What’s inside a deck of playing cards?
How many cards, 52 or 54? How many spades, clubs, diamonds, hearts in a deck?
A standard deck of playing cards contains 52 cards with four suits. Each suit (hearts, clubs, diamonds, spades) has 13 cards: an ace (1), 2-10 numbered, Jack, King, and Queen. In our deck Club of Queens, our queens trump kings, but you can re-order them however you like 🙂
Our deck is 54-card, with two Jokers to allow you to play games that require them, like euchre, Poker, Gin Rummy, Canasta, Crazy Eights, and Go Fish.
What does each card look like?
Each of our aces has one beautiful queer cutie on it. As the cards increase in number, more join the scene until you have 10 cuties living their best life!
How to play our favourite one-deck card games:
We asked our community to tell us their favorite games, and here are the results!
Shithead (AKA Palace) - from Rory, the artist himself!
For up to four players with one deck.
Shuffle and deal to all players: three cards face-down, three cards face-up on top of the face-down ones, and three cards into the hand (not visible to the other players). The remaining cards in the deck go face-down on the table.
The goal is to play all your cards: first the cards in your hand, then the ones on the table face-up, then the ones face-down. You must always have three cards in your hand: you must replace the cards you play from the deck. When the deck is gone, you choose replacement card(s) from your face-up cards, and when those are out, your face-down ones (without seeing it first!).
Whoever has a 3 plays first. If no one has a 3, then the next highest card(s). You can play multiples at the same time. The first player starts a new discard pile by putting their card(s) face-up on the table.
Going clockwise, players place one or more cards on the discard pile with the same or higher value. If you can’t play a higher card, you must pick up the whole discard pile, and the following player gets to play any card they like.
You can play a 2 anytime to “reset” the count. Playing a 10 “burns” the discard pile, taking it out of play, as does when all four cards of one type played consecutively. A new discard pile is then started by the next player with whatever card they like.
You can make the game harder by assigning more rules to different cards: reverse the count, skip a turn, burn the pile, etc.
The winner is the first person to lay all their cards, and the last person to lay down their cards is… the
Euchre - thanks, Aunty K!
For four players: two teams of two, sitting across from each other. Put the 2-8s away for this game, you’ll only need the nines, tens, jacks, queens, kings, and aces from one deck.
The game is played in rounds of five “tricks”; your goal is to score the highest points as a team.
Dealer? I hardly know her! Choose who deals each round by pulling cards; the highest value decides the dealer.
Shuffle and deal each player five cards: first two together, then the last three all at once. Place the remaining four cards down on the table. Dealer flips the top card over; this card’s suit is the potential “trump suit”.
Deciding on the trump card is important: you want the suit hierarchy to give you the best hand in that round. Going clockwise from left of the dealer, players have the option to accept or decline on the potential trump suit. If no one accepts it, the player to the left of the dealer chooses the trump suit (from the other three suits). If they refuse to choose, re-shuffle the cards and re-do with them as the new dealer.
When a trump suit is accepted, the dealer adds that card to their hand and discards another one from their hand. If you’re the dealer, discard something low value to strengthen your own hand. Once a player accepts a trump card for the round, they must decide if they want to “go alone” or play with their partner. Your hand must be really strong if you choose to have your partner sit out the round!
“Maker” teams who have accepted a trump card gain 1 point by winning 3 or more tricks in a round, and 2 points by winning all 5 tricks in the round. A “maker” who plays alone gets 4 points for winning all five tricks in the round. “Defenders”, the other team, gain 2 points from winning 3 or more tricks in a round. Rounds are played until a team wins by reaching 10 points (or 7 if you’re impatient).
The card value order is usually, from low to high: nine, ten, jack, queen, king. But the jacks get special treatment: the jack of the trump suit becomes the highest ranking card, and the jack of the same color (black or red) becomes the second-highest ranking card. You have our permission to overthrow that patriarchy and put the Queen on top, if you’d prefer ;)
The player to the left of the dealer starts the trick by choosing a card; the suit of that card becomes the “lead suit”. Players must play their cards in that suit, unless they don’t have any cards in that suit, and then they can play any card. Continue play clockwise until each player has put down a card. The team with the highest value card wins that trick. Continue playing tricks until you are out of cards in your hand.
Spoons - my own personal favourite!
If musical chairs was a card game! For 3-12 players (I recommend at least six!) with one 52-card deck (Jokers not needed) and spoons… one fewer than the number of people playing.
The goal of the game is to grab a spoon from the middle of the table. You can only grab a spoon if you have four of a kind in your hand, or if you have seen someone else take a spoon. The player who ends the round without grabbing a spoon is out; rounds continue until there is one winner remaining.
To set up, spread out your spoons in the middle of the table and deal four cards to each player. Place the rest of the deck face-down. It’s fast but you’ll get the hang of it: everyone hands one cards to the player on your left at the same time. The dealer pulls their card from the deck, and the player to their right puts their cards into the discard pile.
Keep playing the round until someone gets four-of-a-kind and grabs a spoon, or until the last person notices that they don’t have a spoon!
I can't not add our own kid’s game to this list... it’s also so much fun! It’s similar to playing Quartet or Go Fish - full instructions here.
More information about playing cards
Since when have there been playing cards? And where do playing cards come from?
We learned from our book report on A History Of Playing Cards that playing cards have basically been around since paper was invented! People in 700/800 AD India most likely wanted to make chess more portable. What we know now as playing cards were probably first created in the 1420s, when printing presses made the paper medium much more accessible as a way to celebrate courts and popes, educate and proselytise, tell fortunes, and play with friends, etc.
How are playing cards produced?
In our case - Polar Embassy is a Berlin-based games publishing house. We worked an incredible local artist to design our 54-card deck of playing cards. He gave each suit a cheeky queer archetype: the clubs are in clubwear, the diamonds are in drag, the spades are in leather, and the hearts are naked! Stay tuned (here on Instagram) for Halloween 2024, we’ll have a costume contest based on the characters in the deck!
Our cards are made in Austria! We work with our printing partner in Melk, Austria to produce the cards. Paper and inks sourced within Europe (and 100% biodegradable without residue or harmful chemicals!) are used to print our playing cards with 100% renewable energy sources. We have a video of our production here:
How thick are playing cards? What are the dimensions of a deck?
Each deck will be slightly different - it totally depends on the paper used and any treatments applied to the surface. Our cards are about 0,29mm thick, and the whole deck in its box is 62 x 93 x 20 mm.
How do I design my own deck of playing cards? Or get my card game printed?
If you want to create your own card games, or have a concept that you want to get printed, pitch us! We're always looking for more great games to publish. We specifically invite trans* and non-binary Black, Indigenous, and People of Color to reach out to us here.
If you have any other questions, we’d love to hear from you! We’re happy to add to this list. 🙂