As Mike Mirski sits down with a pack of playing cards, the 19-year-old from Naperville starts spinning the most incredible yarn. It involves a giant club sandwich, a big lily pad and a monk sitting on the moon.
None of it is true. The surreal tale is just a mnemonic device to help Mirski, a University of Pennsylvania sophomore, remember the order of the cards in the fully shuffled deck.
It’s one of several mental skills being tested Saturday at the USA Memory Championship in New York.
Mirski and his Penn teammates are set to measure their recall powers against squads including four-time defending champ Hershey High School of Pennsylvania.
About two dozen individuals are also competing in the event, which is in its 15th year.
Other contests require memorizing an unpublished poem, recalling biographical information of random people, remembering rows of random numbers and matching about 100 names with faces.
Event founder Tony Dottino, an IBM executive-turned-business consultant, says he created the competition as a way to promote the capabilities of the human brain.
“You are not stuck with the memory you were born with,” Dottino says.