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Playing Card Nicknames: Aces

by Michael Wiesenberg |  Published: May 19, 2015

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Michael WiesenbergThe ace is the highest or lowest card in the deck. If the cards are arranged in order, the ace either starts this sequence: A-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-J-Q-K; or finishes this one: 2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-J-Q-K-A. In high poker, the ace is the highest card in a hand, with one exception: when it is part of a five-high straight (that is, in this hand: A-2-3-4-5, where it must be the lowest card to make the straight or straight flush). In low poker (specifically ace-to-five lowball and razz), the ace is the lowest card in a hand. In high-low (split) poker games, the ace is either high or low, depending on how it is used. It can even be both high and low in some hands. For example, 7Club Suit 4Club Suit 3Club Suit 2Club Suit AClub Suit is a 7-low hand, and an ace-high flush.

In deuce-to-seven poker, a popular—particularly in online cardrooms—lowball variant, the ace is the highest card, ranking just above the king. In most games an ace is a desirable card, but not in this game.

The main difference between the English and French deck is the face cards, which we have already seen. The ace is basically the same in both decks. Each ace has one large suit symbol in the center, spade, heart, diamond, or club, plus an index, A, in the upper left and lower right corner, oriented such that the A is right-side up in whichever side is uppermost. Beneath the A is a smaller suit symbol.

The ace of spades often contains, in addition to the preceding, information about the printing house. Those of the Bicycle and Bee deck are typical.

Aces are desirable cards in most forms of poker, and they have many nicknames.

Aces were once called ones and the card was represented by the number before the term ace was adopted and the one replaced with an A. Today you might hear that nickname for an ace, as, for example, “I have three ones.”

An ace can be called a bullet, sometimes shortened to bull. An ace can be called a seed or a spike. Rocket is a frequently heard term for an ace; it is usually used in the plural, often part of the phrase pocket rockets. Where those names came from seems to be lost in antiquity.

Aces are called sharp tops, a term that also applies to fours, though some lexicographers use the term only for an ace.

Aces are sometimes called needles. An ace looks like a needle. Sort of.

Aces are also sometimes called tepees. An ace looks somewhat like a tepee (certainly more than it looks like a needle). It’s also spelled teepee.

Along with a two, three, or the joker, an ace can be called a no-spotter, because when the card is lying face down and you lift its lower right corner you see no spots. Some ace-to-five lowball players used to couple the knowledge that a card could be one of these, but that they didn’t know which one, with game theory to decide on whether or not to bet.

Specific Aces

Ace of Clubs

The ace of clubs is sometimes called puppy foot. This comes from puppy feet, a cutesy name for clubs (the suit), so called because they (sort of) look like dogs’ footprints.
Ace of Diamonds

The ace of diamonds is sometimes called the Earl of Cork. This came from the Irish game maw, in which it is the card of lowest value. (Also known as spoil five, maw is a trick-taking game.) Supposedly the Earl of Cork (Boyle family) was the poorest nobleman in Ireland, but this is only supposition (because that gentleman is not now and never was in that condition).

You might hear the ace of diamonds called a pig’s eye because the single diamond pip resembles the rhomboid iris of a pig’s eye. (A pip is the suit symbol – spade Spade Suit, heart Heart Suit, diamond Diamond Suit, club Club Suit – on the face of a card. Each face card in the English deck has four pips: one at each end, outside the border, under the K, Q, or J representing the card’s rank and one more at each end, within the border, next to each head. Each ace has three pips, one in the center and one under the A at each end. Each card 2-10 has two more pips than the number that represents its rank, the rank total in the central area, plus one more pip under the number at each end. Some say that the smaller symbol beneath the number or letter designating the rank of the card is not a pip, but is part of the index, which is that number or letter plus the smaller suit symbol beneath it. In that reckoning, each face card has two pips, each ace has one, and each card, 2-10, has as many pips as the number that represents its rank. A pip is also called a spot.)

Ace of Spades

The ace of spades is sometimes called Black Maria, particularly when associated with the home game of high spade in the hole. (For some reason that’s pronounced Mariah, like singer Carey, even though not apparent from the spelling.)

The Official Dictionary of Poker, from which comes much of this information, will soon be available as a Kindle book on Amazon.

Next: the joker ♠

Michael Wiesenberg has been a columnist for Card Player since 1988. He has written or edited many books about poker, and has also written extensively about computers, computer languages, and puzzles. Wiesenberg constructs crosswords for newspapers, magazines, books, and word games for smartphone apps. Send recognition, reprobation, and recommendations to queuecp@gmail.com.