Estate Playing Cards

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Estate Playing Cards is the new card deck for the 21st Century. This guide is the companion to the pack and does not set out to duplicate books on card games. There is a full explanation of the deck and suggested variations to many popular card games. For card enthusiasts the guide is a primer aimed at generating discussion on where to take Estate Playing Cards. By exploring the deck and road testing it with card playing friends, a host of fresh ideas will hopefully lead to more guides and games.

The guide covers a brief history of cards including some ancient evidence for five estates as opposed to four suits; explains the deck in full; examines variations to some popular single player games; moves on to player games; covers some of the well known partner games; before finally adding a touch of mystery and imagination to Estate Playing Cards. The cards can only be purchased on ebay by typing 5 Suit Playing Cards in the search window.


Dating from over 2000 BC in ancient Babylon, the Divine Feminine is equal in strength, passion, magic, wit, power and joy to the Divine Masculine. In the last two thousand years the god has existed without the goddess yet the images of the feminine and masculine that come from that region bring forth perceptions that are at once age-old and incredibly modern to our times reflecting a contemporary worldview that does not restrict the experience of femininity to the male-defined other, and vice-versa. Witness the absence of a Queen in early European decks.

Cards base their symbols in many different forms throughout China gradually evolving from knucklebones through dice and dominoes. It was probable that in the perfect sequence there were 9 pieces of 5 suits – bags, money, batons or bows, swords, and a fifth undefined, and therefore dismissed, mark. This suggests that Europeans, who knew nothing whatever about them, would settle on four instead of five suits.

Playing cards were probably adapted from the game of chess, first found in Hindostan, in about 450 A.D.  The arrival of playing cards in Europe from India and China can be dated to the late Middle Ages.  Despite regional variations in naming of the four suits, their popularity for games, for telling fortunes, even for teaching children their numbers, has endured. The basic divisions into court and other cards have lasted as well.

In cards from the East, the pack number and shape of cards varied from Europe as did the number of suits. Indian and Persian packs consisted of eight and ten suits.

In 1377, Brother Johannes von Rheinfelden, a Dominican friar, described variant packs containing queens, or two kings and two queens each with their 'marschalli', or packs containing five or six kings each (i.e. 5 or 6 suits) with 'marschalli', or even four kings, four queens making packs of up to 60. A group of patterns, referred to as hunting decks, from 15th century Germany had no trumps, and their composition was basically similar to Moorish decks with different suits systems using hunting or hunted animals. Deers, hounds, falcons and nooses were sometimes extended to a fifth suit featuring shields.

The popularity of cards was not always thus. Accounts through the centuries refer to cards as an invention of the devil, with kings and court cards symbolizing idols and false gods. There are innumerable references, usually from church and state, across millennia, banning or at least discouraging the playing of cards, and not surprisingly a bit of heraldic hypocrisy is never far away.

A series of engraved copper plates from Italy dated around 1470 are thought to be the source of European cards. These fifty cards are divided into five groups of 10 cards. The five groups portray Positions in Life, Muses, Sciences, Virtues and Planets or the Creation of the World. The five suits are also referred to as Trumps, Scepters, Cups, Pentacles and Swords barely remarkable similarity to the Tarot.

Towards the end of the nineteenth century a set of forty numeral cards of four suits was produced in Germany. The scenes painted on the cards depicted the history of the four “great” continents – Africa, Asia, Europe and America.   Australia would be added later with the introduction in the 21st century of Estate Playing Cards.

21st Century

Estate Playing Cards brings ancient oblations, 15th century Italy and traditional four suit card decks into the 21st Century through synthesis and modernization.  It augments the popular four suits - Church, Corporation, Community, Military with the fifth estate - the Media; replaces the royal & joker cards with family & imperial cards respectively thereby increasing the number of cards in the pack.

While five suit decks have been around for almost a century, Estate Playing Cards is a more fundamental modification to traditional playing cards; changes that not only reflect more accurately the modern world but retain some of the earliest features of ancient cards from Europe and Asia.
The standard pack has been increased from 52 to 60 Cards consisting of five suits Waves, Hearts, Diamonds, Clubs and Spades. These suits are referred to as Estates. Each estate contains 12 cards – Ace, Woman, Man, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2.  There are also two imperial cards, the Pope and the President, replacing the Joker, making a total of 62 cards.

The New Estate is called Waves, representing signals put out by various media.  The symbol used is a graphic of a transmission wave.

Most existing card games can be played with an estate deck.  Some remain virtually unchanged while others require modifications.  This guide covers basic rules for several well known games and any changes or variations generated by the estate deck.  Detailed instructions and strategies for conventional games may follow in a forthcoming book. The traditional estates have had several name changes, however the Media has never been included until now.

