Back to the Basics with Playing Card Decks

Back to the Basics with Playing Card Decks

Everything you wanted to know about playing card decks but didn’t want to ask

Have you ever wondered why there are 13 cards in a suit or what the Curse of Scotland card is? Playing Cards have a very interesting history, but it doesn’t stop with just the origin story. Today we are going back to school to get an answer to all of those questions you were too embarrassed to ask about card decks basics. We even added in some interesting tidbits so you can impress your friends next time you pull out a deck of cards!

Why are there 52 cards?

A deck of cards has so many connections to a calendar, it’s pretty fascinating. There are 52 weeks in a year which is thought to be why we have 52 cards in a deck. But it goes beyond that!

  • Day and Night: Two colors of the deck (red and black)
  • Four seasons: Four suits (spades, hearts, clubs, diamonds)
  • 13 lunar cycles or 13 weeks in a quarter: 13 cards in each suit
  • 12 months in a year: 12 court cards
  • 365 days in a year: If you add up all the values of the deck (1 for Joker, 11 for Jack, 12 for Queen, and 13 for King) you get 365

Is an Ace card high or low?

It’s only been in modern times that the Ace has often been the highest playing card. Historically, it had the lowest value and meant ‘bad luck’ in Middle English. However, during the French Revolution, more games began to be played “Ace” high with the Ace besting the King as the highest valued card. Now many games let players choose whether the ace is a high or low card like poker, blackjack, and some forms of rummy.

What’s the Death Card?

The Ace of Spades holds the title of the death card. Though we aren’t sure exactly why it could be because a forgery of an ace of spades was a crime punishable by death in 1800’s England or it could be American soldiers used it to frighten the Viet Cong who were terrified of that card in the Vietnam War. But the Ace of Spades isn’t the only card with a mysterious nickname, here are a few more:

Suicide King: King of Hearts

Have you ever noticed that the King of Hearts is often stabbing himself in the head with a sword in traditionally designed decks? Originally he had an axe, but around 1800, the axe head disappeared and the handle turned into a dagger, which kind of looks like he is killing himself. Also the only King with a mustache so he has a special place in our hearts. It’s said that the King of Hearts was designed based on Charles the Great who most likely had a mustache. 

Black Lady: Queen of Spades

Mostly connected with the game Hearts where it’s bad to throw a  Black Lady or Black Widow. It was first mentioned in 1909 when the first variation of the Hearts game called Discard Hearts was documented. There is an interesting subculture with the Queen of Spades, but I’ll let you google that one for yourself!

Curse of Scotland: Nine of Diamonds

It’s been said that during the Glencoe Massacre of 1692 “Kill them all” was written on a Nine of Diamonds. The massacre left 38 Highlanders dead. Another explanation is that nine diamonds were stolen from the crown of Scotland and a tax was levied on the Scottish people to pay for them. 

What’s a tuckbox?

A tuckbox is the packaging playing cards come in where the folded ends are tucked into the box. Not to be confused with the UK’s version, which is a lunch bag. At Mr. Playing Card, we believe your deck should go the extra mile in play and so should your packaging. Our custom tuckboxes offer full printing coverage to give your deck the royal flush.

What’s the Difference between Cardistry and Card Magic?

As you can see, Cardistry (on the left) is an extension of juggling, a performance of card flourishing. Where card magic (on the right) is the manipulation of playing cards for the purpose of illusions. Sometimes cardistry and magic are combined but they are two different skills.

BONUS: Wow them with your shuffle skills!

Now that we’ve taught the lingo and some fun facts to not show up embarrassed to your next card game, you need to walk the talk! The number one thing that separates novice card players from experts? Their shuffling skills. 

The riffle shuffle is the most common, looks cool, and does a great job of actually shuffling the deck. Study this video and you’ll be a pro the next time.