For a long time, playing cards had a bit of a reputation. When I was a kid, I would watch movies and anytime there was a scene from a western, you would always see some gunfighters playing cards. They were always gambling, and it seemed in almost every case, someone would get caught cheating and a gunfight would break out. This might not be the case for everyone, but I always remember those scenes so the idea of playing cards and gambling always seemed like something dangerous people did.
These days, playing cards doesn’t mean the same thing. With the growth in popularity of games like Black Jack and Texas Hold’em, playing cards has become much more main stream and because of that, you are more likely to see images of these or tattoos being more in the open. In fact, playing cards have blown up so much you don’t even have to leave your house to play against someone. Just log onto your computer and you can play someone on the other side of the planet. This is where the playing cards tattoo comes in. Some people are so fanatical about playing that they get the image tattooed on their body. However, that’s not the only thing it symbolizes.
In this post we are going to talk about the history of playing cards and how they worked their way into our culture. We’ll also discuss the playing cards tattoo meaning and what it symbolizes for those that wear it. Meanings can differ depending on what the canvas chooses to pair with the image, but we will go through the variations as well. By the end of this post you should feel a little more informed on the history and meaning of playing cards and the tattoos that represent them.
History of Playing Cards
Playing cards have been around since the 9th century AD during the Tang dynasty. Back then, the cards were made by using woodblock printing and there were only 30 cards in a deck compared to the 52 now. When trying to track the first reference to any card games, you have to go back to a text from the 9th century called Collection of Miscellanea at Duyang. It was written by Su E. who was a writer during the Tang dynasty. In this text, it talks of Princess Tongchang, Emperor Yizong of Tang’s daughter, playing a game called the “leaf game” in the year 868 with clan member of the Wei Baoheng family (the husband’s family). The Yezi Gexi was the first known book regarding the leaf game and it was written by another Tang woman. This book earned explanation from writers of succeeding dynasties. During the Song dynasty which ranged from 960 to 1279, Ouyang Xiu said the leaf game existed since the middle of the Tang dynasty and associated the creation of this game with a writing medium of printed sheets. On the other hand, Ouyang also said that these “leaves” were actually pages of a different book that was used to play a board game that involved dice. The rules of this game had been lost by 1067.
Drinking games didn’t just start in the 20th century. Games revolving around alcohol started during the Tang dynasty and they used playing cards to do it. However, the cards at the time didn’t have numbers or suits. What they had instead were either forfeits or instructions for whoever drew the cards.
Going back, the earliest instance of cards with numbers and suits happened on July 17, 1294. On this date, two men were caught playing cards and had the cards and woodblocks that made them impounded.
However, William Henry Wilkinson says the first playing cards might have been actual money that doubled as both the cards and the currency that you won. They could be compared to trading cards. At the time, it was risky and inconvenient to use paper money so these “money cards” or play money, were used for substitution. Madiao was one of the earliest playing card games that we actually know the rules for. It’s a game that dates back to the Ming Dynasty and involves taking tricks. It was described as being played with 38 money cards that were divided into four suits.
Playing Cards Tattoo Variations
When talking about the playing cards tattoo, you are likely to see a lot of variations depending on what cards are chosen to be used or what other images are in the tattoo with the playing cards. In most cases it is smart to ask the person what it means to them but some of these images have some traits attached to them and we will talk about a few. Below are a few examples of playing cards tattoos that we have seen.
Four Aces Tattoo
Aces are always seen as the top card and by themselves, that is true. When you see a four of a kind aces tattoo, that is someone telling us of perfection. Even though there are a few other hands that are stronger in terms of a five card hand, the four of kind aces hand is tough to beat. As far as symbolism goes, the ace is the card of desire.
Royal Flush Tattoo
Royal flush tattoo is representative of the best hand in poker. It involves the ace, king, queen, jack and 10 of the same suit. This hand cannot be beaten so in that way, the person with the royal flush tattoo might be expressing their domination in poker or even just the love of the game.
In many card games, the joker is wild so when you see this card tattooed on the body, it can mean a few things. Because it can be a wild card and jokers are considered to be tricksters, this might represent the wild side of the person with this tattoo.
Playing Cards and 8 Ball Tattoo
We’ve talked to people with a combination of playing cards and an eight ball to ask what it meant to them. It seems to be a representation of their love for gambling in general. Many of these games can be high stakes and you might see other games included in the imagery of this tattoo. All in all, this tattoo is symbolic of the love for gambling.