The 52 card deck consists of four suits: hearts and diamonds, spades, clubs, and spades. Each suit also contains 13 cards :10 ace cards (A-10) and 3 picture cards: Jack, Queen and King. Two suits (hearts or diamonds) are available in red and two in black (spades or clubs).
You probably think of many things when you walk to a Las Vegas casino poker table. The flashing lights, the slots machines, even some free slot machines and the gorgeous people in the crowd are all possible celebrities.
The dealer will then deal you in. But, you have a strange thought: Why clubs and spades? Why diamonds and hearts? Why are there only two colors? Why two colors? 52 cards?
The whole table is waiting to see if you place a bet or call, once your brain has gotten used to all the questions on the five cards you have in your hand.
This may have been unfortunate timing. However, these are good questions. To answer them, we must take a step back in time.
A Brief History of the Card Game
Playing cards were introduced to Europe more than 600 years ago. They probably came from the Middle East.
There is a much older history of card-playing that dates back nearly two centuries. It is from China and the Far East. However, most people believe it to be an Arab game. For centuries, Arab countries have been the capitals for knowledge and human advancement. Many things that we take for granted are a result of what is now called the Middle East or North Africa.
The 14th century saw a rise in trade with Europe. When Egyptian merchants arrived in southern Europe, they brought a new pack of playing cards to share and to sell. Although playing cards were hand-made at the time, they were very popular and still highly sought after.
In Europe, the idea of a portable, simple and amusing game became a reality. With the introduction of the Gutenberg printing presses in 1440, playing cards were made more easily accessible to everyone. Cards were, in essence, the first “trend” in popular culture that we now know.
While there isn’t a definitive record of the “card games” played in those days, scientists believe that they had similar rules to the current game. These card games may have been very familiar to us even 600 years ago!
The Imagery of Playing Cards
The best thing about playing cards are their amazing variety. There have been thousands of variations over the years in terms of color, figures, characters, scenes and even social intents.
At different times in their history, playing cards were considered to be “fine art”, socially critical, humorous, informative, and even hilarious. Playing cards reflect the cultures that they were made from. This explains why the suits and face cards are so popular!
How Suits came to be
As mentioned above, playing cards allowed you to reflect on your culture and maybe even spread it to others.
Because they were lightweight and could be carried anywhere, playing cards were a popular choice for soldiers. The first Europeans to come into contact with playing card were also familiar with four suits: Chalice, Sword Money, Money, and Baton.
This did not work in France, Spain, Germany and England, which were some of the first countries to introduce playing card.
Germanic countries changed the suits to Hearts. Acorns. Bells. Leaves. England and France went with Hearts. Spades. Diamonds. Clubs are the suits most people know. These cards became “French playing card” and included the three face cards (jack/knave/queen/lady, king, and king).
These basic elements are common in modern playing cards. However, there are many exceptions. Different sizes are available for Swiss, German, Spanish and Italian card games.
While it is nice to have different card sizes, what is the reason for the 52-card standard deck?
Why are there 52 cards available?
Although there are many theories, none can be proved correct. The four colors represent the seasons and the 52 maps the 52 weeks.
The 13 cards in each suit represent the 13 lunar cycles. This belief is possible, as the Arab world was very skilled in astronomy. It may also have been a standard for everyone to understand.
Despite this, the wide variety of suits, deck sizes and face cards available around the globe will continue to make playing cards more popular.