Face cards, also known as court cards, refer to the Kings, Queens, and Jacks found in each suit of a standard deck of playing cards. They are distinct from the numbered cards due to their historical designs, depicting royal figures.

These cards hold significant value in various card games, often acting as high-ranking cards that can influence the outcome of a game. Their rich symbolism and striking appearance make them stand out.

The face cards in a deck embody authority and intrigue when compared to other cards. In many games, face cards carry special rules or enhanced powers, adding layers of strategy and complexity.

In addition to their gameplay roles, face cards are also culturally significant, symbolizing nobility, mystery, and power.

Understanding the roles of a face card in cards can enhance your appreciation of the deck’s structure and the strategic depth they bring to card games.

Origin of Face Cards

Face cards have a rich history with their origins dating back to the early days of developing playing cards. While playing cards originated in ancient China, they did not contain face cards.

In fact, they were conceptualized after the cards arrived in Iran, with the Persians deciding to adorn the cards with the royal figures. You can find some of the earliest preserved deck of cards in the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, Turkiye.

The modern day cards are the French pattern of cards. As you know, all four suites contain a King, a Queen, and a Jack, but did you know that these faces depict different figures from human history?

Here’s who the Kings, Queens, and the Jacks are -

  • King of Spades - David
  • King of Hearts - Charlemagne or Charles the First
  • King of Diamonds - Julius Caesar
  • King of Clubs - Alexander the Great
  • Queen of Spades - Pallas Athena
  • Queen of Hearts - Judith
  • Queen of Diamonds - Rachel
  • Queen of Clubs - Arginine
  • Jack of Spades - Ogier the Dane
  • Jack of Hearts - La Hire
  • Jack of Diamonds - Hector
  • Jack of Clubs - Judas Maccabeus or Lancelot

The intricate designs and regal imagery of face cards have persisted through centuries, maintaining their cultural significance and adding an element of historical richness to modern card games.

Understanding the history and origins of face cards offers a glimpse into the evolution of playing cards and their enduring appeal across different cultures and eras.

What are the Alternate Names of Face Cards?

By now you know that face cards hold a unique place in the deck of cards due to their representations of royalty. While face cards are how they are referred to as often, you will hear people using other names for it, some of which are highlighted below -

  • Royal Cards: This refers directly to the depiction of faces on the cards, underscoring their association with Kings and Queens
  • Court Cards: This term Court Cards reflects courtly figures such as Kings, Queens, and Jacks, symbolizing the royal court
  • Picture Cards: This name is the direct reference to the imagery of character, emphasizing the visual aspect of the cards
  • Painted Cards: Comparatively, a less common name today, the name Painted Cards was used to describe the illustration of the royal cards

These alternate names highlighted above present the cultural and historical significance of face cards, showcasing their distinguished status within a deck of playing cards.

How Many Face Cards are there in a Deck of Cards?

If you have never played cards, it is normal to ask yourself ‘how many face cards are in a  deck of cards?’ The answer is 12. A face card in deck of 52 is divided among the four suits: hearts, diamonds, clubs, and spades, with each suit containing three face cards:

  • King
  • Queen
  • Jack

So, for each suit, there is one King, one Queen, and one Jack, making a total of 3 face cards per suit, and with four suits in the deck, the total comes to 12.

The Different Face Cards in a Deck of Playing Cards

By now you know that face cards hold a significant place in card games. Before learning about their effectiveness, let us briefly discuss their features.

The different face cards in playing cards are as follows -

1. King

The King card features a regal male figure, typically depicted with a crown. The design varies between decks, but often shows the King in an authoritative pose, symbolizing power and leadership.

French card makers in the 14th and 15th centuries standardized the King’s depiction, associating it with historical and legendary rulers such as Charlemagne (King of Hearts) and Julius Caesar (King of Diamonds).

The King symbolizes authority, power, and control in card games. In many games, the King is one of the highest-ranking cards, often holding significant strategic importance.

Culturally, the King represents the pinnacle of the hierarchical order, embodying traits of strength and governance.


The Queen card features a royal female figure, adorned with a crown, with the design emphasizing grace, beauty, and authority.

In French decks, the Queens are often named after historical or mythological figures such as Judith (Queen of Hearts) and Athena (Queen of Spades).

In many card games, the Queen is a high-ranking card, second only to the King or Ace. This card often plays crucial roles, like in the game of Hearts where the Queen of Spades holds special significance. The Queen’s role varies, but she consistently represents an important strategic element in gameplay.


Also known as the Knave, the Jack depicts a young man, often a prince or warrior. The Jack is characterized by his vibrant and sometimes mischievous expression.

The term “Jack” became more common in the 19th century, and represents youth, agility, and service, often associated with the idea of a court servant or warrior.

The Jack’s role varies across different card games and cultures. In some games, it has unique powers or penalties, such as the Jack of Diamonds in the game of Hearts or the role of Jacks in Euchre.

