Standard 52-card deck
A deck of French playing cards is the most common deck of playing cards used today. It includes thirteen ranks of each of the four French suits: clubs (♣), diamonds (♦), hearts (♥) and spades (♠), with reversible "court" or face cards. Each suit includes an ace, depicting a single symbol of its suit; a king, queen and jack, each depicted with a symbol of its suit; and ranks two through ten, with each card depicting that many symbols (pips) of its suit. Anywhere from one to six (most often two or three since the mid-20th century) jokers, often distinguishable with one being more colorful than the other, are added to commercial decks, as some card games require these extra cards. Modern playing cards carry index labels on opposite corners or in all four corners to facilitate identifying the cards when they overlap and so that they appear identical for players on opposite sides. The most popular standard pattern of the French deck is sometimes referred to as "English" or "Anglo-American" pattern.
It has been shown that because of the large number of possibilities from shuffling a 52-card deck, it is probable that no two fair card shuffles have ever yielded exactly the same order of cards.
English pattern cards and nicknames
The fanciful design and manufacturer's logo commonly displayed on the ace of spades began under the reign of James I of England, who passed a law requiring an insignia on that card as proof of payment of a tax on local manufacture of cards. Until August 4, 1960, decks of playing cards printed and sold in the United Kingdom were liable for taxable duty and the ace of spades carried an indication of the name of the printer and the fact that taxation had been paid on the cards.[notes 1] The packs were also sealed with a government duty wrapper.
Though specific design elements of the court cards are rarely used in game play and many differ between designs, a few are notable.
- Face cards or court cards - jacks, queens, and kings are called "face cards" in North America because the cards have pictures of their names. In Britain they are called "court cards"
- One-eyed Royals - the jack of spades and jack of hearts (often called the "one-eyed jacks") and the king of diamonds are drawn in profile; therefore, these cards are commonly referred to as "one-eyed". The rest of the courts are shown in full or oblique face.
- The jack of diamonds is sometimes known as "laughing boy".
- Wild cards - When deciding which cards are to be made wild in some games, the phrase "acey, deucey or one-eyed jack" (or "deuces, aces, one-eyed faces") is sometimes used, which means that aces, twos, and the one-eyed jacks are all wild.
- The king of hearts is the only king with no mustache;
- Suicide kings - The king of hearts is typically shown with a sword behind his head, making him appear to be stabbing himself. Similarly, the one-eyed king of diamonds is typically shown with an axe behind his head with the blade facing toward him. These depictions, and their blood-red color, inspired the nickname "suicide kings".
- The king of diamonds is traditionally armed with an axe while the other three kings are armed with swords; thus, the king of diamonds is sometimes referred to as "the man with the axe". This is the basis of the trump "one-eyed jacks and the man with the axe".
- The ace of spades, unique in its large, ornate spade, is sometimes said to be the death card or the picture card, and in some games is used as a trump card.
- The queen of spades usually holds a scepter and is sometimes known as "the bedpost queen", though more often she is called "black lady".
- In many decks, the queen of clubs holds a flower. She is thus known as the "flower queen", though this design element is among the most variable; the Bicycle Poker deck depicts all queens with a flower styled according to their suit.
- "2" cards are also known as deuces.
- "3" cards are also known as treys.
Size of the cards
|Category||Imperial measure (inches)||Metric measure (mm)|
|3 1⁄2||2 1⁄4||88.9||57.15|
|3 1⁄2||2 1⁄2||88.9||63.50|
Modern playing cards are available in both "wide" and "narrow" sizes, often now commonly referred to as either 'poker' or 'bridge' sized; nominal dimensions are summarized in the adjacent table. Notwithstanding these generally accepted dimensions, there is no formal requirement for precise adherence and minor variations are produced by various manufacturers.
The slightly narrower cards are more suitable for games such as bridge and some types of poker, where a number of cards must be held or concealed in a player's hand. In most USA casino poker games, plastic bridge (narrow) sized cards are used; this is for both ease of use and dealing, and the plastic cards last much longer than paper decks. Casino shuffling machines have traditionally been designed for "bridge" (narrow) size cards for these reasons. In other table games, such as 21 (blackjack), a modern casino may use hundreds or even thousands of decks per day, so paper cards are used for those, for economic reasons. "Poker" (wide) size paper decks are used for 21 and other similar games. Other sizes are also available, such as a smaller 'patience' size (usually 1 3⁄4 × 2 3⁄8 inches (44 × 60 mm)) and larger 'jumbo' ones for card tricks.
The thickness and weight of modern playing cards is subject to numerous variables related to their purpose of use and associated material design for durability, stiffness, texture and appearance.
Rank and color
Some decks include additional design elements. Casino blackjack decks may include markings intended for a machine to check the ranks of cards, or shifts in rank location to allow a manual check via inlaid mirror. Many casino decks and solitaire decks have four indices instead of just two. Many modern decks have bar code markings on the edge of the face to enable them to be sorted by machine (for playing duplicate bridge, especially simultaneous events where the same hands may be played at many different venues). Many decks have large indices, largely for use in stud poker games, where being able to read cards from a distance is a benefit and hand sizes are small. Some decks use four colors for the suits in order to make it easier to tell them apart: the most common set of colors is black (spades ♠), red (hearts ♥), blue (diamonds ♦) and green (clubs ♣). Another common color set is borrowed from the German suits and uses green spades and yellow diamonds with red hearts and black clubs.
When giving the full written name of a specific card, the rank is given first followed by the suit, e.g., "ace of spades". Shorthand notation may reflect this by listing the rank first, "A♠"; this is common usage when discussing poker. Alternately, listing the suit first, as in "♠K" for a single card or "♠AKQ" for multiple cards, is common practice when writing about bridge; this helps differentiate between the card(s) and the contract (e.g. "4♥", a contract of four hearts). Tens may be either abbreviated to T or written as 10.
Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
- French playing cards
- German playing cards
- Stripped decks come with fewer ranks
- 500 decks come with extra ranks
- Tarot Nouveau, the most common French-suited tarot game deck
- Stamp Act 1765 imposed a tax on playing cards.
- McLeod, John. Games played with French suited cards at pagat.com. Retrieved 17 April 2017.
- The English pattern at the International Playing-Card Society. Retrieved 17 April 2017.
- "The Amazing Truth About a Deck of Cards". KnowledgeNuts.
- The poker size is associated with the B8 size according to ISO 216
- Kem Cards official website. Narrow (Bridge) Size verses Wide (Poker) Size, retrieved 2014-02-27.
- In a sample of 95 bridge and poker card sets, lengths ranged from 87.50 mm to 89.50 mm. In a sample of 28 bridge sized cards, widths varied from 56.98 mm to 58.25 mm. In a sample of 67 poker sized cards, widths varied from 62.44 to 63.54 mm. Reference: Home Poker Tourney website. Playing Card Review, retrieved 2014-02-27.
- In a sample of 28 bridge sized cards, the weight of a card varied from 1.8 g to 2.48 g and thickness from 0.26 mm to 0.34 mm. In a sample of 67 poker sized cards, the weight of a card varied from 1.4 g to 2.78 g and thickness from 0.24 mm to 0.34 mm. Reference: Home Poker Tourney website. Playing Card Review, retrieved 2014-02-27.