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Face Cards: Everything You Need To Know

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In poker — or any game for that matter — understanding the value of cards is vital. Whether you’re playing at a land-based venue or enjoying online casino games at home, knowing the relative strength of each card is crucial.

When it comes to poker, skill and strategy are even more important. While you might be able to get by on luck alone elsewhere in the casino, poker is very different. And due to their value, face cards are an essential part of any strategy, no matter what variant you’re playing. 

In this article, you’ll find out everything you need to know about face cards. 

What Are Face Cards?

Most forms of poker use a standard deck of playing cards containing 52 cards, with 13 in each of the four suits. These are spades, clubs, hearts, and diamonds, each represented by its own distinct symbol.

Spades and clubs are usually black, with the diamonds and hearts colored red. But the best online poker sites use a four-color deck to make them easier to differentiate.

Face cards are the “royal” or “court” cards, meaning the jacks, queens, and kings. They’re easy to recognize as they feature the face of a royal member of the court. Traditional playing cards boast ornately designed face cards to help them stand out. 

Each suit features one of each face card, making a total of 12 in the deck. That’s one queen of hearts, one king of clubs, and so on. Aside from the four aces, face cards are the strongest in value.

While jokers aren’t used in most online poker tournaments, they’re still considered face cards when in play. 

History of Playing Cards

It’s hard to pin down exactly where playing cards come from and how old they are. However, most experts agree that the first playing cards appeared in China during the Tang Dynasty. This was around the 9th century, after the introduction of woodblock printing technology. 

It’s believed that people used early playing cards for games but also as a form of currency. Pips and characters drawn on the cards denoted their respective ranks and values, while cards won during games could be cashed in and traded.

Over the centuries, these cards spread across the Middle East and Egypt before arriving in Europe. There are records of playing cards from as early as 1371 in Spain. Nobles and common folk alike were soon playing games using cards. And with gambling having been a popular pastime throughout history, it was inevitable that cards would be used for wagering purposes. 

The suits and symbols used on playing cards have varied greatly over the years. Long-extinct examples include cups, coins, sticks, swords, and roses. Even today, there are still variations available, but the classic French deck has become the standard, and it’s these that are used when playing poker games online.

Origin of Double-Headed Cards

One of the most noticeable features of playing cards is that they’re double-headed. This means that whatever position someone is sitting on the table, it’s easy to see which cards are in play. A face card will never appear upside down because the top and bottom halves of the figure are mirrored. While we may take this feature for granted today, it’s a relatively new development in the history of playing cards.

Double-headed poker face cards are much easier to use, as there are fewer issues with reading the cards. This style feature became mainstream in the mid-19th century. Today, it’s rare to see cards that aren’t double-headed, even at online casino tables. 

How the Face Cards Affect Poker

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All of the cards in the deck are important when playing poker, but some have a bigger influence on the outcome than others. The face cards are particularly useful as they make up stronger hands.

The importance of face cards means that they often influence player behavior. You can use this to your advantage by bluffing other players whenever they appear on the board. Watch your opponents closely for behavioral traits, or “tells,” that might indicate whether they’re happy to see face cards. Identifying poker tells online is harder, but it can be done.

Poker Hand Rankings

There’s a reason why players are less likely to fold when holding face cards in the pocket. Quite simply, their higher ranking leads to stronger hands. 

Here are the main Texas Hold’em poker hands listed from strongest to weakest:

  • Straight flush.
  • Four of a kind.
  • Full house.
  • Flush.
  • Straight.
  • Three of a kind.
  • Two pair.
  • Pair.
  • High card.

However, it’s not quite that simple. For example, if two players both have a pair, who wins? The answer lies in the individual card rankings. Whichever player has the highest value pair takes the pot. For a pair of queens beats a pair of nines, for example.

As face cards are high-ranking compared to others in the deck, they have a big impact on results. A good example of this is the flush, which is any five cards of the same suit.

With four diamonds on the board, for instance, multiple players could easily hold a flush. If you have the king of diamonds, you’re feeling pretty good knowing only the ace can beat you. But if your flush doesn’t contain any face cards, you’re almost certainly behind.

Face Off at the Poker Tables

While a face card in your hand doesn’t guarantee a win, it certainly increases the chances of success. 

As a beginner, you probably want to fold anything apart from pocket pairs and hands containing face cards. But as you gain experience and perhaps even invest in poker coaching sessions, you’ll learn how to bluff whenever face cards appear on the board. Taking advantage of scare cards to represent a hand is a key component of any winning poker strategy. 

Play Your Hand at BetMGM

Thinking of putting this knowledge into practice? Take this advice at “face” value. Register at BetMGM today and enjoy a wide variety of card-based table games and online poker tournaments.