What Makes Ace Cards So Special

As we all know, a standard deck of cards has cards across different ranks and suits. The total number of ranks is 13 in number, with numbers 2 to 10, Jack, Queen, King and Ace.

Out of all these different ranks, it is obvious that the ace cards have a special place in the deck. A player’s eyes light up the moment he sees three aces in hand. In fact, such is the importance of the ace card that the English language (along with many other languages) have a number of phrases and idioms that mention ace cards. Before we go further, let’s look at some of them. 

How ‘Ace’ is used in everyday conversations 

The word ‘ace’ is defined in the dictionary as a verb as follows ‘to do exceptionally well in something, especially an exam or other high-pressure situation.’.

Generally, the word is used to describe the best of something.

In tennis, ‘ace’ refers to a serve that the opponent fails to touch.

Idioms

  • To have an ace up one’s sleeve – to keep a crucial argument or advantage, often something that cannot be countered.
  • To be aces with – to be on great terms with
  • To ace something – to win something
  • To come within an ace of – to come within a narrow distance of something

Role of Ace cards in playing card games

The ace cards have a lot of unique attributes that make them special. 

  • Ace cards are the highest ranked cards in most card games. A set of three aces is generally the highest combination. Even the run Q, K, A is the highest run in any card game. 
  • Ace cards can also become the lowest card in the deck. Remember that a deck does not have a number 1 card, and the ace card fulfills that role as well. A combination like A, 2, 3 is therefore valid and acceptable.
  • Ace cards are versatile. The same game can have an Ace used as a high card in one combination and as a low card in another combination.
  • Ace cards when used as high cards have a value of 15. When used as low cards they have a value of 1.

Ace cards in history

In some decks, the ace of spades is designed very differently compared to the aces of other suits. There is some interesting history behind this.

The ace of spades became the de facto highest card in the pack after King James I and later Queen Anne made a law mandating the ace of spades to bear a stamp of the printing house. This was done to ensure the card manufacturer paid his taxes (hence the term stamp duty).

Many different methods were used to show the payment of taxes, including the stamping of the ace of spades.

This led to a tradition of the ace of spades getting stamped with the manufacturer’s name. Even today, the ace of spades is generally the most ornate card of the pack.

The ace of spades, due to its status as the highest card, also began being used as a military symbol during World War II. 

During the Vietnam war, American soldiers would leave ace of spade cards behind on the dead bodies of the enemy.

Even in Iraq as recently as 2003, playing cards used to bear images of the Iraqi regime’s leaders, with Saddam Hussein’s face on the ace of spades.

 

Fascinating, isn’t it?