The Suicide King (and Other Card Nicknames)

The Suicide King and Other Card Nicknames

Playing cards have a rich history spanning hundreds of years. This has given us enough time to come up with sayings and nicknames for practically every card in the deck. There’s the Suicide King, the Axe-Man and the notorious Ace of Spades – and, anyone heard of the Beer Card? Here’s a little delve into some cool card superstitions.

King of Hearts

The King of Hearts is sometimes also referred to as The Suicide King. Of course, it might have something to do with the fact that he is the only royal in the deck who appears to be killing himself – horribly, and with swords. There are many stories about why, but the most common one seems to be due to a misprint: originally, he was holding an axe, but the printing errors eradicated part of the axe, making it look like the sword was straight through.

Sometimes, the King of Hearts is identified with Charlemagne.

And if you noticed anything about his moustache, his lack thereof is also attributed by many to a printing error.

King of Diamonds

In modern card decks, the King of Diamonds appears to be the only one of the Kings holding an axe – and this has earned him the name of the Axe-Man (sometimes the Man with the Axe instead).

King of Spades

Some believe that the King of Spades signifies the Biblical King David. Interestingly, confederate soldier Robert E. Lee was called the “King of Spades” because of his order to have trenches dug – and the soldiers’ hate for him as a result.

Queen of Hearts

The Queen of Hearts is said to be associated with the biblical figure Judith (sometimes Judic) in early card decks. Later English-printed decks would sometimes change the royal-references depending on who was relevant at the time.

Queen of Spades

The Queen of Spades is sometimes associated with Pallas – that’s the Goddess Athena to everyone else. In old-school poker games, you’ll sometimes hear her referred to as Calamity Jane, a famous frontierswoman.

Queen of Clubs

In the card game Find the Lady, the Queen of Clubs is the card known as the Lady – alternatively, the Black Widow or the Black Maria. Of course, the Queen of Clubs is also referred to as Argine. (Also the nickname for the AI system powering Funbridge!). An answer on Funtrivia.com mentions that Argine is an acronym of Regina – Latin for Queen.

Other Cards and the Scottish Curse

Seven of Diamonds: The Beer Card

The Beer Card has been around for a long time – in bridge, it says that you’re owed a beer by your partner if a last trick is won with a seven of diamonds from your hand. (We guess Youth Bridge players might have to call this one the soda card until 21!)

Nine of Diamonds: The Scottish Curse

Basically, we know that the Nine of Diamonds makes some superstitious card players nervous, and has been so for a few hundred years.

The Scottish Curse card has a few origin stories. One states that it originates from the Duke of Cumberland, who supposedly wrote an execution order on a playing card – any guesses which one?

Four of Clubs: The Devil’s Bedpost

Also called The Devil’s Four-Poster or The Devil’s Bedstead, the Four of Clubs is considered by some to be a very unlucky card to hold – so unlucky that it can affect the rest of your hand and make you lose the game. According to the International Playing Card Society, it could be linked to cartomancy (the use of cards for divination), where the Four of Clubs is a bad omen:

This card warns of a major setback, an unexpected set of circumstances that must be prepared for. It is also said that this card can be thought of as “Murphy’s Law” when used in readings.

By Alex J. Coyne

Image from Wikimedia in the public domain
Related Stories
Cribbage brings people together
Cribbage Brings Folks Together
New writer Catherine Tansey tells us about her travels and about how one particular game
Reproduction Vintage and Classic Playing Cards
The Best of Reproduction Decks
Love playing cards? Looking for gifts? Here's a list of some unique options for your
Cards for Soldiers - Gifts for Card Players
Cards for Soldiers
Card decks can be utilized for far more than just a card game. The US
Cards in Art
Cards in Art
We all know about the famous series of paintings depicting dogs playing poker, but what