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Final Answers
© 2000-2016   Gérard P. Michon, Ph.D.

 Spades Hearts Clubs Diamonds

Playing Cards

The game isn't about holding good cards,
but playing poor hands very well.
 border  border
 Bachet Square

On this site, see also:

 Gerard Michon's Coat-of-Arms

Collectors, Enthusiasts, Museums :

International Playing-Card Society (open questions)   |   Æclectic Tarot
DXPO Playing Cards  by  Miriam van Houten  &  Joop Muller  (Netherlands)
The World of Playing Cards  (UK)   |   Alta Carta: Artistic Tarots
Cards without Traditional Suits  by  Andy Pollett.   |   Joker Collectors
Collectors Playing Cards  by  Peter Way  (UK).
Musée français de la carte à jouer  (French Museum of Playing Cards)
16, rue Auguste Gervais   /   92130  Issy-les-Moulineaux  (France)
Elliott Avedon Museum and Archive of Games  (University of Waterloo)
200 University Avenue West   /   Waterloo, Ontario, Canada N2L 3G1

Card Masters, Manufacturers, Publishers, Creators :
( longest history first )

Dal NegroTreviso, Italy (1756).  Bought by the  Dal Negro  family in 1928.
Piatnik, Vienna.  Anton Moser (1824), Ferdinand Piatnik (1843), Piatnik & Söhne (1882).
CartamundiBased in Turnhout, Belgium.  Formed in 1970 as a joint venture, from the cardmaking activities of  Brepols (1826), Van Genechten (1869) and Biermans (1875).
France-Cartes :   B.P. Grimaud (1848),  La Ducale,  Héron (1946), J.C. Dusserre (1978).
Naipes Heraclio Fournier.   Vitoria, Spain  (1868).  Owned by USPC since 1986.
Modiano,  Trieste,  Italy  (1884).
USPC :   Bicycle (1885), Bee, KEM, Hoyle, Aviator, Congress, Maverick, Streamline.
[ Bulldog Squeezers, dated 1877, formed the dead man's hand on 1876-08-02 ]
Copag,  São Paulo, Brazil (1908).
Gemaco Playing Card Company,  Blue Springs,  Missouri  (1965).
U.S. Games Systems, Inc. (1968, Stamford, CT)
Kuo Kau Paper Products Company.   Taiwan  (1979).  Royal & Queen brands.
Desjgn ("J Design")  by Jason Hawley  (Paisley, Culture, Victoria). [fr]
Heritage Playing Card Company, UK.  Founded in 1992.
Dan and Dave.  Founded by  Dan & Dave Buck  in 2001.
Theory 11 & Ellusionist:  Creators of special decks, manufactured by USPC.
House of Playing Cards  (HOPC).  Home of the  Mechanic Deck  (2012).
Denexa, Norman, Oklahoma.  Founded by  Scott Nazelrod  in 2012.
Expert Playing Card Co. NY.  Founded in 2013 by  Bill Kalush  (CARC).

Custom Playing Cards :

Playing Card Printers (UK)  |  Ivory Graphics (UK, 1994)
TMcards.com  |  CPC  |  Your Playing Cards  |  MPC
Bicycle & Zazzle  |  The Game Crafter

Retailers :

Le Comptoir des Jeux, Chantilly (France)   |   Cartes-Production (France)
Géoludie (France)   |   Playing Cards Only (UK)

Wikipedia :   Card games  |  Playing cards  |  Suits  |  Tarot  |  French tarot  |  Trick-taking games
Standard 52-card deck  |  Transformation playing card  |  Spielkarte (German)  |  Carte à jouer (French)

Videos :

How Bicycle® Playing Cards are Made
How It's Made:  Cartamundi Playing Cards
10 Favorite Decks (for magic)   |   Bicycle® Prestige
Damage test of acetate cards:  Modiano vs. Dal Negro.
Jack of Clubs

Playing Cards

(2013-06-26)   A Short History of Cards

The first playing cards appeared in China, when paper started to be used in sheets and books, rather than rolls.

In 868, the  Collection of Miscellanea at Duyang  (by E Su)  says that the favorite daughter of  Emperor Yizong of the Tang dynasty,  Princess Tongchang,  would play the game of  leaves  (yeh-tzâ)  with members of the family of her powerful husband  (Wei Baoheng).
In 1120, an official memo proposed a standardization of the popular card game of "Heavens and Nines" (T'ien-kiu)  using a type of playing cards known as  dotted cards  (teen tsze pae).  The  fallacious legend  that those cards were invented at that date to amuse the numerous concubines of Emperor  Huizong  (of the  Song dynasty)  was properly debunked by  W.H. Wilkinson (1895)  and others.

Marco Polo The legend that European explorers of the 13th and 14th century  (starting with Marco Polo)  brought playing cards from the Orient to Venice is dubious at best.  So are the reports that  Bertrand du Guesclin (1320-1380)  discovered them in Italy  "in 1350",  during the  Hundred Years' War.

In 1371, the Catalan word  naip  was used to describe a playing card  (the Spanish spelling is  naipe).  According to  Michael Dummett (1925-2011)  that's the earliest extant European reference to playing-cards.

Cards became really popular in Europe around 1377,  at which time they attracted the attention of religious and civil authorities  (until then, dice  were the sole gaming enemy).  In 1377, a gaming statute was passed in Florence to regulate the "recently introduced" game of  naibbe.

Playing cards were first letter-pressed by  Thomas de la Rue  (1793-1866)  in 1832, imitating wood-block style.  The British company he founded in 1821  (DeLaRue)  is now the World's largest producer of security papers.  Its  playing-card operations  were sold to  John Waddington in 1969.

Chinese Origin of Playing Cards  by  W.H. Wilkinson   (1895)
The Introduction of Playing-Cards to Europe   |   Early Prohibitions of Playing Cards

(2013-06-10)   Shapes and Sizes of Playing Cards
Rounded corners where introduced in 1858,  by  Baptiste-Paul  Grimaud.

A rounding radius  R  at the four corners reduces the card's surface area by  (4-p) R2  with respect to the unrounded rectangular area.

Most commonly used cornering radii  [ R ]
HandtoolSize R
/ mm
/ cm2
Nipper 5/64''1.9843750.034
2 mm2
Nipper 1/8''3.1750.087
3 mm30.077
Corner Rounder
5 mm50.215
Industrial 5/16''7.93750.541
8 mm80.549
Corner Rounder
10 mm100.858

The most commonly encountered commercial sizes of playing cards are tabulated below, together with rarely-used  standard  "B" sizes  (ISO 216).

Also included, for good measure, are the series of  Archimedes  and  Fibonacci  sizes, which are only of theoretical interest at this time  (with the possible exception of the  62.5 by 100 mm  format, which is very close to the 62 by 100 size of some novelty decks by Cartamundi).

