10 Nicknames for Cards in Poker: Jacks

The knave, the scoundrel, the dog; why does no one like the lowest picture card (unless you get three or four of them together). As early as the mid-16th century the card was known in English decks as the Knave (meaning a male servant of royalty). It became Jack in 1864, when Samuel Hart, an English card maker, published a deck using J instead of Kn for the lowest court card. The French decks are where most of the nicknames come from, and if you play poker at a pavement café on the Champs Elysees, you will certainly hear these Jacks referred to by their French Nicknames. Mais oui! Alors mes enfants, here we look at the nicknames given to the Jack cards, starting with the generic ones for Jacks of any suit:

1. Fishhook

No prizes for this one! It is simply that the J resembles a standard fish hook!

2. One-Eyed Jack

The name given to either or both of the two jacks who are presented in profile (see hand above) the Jack of Spades and the Jack of Hearts. However it is only in the latest evolution of these cards (20th century) that these two jacks are in profile. See the 17th century French cards below, and note that only the Jack of Diamonds is in profile!

3. Bower

This is from the German word Bauer, meaning farmer, or jack. It stems from the card game Euchre, a game popular in the United States, Canada, New Zealand, and in the western parts of England. It derives from a 19th-century Alsatian game called juckerspiel from the fact that its two top trumps are Jucker, meaning “jack.” But they were also referred to as Bauers- Bowers.

Jack of Spades

4. Olgier the Dane

Ogier (or Holger) the Dane is an important character in the French medieval epic poems known as chansons de geste, which relate tales of heroic deeds. The character of Ogier is referred to in the chansons as the son of the Danish ruler Gaufrey (Godfrey). In Danish folk songs, such as the Song of Roland, Ogier is also celebrated as a national hero. Stories about Ogier also appear in Icelandic, Castilian, Catalonian, and Italian literature.

Jack of Diamonds

5. Hector

Called “Hector”, not after the Trojan hero slain by Achilles, but Sir Hector de Maris (or Ector de Maris), a Knight of the Round Table in Arthurian legend. He is the younger half-brother of Lancelot.

6. Roland of France

From the French epic poem, Song of Roland, which was about the Battle of Roncesvalles in 778, which brought France out of the Dark Ages, united under Charlemagne the Great.

Jack of Hearts

7. La Hire

The warrior card: refers to Étienne “La Hire” de Vignolles, companion in arms of Joan of Arc. His coat of arms is shown on the left. was a French military commander during the Hundred Years’ War. His name remains a byword for a choleric disposition (that’s bad-tempered to you and I!)

Jack of Clubs

8. Lancelot

Sir Lancelot was one of King Arthur’s most trusted knights of the Round Table, at least until he was discovered having a dalliance with Queen Guinevere. He should have kept his sword in his scabbard!

9. Judas Maccabeus

Fame for leading the Maccabean revolt against the Seleucid Empire (167–160 BC) and is acclaimed as one of the greatest warriors in Jewish history alongside Joshua, Gideon and David.

And finally we finish with a generic name for the Jack:

10. Jackal

If a player is called a Jackal in Poker, it means they are crazy and unpredictable. Jackal also means anyone who does dirty work for another; one who meanly serves the purpose of another. As the lowest of the picture cards, he’s the step ‘n fetch it of the Court.

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