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The Kings of Poker

The Kings of Poker


We have all played with a regular deck of playing cards. Fifty-two cards in total, divided into four suits of thirteen cards each. Clubs, hearts, spades, and diamonds. Each suit starts with an ace and ends with a king. Ace, two, three, four… to ten, and then jack, queen and king. The ace doubles up as a precursor to two, as well as a post-cursor to the king. Thus, being the lowest and the highest card in a suit.

Any child who has ever held a deck of cards can tell you that. But can he also tell you that the kings have an entire story to tell about themselves? The kings in a deck of playing cards are no ordinary kings. They are representative of four legendary kings in the history of mankind. And even God-kind in a way. Each king represents a king that we have all read about. But we have never paid any attention to them, have we? As long as we get a king or a pair of kings as our hole (starting) cards, we’re happy to play the hand and bet and raise as well. We ignore the deeper meaning behind those four cards.


The History

Now the history of playing cards is weird. The game originated in China around a millennia after the death of Christ. However, the cards were not organized into suits. The insertion of King in playing cards can be credited to either Persia or India. Thereafter, the cards went to Europe, where they were played for a few centuries before France laid claim to the Kings. 


The French organized the playing cards into four decks of thirteen cards each, and gave representation to each King. The patriarchal society did not care much about the queens of course. The jacks were earlier called knights or knaves. The French laid claim to the kings. However, only one of the kings was French. 


The Four Kings

The four kings in a regular deck of playing cards represent:

Hearts: King Charlemagne (747-814 AD)

King of France and the first Holy Roman Emperor

Clubs: Emperor Alexander the Great (356 - 323 BC)

King of Macedonia.

Diamonds:  King Julius Caesar (101 - 44 BC)

Roman dictator. Et tu Brute fame. 

Spades: King David (1000 BC - Jesus knows)

King of Israel, The Old Testament



Thereafter, the cards traveled North, into England, where the Kings lost their importance. We believe that the reason was that none of the Kings in the deck of cards are British. And the haughty English wouldn’t want that, would they?

At that time, the Kings were not printed in both directions, but only one. Further, each European country had a unique design. This was the 14th to the 17th century. There was a need for standardisation, and the French classification was used. However, in the early 19th Century, the classification became obsolete, as the French revolutionaries did not like the usage of French monarch on the cards. Although the kings still signify the above mentioned Kings, the classification has died out. But they shall always be the Kings of poker. 

The Suicide King

Now that we have spoken about all the kings in a deck of cards, this blog cannot end without mentioning The Suicide King.

If you have ever gotten an opportunity to go through a deck of cards from a few centuries back, you may have noticed The Suicide King. Now the modern deck of cards, as mentioned above, was made by the French. The English copied the same,  but a tad bit crudely. So, where King Charlemagne was supposed to be brandishing an axe behind him, the English made it look like a sword. The axe-head was completely hidden behind the king, making him appear with a stick behind him. This later became the sword, due to ‘Chinese whisper’. Now the King of Hearts seems to be stabbing himself in the head with a sword!

 


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