Cards of more than  105  square centimeters are considered  oversized.  Conversely,  the surface area of  miniature  cards is less  than  35 cm2.

 Oversized , Regular and  Miniature  Card Sizes   (rounded corners of radius R)
Designation Aspect
W x L   [R]
/ mm
/ mm
/ cm2
Placemat 29/2010'' x 14.5'' 254368.3 
Hexadecapoker 7/510'' x 14'' 254355.6 
Hexadecuple Ö2B4 250353.6 
Hexadecabridge14/9 9'' x 14'' 228.6355.6 
Mega [1 | 2] Ö2A4 210.2297.3 
Giant7/5   200280 
Octuplelong10/7 7'' x 10'' 177.8254 
ISO Ö2B5 176.8250 
short19/14 7'' x 9.5'' 177.8241.3 
 9/7 7'' x 9'' 177.8228.6 
Tetrapoker (jumbo)7/5 5'' x 7'' 127177.8 
Quadruple Ö2B6 125176.8 
Tetrafibonacci fmetric 116.5188.5 
Tetrabridge14/9 4.5'' x 7'' 114.3177.8 
Big Tarot26/15 3.75'' x 6.5'' 95.25165.1 
 3/2 4'' x 6'' 101.6152.4 
Big Fibonacci144/89 metric, R=8 mm 89144127.61
Doublelong10/7 3.5'' x 5'' 88.9127 
ISO Ö2B7 88.4125 
short19/14 3.5'' x 4.75'' 88.9120.65 
13/8metric, R=8 mm 80130103.45
8/53.125'' x 5'' 79.375127 
21/13metric, R=8 mm 7812697.73
5/33'' x 5'' 76.2127 
Tarot19/112.75'' x 4.75'' 69.85120.65 
12/7metric, R=8 mm 7012083.45
Large 17/123'' x 4.25'' 76.2107.95 
Archimedes Tarotp/2metric 67.8106.5 
French Tarot23/12  59113 
34/21metric, R=5 mm 6310264.06
Bolzano, Naples 16/92.25'' x 4'' 57.15101.6 
Spanish14/9  6195 
Poker7/52.5'' x 3.5'' 63.588.9 
ISO Ö2B8 62.588.4 
Fibonaccifmetric 58.2594.25 
Archimedesp/2 58.7692.3 
Skat17/11  5991 
WSOP30/19  5790 
Bridge14/92.25'' x 3.5'' 57.1588.9 
Small Fibonacci89/55metric 5589 
ItalianNorthern2Width = 2'' 50.8101.6 
French14/9Width = 2 pouces 54.1484.2245.59
ItalianSardinia7/4Width = 2'' 50.888.9 
Sicily 13/850.882.55 
Milan 21/10Length = 3.5'' 42.3388.9 
Little Archimedesp/2metric 45.271 
Little Fibonacci144/89 44.572 
Patience3/2 1.75'' x 2.625'' 44.4566.675 
Half long 10/71.75'' x 2.5''     44.4563.5 
ISO Ö2B9 44.262.5 
short 9/71.75'' x 2.25''     44.4557.15 
Slice / Skinny  metric3088 
Mini 3/2metric4060 
1.5'' x 2.25''38.157.15 
4/31.5'' x 2''38.150.8 
QuarterPoker 7/51.25'' x 1.75'' 31.7544.45 
ISO Ö2B10 31.2544.2 
Bridge 14/91.125'' x 1.75'' 28.57544.45 

When  specifications  are stated, the above dimensions are  nominal  or  ideal.  Otherwise, they're simply  measurements  from a commercial deck.

Units of Length   |   Paper sizes   |   Playing card sizes   |   Custom cards (UK)   |   The Game Crafter

(2013-06-16)   How Playing Cards are Made
Two layers of paper  (with dark glue)  or 100% plastic.

For maximum opacity playing cards are made from two layers of paper, bonded with  black glue.  After printing, a plastic finish is applied which determines the  feel  of the cards  (and establishes the reputation of a brand).

The latest trend is to eliminate paper entirely and produce "100% plastic" cards made from either PVC or cellulose acetate  (the later is heralded as feeling more like paper).  The better brands apply the same plastic finish to their plastic cards as they do to their paper ones.

Before industrialization, French cards were obtained by using traditional glue  (flour and amidon cooked together)  to bind three layers of paper:

  • Papier cartier :  For the backsides, free from identifying defects.
  • Main-brune :  Low-grade paper, providing thickness and opacity.
  • Papier au pot :  Supplied by the taxing authorities, for card fronts.

18-th Century Card-Making  (Encyclopedia of Diderot & D'Alembert)   |   Pochoir tradition
How paper cards are made (videos) :   Paper   |   Bicycle®   |   Cartamundi

(2013-05-21)   The Four Suits   (French:  Enseignes  or  Couleurs )
The modern designations came from ancient ones, tied to social classes.

The modern names and designs  (spades, hearts, diamonds, clubs)  in two colors  (black and red)  were introduced in France around 1480.  They are still known as  French suits.  They were competing with the  Latin suits  (swords, cups, coins and staves)  and the  German suits  (leaves, hearts, bells and acorns)  of which the  Swiss suits  were a major variant  (shields, roses, bells and acorns).

Despite the prevailing political animosity between France and England at the time, the French suits eventually spread all over Europe, because they greatly simplified the printing of playing cards  (the Latin and German suits were printed in full colors).

German leaves
Cups, chalices
Swiss 6-lobe roses
Coins, money
Deniers, pièces,

disks, pentacles
German bells
massues, gourdins

staves, rods
German acorns
Second estate
First estate
Merchants, craftsmen
Urban third estate
Rural third estate
Fire  (or Air)WaterEarthAir  (or Fire)

In recent years, the traditional German suits were mostly favored by  East-Germans.  Shortly after reunification  (in the 1990's)  a compromise was adopted for the official decks of  Skat  tournaments, which now have the French-design suits of West-Germany with the traditional East-German colors  (the spades are green and the diamonds yellow, as reminders of the  leaves  and  bells, respectively).

The game of  Tarot  features trump cards that do not belong to any suit.

Trump cards make trick-taking card games more interesting but dedicated ones increase the size of a deck  (cost considerations were not insignificant in the old days).  Some of the best card games  (bridge, belote, skat)  are based on the idea that one of the four regular suits could be used as trumps after a preliminary negotiation stage  (bidding, enchères)  once the players have received their cards.  This idea was introduced in the game Ombre

Suits   |   Minor Arcana

(2013-05-26)   Court Card  &  Face Cards  (or  figures )
If  there are only 3 face cards per suit, aces are considered court cards.

