Wednesday, September 17, 2014

French Deck: The Popularity of the 52-card Deck

The bulk majority of on-land and online casinos today use the standard 52-card deck, commonly referred to as the French deck. This set of cards includes thirteen ranks of each of the four French suits (clubs, diamonds, hearts, and spades) with reversible court cards (King, Queen, and Jack)—hence, the number “52” not including Joker cards. Each suit includes an Ace which is depicted by a single symbol of its suit, the court cards represented by a symbol of their suit, and the numerical ranks (two through 10) each allocated to the four symbols of their suit.

The 52-card deck has been used for decades (even centuries) for the mathematical role it plays in numerous card games, particularly in terms of shuffling. It is unusual, if not impossible, for a single game session to shuffle cards and have two sets result in identical order of the cards. The 52-piece set is ideal for many games as it is neither too small nor too big of a number, suggesting an ample and enjoyable play time at the table (that is, not too few to finish a game early or not too numerous to extend the game for longer hours). The deck is especially perfect for popular games like standard poker, blackjack, and baccarat.

The most recognizable cards in the 52-card deck are the 12 court cards, in which three of them (Jack of Spades, Jack of Hearts, and King of Diamonds) are “one-eyed” or were drawn in profile. The exact origin of these cards is not clear but there are speculations and theories of who they represented in the past. The Queen of Hearts, for example, is believed to be a representation of Elizabeth of York. Charlemagne is also touted to be the inspiration of the King of Hearts while Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, and King David (biblical) were the pegs of the King of Diamonds, Clubs, and Spades, respectively. The Jacks, which are normally considered the lowest-ranking card among the court cards, have no known exact representations although Ogier the Dane, La Hire, Hector, and Lancelot were commonly attributed with the symbol.

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