Face values of estate cards are largely determined by the game being played.  The family cards generally hold a value of ten, although in certain games Man may be eleven and Woman twelve.  Aces are high or low usually with values of 11 or 1 respectively. In games such as 500 and Poker, estates from highest to lowest are Waves, Hearts, Diamonds, Clubs and Spades.  In Bridge the estate order is Spades, Hearts, Waves, Diamonds, Clubs.

The Woman and Man cards are referred to as the Family cards. The Pope and President cards are referred to as Imperial cards.

A 60 card pack reduces the incidence of short decks because games with one, two, three, four, five or six players where every card is dealt produces an even number.

The bowers are derived from the angel’s star or devil’s pentangle placing the five estates in card dealing order - (clockwise, highest to lowest). There are three bowers – Middle, Left and Right. The Middle bower is the highest followed by Left then Right and matches the Trump Estate. In games with bowers the Man cards are used.

Games involving 2 x 2 partners, unless otherwise stated, use existing protocols such as North/South East/West and Declarer, Leader, Dummy, Pone.  Partner games with 5 players will be clarified in specific game examples. Terms such as tableau, talon, trick, deal, cut, stand, burn, trump, widow, slam and meld remain unchanged. The only exception is the use of ESTATE in place of SUIT.

Solitary Games

The main variation in many solitary games is the presence of five different colours instead of red and black and five foundations replacing four.

In games like Klondike, where red and black play a part, a variation could be to deal an eight stack tableau, build on the five estates in ascending order and place talon cards of the same estate one above or below the face value of a descending stack on the tableau. The chances of getting out using these changes are fairly high.

In Little Spider the layout changes to fit five estates. Cards are moved from the talons to foundation in ascending or descending order. Deal fresh cards to talons when all moves have been exhausted.

Player Games

In Poker a fifth estate increases the number of winning card combinations while lengthening the odds. With 60 cards and five estates, the total number of five card hands is 5,461,512. 5 of a Kind, with only 12 possible hands or a probability of 0.0000022, becomes the new top hand.

The table lists in descending order the poker hands in an Estate deck. A Rainbow is any five cards from different estates and outranks 2 Pair.

     Rank                   Hand
       1                       5 of a Kind
       2                       Straight Flush
       3                       Rainbow 4 of a Kind
       4                       Rainbow Straight
       5                       Rainbow Full House
       6                       4 of a Kind
       7                       Flush
       8                       Full House
       9                       Rainbow 3 of a Kind
     10                       Rainbow 2 Pair
     11                       Straight
     12                       3 of a Kind
     13                       Rainbow
     14                       2 Pair
     15                       1 Pair
     16                       Rubbish

Five of a Kind is the hardest hand with only 12 possibilities. A Royal Straight Flush is now a Family Straight Flush. A Rainbow Full House has a card from each estate.

The Estate variation of Hearts also known as Black Maria could be Waves or Black Pete where Waves replaces Hearts and the Man of Spades replaces the Queen of Spades. Club Sandwich is one variation in the scoring. Each wave card counts as many penalty points as its face value. The Man of Spades counts as 11. 

Partner Games

Estate Bridge is a variation of Rubber Bridge that in turn is the basic form of Contract Bridge, played by four players in two fixed partnerships facing each other. The cards in each estate rank from highest to lowest: Ace Woman Man 10 down to 2.  Each player is dealt 15 cards. The trump estates from highest to lowest are no trumps, spades, hearts, waves, diamonds and clubs.  The lowest bid allowed is one club while the highest is 9 no trumps. 

For a successful contract, the score below the line for each trick (in excess of 6) bid and made is as follows:

        Trumps                                             Score per trick
        Clubs, Diamonds, Waves                             20
        Hearts or Spades                                         30
        No Trumps                                                  40 first trick
        30 remaining tricks

Clubs, diamonds and waves are called the minor estates and hearts and spades are the major estates.   The top four trumps (Ace Woman Man 10) are called honours.
A partnership holding all four of these cards scores a bonus of 100 above the line. If there are no trumps, a player holding four aces scores 100 for honours and 150 points for all five aces.  Scores for honours are to be claimed at the end of the play. 

In Canasta the most common scoring adds partner's points together.  A natural canasta scores 500 points while a mixed canasta is worth 300.  Going out or Melding out nets 100 points.  Going out concealed, worth 100 points, happens if the player's whole hand is melded in one turn, and includes one canasta.  The card values are as follows:

             500 - Natural Canasta                   300 - Mixed Canasta
             300 - Both 3 of Waves                  300 – Both 3 of Hearts
             200 - Going Out Concealed          100 - Going Out   
               50 – Imperials                               20 - Ace's and 2's       
               10 - 8's through Women     
                5 – Diamond, Club and Spade 3's through 7's
 In Euchre the deck is shortened to twenty-five cards consisting of the 9, 10, Man, Woman and Ace from the five estates.  The 8 and 7 are used as scorecards by each team. The first team to score 15 is the winner. The trump estate is set at the beginning of each hand, and the cards in that estate are the most powerful cards in the game.  There are three Bowers using the Man cards. If Hearts are trumps, Man of Hearts, Man of Clubs and Man of Spades are the top three cards respectively followed by the Ace, Woman, 10 and 9 of Hearts, followed by the remaining cards from Ace to 9.
For 5 players the deck is shortened to 30 cards – 8, 9, 10, Woman, Man and Ace with 6 and 7 used as scorecards by each player.  Partner play changes with each deal.  For example, if Dealer (player 1) wins the bid, then players 3 and 4 are partners and players 2 and 5 are opponents.  The first player to score 13 points wins.

