Suits

[YY] Yuri the Young Gun lamented, “One of the things I miss the most about playing online is the four-color decks. It’s so much easier to tell the suits apart when they’re all different colors.”

[RR] Roderick the Rock reminisced, “They remind me of the Lucky Charms I used to eat as a kid with ‘Green Clovers and Blue Diamonds’.”1

[YY] “In bridge, you have majors (spades and hearts) and minors (diamonds and clubs), pointy suits (spades and diamonds) and round suits (hearts and clubs), and red suits (hearts and diamonds) and black suits (spades and clubs). These are all useful distinctions in bidding as the suits are ordered and more than a few conventions break them into one of these divisions. But in poker, the suits don’t have any use except to tell them apart, so why not use four colors to facilitate that.”

[YY] “Why do we have these four suits anyway?”

[VV] “Once again, we can thank the French”, Vince the Veteran enthusiastically offered. “Not just any Frenchman, either. The main person responsible for our current suits was a military commander known as La Hire, Etienne Vignoles, who was Joan of Arc’s comrade-in-arms before she was captured in 1430. Not surprisingly La Hire and Joan of Arc are on the face cards of some decks, as the Jack of Hearts and the Queen of Spades (not the Queen of Hearts, as she was less than half his age, and they were not romantically linked).”

[VV] “But anyway, with his secretary, Etienne Chavalier, Vignoles designed a new set of cards to play Piquet, a new game which he may or may not have invented. He chose four easily drawn and highly recognizable symbols for the suits:

Suit Symbol Class of Society
Spades (Piques) Lance Blade (weapon) Military
Hearts (Cours) Heart (love) Church
Diamonds (Carreaux) Paving Tile2 Tradesmen
Clubs (Trefles) Clover (grazing area)3 Peasants

[VV] “Time has proven his choices to be well-considered, as the French suits have won out globally over Italian, Spanish, German, and other designs.”

[RR] “And having just two colors instead of four was to save money during mass production, I’ll bet.”

Footnotes:

  1. Lucky Charms breakfast cereal originally had pink hearts, yellow moons, orange stars, and green clovers. General Mills added blue diamond marshmallows to the box in 1975 but removed them in 1994.
  2. An alternate explanation is that the diamonds represented wealth.
  3. An alternate explanation is that the clubs were the weapons of the peasants, who weren’t allowed to have swords.

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