Sometimes a question occurs to us and we just can’t get it out of our heads. This week that question was, “What’s the deal with poker cards?”. So we’re going to stuff a whole pile of deck of cards trivia into the next few minutes of your scrolling time.
The standard 52-card deck: a marriage of France and Britain
The 52-card deck we’re acquainted with in the UK, the USA and much of the Western world is technically a deck of French suited playing cards with an English pattern.
France is where the idea of the four suits we’re familiar with came from. Trefles are clubs, carreaux are diamonds, coeurs are hearts and piques are spades. We’re hoping your high school French lessons are coming in handy there in this piece of deck of cards trivia!
And we’ve also got the French to thank for the colourings. Their traditional cards are black spades and clubs, then red hearts and diamonds, just like ours.
The French also introduced the face cards as we know them. Valet, Dame and Roi are what we know as Jack, Queen and King.
Meanwhile the design we’re all acquainted with is firmly an English pattern of the aforementioned French cards. The earliest example of this pattern is from 1516.
The double headed phenomenon
The earliest decks of cards were single headed. But from 1860, we start to see decks where there are double headed kings, etc., appearing on the cards.
It’s all about the indices
We also start spotting corner indices, which are synonymous with modern cards, added around 1880. Easy to read upside down and right side up, it’s no wonder the caught on.
Up until the 19th century, every printer decided themselves what size the deck should be. So there was no uniformity at all. But then at some point during the 1800s, the size started to become more uniform.
Known as poker-sized cards, there was a new standard size of 3.5×2.5 inches. There was also bridge-sized cards, designed so you could hold more of them in your hands at once. They were a little narrower than poker size.
Nowadays, any deck of cards trivia know-it-all should know that all cards are in and around that size. However, it’s not an exact measure. Card manufacturers can go a little narrower, wider, shorter or longer.
James I, tax and the Ace of spades
The Ace of Spades can sometimes be highly decorative. Oftentimes, much more so than the rest of the pack. The reason for this? James I of England. During his reign, in the early 1600s, it was decided that there needed to be proof of tax paid on every deck.
And so the fancy design held the name of the manufacturer’s logo as proof. And, incredibly, this was still the case until the 1960s. So if you get your hands on your Granddad’s old deck of cards, check out the Ace of Spades.
Get your hands on history and play some card games today
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