Differences In Cards Across The World

George | January 18, 2018

Think of a deck of playing cards. It’s almost certain that what you pictured was a deck of 52 cards, with spades, clubs, hearts and diamonds. While this is by far and away the most common deck, the one you’ll have a pack of in your kitchen and online at places like casino.paddypower.com. You might be surprised to hear that depending on where you are a deck of cards could consist of anywhere from 36 to 78 cards and most feature completely different imagery on them. Some aren’t even rectangular! So, if you’re curious, read on and see what the cards look like in different parts of the world!

French-suited pack

French FlagThis is the name for the deck you’ll be most familiar with. Born in France, the familiar Hearts, Spades, Diamonds and Clubs are known the world over even in countries that use their own local designs. Interestingly, this deck is what cemented the queen as a firm staple of playing cards as most decks at the time had King, Knight and Knave. The face cards are also intended to correlate with figures from myth and history, did you know the Jack of Clubs is intended to represent Lancelot? But, this is the deck you know, so let’s talk about some of the more interesting ones.

Italian-suited pack

The cards here may still sound familiar as the Italian Decks have influenced another major selection of cards. See, in traditional Italian Decks you get four suits, Sword, Coins, Wands and Cups, which are all the suits of the minor arcana in Tarot decks! The Tarot decks were used to playing different games with a second set of cards to form a different means of landing trumps which boosted the total number of cards in a deck to 78. These same suits are used in Spanish Decks, but Spanish decks don’t contain a ten meaning they have 48 cards total. Which may sound low, but just wait until we get to the next country.

German-suited pack

The German suits have one in common with the French deck, the Heart. But after that the suits get increasingly esoteric, with acorn, leaves and bells being the remainder. It’s possible that the Leaf suit influenced the Spade symbol of the French deck as it looks rather leaf-y compared to the sword it’s named after. This deck also contains just 32 cards which makes it rather difficult to play non-Germanic games with them. Some Italian manufacturers started producing 40 card variants for the Southern Tyrol region so they could have cards that looked the part but keep playing Italian games.

Ganjifa and Mahjong

Ganjifa CardsThis may be stretching how you define a card as neither of these games use printed paper as a means to play. Ganjifa, from India, uses flat discs with a whole selection of symbols on them and plays much like a trick taking game with suits similar to the Italian Deck (as this is where it initially came from). Mahjong is perhaps better known and is still incredibly popular in China and other Asian countries, with a very similar set up with numbered tiles in ‘suits’ but they have three suits from 1-9 called Dots, Bamboo and Characters and a number of Trumps in a series of 4. Because of how similar it is to play, even though the cards are clearly tiles, Mahjong is probably the most unique example of a deck of cards.