Originally, the highest-ranking cards in a suit were the  four  face cards:  king, queen, knight and jack.  Aces were the lowest-ranking members of a suit.  This remains true in tarot decks.

At least one modern tarot deck  (The Alchemical Tarot  by  Robert M. Place)  has two female figures in the court:  King, Queen, Knight and Lady.

For tarot packs, the locutions  court cards  and  face cards  are synonymous.  In decks containing only three face cards per suit, however, the aces are normally considered to rank above the king and they belong to the  court.  Thus, there are always four court cards.

In most decks with three face-cards, the missing face card is usually one of the two  knaves  (the remaining one is dubbed  jack  in modern English).

German Decks :

Traditional German decks have no queens;  the three figures are male:

A crown identifies the king  (K for  König ).  Next is the cavalier, riding a horse, called  Ober  (O).  Last is the so-called  Unter  (U or B for  Bube ).

Modern German decks follow the international tradition by retaining the king  (K)  the queen  (D for  Dame)  and only one knave, called  Bube  or  Bauer (B)  sometimes also known as  Junge  or  Wenzel.

The first card ladies were French :

The earliest extant record of female card figures dates back to  1392,  when the painter  Jacquemin Gringnonneur  delivered to Charles VI three decks he had been commissioned for.  In those decks, the cavaliers were replaced by queens.  This was before the invention of the tarot deck, which has  both  cavaliers and queens.  The royal treasurer, Jacques Poupart, paid Gringnonneur 56 sols parisi for his work.  This was apparently all it took to set the French pattern of 3 court cards which is dominant today.

Bachet squares (of the four courts)

 52-card deck
(2013-05-27)   52-card Deck
The Mameluke deck (c. 1370)
begat the modern English
packs for Bridge and Poker.

The oldest full 52-card deck was identified  in November 1983, by an Amsterdam dealer who got it in 1978 for less than  $3000.  Those large oval cards were manufactured in Flanders between 1470 and 1479  (probably in Lille, modern-day France)  from paper made before 1450.  The deck has three figures  (Kings, Queens, Knaves)  all hand-painted in three-quarter pofiles.  The four suits have a  hunting  theme:

  • Red hunting  horns.
  • Blue hound  tethers.
  • Blue game  nooses.
  • Red dog  collars.

Sotheby's  of London  sold this full deck for $143,000,  on 1983-12-06,  to  The Metropolitan Museum of Art.  It's part of their  Cloisters Collection.

Flemish Hunting Deck   |   The World’s Oldest Full Deck Of Playing Cards  by  Megan Willett  (2015-01-26).
Whist (1728)   |   Nain jaune (1760)   |   Poker (1829, 20 cards)   |   Contract bridge (1925)
Blackjack   |   Baccarat (chemin-de-fer)   |   Trente et Quarante

(2013-05-19)   Suits & Trumps :   The Tarot deck of 78 cards.
Four suits of 14 cards each,  21 numbered trumps and the fool.

In each suit, the four  court carts  (or  figures )  are:  King, queen, cavalier (or knight) and jack (or page).

Some Famous Tarot Decks
Visconti-SforzaBonifacio Bembo c. 1425
Tarot de Charles VI   (unrelated to Charles VI)Bologna 
Sola-BuscaNicola di maestro AntonioN. Italy1491
Tarot de Marseille
Jean NobletParisc. 1650
Jacques ViévilleParisc. 1650
Jean DodalLyon1701
Tarot de BruxellesNicolas BodetBrussels 
Tarot de MarseilleNicolas ConverMarseilles1760
Tarot d'EpinalFrançois GeorginEpinal1830
Rider-Waite Pamela Colman Smith 1909

 Come back later, we're
 still working on this one...

Tarotpedia   |   Le Palais du Tarot
Tarot d'Epinal  by François Georgin, 1801-1863  (Imagerie Pellerin, 1830.  J.B. Grimaud, 1990)
Tarot Microscopique (B. Dondorf, 1870)
Tarot Arista by J.M. Simon  (J.B. Grimaud, 1964, 1999)
Printable Tarot Cards  by  Marcia

(2013-05-22)   The Major Arcana  (c. 1440)
What occultists call the 21 numbered trumps and the fool.

The trumps in the  tarot deck  are a European invention inspired by the works of the Italian poet  Petrarch (1304-1374)  who started writing  I Trionfi  after 1352  (his manuscript was printed posthumouly in Rome, in 1471).  Petrarch's  triumphs  (that's where the word  trumps  come from)  include the triumph of Chastity over Love and Love over Mankind.  Eternity triumphs over Time, Time over Fame, Fame over Death, Death over Life.  The charade was pseudo-knowledge that was probably commonplace when the tarot was designed.  It served as little more than a graphic mnemonic.  With the passage of time, the legend faded away but the cards remained, acquiring an aura of mystery which was never meant...

20JugementAngel, JudgementXX
16Maison-Dieu, FoudreTowerXVI
13(La Mort)DeathXIII
12PenduHanged manXII
10Roue de la FortuneWheel of FortuneX
5Pape, BacchusHierophant, PopeV
2PapesseHigh PriestessII
1BateleurMagician, JugglerI
0Mat, Fol, Fou, ExcuseFool, Jester, Joker *

The other 56 cards  (Minor Arcana)  are divided into  4  suits  (swords, cups, coins and staves)  each with  4  court cardsking, queen, knight and knave.

House of Valois (2013-05-30)   French Names of Court Cards   (c. 1460)
Joan of Arc  lives on, thinly disguised, in French decks of cards.
Un étendard blanc semé de lys, avec un monde entre deux anges.

In Europe then, news spread apace and unlettered folk got to know,
in some strange way, the doings of camps and courts.

Virginia Frohlick  about  Joan of Arc 

It's been exactly 582 years since the infamous day  (May 30, 1431)  when a teenager was burned at the stake for witchcraft, because she heard voices and answered their call.  She had led armies into battle on horseback and secured the throne of the French king, at  the beginning of the end  of the  Hundred Years' War  (1337-1453).  She was Joan of Arc, she is  Queen of Spades.

Playing cards appeared in France around 1377, a few months before  Charles VI, le fol, would begin his 42-year reign at age 11.  The court cards would receive their formal names toward the end of the reign of his disinherited son, Charles VII (1403-1461)  who was mocked as  le petit roi de Bourges  until his grand coronation in  Reims  (1429)  which was brought about by the fabulous efforts of  Joan of Arc, La Hire, Xaintrailles et al.

