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Court Card

What is a ‘Court Card’?

In a standard 52-card playing deck, the ‘court cards’ are the jacks, queens and kings of the pack. These character cards represent members of the royal court, which is where the name comes from. Court cards feature in many high scoring plays in common casino games such as poker and blackjack. They have a value of ten in blackjack, and are the highest card in all cases except where ace is ranked high, in which case the ace value is 11 and it sits above the court cards in the pack.

‘Court Card’ Explained

The first appearance of ‘court cards’ is recorded in 1565, with a French playing card set including four ornate kings as well as the numbered cards. The European 52-card deck seen all over the world today has developed from here, including the queen and a knave (more commonly a ‘jack’) as well as the addition of a joker, or jester. These are all well-known members of the royal court, and so the term ‘court card’ has developed.

The court card is any king, queen or jack from a standard playing card deck. These cards are assigned a numerical value of 10 in games such as blackjack, and they are ranked in J-Q-K order when making a consecutive run, or straight. The king is beaten by the ace in some games, including poker, but it is otherwise seen as the highest card in the pack.

Court cards are also known as ‘paint cards’ in some circles, perhaps due to the elaborate portraits they feature. While numbered cards feature ‘pips’ – small icons representing the suit and the number – along with a written number value, the court cards have intricate designs which show the character, usually wearing clothing decorated with the relevant suit. The court cards are among the most desirable a player can draw in any game, thanks to their high value and status.