The UK Open Memory Championships will be held next weekend in London. From the Times Online story:
To put it into perspective: on average most of us can recall between five and nine numbers in a row. The eight-times world memory champion Dominic O’Brien, 50, can remember the order of 54 randomly shuffled decks of playing cards – an astounding 2,808 cards.
Most amazing of all, several of the participants claim they’re not savants, they just practice a lot and use clever mnemonic techniques.
Pridmore’s system for remembering playing cards involves assigning a different mental picture to each combination of two cards. The ace of diamonds followed by the eight of diamonds is represented by Daffy Duck (Pridmore uses cartoon characters from Looney Tunes cartoons and The Simpsons, as well as random objects) whereas the ace of diamonds followed by the king of hearts is represented by a ladder. There are 2,704 possible combinations. These characters and objects then rapidly interact with each other as they embark on a journey. To recall the information, Pridmore reruns the story; as each character appears, he retrieves the two-card sequences.
Pridmore’s technique, like most mnemonic tricks, makes use of visualization. For more cool memory tricks, check out this article that introduces the “memory palace.”