La Hire
The dominant card game of the era was  Piquet.  A dubious legend attributes that game to the knight who gave his name to the jack of hearts, LaHire, Etienne de Vignolles (1390-1443)  nicknamed  La Hire-Dieu  (the Wrath of God)  by friends and foes alike.
In Constant Leber's compilation  (1838)  the  Père  Daniel construes the rules and strategies of piquet to be reminiscent of the reversals of fortunes during the  Hundred Years' War.  Daniel also claims that Hector, the jack of diamonds, stood for  Hector de Galard,  although Jean-Baptiste Bullet (1699-1775)  had already positively identified the jack of diamond as the Homeric hero  Hector of Troy, one of the nine worthies  (a list of 9 all-time heroes, made in 1312, which remained quite popular for about three centuries).

Jeanne d'Arc  (Joan of Arc)  lives on as the queen of spades,  dame de pique  or,  appropriately,  Lady of Swords.  The printed name is  Pallas  (Athena, the celibate goddess of war)  a phonetic anagram for  pucelle  (the virgin)  Jeanne's popular nickname  (used in her ennoblement decree of 1429).

The names still printed on modern French  32-card decks  form a riddle which would have been easy to decode in 15th-century France.  The playing cards were the tabloids of that era and the names of the celebrities were thinly disguised with anagrams  (Argine = Regina = the reigning queen)  or phonetic inversions  (Pallas = Pucelle = Joan of Arc, dame d'épée).

Naming three of the kings after legendary rulers certainly flattered the fourth, the reigning king  Charles VII,  king of cups.  The popular interpretation of  Charles  as  Charlemagne  (742-814)  probably came only much later  (that made the 4 card kings belong to the  Nine Worthies).

The four ladies are directly connected to  Charles VII.  They are respectively his mother, his wife, his official mistress and finally, last but not least, the aforementioned  lady of swords  (Pallas = Pucelle = Virgin)  who helped secure his throne:  Joan of Arc,  burned at the stake at the age of 19  (1431)  after a year of incarceration and a rigged trial.  She was innocented posthumously in 1450 and fully rehabilitated by the Church in 1455.

Cross of Lorraine
Cross of Lorraine bearing the arms of
Joan of Arc.   © 2012, Gordon Napier
  Arms of Joan of Arc  Jeanne d'Arc  (1412-1431)  was ennobled by Charles VII in December 1429.  In an unprecedented move, the king granted nobility and tax-exempt status to Jeanne's entire family  (her father Jacques, her mother Isabeau, her three brothers Jacquemin, Jean & Pierre)  and all their descendants through the male and female lines  (this was partly revoked in 1614).  Her family would then use the noble name  "du Lys"  (now "Dulys").
Jeanne d'Arc was beatified in 1909 and canonized in 1920.  She's now one of the five patron saints of France.  The others are:  Saint Denis  (3rd century)  Saint Martin de Tours  (316-397)  Saint Louis  (king Louis IX, 1214-1270)  and  Sainte Thérèse de Lisieux  (1873-1897).
During WWII, Charles de Gaulle (1890-1970) used a famous symbol linked to Jeanne d'Arc,  the  Cross of Lorraine,  as the symbol of Free France against nazi occupation.  (Jeanne herself only sported a white bocassin banner, semy of lys Or, an orb between two angels, next to the words  Jhesus Maria.)

 Signature of Joan of Arc I had a banner of white bocassin, fringed with silk.
The field was sprinkled with lilies,
with an orb painted between two angels.
On the side was written, I believe, "JHESUS MARIA".

Jeanne d'Arc, at her trial  (1431)

The French Court Cards
Spades David
2nd King of Israel
(c. 1040-970 BC)
Pallas (Athena/Minerva)
"Pucelle" Joan of Arc
Hogier (not "the Dane")
"Hoshe'a" Joshua
(c. 1500-1390 BC)
Hearts Charles (pop. Charlemagne)
Charles VII
Judith ("de Bavière")
Isabeau de Bavière
Etienne de Vignolles
Diamonds César
Julius Caesar
(100-44 BC)
"Ragnelle" Agnès Sorel
Hector (pop. "of Troy")
de Galard de Brassac
Clubs Alexandre
Alexander the Great
(356-323 BC)
Argine (pop. Elizabeth 1)
"Regina" Marie of Anjou
Lancelot (pop."du Lac")
Judas Maccabeus
(c. 200-160 BC)

 Bec de corbin  Hector de Galard belonged to the court of Charles VII and was the founding captain, in 1474, of the  Grande Garde, an elite military unit of 100 knights formed by  Louis XI  (son, foe and successor of Charles VII)  for the protection of the king  (nicknamed  gentilshommes à bec-corbin,  because of their weapon of choice).

Galard's identification with the jack of diamonds isn't nearly as firmly established as the identification with the jack of hearts of  La Hire  (Etienne de Vignolles)  the most prominent military leader in the campaigns of  Joan of Arc,  who died  pauvre et glorieux  at Montauban on January 12, 1443.

Actually,  Hector  was almost certainly intended to be  Hector of Troy,  one of the so-called Nine Worthies  (les neufs preux)  who had been singled out by Jacques de Longuyon (1312) as personifying the medieval ideals of chivalry.  That popular list goes a long way toward explaining how the male names of the court cards were chosen, about 150 years later.

The Nine Worthies  (les neufs preux)  after  Jacques de Longuyon (1312)
3  Pagans3  Jews3  Christians
Hector of TroyJoshua, son of NunKing Arthur
Alexander the GreatKing DavidCharlemagne
Julius CaesarJudas MaccabeusGodefroy de Bouillon

Hogier, the jack of spades, was thus meant to be  Hoshe'a, son of Nun  (whom Moses called Joshua, cf. Numbers 13:16).  The identification to Ogier the Dane isn't supported by anything, except similar spelling ! Jack of Clubs

The Last Court Card :   Valet de Trèfle

The jack of clubs is now dubbed  Lancelot.

It was originally dedicated to  Judas Maccabeus, another one of the nine worthies, but the name of  Judas  was supposedly omitted because of the embarrassing homonymy with  Judas Iscariot,  the betrayor of Christ  (in French, "Judas" is a common synonym of "traitor").

French card masters would sign their names on the jack of clubs or put their marks on the shield carried by that jack.  In the 1600s, one of them didn't print anything distinctive on his jack of clubs.  Strangely, he became known by the standard inscription he put on the jack of  diamonds :  Ector de Trois.

When card makers started to sign one of the aces instead, it was natural to give a new name to the jack of clubs.  An obvious choice was the most famous of all knights:  The fictitious  Lancelot du Lac,  chief knight of King Arthur's  Round Table,  lover of Queen Guinevere  (Guenièvre)  and seeker of the Holy Grail.  This very popular character was first introduced by  Chrétien de Troyes  in the romance of  "Lancelot, le chevalier à la charrette"  (c. 1172).

