From Pubs to Mythology: Origin of Poker Card Nicknames

Poker Card Nicknames
From Pubs to Mythology: Origin of Poker Card Nicknames

There are a massive variety of nicknames for Poker cards, with many of these nicknames being from playing cards’ roots in mythology & tarot cards. The other nicknames were invented by drunk people throughout history; which ended up catching on and becoming norms that are used even today. Over time these nicknames have blended and are now firmly established into playing card history. Today we will go over the most popular nicknames for some of our most beloved playing cards.

The Beer Card

The Beer Card
The Beer Card

The 7 of diamonds has officially earned the unforgettable nickname: “The Beer Card”. The Beer card came into existence from the popularity of card taking games such as Bridge in pubs. The tradition is if a player wins the last hand with a 7 of diamonds; the competitor has to buy him a beer. This is not an official rule of Bridge; so it has to be agreed upon at the start of the game.

The King of Hearts is “The Suicidal King”. This nickname comes from the Rouennais pattern; where the image of the king appears to be stabbing himself in the head with his sword. In 1649 Charles I was executed and England entered into an Interregnum; where card production was illegal and remained so until the Restoration in 1660. After the legalization of card production English card makers scrambled to catch up to France’s booming card manufacturing industry. This odd image of the suicidal king is attributed to bad copying; made by English card makers when they first started copying French playing cards.

The Death Card

The Death Card

The Ace of Spades has the ominous nickname: “The Death Card”. The symbol of death originates from the Ace of Spades in Cartomancy & Tarot Cards. Since this card is the most powerful in the deck; it’s both a symbol of luck and a sign of death depending on the culture. The different views of the Ace of Spades are there with America’s use of the card; to instil fear into the Viet Cong soldiers in Vietnam. The Americans thought that the Vietnamese believed that the Ace of Spades was a symbol of death and bad luck.

So the American soldiers scattered ace of spade cards on top of slain Vietnamese soldiers, and littered the cards throughout the Vietnamese jungle. This scare tactic was so effective by the American government; that the military had crates of pure Ace of Spade cards shipped to American soldiers in Vietnam. Even though the Vietnamese didn’t believe that the Ace of Spades has bad luck; it helped boost the morale of American soldiers at the time.


This is just the tip of the iceberg of card nicknames; multiple nicknames reference historic & mythological icons for every playing card. It is amazing how history can hold so many surprising origins of modern customs that we take for granted!

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