How to memorise playing cards – 4 – using the Journey Method

An alternative approach

If you’ve read all the information this far on how to memorise playing cards, and if you’ve put it into practice, then that’s all you need. Everything you need is right there! Chances are, you’re memorising cards pretty successfully by now, or you’re working on it, at least.

But, as with so many things, there’s more than one way you can go about it. I’m adding this page so you’ll have access to an alternative method, but remember, you don’t need it, it’s just an alternative for you, in case it suits you better. This one focuses on using the Journey Method.

Note: You DON’T actually need to use an alternative system. The one I outlined in previous pages works perfectly well. But it’s always good to have an alternative approach available, and if you feel this would suit you better, this might just be the one for you.

Using the Journey Method to memorise playing cards

This method focuses on using the Journey Method, instead of the 100 List (if you’re not familiar with the Journey Method, you might want to read up on it first). Now, if you’ve decided to use this method, it’s best to have a dedicated journey in mind, one that you use only for memorising playing cards. It’s as well to keep things like this separate to avoid confusion. It shouldn’t be difficult to come up with a new journey, specifically for the purpose. You could revisit a holiday location you enjoyed visiting in the past, or some place you were particularly familiar with, perhaps an area where you used to live. You could map out a route through town, or your local area. You could even use your own home, but instead of just ten or twenty ‘stops’, you’ll need 52, obviously.

Playing cards

To the uninitiated, it’s just a deck of cards. To you, however, it’s the keys to using the Journey Method creatively!

How can you have 52 stops on a trip round your own house? Actually, it’s not that difficult. Take each room, or area, and select about five or six specific points. Work your way through the house this way and you won’t really have any trouble coming up with 52 locations. Use things like a fridge-freezer, a window sill, a coathook, a step ladder, a stool, your computer desk, the space under a bed, a bookshelf, your printer … anything at all. Read more about this method on the page about extending the house journey.

Make sure you write down the list of journey locations so you have a record of it that you can check at any time. The more memory journeys you have, the more useful it is to have them noted down so you don’t start confusing them. Also, number the ‘stops’ on the journey, and familiarise yourself with the numbers, so you know immediately where a stop comes, numerically. That way, when you memorise a sequence of cards, you’ll know the numerical position of each card, as well as the sequence. This will help when you’re using the Journey Method to memorise playing cards.

Place your cards at the correct locations

Now you have your memory journey, all you have to do is call at each ‘stop’ along the way and position a card there so you’ll be able to ‘see’ it later. And remember, it’s not enough to just leave a card at each stop, you have to vividly imagine the corresponding image tied into that location. So, for example, if the card was the 7 of Diamonds, and you wanted to leave it in the shower, you need to actually see Daffy Duck in the shower, getting soaked and complaining, flapping around and slipping on the wet surface. Maybe he’s squawking that this isn’t his thing, duck or no duck, he doesn’t like water, specially when it starts suddenly coming at him from above. It’s by seeing the details like this (and noting the irony of a duck not liking water) that the scene will burn itself into your mind, and stay there.

Maybe the 5 of Clubs is positioned in the kitchen sink. Imagine a sack of coal that’s been tipped up and the coal is filling the sink and spilling onto the floor. See the coal dust all over the place, and mixing with the water in the sink to make a black, sticky mess that’s spilling over. Actually see it and it will ‘stick’ in your mind!

That’s the basis of using the Journey Method to memorise playing cards, but it’s not the end of the story. Instead of the words and images you’ve learned already, you can use a different set altogether, if you find it more suitable. I mentioned this briefly already … you can assign characters to the cards (like the characters used in the 100 List, but don’t use the same ones, that’s asking for trouble!) Maybe you’re thinking, another 52 characters … where will this all end? How am I ever going to remember them all?

Hey, it’s not as bad as it sounds! Look, for a start, the cards are already neatly grouped into four suits, so you can have a theme for each suit. For example, you could use sports personalities for Clubs, wealthy and successful individuals for Diamonds, sexy and charismatic people for Hearts, and for Spades you could use film and television actors. If you don’t like these themes, come up with a few of your own. As long as they neatly group characters into their respective suits, that’s all that’s needed.

