Playing cards are the basis of so many games due to their diversity and adaptability. It can be used for any game from poker to the Eleusis game, from house of cards to magic tricks.
One thing that is often overlooked is the long history of cards and the various symbolisms hidden within. For example, the suits may have the following symbolism:
Spades Nobility, swords, war
Hearts Church, cups, love and romance
Diamonds Merchants, coins, wealth
Clubs Peasants, clubs/batons, agriculture
Although there are many debates regarding this issue, there is substantial evidence that the court cards (Kings, Queens and Jacks/Knaves) are based on historical or mythical heroes and heroines, at least for the French deck that is commonly used nowadays. The following is the list of presumed models for each card:
King of Spades David (biblical hero)
King of Hearts Charlemagne (great king of Franks)
King of Diamonds Julius Caesar (great Roman emperor)
King of Clubs Alexander the Great (the king of Macedon)
Queen of Spades Joan of Arc (the French heroine) or Athena (the goddess of war)
Queen of Hearts Judith (either the biblical heroine or the tragic queen of Bavaria)
Queen of Diamonds Rachel (wife of Jacob in the bible – he waited 14 years for her)
Queen of Clubs Argine (anagram of regina, Latin for queen) or Hera (queen of gods)
Jack of Spades Holger Le Danois (knight of Charlemagne)
Jack of Hearts La Hire (comrade of Joan of Arc, member of Charles VII’s court)
Jack of Diamonds Hector (the hero of the Trojan War or the knight of Charlemagne)
Jack of Clubs Lancelot (King Arthur’s most trusted knight)
Although the models for the Kings and Jacks are quite clear, the Queens are still subject to many discussions. As modern playing cards originate from France circa 15th century, the above models (official names for each card back then) appearto be valid.
This also explains the ordering of suits (spades/nobility first, clubs/peasants last, hearts/church second and diamonds/merchants third) and how the Ace sometimes trumps the King (possibly symbolising how peasant hold the power, as in the French Revolution).
Sometimes, knowing the history behind a game can make it even more fun.