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Creative Career Path

Luck of the Draw2011.07.12

    Chances are that at some time in your life you have played games with a deck of cards. Idioms based on card games are quite common, suggesting the metaphorical connection that we feel between cards and life. You may play above board, follow suit, or have an Ace in the hole, and when in doubt you call into question whether something is According to Hoyle (


    The psychology and techniques of beating the game by cheating at cards have fascinated moviegoers for decades, with classic lines such as in Cheyenne Autumn, when on discovering that the third player was cheating, Wyatt Earp says to Doc Holiday, “If we shoot him, we won’t have anybody to play with.” (


    Many of these idioms derive from images of the colorful life of the Gambler, but the history of cards goes deeper than gambling, with roots running back to ancient India and China (


    Card decks have appeared in many styles and variations. The imagery may be standardized, such as the One-Eyed Jack in the playing card deck, or may contain deep symbolism such as in the Tarot Card tradition, which is used for divination, as well as to convey secret spiritual teachings (


    In skilled hands, cards are used in performing magic tricks with sleight of hand, which can confound even the most confident observer. If you want to learn, many card tricks are revealed plainly on YouTube. With months or years of practice, the performer can literally get away with magic through a combination of dextrous moves and skillful distraction. Famed illusionist David Copperfield is said to have convinced a mugger that his pockets were empty, using sleight of hand to conceal his passport, cell phone, and wallet (


    Memory championships around the world use card decks to test the ability of contestants to reproduce the order of a shuffled deck of cards, working against the clock. The challenge is to mentally convert a random sequence of abstract numbers and symbols into a meaningful and memorable chain of images that can be linked into a story, which is then converted back from memory to reproduce the correct sequence of the shuffled deck. Anyone can do this with patient practice using one of the well-known mnemonic systems (, but world record holders have repeatedly accomplished this feat in under 60 seconds. World Memory Champion Dominic O’Brien was banned from play in Las Vegas Casinos, even though the odds are stacked against him.


    The 4 suits of Clubs, Hearts, Spades, and Diamonds, and the Joker J, are universally recognized, and also provide accessible symbolism for the five elements of the ancient philosophers. The Suit of Clubs represents WOOD (Spring, Growth). The Suit of Hearts represents FIRE (Summer, Passion). The Suit of Spades represents EARTH (Autumn, Grounding). The Suit of Diamonds represents METAL (Winter, Knowledge). And the Joker J is the Wild Card, representing WATER (Universe, Wisdom).


    These are symbols for the seasons of life, and are rooted in an ancient tradition. The hands that we are dealt represent the circumstances and opportunities we are given, and how we play the game represents our level of wisdom and our fortunes. We can cross our fingers that Luck be a Lady, or we can play our cards wisely, knowing that our best bet is on ourselves and how we play the game.


    Whatever your interest might be in cards, whatever your level of engagement, it is worth spending some time holding a deck in your hands, and discovering what is behind this ancient fascination.


    William Reed


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    Article Writer

    William Reed

    William Reed is a renowned author-speaker who coaches physical finesse and flexible focus for a creative career path. A certified Master Trainer in Guerrilla Marketing and 7th-dan in Aikido, he combines practical wisdom of East and West to help you learn personal branding at the Entrepreneurs Creative Edge.

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