Secrets of UNO

The Elusive Zero Card

Do you ever feel like you don't see as many 0 cards in a game as there should be? Well, a little-known UNO secret is that while there are eight of every numbered card from one to nine, there are only four zeroes. It's a secret, but it's no lie!

Card Counting: the Master's Ploy

Because no money changes hands in UNO, it is not considered "gambling" in 32 states. In the other states (including the District of Columbia), UNO is regulated under the legal framework ascribed to "games of chance," like the lottery or pachinko. This egregious legal oversight makes it safe and legal to count cards in UNO.

But how? There are a couple of ways to get started.


One trick to memorizing sequences of unfamiliar items is through the use of mnemonics. For example, the phrase "Dow Jones Industrial Average Closing Stock Report" is a simple way to help you memorize the components of the bowels. From top to bottom, the parts are Duodenum, Jejunum, Ileum, Appendix, Colon, Sigmoid and of course, Rectum!

Unfortunately, in UNO, there are very few words to memorize. Because the numbers 0 through 9 do not start with unique letters, it is difficult to create dynamic mnemonics. Unless you can translate the numeric values into unique alphabetic characters (perhaps by using the Tagalog counting system), it is a challenge for the amateur card counter.

The Method of Loci

The Method of Loci is a supremely effective meta-cognitive technique that has been used for thousands of years to help remember things. From Cicero to Saint Thomas Aquinas, scholars have used The Method of Loci or "the thought palace" to construct mental images that help them remember long and complicated sequences.

So, to memorize the cards as you see them in UNO, use The Method of Loci to help keep track. For example, if you saw a red 5, a red 7, a red Skip Card, a red 6 and a blue 6, you could easily use the method to come up with a visual story to remember the cards and the sequence in which you saw them.

First, think of an apple (which is red and has five letters), then think of a snapper (which is also red and has seven letters). Then, your mind's eye will see a demon. (Skip was the name of a demon on the TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and demons are angry; thus, the color red). Next, imagine a cherry (which is red and has six letters). Lastly, evoke a vision of clouds (which are blue and have six letters). To recall the set, you simply have to watch the movie in your head of an apple sitting next to a snapper, being eaten by a demon that wants a cherry and is floating in the blue clouds.

It's not any more complicated than that!

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