Personnages des jeux de cartes (French)   |   Le nom des cartes (French)
King   |   Queen   |   Jack   |   Courts on playing cards  by  David Madore.
Jean Poton de Xaintrailles  (c. 1390-1461)   |   Jacques Cœur  (c. 1395-1456)
Joan of Arc's Military Household  by  Jean-Claude Colrat.   |   The Leopards and the Lilies  (Heraldry Unlimited)
Goodtime Charley  (Broadway musical, 1975)   |   Jeu Jehanne d'Arc et Charles VII  (J.C. Dusserre, 1978)

(2013-05-29)   Jokers   (1857)
The 25th card in Euchre / Jucker was called  best bower.

Although traditional card games are played without jokers, virtually no modern  52-card deck  is sold without at least one extra  joker  card  (usually two, sometimes four).

Jokers are primarily used for casual poker games, which are always played with a 52-card deck.

 Earliest Joker

In the old game of  Jucker  from  Alsace,  the two most powerful cards are two jacks of the same color  (called  Juker,  regionally, or  Bauer  in German).  When that game was exported to the United States, its name was distorted to  Euchre  and  Bauer  became  Bower  (both spellings approximate the German pronunciations).  The game was originally played with a  deck of 24 cards  (it still is).  An American innovation was to introduce one extra card, called  best bower  that would take either bower...  This became known as  the Jucker card.  The  joker  was born.

The first joker was made for the  London Club Park  deck, published in 1857 by  Samuel Hart  (New-York).

The  joker  can also be construed as a descendant of the ancient  fool  from the tarot deck  (which plays a key rôle in the tarot game, as one of only three  oudlers ).  In most games the  joker  plays the same rôle as that original  fool  (a  wild card  that can take the place of any other card, as the need arises).

The first French joker :

Jokers were only officially allowed into French decks in 1902,  at which time the illustrator Henri Bellery-Desfontaines (1867-1909)  designed the first French joker for a deck published by  Fossorier Amar et Cie,  supposedly as a portrait of the  "royal dwarf"  Haincelin Coq  (also spelled  Hainselin).  Every detail in the picture (below) seems  wrong :  Coq's costume was mostly green with some red elements.  The  bonnet à grelots  ( fool's cap  with bells)  wasn't worn by court jesters before the end of the 15-th century.  Finally, the cunning look seems to betray an intelligence which, alas, Haincelin Coq didn't possess at all...

Haincelin Coq  Haincelin Coq was fool to  Charles VI, the mad,  for most of his disastrous 42-year reign  (1380-1422).  Coq once tore his clothes into shreds while leaping and dancing before the king.  His trademark garment was a green  bastard houppelande  which became known as  haincelin  after him  (green was the color of court jesters).  He wore out an inordinate number of shoes  (the record shows that he received 47 pairs in 1404).  Haincelin Coq was cared for by a  varlet  (Jehan Faucon  in 1387,  Jacquet Coiffar  in 1404, Perron Ducreux  in 1407).
Hainselin Coq became fool to  Charles VI  in 1383  (Grand Jehan, who had been the future king's personal fool since 1374, had died in 1382).  Coq was probably a young child at the time, dim and difformed.  He survived Charles VI.

Joker (Wikipedia)   |   Joker  by  Victor Mauger  (New-York, 1875)   |   Origin of Jokers  by  Tomasz Czapla
Jeanne et le feu  by  Matei Visniec  (theatrical play, 2007).  Jesters of all courts "create" Joan of Arc.

An international network of joker collectors exists, with cross-linked amateur websites displaying private collections and/or offering duplicates for trade.  Dozens of such sites are online, as of June 2013, including:

Belgium :   Jean Bastin   |   Pascal Detroz   |   Jacques Giele   |   Henri Fondaire   |   Ive Theuwissen   |   François van Dijck   |   Gino Vaneeckhoutte   |   Johny van Landeghem
Canada :   Greg Beaudin       France :   Patrice Blin   |   Charles Flint
Germany :   Werner Prix       Israel :   Arthur Idisis
Italy :   Guiness World Record (2009)  Donato "Tony" de Santis ammassed 8520 different jokers, as of 2009.
Tony built upon a collection of about 2000 inherited in 1999 from his mentor, Fernando Riccardi.
Japan :   Tadahiko Norieda
Netherlands :   Miriam & Joop   |   Roel van Dongen (1953-)   |   Piet Douben   |   Emile Kiderlen   |   Jelle Sietsma   |   Jo van Asselt   |   Aad Veltenaar   |   Huub Wolters
Poland :   Aleksander Wodyñski   |   "Szlemik" Andrzej Szponar   |   "Charlie" Tomasz Czapla (1973-)
Russia :   Alexander Sukhorukov   |   Evgeny Grigorenko   |   Andrey Romanovskiy
Turkey :   Sezgi Dersan       UK :   Tony Cook       US :   Pat Moire   |   Steven (groujo)

(2013-06-05)   48-card  aluette  deck, lacking the 10   (c. 1530)
The mimicks of  Aluette  are tied to Latin suits and traditional designs.  Two of Cups

Nowadays, packs of Mexican origin are commonly sold as Spanish decks of  "50 cards"  (48 cards plus two modern jokers, called comodines)  in the proper Latin suits  (called  espadas, copas, oros, bastos)  but without the popular symbolism associated to the game of  Aluette,  which seems to have been limited to the west coast of France  (mostly, from cardmakers located in the regional capital of Nantes).

 Come back later, we're
 still working on this one...

Aluette (jeu de la vache)

(2013-06-02)   40-card  Baraja Española  lacking 8,9 & 10.
Ombre and the introduction of  bidding  for trumps.

 Come back later, we're
 still working on this one...

Baraja Española   |   Ombre (Hombre)   |   Quadrille
Mus (Basque game)   |   Scopa (Naples, XIV)   |   Ronda (Morocco)   |   Truc (Catalonia)

(2013-06-10)   36-card  Jasskarten,  lacking 2,3,4,5.

 Come back later, we're
 still working on this one...

Jass (Schieber, Krüzjass)

(2013-05-27)   32-card  piquet  deck, lacking  2,3,4,5,6.
The  French deck is used for many popular games.

 Come back later, we're
 still working on this one...

War (Bataille)   |   Piquet   |   Belote   |   Manille   |   Ecarté   |   Skat   |   Marjolet
Double deck, 64 cards :   Two-handed Bezique / Bésigue (French)
Four decks, 128 cards :   Four-handed besique, Haitian bésigue (132 cards, including 4 jokers)
Six decks, 192 cards :   Chinese bésigue, as practiced by  Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

(2013-06-18)   Skat, the quintessential 3-player card game.
Created in  Altenburg  around 1815,  it's now part of German culture.

To this day, part of the economy and cultural identity of Altenburg revolves around Skat.  The city is known far and wide as  Skat's town  ( Skatstadt ).

Three players play the game, using a 32-card deck.