Cultural adaptations may also influence the Jack’s design and symbolic interpretations, reflecting regional histories and traditions.

Probability of Face Card in a Deck of 52 Cards

The probability of getting a face card in deck of 52 cards is 3/13 (0.231 or 23.1% in decimal form). Given that there are 52 cards in a pack, the formula that can be used to determine the outcome is:

Probability = Number of face cards/Total number of cards

So, 12/52 = 3/13.

Diverse Face Card Designs in Various Decks

Over time, playing cards have gone through several modifications to meet the standards of the said time period. Below is an interpretation of classic as well as contemporary card designs in relation to different cultural regions -

1. Traditional face card designs

Traditional face card designs in classic decks, such as French and Anglo-American decks, feature standardized imagery with distinct kings, queens, and jacks. 

Originating in the 14th and 15th centuries, these designs have become iconic. You will notice French face cards often depicting historical or legendary figures like Charlemagne and Julius Caesar. 

These designs are characterized by their elaborate attire, regal postures, and symbolic accessories, reflecting the historical influences of European royalty and chivalry

2. Contemporary interpretations

Modern-day deck designs have face cards that are reimagined, incorporating diverse artistic styles and contemporary aesthetics. Artists today experiment with abstract and minimalist styles, breaking away from traditional representations.

Thematic decks, for example, bring fresh perspectives to face card design. Innovations like custom illustrations, vibrant color palettes, and unconventional symbols make modern face cards visually captivating and culturally relevant

3. Cultural and regional variations

Face card designs vary significantly across different countries and cultures, and are influenced by local art, history, and symbolism.

German decks, for example, comprise face cards often featuring regional figures and folklore. On the other hand, Spanish and Italian decks use different suits and have distinct face card designs reflecting their cultural heritage.

Value of Face Cards and Points in Various Card Games

Understanding how the points system works for face cards can significantly improve your gameplay. The rules about points allotment and calculation are different for different card games. Below are the examples of Poker, Rummy, and Blackjack.

1. Poker

In poker, face cards (Kings, Queens, and Jacks) do not have specific point values despite holding high ranks. Instead, they are plainly ranked higher than numbered cards, with Ace often considered the highest card.

For example, in Texas Hold’em and other popular variants, a pair of Kings beats a pair of Queens, and so forth. The value of face cards lies in their ranking order, thus deciding the the strength of a player’s hand

2. Rummy

In Rummy, face cards are assigned specific point values. Kings, Queens, and Jacks each carry 10 points. The objective of the game is to form sets and runs, and the point values of face cards contribute to the total points in a player’s hand.

At the end of a round, players count the points of unmatched face cards and other cards, which can affect their overall score. High-point face cards can lead to significant penalties if not properly grouped into valid combinations

3. Blackjack

In Blackjack, face cards carry 10 points each. This simplicity aids in quickly calculating hand totals. The goal is to reach or get as close to 21 points without exceeding it.

Face cards, combined with an Ace, which can be valued at either 1 or 11, can form a “blackjack” (a perfect 21 with just two cards). The 10-point value of face cards makes them crucial in reaching the desired total efficiently, often making them highly desirable in players’ hands

Symbolism and Interpretation of Face Cards

The face cards carry symbolism that have been recognized for centuries by players of different generations. They have their share of psychological as well as mythological and historical interpretations based on where the games are being played.

Psychological interpretations:

While the King, Queen, and Jack cards represent royalty, they come with their own psychological interpretations. For instance, the King symbolizes authority, power, and control.

The Queen, on the other hand, constitutes nurturing and intuition, and the Jack depicts youth, drive to achieve goals, and action

Mythological and historical symbolism:

The French face cards have been linked to real rulers from world history. These associations give the cards a mythological weight, in turn giving holders of these cards a sense of power and authority over their opponents.

A few examples of this are Alexander the Great representing the King of Clubs and Athena to the Queen of Spades. While the Jack cards have less specific historical figures attached to them, they are seen as knights and soldiers, who symbolize bravery and readiness

Cultural significance

Representation of societal roles and hierarchies:

In different cultures, the King is an authoritative figure and embodies authority as well as the highest societal role. Similarly, the Queen holds the highest-ranking female role, commanding respect and embodying balance of power with the King.

The Jack represents the younger generation, reflecting the society where the youth supports high-ranked authorities through their loyalty and actions

Folklore and legends associated with specific face cards:

The face cards also represent local folklore in different countries that give them more weight. For instance, the King of Hearts is often referred to as the “suicide king” due to the depiction of his figure as holding a sword behind his head.

The Queen of Spades, too, is seen as a tyrannical ruler, owing to its reference from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by English author Lewis Carroll. In some folktales, the Jack appears as a trickster, which is an allusion to their cunning and strategic thinking.

Personal interpretations

Individual perceptions and associations with face cards:

When it comes to personal interpretations, individuals might think of the King card as a reflection of their own qualities and ambitions. Having a King in their card composition can give people a sense of power.

