Are Aces Face Cards?

Are Aces Face Cards?

If you’ve played any kind of card game that uses a standard 52-card deck, you’re familiar with the term “face card.”

Any king, queen, or jack in a deck of cards is considered a face card. Face cards are near the top of the ladder when it comes to card rankings, coming in just behind the strongest card in the deck, the ace.

Do aces qualify as face cards? The answer is no, and let’s take a look at why:

What Are Face Cards In a Deck of Cards?

As mentioned, kings, queens, and jacks are called face cards in a standard deck of playing cards. The term is derived for that those three cards depict a face, or more specifically the face of a person.

No other cards in a standard deck of cards depict a face. A 52-card deck is divided into four suits (spades, hearts, diamonds, clubs), and each of those four suits contains 13 cards.

The 13 cards in each suit start at 2 (aka the deuce) as the lowest card in the suit, and ace as the highest card. Note that the ace can act as both the high and the low card in a suit in many games.

Here’s a look at how these cards look, using spades as an example:

Are Aces Face Cards?

The two of spades is the lowest card in this suit, while the ace of spades is the highest. Note that the face cards in the suit (2 through 10 and the) simply display a number or a letter, along with a corresponding number of symbols for that suit.

The ace of spades has an “A” and one spade on it, the two of spades has a “2” and two spades on it, and so on. All non-face cards use this same system.

Note that only the jack, queen and king depart from this system. These cards don’t display a number or symbols that correlate to the numerical value of the card, instead depicting a picture of a member of the royal court. While the ace card matches the other face cards in terms of having a letter instead of a number, it doesn’t depict a person or a face.

Face cards are also called court cards, paint cards, or picture cards. All face cards count as 10 in a game of blackjack, but in most other card games the king outranks the queen, which outranks the jack.

What is the Difference Between a Broadway Card and a Face Card?

You would be forgiven for thinking that broadway cards and face cards are the same think, but they’re not.

Broadway cards consist of the ten, jack, queen, king, and ace of each suit. In blackjack, the ten, jack, queen, and king all have a numerical value of ten. The ace can count as one or as 11. A blackjack (or 21) is the best hand you possibly make, and the combination of an ace and any 10-value card counts as an automatic blackjack.

In poker, the highest straight you can possibly make is A-K-Q-J-T, called a broadway straight. The elusive royal flush is the strongest possible hand you can make in poker, and that consists of A-K-Q-J-T all of the same suit.

In blackjack, poker, and many other card, games, A-K-Q-J-T are grouped together in a lot of ways. Only the K-Q-T cards are face cards, however, while the T and the A are not.

Face Cards In Different Countries

Note that the face cards that we refer to as the jack, queen, and king in the U.S. (and many other English-speaking countries) are depicted differently in other countries.

French playing cards, for instance, call the king the “Roi” and place an “R” on that card. The card itself looks identical to what U.S. players see as the king, but the “K” is replaced with the “R”.

The queen is called the “Dame” in French playing cards (with a corresponding “D”), and jack is called the “valet” (with a corresponding “V”). Also note that in some countries, the jack is called the “knave.”

The ace in a deck of French playing cards is called the “1”, and looks just like an ace from a U.S. deck, only with “1” where the “A” would normally be.

Face cards and the ace can differ in these relatively minor ways if you’re outside the U.S. Keep in mind that the modern deck of cards was invented in Europe, and the differences you see when playing cards in the U.S. are alterations made after the deck style made its way to North American shores.

For comparison, let’s look at a couple of different versions of the queen of hearts.

The North American version of the queen of hearts looks like this:

Are Aces Face Cards? Queen of hearts North American

The French version looks like this:

Are aces face cards? Queen of hearts French

If you’re familiar with standard North American playing cards, you’ll recognize face cards in French, Spanish, and other European decks. The letters on the cards might be different, but the cards themselves look very much the same.

Is a Joker a Face Card?

While jokers certainly do depcit a face, they’re not considered face cards. Jokers don’t officially count as part of a 52-card deck. When you add jokers to the mix, the total number of cards in the deck goes up to 53 or 54, depending on whether one or two jokers come with the deck.’

Jokers are generally used as wild cards if they’re in use in a card game. When you play poker or blackjack in a casino, you generally won’t see jokers added to the mix.

The 52 cards that are in play in most casino games are the total cards (aka the non-face cards) and the face cards.

Final Thoughts On Face Cards

Face cards are usually some of the highest-value cards in the deck. When you’re playing blackjack or poker, having one or more face cards in your hand usually leads to good things.

Games played with the standard 52-card deck of playing cards can also include rummy, bridge, hearts, war, spades, and a host of other games. Be sure you know the rules of the game you’re playing and understand how face cards fit into your strategy.

The card probability of drawing a face card out of the deck is 12/52, as there are 12 total face cards in the 52-card deck. In a well-shuffled deck, you won’t see face cards (or aces for that matter) appear nearly as much as the other cards in the deck.

Check out this Wikipedia article for more on the history of face cards around the world.

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About the Author
Geoffrey Fisk

Geoffrey Fisk

Freelance writer and poker player based in Las Vegas, Nevada.

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