The dealer deals  "3-skat-4-3"  clockwise after shuffling the deck.  That's to say, he first gives 3 cards to the player to his left, 3 cards to the third player, 3 cards to himself and discards 2 cards  (the  Skat )  in the middle of the table.  He then serves a round of 4 cards and a final round of 3 cards, so everyone has 10 cards at the beginning of the bidding.

The 2 cards of the Skat will belong to the winner of the auction, the declarer, who will play  10 tricks  against the other two, aiming either to win most trick points or none at all  (the latter applies when a  Null  game is declared).

The player who wins the auction by biding the highest number chooses the type of play and the trump color, if any  (the 4 jacks are the highest trumps, except in a  null  game).  He then plays against the other two for a score computed according to his  12  cards  (10 original cards plus the Skat ).

Jacks and trumps held Skat Chosen Trump Suit
Clubs Spades Hearts Diamonds A10KQ987 Kreuz Bube Grand Clubs Spades Hearts Diamonds
2 1110430 241211109
Yes No            mit 12 4824222018
No Yes            ohne 1
Yes Yes No          mit 23 7236333027
No No Yes          ohne 2
Yes Yes Yes No         mit 34 9648444036
No No No Yes         ohne 3
Yes Yes Yes Yes No        mit 4 5  12060555045
No No No No Yes        ohne 4
Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No       mit 5 6  14472666054
No No No No No Yes       ohne 5
Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No      mit 67 16884777063
No No No No No No Yes      ohne 6
Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No mit 1011 26413212111099
No No No No No No No No No No Yes ohne 10
Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes mit 1112 288144132120108
No No No No No No No No No No No ohne 11
  13 312156143130117
14 336168154140126
15 360180165150135
16 384192176160144
Null = 23    Null Hand = 35    Null Ouvert = 46    Null Hand Ouvert = 59
In a null game (only) the order is  A,K,Q,J,10,9,8,7.  Suits break ties, as always.

The base value for a  Grand  game  (where only jacks are trumps)  was 20, instead of 24, until 1932.  Some older amateurs still use the original value.

The largest possible score would be  384  for  Grand (24) mit 11 (12) Hand, Schwarz, Ouvert (+4).

 Come back later, we're
 still working on this one...

Skat   |   A027887
In German :   International Skat Players Association (ISPA)   |   skat.com   |   skat.org

(2013-06-02)   24-card Deck(s)
Euchre, Sixty-Six and Pinochle.

 Come back later, we're
 still working on this one...

Euchre   |   Sixty-six
Double deck, 48 cards :   American Pinochle

(2013-05-25)   Happy Families   (John Jaques II, 1851)
Deck of 44 cards.  Eleven families  (father, mother, son, daughter).

The game was launched by  Jaques & Sons  at the  Great Exhibition  of 1851.  The 4 cards in every family are labeled after the pattern:

  • Mr. Pots, the Painter.
  • Mrs. Pots, the Painter's Wife.
  • Master Pots, the Painter's Son.
  • Miss Pots, the Painter's Daughter.

Mr. Block, the barber The 11 original families were:

  • Block, the Barber
  • Bones, the Butcher
  • Bun, the Baker
  • Bung, the Brewer
  • Chip, the Carpenter
  • Dip, the Dyer
  • Dose, the Doctor
  • Grits, the Grocer
  • Mug, the Milkman
  • Pots, the Painter
  • Soot, the Sweep

Besides the funny names tied to the professions,  the initial appeal of the game was due in no small part to the 44 caricatures by John Tenniel (1820-1914) the chief cartoonist for Punch.  The deck underwent many minor revisions,  starting with the replacement of "Mug, the Milkman" by "Tape, the Taylor" (before 1880).

The game can also be played with a regular deck.  There are two main variants; the first one is normally played with a full deck  (52 cards, 13 families)  and the second one with lesser decks, including the 44 cards of traditional specialized  Happy Families  decks:

  • Go Fish!   Hunting for a whole family:  "Do you have any kings?"
  • Quartets   Hunting for a card:  "Do you have the king of clubs?"

Merchandising vs. Education :

Modern merchandisers often shortchange unsuspecting parents by peddling smaller decks of only eight families  (32 cards)  based on the latest craze.  On outter packages, there's no hint of the swindle, which is made even easier by the lack of proper labelling on traditional 44-card decks.

Another unfortunate trend is the substitution of codes  (A1, A2, A3, A3, B1, B2, etc.)  for the words that formerly identified each card.  The lack of formal sentences during the game is a definite loss for younger players...

Conversely, although they tend to be pricey, I recommend the luxury educational decks of 48 cards  (12 families)  that forgo codes and patterns entirely:  Each oversized card  (70 mm by 120 mm)  illustrates a topic and quotes the titles of the three cards it forms a "family" with.

Jaques of London   |   Happy Families (Wikipedia)   |   Jaques' Happy Families (1851)
De La Rue's Cheery Families (c. 1890) designed by  Richard Doyle (1824-1883).

(2013-05-25)   Sept Familles   (André Gill, 1876)
Jeu des sept familles.  French deck of 42 cards; 7 families of 6 cards.
 Potard, le pharmacien

The 42-card deck is composed of seven numbered families of six people.  Various names have been assigned to the 6 members of each family:

  • 1876:  Père, Mère, Fils, Fille,
    Valet, Cuisinière.
  • 1890:  Aïeul, Aïeule,
    Père, Mère, Fils, Fille.
  • Traditional:  Grand-père, Grand-mère,
    Père, Mère, Fils, Fille.
  • Modern:  Papy, Mamie,
    Papa, Maman, Grand frère, Petite sœur.

 Le Lapin Agile  In 1875, a few months before he put together the first  jeu des sept familles  the famous caricaturist André Gill painted a famous sign, of a rabbit  (lapin)  jumping out of a saucepan, for a cabaret in Montmartre which became known as  Le lapin à Gill  (Gill's Rabbit)  then  Le lapin agile  (The Nimble Rabbit).  It was notoriously patronized by struggling artists and writers before they achieved great fame, including Courteline, Max Jacob, Marcel Proust, Apollinaire, Modigliani, Renoir, Utrillo and Picasso.  The cabaret was bought by Aristide Bruant in 1903 and remains a quaint Parisian attraction.

André Gill (1876)   |   Mauclair-Dacier (c. 1890)
8 familles d'aujourd'hui  (politically correct version, 2012)

(2013-05-24)   French  Mille Bornes  boardless game   (Dujardin, 1954)
106 cards of 4 types  (18 attaques, 38 parades, 4 bottes, 46 étapes).

Over 10 million of these automobile-themed games have been sold.