Playing Cards are handy for using the Journey Method

Playing Cards are endlessly fascinating, whether it’s for using the Journey Method or for … well, various other reasons …

So you would now have 52 new characters and you could place them at the stops along your playing cards memory journey. You might have Carl Lewis clinging desperately to a clothes hook, Desmond Tutu sitting in your fridge, shivering uncontrollably, George Washington hiding under the bed, looking terrified, and Richard Branson standing on your window sill, staring out, looking for new horizons to conquer. If you’ve chosen characters you can easily visualise, it’s not difficult to actually ‘see’ them in locations in your house. All it needs is a moment’s concentration.

You used to do plenty of this creative visualisation when you were younger (it was called pointless daydreaming by anyone who didn’t understand what you were up to)! Now you’ve got a good reason to do it, and you can strengthen your memory muscles every time you indulge. And if anyone asks what you’re doing when you look like you’re lost in thought (or ‘just wasting time’, as they’ll no doubt see it), just tell them you’re using the Journey Method!

Develop the idea further

But wait, there’s a way to develop this idea a bit further. To memorise a sequence of cards, without using the Journey Method, you could link them, and there’s a way to make this easier, and very effective. First, give each character a specific action, something that’s unique to that character. Then give him a unique item to use in the action. This is very similar to what you might do with the 100 List, right?

Now you can link them much easier. The first card in a sequence would be represented by the character assigned to that card. The second would be represented by the second character’s action. The third card would provide you with the item used by the third character. So you’ve linked three cards, and all you need to ‘see’ is the first character doing a specific action with a particular item!

Give the cards character, with George Clooney, Richard Branson, Donald Trump, Usain Bolt, and the rest

Let’s say you use Donald Trump as a wealthy character (a card in the suit of Diamonds, let’s say). His action might be combing his hair, since that’s something you might associate with him. So his action would be combing, and his item would be a comb. Let’s say you have Usain Bolt as a sports star (one of the Clubs cards?). His action might be his trademark ‘lightning bolt’ pose, and his item could be a bolt of lightning. Let’s have another one … let’s say you have George Clooney as a Hearts character. He could be in a white coat and using his stethoscope (from his ER days), and his item would be his stethoscope. So, to memorise these three cards, you’d ‘see’ Donald Trump doing the lightning bolt pose, while wearing a white lab coat and with a stethescope round his neck.

Keep things in the right order

Confusing? It needn’t be! Just remember to keep things in this order: character, action, item. So you know the first card is the one represented by Donald Trump, the second by whoever does the lightning bolt action, the third by whoever uses the stethescope. Easy! Now you have three cards memorised and represented by a single character doing a specific action with a specific item. You can obviously add to the sequence by adding another character doing an action with a different item (which gives you the next three cards), and link them to the previous micro-scene.

George Clooney

What, you can’t visualise George Clooney in some interesting situations?? Are you SURE you’re trying?

I’m not going to provide a list for you to memorise, since half the fun of using the Journey Method is coming up with a list of your own, and creating your own list will make it much more memorable for you. I’ve given an indication of some themes for the suits, and you can work from there. Of course, you can come up with different themes entirely. All that matters in the end is that you come up with 52 characters that you can assign to the cards, and that you can successfully memorise them.

Using themes to memorise playing cards

For other themes, you might want to consider politicians/statesmen, cartoon characters, comedians, models and ‘pin-ups’, film stars of Hollywood’s golden era, pop stars, individuals personifying trades and professions, people you have known personally (including teachers, relatives, friends, neighbours, etc), business tycoons, and so on.

Personally, I wouldn’t try using the Journey Method as well as Harry Lorayne‘s method – one or the other. For me, to use both (perhaps using one system in one situation, the other for another situation) might initially seem like a good idea, but it would be too likely to result in confusion, but that’s a personal thing. I think it’s better to settle for one system and stick to it. I mention the method more as an alternative, rather than an add-on, but the choice is yours. What really matters is that you learn how to memorise playing cards, and you give your memory some much-needed exercise.


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