ll have two cues to help you remember the celebrity.

Interesting facts

Extreme Snap is an more complex version of the popular children's card game Snap. Extreme snap is very quick to play, with rounds typically lasting less than 5 minutes, although then can occasionally last much longer, especially when players are of roughly equal ability. Technically the minumum number of players is 2, but 4 players is the...

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