3Panne d'essence6Essence 1Citerne
3Crevaison6Roue de secours 1Increvable
3Accident6Reparation 1As du volant
4Limite de vitesse6Fin de limite 1Véhicule
5Feu rouge14Feu vert


Under the pen name of  Edmond Dujardin,  the deaf Frenchman Arthur Dujardin  (19??-1964 was a publisher of driving-school material.  In 1949, he received a  Concours Lépine  silver medal  for designing a board game around an automobile theme, called  L'Autoroute.

Building on that first success, Dujardin went on to design the megaseller  Mille Bornes  in 1954, inspired by the Touring  game of William Janson Roche  (1906)  with the key addition of safety cards and  coup-fourré  play.  200

The standard graphics of the  1000 bornes  cards date back to 1960 and are due to the graphist  Joseph Le Callennec  (1905-1988).  They appear on a bilingual edition introduced internationally in 1962.  About  200 000  Mille Bornes  decks are sold every year.

 La Pie qui Chante  A player is only allowed to play the highest distance denomination  (200 km)  once per game.  On the corresponding card  (above right)  Le Callennec  drew a swallow which is discreetly reminiscent of the famous logo he had revamped for  La Pie qui Chante  candies  ("Singing Magpie" at left).

Arthur "Edmond" Dujardin applied for a British patent on November 30, 1961  (GB963821-A, dated 1964-07-15).  Curiously, that patent doesn't describe the classical 106-cards deck but an augmented pack of 112 cards, featuring two "ace of the wheel" cards  (instead of one)  and a new category of five "precedence cards" entailing bonus points and the privilege to draw twice, except when another player reveals a higher-ranking precedence card...  Most cards shown in the patent are just black-and-white versions of  Le Callennec's  artwork  (1960).  However, the five additional cards are in a different style  (Fig. 16-20 on the British patent) :

 Patent GB-963821-A
300 points200 points 150 points100 points50 points    

That version was apparently never published.  In the end, the extra feature may have been too intricate  (even if the number of bonus points had been printed on the new cards).  Note that  112 cards  is a magic number using industry-standard printing equipment, as it corresponds to two  standard plates of 56 cards  (8 by 7).

Product homepage (in French)   |   History of related games (in French)  by  Christian Deryck.
Wikipedia   |   1000 Bornes  in Codex 99  (2009-05-21)
Mille Bornes:  A trip through memory lane  by  K. David Ladage.
US Patent 836537 for "Touring" game, issued to  William Janson Roche  (1906).

Brian Kieffer  (2011-06-17)   Marsha Falco's  SET® cards  (1974)
What's the probability of having no valid "set" among  9  random cards?

The modern  SET®  playing cards form an 81-card deck with a regular ternary structure, used to play a totally new species of games.  It's also a good pretext to practice some challenging  combinatorial calculus.

 SET Game (Logo)  The  SET® cards were invented in 1974  by the Cambridge  population geneticist  Marsha J. Falco  who drew her inspiration from the visual filing system she had invented for herself  (in the course of her investigation of the hereditary causes of epilepsy in German sheperds).  She copyrighted the game in 1988.  Since 1991, SET decks have been published by  Set Entreprises, a family business now owned and operated by  Colette Falco,  daughter of Marsha and Robert Falco.

Each card is uniquely identified by the four following 3-valued attributes.  The  81-card  deck covers all possibilities once and only once  (81 = 3).

  • Number :  one, two or three (identical) symbols.
  • Shape :  squiggles, diamonds or ovals.
  • Color :  red, green or purple.
  • Shading :  solid, striped or open  (a.k.a. "empty").

By definition, a  valid set  consists of 3 cards which, for every attribute, have either identical values or pairwise distinct ones.  To put it in a nutshell, three cards do  not  form a  "set"  when  "two are of one kind and the third isn't".

 Example of a valid SET of 3 cards.

For any pair of cards, there's one and only one  third card  that will form a  valid set  (since only one value of each attribute isn't ruled out).   [ DEMO ]

Thus, a  valid set  is determined by two of its cards in three different ways.  So, there are  C(81,2)/3 = 1080  distinct  valid sets.

Unless  n = 3,  we can't use this approach to analyze the generalized game that uses a deck of  nk  cards bearing  k  attributes having  n  possible values.  Instead, we count  ordered  SETs  directly  (there are  n!  of those per SET):

Every  ordered  SET  corresponds uniquely to  k  sequences chosen among  (n! + n)  possibilities  (namely,  n!  permutations and  n  constant sequences, assuming  n > 1)  except that a choice of a constant sequence for  all  attributes at once is disallowed  (that woukd yield  n  identical cards).  All told, the number of  n-SETs  [ consisting of  n  cards bearing separate attributes that are either all alike or all different ]  is thus equal to:

[ (n! + n) k - nk ] / n!

The probability that a hand of  n  cards forms a  SET  is equal to that integer divided by the total number of possible hands, namely  C(nk, n).

Probability  Pn,k (m)  of at least one SET among  m  cards :

  •   Pn,k (m)   is zero 0   when  m < n.
  •   Pn,k (n)  =  [ (n! + n) k - nk ]  /  [ n! C(nk, n) ]   is tabulated next.
  •   Pn,k (m)   is challenging to compute when  m > n.  See below.

Probability that  n  cards with  k  (n-valued)  attributes form a  SET
Pn,k (n) n = 2n = 3n = 4n = 5
k = 1 1111
k = 2 11 / 78 / 45513 / 5313
k = 3 11 / 2519 / 1323721 / 302621
k = 4 11 / 7980 / 546227313 / 120320613
k = 5 11 / 2412801 / 177310271521 / 5071628121
k = 6 11 / 7276536 / 38121588057813 / 1906250203113
k 11 / (3k-2) (7k-1) / (4k-1)(4k-2)(4k-3) (5k+1) / (5k-2)(5k-3)(5k-4)

The classical  SET®  game  (n=3, k=4)  corresponds to the highlighted entry in the above table.  The simple formula at the bottom of the column  n=3  confirms our previous remark that, with 3-valued attributes, any pair of cards is turned into a SET by one and only one of the remaining cards.

To design actual cards with  k = 5 or 6  attributes with  n = 3,  we could add one or two independent features at the borders of standard SET cards:  Borders encoding 5th and 6th attribute

  • Edge :  dark, light or white.
  • Corner :  angle, square or round.

However, that would probably make the game too difficult to play because of the large size of the decks  (243 or 729 cards)  and the great number of cards that will typically be drawn before a SET is found...  On the other hand, k=2  (9 cards)  is too simple to be interesting.  Only k=4 and k=3 are actually played  (the latter mostly by beginners who use one third of a standard SET deck, like the 27 red cards or the 27 solid ones).