The Queen card can resonate individuals on a personal level as a symbol of their intuitive side. The young players may primarily related to the Jack card owing to their vigor and part of their personality that is willing to take risks and pursue new opportunities.

Use of face cards in divination and fortune-telling practices:

Tarot, Cartomancy, and Personal Oracle are areas where face cards are often used for fortune-telling and other reasons. They are known as Court Cards, which represent different aspects of the querent’s personality or life. Oracles uses these cards, too, in order to gain insight into people’s lives or seen guidance on specific issues

Use of Face Cards in Card Games

Face cards play a significant role in card games, with each card in possession of its own responsibility. They can influence both tactics and strategy, as their importance varies from game to game.

Role and value of face cards in traditional card games

In games like blackjack, poker, and rummy, face cards have great numerical value, making them a desirable choice for creating high-ranking hands.

Likewise, in games like Bridge and Euchre, they play crucial roles in the sense that they act as trump cards, thereby controlling the flow of the game. They also come with a unique scoring system depending on the card game being played.

While in poker, they do not carry a numerical value, face cards do play a big part in the outcome of rounds, especially royal flushes which contain Ten, Jack, Queen, King, and Ace of the same suit.

In blackjack, all face cards are valued at 10 points each, making them a sought-after choice with the goal to achieve a total of 21 points faster than other players

Face card-specific games and variations

There are several games that are centered around collecting face cards that change the course of the game for players. For instance, Old Maid revolves around pairing cards wherein the player left with either a face card or Joker loses.

Go Fish is another game where face cards play their part, as its strategy revolves around asking opponents for specific face cards to complete sets and gain points.

You will also find several variations of classic card games where face cards have a special place. Games like Royal Rummy, Double Deck Pinochle, and Court Piece are as entertaining as their original versions.

Red or Black - The Colors of Face Cards

Like the numbered cards, the face cards too come assigned to primary colors - red and black - in the deck.

Red face cards

Diamonds and Hearts:

While the face cards of the diamonds suit are often linked to prosperity, wealth, and material success, the hearts suit is associated with the theme of love, passion and emotional aspects

Clubs and Spades:

The face cards in the clubs suit are related to work, growth, and subsequent achievements, and are also considered significant across many card games for their strategic value.

With spades, the face cards are connected with challenges, power, and intellect, with them playing a critical role in trick-taking games


Q1. How many face cards are there in a standard deck of 52 cards?

Every suit in the deck has 3 face cards each. So, with four different prevalent suits, we get a total of 12 face cards in a deck of 52 cards

Q2. Is Ace a face card or a numbered card?

Traditionally, Ace is not a face card. A face card specifically refers to cards that have King, Queen, and Jack depicted on them. While it is also not a numbered card, Ace does hold a unique place in the deck, as its value can differ depending on the card game that is being played

Q3. What is the total number of kings, queens, and jacks in a deck?

All four suits, Clubs, Diamonds, Hearts, and Spades contain one king, one queen, and one jack. So, in all, there are 4 kings, 4 queens, and 4 jacks, which brings the total to 12 face cards in a deck

Q4. What is the ratio of face cards to the total number of cards in the deck?

In mathematical terms, the ratio can be determined by a simple fraction, which is the number of face cards/total number of cards, this 12/52.

The fraction can be further simplified by dividing the numerator and the denominator by their greatest common divisor, which is 4. So, 12/4 = 3 (numerator), 52/4 = 13 (denominator), bringing the ratio of face cards in a deck to 3/13.

Q5. Why are face cards called “face cards”?

Face cards are called “face cards” as they depict illustrations of human faces on them.

Q6. What are the numerical values of face cards in card games?

There is no straight way to answer the numerical value of face cards in card games, as the value can differ from game to game.

For instance, in blackjack and rummy, each face card carries 10 points, whereas in Bridge the values of King, Queen, and Jack cards are 3, 2, and 1, respectively

Q7. How are face cards ranked in terms of hierarchy?

In most traditional card games, the hierarchy of face cards from high to low is King, Queen, and Jack

Q8. Do all decks have the same face card designs?

No, not all decks have the same face card designs, and they can vary based on factors such as region of the cards, themes, history, etc.

Q9. Can face cards be used as wildcards in certain games?

Although it is not a standard practice to use face cards as wildcards in traditional games, there are some games where face cards act as wildcards. In some variations of rummy, the Queen of Spades can be used as a wildcard

Q10. Are face cards essential for every card game?

Not necessarily. The necessity of face cards depends on the rules and mechanics of a specific card game. While they play a significant role in traditional games, there are numerous card games that do not make use of face cards at all

Q11. How do face cards impact the strategy in card games?

Face cards can create a huge impact in card games due to their unique roles and abilities. Their presence can control the game and even manipulate other players into committing errors.

In games where they do not carry points, their hierarchical importance will play some part in the outcome of games