Joker (playing card)

Joker (playing card)

The Joker is a special card found in most modern decks of playing cards, or a Mahjong tile in some Mahjong game sets.


The Joker is usually depicted as a court jester. There are usually two Jokers per deck, and both cards often have noticeable differences between each other. For instance, Bicycle Playing Cards prints their company's guarantee claim on only one. More common traits are the appearance of colored and black/noncolored Jokers. At times, the Jokers will each be colored to match the colors used for suits; there will be a red Joker, and a black Joker. In games where the jokers may need to be compared, the red or full-color joker usually outranks the black-and-white one. With the red/black jokers, the red one can alternately be counted as a heart/diamond and the black is used to substitute clubs/spades.

The Joker sometimes bears an S superimposed over a U as its index symbol. This is a trademark of the U.S. Playing Card Company and is seen on Jokers in their Bicycle brand of playing cards.

In Australia, the Joker in the Queen's Slipper brand of playing cards depicts a Kookaburra, a bird native to Australia with a call which resembles human laughter. In Australian games of 500, the Joker is often referred to colloquially as 'The Bird'.

Most other decks simply use a stylized "J" or the word "JOKER" in the corner index.

Use of the Joker in card games

The Joker's use is greatly varied. Many card games omit the card from use entirely; others, such as a 25-card variant of Euchre, make it one of the most important in the game. Often, the card is a wild, and thereby allowed to represent other existing cards. The term "Joker's Wild" originates from this practice, as does the game show of the same name.

The Joker can be an extremely beneficial, or an extremely harmful, card. In Euchre it is often used to represent Benny, the highest trump. In poker, it is wild. However, in the children's game Old Maid, a solitary joker represents the Maid, a card that is to be avoided.

Specific ranks

* Euchre, 500, Spades: As the highest trump, "Benny" or "top Bower".
* Canasta: The joker, like the deuce, is a wild card. However, the joker is worth 50 points in melding, as opposed to 20 for the deuce.
* Gin Rummy: a wild card, able to be used as any necessary rank or suit to complete a meld.
* Hearts: The joker does not appear in standard hearts, but when playing with 3 or 6 players, both Jokers are commonly added to make the deck divide evenly, and are played as off-suit, non-Heart cards. Other variants use one or more Jokers to replace another card or cards, and give the Joker special properties.
* Poker (1): A wild card. Some poker variants restrict the capabilities of the joker, only allowing it to be used as an ace, or to complete a flush or straight (when it is called a bug). Unrestricted jokers can be very powerful; they guarantee a pair, promote an existing pair to three of a kind, and promote two-pair to a full house. In some forms, the joker may be used to promote a four-of-a-kind hand into a five-of-a-kind. A five-of-a-kind is considered the highest among all hands, even the royal flush.
* Poker (2): Alternatively, the joker is sometimes used as a buck or button (poker) to indicate which player is the dealer.
* Chase the Joker: An alternative version of Old Maid where the Joker card is used instead of the Ace.
*War: Beats all other cards.
*Pitch: A point card in some variations. Jokers rank between the Jack and the 10 (trumps only), and are marked as "High" and "Low", one outranking the other.
*Mighty: Second most-powerful card in the game, though it cannot be legally played on the first or last trick.
*Daihinmin: a wild card, or a deuce (which ends the round and clears the discard pile).
*Crazy Eights: a "skip" card, playable on top of any other card, that forces the next player to lose a turn.
*Spades: uncommon, but when playing with three or six players they are added to make the cards deal evenly (18 or 9 cards each, respectively). They are either "junk" cards playable anytime that cannot win a trick, or they count as the two highest trumps (the two Jokers must be differentiable; the "big Joker" outranks the "little Joker").


It is believed that the term "Joker" comes from a mispronunciation of "Juker", the German/Alsatian name for the game Euchre (in German, the "J" sounds as "I" or "Y" so the German and English names should be pronounced similarly). The card was originally introduced in 1870 for games of that family (to be used as the highest trump). [ US Playing Card Co. - A Brief History of Playing Cards] ] The name could also derive from Poker, where the card became popular as a wild bvelie dho fdd have died in 1993 d


The Joker is often compared to "the Fool" in the Trumps of the French Tarot deck. They share many similarities both in appearance and play function; the Fool is often the highest trump, or else an "excuse" that can be played at any time but cannot win. Though the inspiration for using the "jester" imagery on the joker may have derived from the Fool card, they have differing origins as stated above; the 52-card deck derived from the French tarot cards, but the Tarot deck has included the Fool since its invention in the 1400s while the Joker is a relatively recent (re)addition to the Anglo-American deck.

References in popular culture fiction

* The Batman's enemy, the Joker, is based on the playing card in name and appearance.
* The N64 Game Fighter's Destiny contains an unlockable character with the name Joker. He is one of the best fighters in the game.
* There is a Joker on the Queen album "Innuendo",
* The Joker is a character, a descriptive term for people (unusual and rare) and a card to be collected in the Jostein Gaarder book The Solitaire Mystery
* In the anime "Shugo Chara!", Amu is the Joker position, which is the trump card.
* The Insane Clown Posse released a series of albums (Carnival of Carnage, Ringmaster, Riddle Box, The Great Milenko, Jeckel Bros, and ), known as "The 6 Joker's Cards"
* In Persona 2, the joker is the name of the game's central antagonist.

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