With n = 3, two distinct SETs can have at most one card in common.  So, if a hand of  m = 4  cards contains a SET, it contains only one and is uniquely determined by the juxtaposition of a SET and one other card  (if k > 1):

P3,k (4)   =   [ (3! + 3) k - 3k ] C(3k-3, 1)  /  [ 3! C(3k, 4) ]   =   4 / (3k-2)

4 cards yield  C(4,3) = 4  mutually exclusive  opportunities to form a SET.

With  m = 5 cards, the similar enumeration of choosing a SET and a pair would count twice the hands consisting of two SETs sharing one card.  Every such combination is obtained in  4  distinct ways by choosing one SET, one of the  3  cards in that set, one random card and the final card that makes a SET with the chosen card and the random one.  By inclusion-exclusion:

P3,k (5)   =   {C(3k-3, 2) - 3(3k-3)/4 }  [(3! + 3) k - 3k ] / [ 3! C(3k,5)]

With  m = 6 cards, let's first count the number of configurations that consist of two disjoint SETs.  This is equal to the number of pairs of SETs minus the previously enumerated number of such pairs that share one card, namely:

{ ½ [(9k-3k)/6 - 1 ]  - 3(3k-3)/4 }  (9k-3k) / 6   =   (3k-7)(3k-3)(9k-3k) / 72

As usual, the simplicity of that result suggests a better enumeration:  We may obtain two disjoint SETs in  2x3! = 12  different ways as follows:  Choose a SET and any other fourth card.  As fifth card, only 3 cards from the rest of the pack are disallowed  (as they would form a SET with the fourth card and one of the other three).  The sixth card must be the one that forms a SET with the fourth and fifth one.  Done.

Now, a hand of 6 cards may also consist of 3 SETs that share a card pairwise.  Each such hand can be obtained in 3 different ways by choosing a SET, two cards in that SET and one random card outside the SET  (the two remaining cards are those which form a SET with that card and either of the two previous choices).  Alternatively, as every pair of the 3 shared cards determines one unshared card, there are as many of those special 6-card hands as there are combinations of 3 cards that do not form a SET, namely:

1/3 C(3,2)(3k-3) (9k-3k)/6   =   C(3k, 3) - (9k-3k)/6   =   (3k-3)(9k-3k)/6
 4 SETs with 6 different cards are not possible.

It's impossible to have 4 SETs with 6 cards  (every card being in 2 SETs)  because, in the only possible configuration at right  (where SETs are represented by aligned nodes)  two nodes of the same color must have the same value for  every  attribute  (fun to prove).  Thus, only  identical  cards could be placed at two such nodes, which is ruled out with a single deck.

So, by inclusion-exclusion, we obtain the following expression for P3,k (6):

{C(3k-3, 3) - 3(3k-3)(3k-5)/4 - (3k-7)(3k-3)/12 + (3k-3)} (9k-3k) / [ 3! C(3k,6)]

Probability that  m  cards with  k  (3-valued)  attributes contain a  SET
P3,k (m) m = 3m = 4m = 5m = 6
k = 1 1-- -
k = 2 1 / 74 / 711
k = 3 1 / 254 / 2543 / 115806 / 1265
k = 4 1 / 794 / 79755 / 608327395 / 115577
k = 5 1 / 2414 / 2412375 / 5759979570 / 979183
k = 6 1 / 7274 / 7271447 / 105415521287 / 19080115
5 (2 . 3k-11)
20 (9k - 14 . 3k + 52)

With only two attributes  (a deck of 9 cards)  the above shows that there's always a SET in a hand of 5 cards.  That result belongs to Ramsey theory.

Least number (m) of k-attribute cards among which a SET is unavoidable
m35102143 ?86 ?

Wikipedia :   Set Game   |   Set Enterprises
Solving the game SET®   by  Master Baboon / Dr. Pietro Berkes   (2010-09-15)
The card game SET   by  Benjamin Lent Davis  &  Diane MacLagan
Four daily SET puzzles from the New-York Times

(2015-02-24)   Standard numbering of a  SET® deck.
Based on the  new deck order  from the manufacturer.

Fresh from the factory, SET games come in two packs of cards ordered in a specific way.  The following numbering reflects that order.

  • Shape weight:   SQUIGGLE = 0,   DIAMOND = 3,   OVAL = 6.
  • Color weight:   PURPLE = 0,   GREEN = 9,   RED = 18.
  • Shade weight:   SOLID = 0,   STRIPED = 27,   OPEN = 54.

To obtain the  new deck number  of a card, add the weights of its various attributes to the number of objects on it.  This gives you a number from 1 to 81  (if you'd rather number such things from 0 to 80, either subtract 1 from that total or assign a score from 0 to 2 to the number of objects).

 Example of a valid SET of 3 cards.
Card 26
Card 56
Card 41

A new deck comes in two separate packs:  A small pack with cards 1 to 27 in that order  (namely, single solid purple squiggle face up on top and triple solid red oval at the bottom). The rest of them  (cards 28 to 81)  are in the second pack  (single striped purple squiggle face up on top, and triple open red oval at the bottom).

For the record, on top of the big pack is a card with the coordinates of Set Enterprises, Inc. (with instructions to obtain a replacement card on the reverse).  The publicity card on top of the small deck advertises 6 games starting with traditional SET. 

The packaging might gives some weak clue that the manufacturer originally intended the large pack to be "first"  (they put it in the left compartment of the box when the publicity cards are right-side up).  However, far more importantly, their advice is to play only with solid cards when a reduced deck of 27 is desired  (for geginners and/or young children).  That's why it's best to assign numbers 1-27 to the "solid" pack  (this gives compatible numbers to the reduced pack and the full deck).

(2015-03-01)   Zener Cards   (ESP cards)
Five symbols:   Round (1),  cross (2),  waves (3),  square (4),  star (5).

 Colored Zener Cards

The five cards pictured above were designed in the early 1930s by the psychologist  Karl Zener  (1903-1964)  to help in parapsychological investigations by  J.B. Rhine  of  extrasensory perception  (clairvoyance or telepathy).  Only the black-and-white version was ever widely used.

A standard Zener deck consists of 25 black-and-white Zener cards  (5 copies of each).  The person to be tested is supposed to guess the cards face-down  (clairvoyance)  or while someone else looks at them  (telepathy).  Any statistically-significant deviation from a success rate of  20%  would be meaningful  (counting either the overall hit rate or the rate for each type of card  called,  since the rate for each type of card  presented  is very easily biased by personal preferences).  No such thing has ever been observed under controlled conditions where all forms of cheating and/or  sensory leakage  are ruled out.  (E.g.,  card counting, stacked deck, marked cards, reflections off the glasses/eyes of the examiner, etc.)

If anything, the use of such cards has now become a joke.  Marked decks of Zener cards may well be more common than honest ones!

Wikipedia :   Parapsychology   |   Zener cards   |   J.B. Rhine (1895-1980)   |   Karl Zener (1903-1964)

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