Six (600) Hundred is the estate version of 500 Hundred. There are four players, with partners sitting opposite.  A pack of 42 cards is used, consisting of Ace Woman, Man, 10, 9, 8, 7 and 6 from all estates plus both imperials.  For those players used to a three card kitty, include the 2 of Waves as a wildcard ranked below imperials but ahead of bowers.

When there is a trump estate, the highest trump is the pope, followed by the president, 2 of waves, man of the trump estate (middle bower), man of the left side estate (left bower), man of the right side estate (right bower), then Ace, Woman, 10, 9, down to the 6 of the trump estate. The other four estates rank in the usual order from ace (highest) down to 6, apart from the left and right bowers of the trump estate.  When there are no trumps, pope, president and 2 of waves remain the highest trumps and all the estates rank in the usual order from Ace down to 6.

Misere and Open Misere are contracts to lose all the tricks playing without a partner.  Misere is higher than any 7 bid.  Open Misere is higher than Ten Waves but lower than Ten No Trumps.   The scores for the various bids start at 20 points for six spades and increase by 20 points up to 10 no trumps which is worth 600 points.  Misere is worth 250 points and Open Misere is worth 600 points. 

In six handed 600, the entire pack of 62 cards is used. There can be either two partnerships of three players or three partnerships of two players.  Each player is dealt 10 cards with a 2 card kitty.  Play proceeds as for 4 handed 600.


Estate Playing Cards expand the possibilities for new games and may introduce a mystical and mythological dimension.  Such interpretations are designed to help stimulate the card playing fraternity into designing new games, strategies or myths. The colours of the five estates are the same as the colours of the five Olympic rings.Estate Playing Cards acknowledges the construction of the Suez and Panama canals as well as the discovery of Australia.  This has created five genuine landmasses with the status of continent. Antarctica is considered a sanctuary and immune from the indulgences of mortal card players.

The 60 card deck and 5 estates with 21st century family format add an astrological dimension previously restricted to purpose designed cards.  The following table shows several possible representations of the 12 cards.

      Card        Zodiac           Chinese          Months                   Hours
       Ace        Sagittarius       Rat                  January                        1:00
         2          Capricorn       Ox                   February                      2:00
         3          Aquarius         Tiger                March                         3:00
         4          Pisces             Rabbit             April                            4:00
         5          Aries              Dragon            May                             5:00
         6          Taurus            Snake              June                            6:00
         7         Gemini             Horse              July                             7:00
         8         Cancer            Sheep              August                         8:00
         9         Leo                 Monkey           September                   9:00
       10         Virgo               Rooster           October                      10:00
      Man       Libra                Dog                November                   11:00
    Woman    Scorpio            Boar               December                   12:00

In Chinese astrology an estate deck combines the 12 signs of the zodiac with the 5 elements of Metal, Water, Wood, Fire and Earth. The 12 cards of each Estate match the 12 animals of the Chinese horoscope.

Each Chinese sign has a range of attributes that may also stimulate new games or help with psychic interpretations.

An esoteric Tarot deck contains four suits not including the major Arcana, referred to as trumps. The deck is aligned to four elements, Fire, Earth, Water, Air, however in this post- industrial age Metal is missing. The 12 signs of the zodiac could be represented by the 12 cards of an estate, while each estate represents an element.

A revised Tarot deck would retain the four suits with Royals replaced by Family and the Arcana shortened to fit the Metal Estate and Imperials.

The estate deck could be used in astrological readings on compatibilities of couples and groups or fortune telling. Detailed interpretation of the cards is beyond the scope of this guide, however a procedure for card selection may help stimulate further investigation.

One person shuffles the 60 card deck then places it in front of the person to their left who selects a card by cutting, makes a mental note of the card and replaces it before shuffling the deck and placing it in front of the next player.  This process repeats until all players have selected a card and noted its face value.  The number on the card refers to the animal while the estate signifies the element.  For example the 7 of Waves signifies the Earth Horse while the Man of Diamonds signifies the Wood Dog. Participants then consult their Chinese Astrological Primer, Numerology Chart or Tarot Manual for an interpretation.

Feel free to send in your suggestions and comments. Worthwhile content has been posted to the website and may appear in the next guide. You can purchase Estate Playing Card decks on ebay by typing 5 Suit Playing Cards in the search window.  

Keith Wilson
Estate Playing Cards
February 2010

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