Cards for Beginners: The Basics

Card games are a type of game that’s played with a deck of cards. Given how the deck is constructed, you can actually play a whole host of game types from Blackjack to Texas Hold’Em Poker to War. Some of you might be familiar with these games already, but if you’ve never really delved into cards, this article is meant to show you how to get started from the very beginning. Let’s start off by dissecting the deck and then explain the very basics.

How many cards in a deck?

A regular deck of cards has 52 cards. Of course, this is the universal standard, but there are some variations. Usually, those variations happen as a result of jokers being added. Typically, jokers are viewed as wild card, but it depends on the game. The joker can have different meanings depending on which type of game you’re playing and what the rules are.

Deck of cards

One key thing to remember is that if the joker is added, it changes all of the different probabilities. For example, if you’re playing a game with 52 cards, you know that your likelihood of landing a certain card is 1/52. With the joker, that moves up to 1/53 and obviously if two jokers are in play, that’s 1/54. That’s just one thing to keep in mind as many people do the math off of a deck of 52. But the joker can change those numbers if it’s in play.

How many spades are in a deck of cards? How many spades are in a deck of cards?
A deck is made up of 52 cards and there are four suits in the deck: spades, clubs, diamonds and hearts. Each suit has 14 cards apiece, which include the Ace, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, 10, Jack, Queen and King.
How many clubs are in a deck of cards? How many clubs are in a deck of cards?
Exactly as the spades, there are the same 14 clubs’ cards in the deck. However, these are, of course, a different suit.
How many diamonds are in a deck of cards? How many diamonds are in a deck of cards?
Identical to clubs and spades, there are 14 diamonds in the deck ranging from the two all the way up to the Ace.
How many hearts are in a deck of cards? How many hearts are in a deck of cards?
Exactly as the other three suits, there are 14 hearts in the deck as well. This allows for complete symmetry among the sets, so there are exactly four Aces (one of each suit), four Twos, Threes, Fours and so on all the way through the deck.

How to shuffle cards?

Before we talk about how to shuffle cards, it’s important to talk about why it’s done.

Cards are essentially a game that’s – for the most part – built around randomness. The idea is that the cards are mixed around and then each person gets the luck of the draw. That’s why it’s even sometimes called a “lucky draw”. If the cards aren’t shuffled properly or there is some concern about how it was done, that creates distrust that the game might be rigged. To avoid that, make sure to give the deck a really solid shuffle, so that nobody even questions this.

Person shuffling cards

To shuffle the cards properly, think about mixing them up in a number of ways. You can cut the deck, which is splitting the deck and putting one section on the bottom, or you can take two halves and fold them into each other (known as the Farro shuffle). You can spread them out and mix them back up or you can even get a machine to shuffle for you. Whatever way you choose, make sure everyone who is playing can see how they are mixed up, so that everyone has trust in the system.

How to count cards?

Many people have heard the term ‘count cards’ in movies or other gaming settings, but if you’re not quite familiar, we’ll run you through that here.

Like we said, cards is mostly a game of randomness, but not always. There is some math behind it that if you learn properly, it will increase your chances of winning. Let’s go back to the math for a second. We know that there are 52 cards in a deck and 14 cards of each suit. That means that we can extrapolate a few probabilities from that. If the deck is completely full and untouched, that means you have a four in 52 chance of drawing a Queen or a 14 in 52 chance of drawing a Heart. Why that’s relevant is because you can start to play a little bit of probability math in your head based on what’s in your hand.

person playing a card game

For example, if you’re playing a game where you need an Ace to win and you already have two in your hand, then you can crunch the numbers to determine your odds of drawing another ace. Let’s say you have five cards and there are three cards exposed on the table, and two of your cards are aces. Assuming the three exposed cards on the table are not aces, that means that there are 44 cards left in the deck (52-8). If you have two aces already, that means that two are left in the deck. That means you have a 2/44 chance of drawing an ace. Knowing this math can help you make a decision on how to play.

Now let’s say you’re playing a game like Blackjack where only a few cards are played each round. If you count the cards each round (tracking them in your memory), then it will help you make decisions later. Let’s say you’ve played six rounds of Blackjack and 24 cards have been used up, but you haven’t seen a King yet. That means that you know that there are four left in the deck. There are 28 cards left in the deck, so the probabilities of seeing a King have increased from 4/52 to 4/28. Doing that math can help you win in the long run. The downside is tracking the cards with just your memory – especially when games move quickly – is not very easy.

Knowing the rules of the game

One of the most important things to know when playing cards is to fully understand the game before you start playing. Of course, most people just sit down and learn on the go. That’s perfectly fine if you’re playing for fun with no money involved. However, if you are going to actually open up an account at an online casino or if you’re going to bet at a land-based spot, you’re going to want to learn all of the rules.

For example, Blackjack might seem very simple: just get a score as close to 21 as possible. However, there are a lot of nuances to the game. Do you hit on 17? Do you split up cards when you have pairs? When should you double down? Why is it important to know what the dealer is showing?

scattered playing cards

Many card games have lots of nuances, and mastering those is what separates the winners from the losers. Spend a little bit of time really getting to know the game you’re playing and then develop some strategies. The easiest thing to do nowadays is to learn from YouTube, which is a fantastic treasure trove of everything from how to get started all the way through advanced strategy. Once you’ve gotten the gist of it, then start playing (and winning) for real money!

Dave Golokhov

Dave Golokhov

Dave has a long history in the media. His career began at The Score Television Network. He’s since been a radio host on Sirius Satellite Radio, made numerous television appearances as a panelist, and has written for publications like FOX Sports, and The Baltimore Sun. He’s interviewed hundreds of celebrities in both sports and entertainment, ranging from Shaquille O’Neal, to Floyd Mayweather, to The Mannings.

As a travel/adventure writer, Dave has written a number of destination stories covering some of the most unique destinations, such as Bilbao (Spain), Tel Aviv (Israel) to Iceland. He’s also (been lucky to) had the opportunity to review the experience of eating at some of the world’s best restaurants, including Noma (Copenhagen), Amber (Hong Kong) and Eleven Madison Park (New York). All of those stories can be read on, The Daily Beast and The Globe & Mail.


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