Playing cards are the ubiquitous tools of the gambling trade. They are found in casinos, private salons and in living rooms all over the world.
Cards are the focal point of dozens of popular casino games - right here at Springbok Casino and in the gaming salons that populate the diverse gambling destinations in Las Vegas, Macau, Atlantic City and Vladivostok!
Without these ordinary pieces of cardboard with their colours, symbols and numbers there’d be no blackjack, pontoon, poker, rummy or literally hundreds of other games that rely on the cards - and the cards alone - to determine who wins and who loses ZAR!
Earliest Origins Estimated to be Around 836 AD
As you’ve probably guessed playing cards have been around for a very long time. The Imperial dynasties of China, the Mameluke Empire of Egypt and the sophisticated kingdoms of the Middle East are all recognised as early card playing civilisations. Folk in these territories were getting their wagers away long before the birth of Christ.
At first, playing cards were made and painstakingly decorated by hand. Decks were valuable and super expensive packs of gambling paraphernalia that only the wealthy and well connected in Chinese, Middle Eastern and European society could afford.
From Elitist to Egalitarian
Clever inventions quickly changed all that. With the advent of paper, wood cuts, stencils and the printing press the process of printing playing cards was mechanised.
Within a relatively short period of time playing cards went from elitist to egalitarian. Soon the ‘common people’ in Peking, Cairo, Paris and London were playing card-based casino games… just like emperors, moguls and kings!
In Europe playing card games became so popular that strict regulations were introduced in Paris to keep unruly players under control.
Across the channel in England the powers that be cleverly recognised the viral quality of card-inspired casino games. Instead of restricting gaming they levied punitive taxes on the sale of playing cards instead. The collected revenue was used to fund local skirmishes and lavish private life styles.
What’s arguably more interesting about this form of taxation is that the British Crown only abolished taxes on playing card sales in 1960!
Unpacking the Deck
Before you click, bet and play your favourite casino games at Springbok Casino spare a thought for the clever clogs who came up with the idea of a 52-card deck. Why is a deck of playing cards structured as it is? Let’s take a quick look and see.
Although no-one is absolutely certain as to the origin of the 52-card deck, some theorists believe it is based on the tenets of astronomy.
According to this particular theory the 52 cards in a deck represent the 52 weeks in a year, the four suits denote the four seasons and the 13 cards in each suit embody the 13 lunar cycles. Add all the points in a deck of cards together and you’ll get 365, a figure that correlates perfectly with the days in a year. Coincidence? I think not!
Suit Marks Differ According to Geography
What do the suit marks symbolise? The standard decks of cards you’ll use to play online casino games at Springbok Casino are the British and American version. Long before the spades, diamond, hearts and clubs we’re so used to appeared on cards, there were countless combinations of symbols unique to different countries.
The earliest suit marks were goblets, gold coins, swords and polo sticks, imagery that symbolised elements of 14th century Egypt. These suit marks are still used on Italian and Spanish decks of cards today. The only exception is polo sticks which have been replaced by staves or batons.
Acorns, hearts, leaves and bells are the prevailing symbols on German playing cards. In France the images you’ll have to match or combine to win money wagering on casino games are paving tiles, hearts, pike heads and clovers.
Who Features on the Face Cards?
With the exception of the aces, the face or royal cards have the highest value in almost all casino games. The King outranks the Queen who outranks the Jack or Knave - but who do the images on these cards personify?
In the earliest times the face cards not only featured royalty they featured academics, artists, politicians and other prominent people of the day. Playing cards reflected the popular culture of a specific era or epoch… and it wasn’t always positive. Sometimes rogues and scoundrels were given pride of place on the cards!
On the court cards we are familiar with, the Kings denote proper kings, the Queens represent prominent female personalities from the bible and the Jacks symbolise heroic knights of history and mythology:
- King of diamonds - Julius Caesar
- King of hearts - King Charles VII
- King of clubs - Alexander the Great
- King of spades - King David of Israel and Judah
- Queen of diamonds - Rachel wife of Jacob in the Bible
- Queen of hearts – Judith as in the Book of Judith in the Old Testament
- Queen of clubs - Argine an anagram of Regina; Latin for Queen
- Queen of spades - Pallas the wife of Herod the Great
- Jack of diamonds - Hector a Trojan prince
- Jack of hearts - La Hire the comrade in arms to Joan of Arc
- Jack of clubs - Lancelot a Knight of the Round Table in Arthurian legend
- Jack of spades - Ogier the Dane a Knight of Charlemagne
How Do Casinos Manage the Cards?
Casinos have strict rules that dictate how the cards used in casino games are introduced, managed and retired. What casinos definitely do not want is for players to identify certain cards from marks or blemishes and then use that information to their advantage.
Firstly land-based casinos only use playing cards manufactured from plastic. They last longer and are more difficult to mark. Nonetheless the average pack of cards is usually retired after about 10 to 12 hours of use. If there is any sign of wear or tear the pack is discarded immediately.
To ensure old decks are not re-introduced into play, they are punched or clipped and re-sold at the casino’s memorabilia store.
Before a new deck is introduced into play it is shuffled and spread out on a table. The cards are individually inspected for scuff marks or flaws by the pit boss and the dealer.
If both parties are happy with the quality of the cards the deck is re-shuffled and signed off by the pit boss. No wonder it’s impossible to beat the house edge when playing casino games at the Bellagio, Golden Nugget or MGM Grand!
At Springbok Casino all the action is powered by random number generator software instead - it’s a quick, clean and fool proof method of managing the cards online!