A memorized deck is one of the most powerful tools in your arsenal. But magicians often lament that they "don't have the brain to learn a stack." But that's as illogical as saying you "don't have the hands for a double lift." Not without practice, you don't. Just like any sleight, you can learn mnemonica through deliberate practice. Here's how to do it in under a week:
The short answer: You will create a mnemonic for each card, and by doing that, you will naturally memorize the card.
Specifically, each mnemonic is a picture that, when thought of, causes you to recall the card immediately. It's important to note that many magicians will argue for the "brute force method." This essentially repeats "1 is the four of clubs, one is the four of clubs" over and over until it sticks. And while this will work eventually, it's incredibly cumbersome, unreliable, and a waste of time.
Alternatively, using mnemonics might feel like a lot of initial work upfront, but you more than make up for it on the back end. I used this strategy to memorize every super bowl winner, loser and score in under a week. While you'll ultimately have to create mnemonics with your imagination, here are two to get you started:
Card 1, the Four of Clubs: First, picture something you can always associate with number one. How about a life-sized pencil? Or a foam finger from a basketball game that says, "We're number 1!"
Next, you need to associate the four and clubs. Well, that sounds like a four-leaf clover to me. So, picture a four-leaf clover precariously balancing on the tip of a life-sized pencil. Or maybe it's a foam finger for the Boston Celtics, who already have a clover in their logo (three-leaf, but accuracy is not essential here).
Suddenly, you've created an image that encapsulates all three pieces of information you need: The suit, value, and position. The green foam finger with a four-leaf clover says everything you need. As does the singular (1) pencil with a clover on its tip. The four of clubs is number one.
Card 2, the Two of Hearts: I've always liked this card because it has a nice ring to it (so does six the six of diamonds and nine the nine of spades). For this, imagine a cheesy magician. I'm sure you can picture someone.
The cheesy magician is walking into a diner to do strolling magic. They're incredibly lonely and decide they can only find someone by forcing the two of hearts and saying, "The two of us belong together." Gross. So they go into a diner (picture your favourite) and force the two of hearts with really greasy hands. They mumble, "The two of us belong together." Then they point to their heart with TWO outstretched fingers.
Weird and sad? Absolutely. But it's also memorable.
Are you thinking these stories might not work?
Well, what's number 1?
Ultimately, you have to create the stories and images yourself. They are infinitely stronger when they come from your imagination because it's personal to you. When I memorize, I spend 3-5 minutes writing out a story like the one above for each piece of information I want to memorize. And while it's initially cumbersome, those 3-5 minutes are all it takes.
Your learning schedule:
Do ten cards daily for five days (with 12 cards on the last day). Each day, refresh yourself on your previous cards so you don't forget them. On the 6th and 7th day, start performing. Anything. Even if it's "pick a card, here it is", using the simple natural key card.
Practice both ways: You need to be equally proficient in recalling the number from the card as you are at recalling the card from the number. They must be absolutely interchangeable in your mind.
Make your image vulgar: We aren't going to give examples on the internet, but let's say that the less likely you are to share the image with your mom, the more likely you are to remember it. Our brains are drawn to novelty and shock. So shock yourself. The more sexual and gruesome the image, the easier it will stick in your head. I'll let your imagination fill in the rest.
When should I perform mnemonica?
As soon as possible. At least for friends and family who you are ok messing up in front of. Like anything, the best way to learn is by doing. Don't worry about a complicated ACAAN. Just worry about locating a named card or identifying the card that comes after the one you peek at.
Another way to practice is simple awareness. If you see a seven on the subway, consider what number the 7's occupy (3, 37, 41, 47). If you see the number 34 in real life, challenge yourself to think about what card falls at 34 (ten of spades).
To test yourself, try this mnemonica app from The Daily Magician.