Playing Cards, Decks, Rules and Suits

Playing Cards, Decks, Rules and SuitsUnderstanding the deck of cards and how card games are started and played is the first step to exploring new card games for two or more players.

Learning the rules of a card game will come easier if the terminology is learned first. There are some variations on terms from country to country or from game to game, but for the most part, card game terminology is universal in the English language.

Playing Card Deck Basics

A deck is the word for the set of cards, in its original form. Most card games played in the U.S. and English speaking countries use a “standard” 52-card deck. Brand new decks contain between two and four jokers which are optional cards in some games.

Many times a joker will be “wild” or they are considered a “wild card”, meaning that it can take the place of any card in play; this varies according to the rules of the game.

Playing Cards and Suits

A deck of playing cards come in a variety of face values. The numbered cards are numbered from two through ten, and the “face cards” are Jack (J), Queen (Q), King (K). There is also a card called the “Ace”, which is depicted by the letter A. This card can, when played in numerical succession, be valued as the lowest card in the deck or the highest. In numerical order, the cards are: A, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, J, Q, K.

There are four of each value of card in each deck – one of each suit – equaling 52 cards in all, excluding Jokers. The suits are divided into two red colored suits and two black suits. The red suits are hearts and diamonds and the black colored suits are clubs and spades. So in each deck, each card from A through K has one of each suit. There are no duplicate cards in a deck, only one of each card in each suit.

Terminology for the Start of Card Games

Before each card game is started the cards are “shuffled”. This requires mixing the cards up in random order in such a way that none of the players knows any card’s position in the deck. Once the shuffle is complete, very often someone is asked to “cut” the cards. Cutting the cards simply means that the person takes the deck in their hand, removes some of the cards from the top of the deck and places them on the bottom. This can be done with as many cards as the player chooses, but must be done with no one seeing what the cards are.

Once the cards are prepared, the “dealer” then “deals” the cards to each player, if that is what is required in the rules of the particular game – some games do not require dealing. This is accomplished by giving one card to each player, usually face down, in successive order until everyone has a card, then repeating the process until everyone has the necessary amount of cards.

At this point, in some games, the deck is turned over, face down, onto the middle of the playing surface and becomes the “pick-up pile” and one is placed face up next to it which becomes the start of the “discard pile”. The pick-up pile, also called the draw, stock, talon, or widow, is the area from which any future cards are taken or “drawn” from for players to use in their hands and the discard pile is the place to put unwanted cards when a player is done with his turn. These piles are not used in all card games but are very common in games such as 500 Rummy, Crazy Eights and Sergeant Major.