Ace of spades - why is it always the pivotal card played in movies?

It seems every movie that has a card game something associated with cards, the ace of spades is the card that is always the one that is turned over to either win the hand or break someone’s heart, depending on your point of view.

Why? I know its one of 4 high cards, but is it because the ace of spades usually has some artwork that makes the card stand out from all the others?

For example, in Maverick, Mel Gibson tosses the final card on the pile of child in the middle and it is the ace of spades, completing his Royal Flush. He would have also won if he flipped over the 9 of spades, since he would ha head a higher straight flush than the other player, but the ace is always more dramatic.

In a movie called Shade, Sylvester Stallone plays a card shark who made his legend in a shoot-out,mand the card that was splattered with blood was the ace of spades. At the end of the movie,Mehta card turns up as he gives it to the next guy that is coming along that Stallone looks at as the one that will ultimately take his place as the best card hustler.

In Rounders, the card worm had tattooed on his arm was the ace of spades. Also, I believe it was in the first hand that Damon lost at KGB’s, as one of the hole cards flipped for his full house, 9’s over aces. KGB had aces over 9’s to win the hand and all of Damon’s money. The last hand, when the Ace of spades is not even needed, it is prominently shown when flipped over by KGB. The card flipped over could have literally been any card, as it was not needed to make the best hand for Damon’s character. It is like there is a rule book about the last hand of cards in a movie must use the ace of spades in some way to tell the audience this card hand is a big deal, or the movie is over.

These are off the top of my head. I’m sure there are a dozen more that I could find with the ace of spades being shown prominently. I wish I could remember more just to strengthen my point.

Why is this card always used?

Is it because it’s the “death” card?, or is it because, as I mentioned earlier, it has the artwork from the manufacturer, or is there another reason? It’s become so cliche that it’s beyond formulaic. It’s one of those details you can always count on, and I wish they’d stop using it.

Wikipedia has some.

Ace is usually the highest card. Spade doesn’t have any special treatment compared to the other suits (except in Spades…) As far as the " myth" goes, I think it’d be older than movies. They do it because other ones do.

I’ve never heard of the “death card” you speak of, but it was bad luck for Wild Bill… see the Dead Man’s hand: A-Sp, A-Cl, 8-Sp, 8-Cl, and another, contentious card. That may have had some influence, and sometimes the Ace of Spades gets extra artwork, but I doubt that the chicken came before the egg here.

Motorhead has taught me that the Ace of Spades kicks ass, but AC/DC says that you don’t want the Jack.

Well, and Bridge.

Steve McQueen had the Ace of Spades (and the other three) in The Cincinnati Kid. It didn’t help.

“Always” is a relative term.

And while suits have no rank in poker, there is one exception: When establishing the initial location of the button (the dealer) by high card, the suit will break a tie and uses the same ranking as in bridge: clubs, diamonds, hearts, spades (which is also alphabetical).

Well it is right there in the introductory paragraph of the Wikipedia article you link to, together with two citations. Here is a link to one of them. Nobody seems to know why quite why it is the death card (a question for Cecil, perhaps), but the fact that it is is quite well known (at least, I knew it, and I’m usually clueless about such things).

I should think this is by far the most significant reason for it showing up a lot in movies, which, after all, often feature or threaten the death of major characters. It is a useful, easy way for a director to foreshadow a death or just to help create a sense of threat and danger. Even if no threat of death is actually involved, it remains a symbol of finality.

Rephrase: I have never heard of the death card until reading this thread and subsequently checking Wikipedia. I have never thought of the associations, although maybe I will notice it now. I’ve always associated it with good things; maybe it’s like the number 13, which is unlucky for many, but lucky for some.

It’s the highest suit in Poker. If you have a straight flush in Hearts and I have the same hand in Spades then I win.

Televisually speaking, I think that plays into it.

That is completly untrue. We would split the pot.

I agree. I have never ever played poker where suits have any value. Equal straight flushes split the pot, regardless of suit. There is no suit hierarchy in poker that I know of.

As for the OP, I just always assumed it was because the ace of spades is (often) the coolest looking card in a standard 52-card deck, with the big decorated ace in the center and all. It just looks like a really important card.

And a cite:

So, I spoke a little too quickly about there being no suit hierarchy at all. I guess there is (although I’ve never played a game where it was employed for any of those reasons.)

It goes on to say that some house rules will use suit order to break ties. That’s not standard rules and, like I said, I have never come across it.

I’ve always played poker where the suits have a hierarchy: spades, hearts, diamonds, clubs. So when I’ve played, if two players had the same straight flush (almost impossible really), a straight flush in spades would beat a straight flush in any other suit. Hearts would beat diamonds/clubs, and so forth.

This would also apply if you had the same pair and all other cards, or same 3 of a kind (and same 2 other cards) or whatever.

But these were the rules I learned from playing with my grandparents, who were pretty serious card players. I can’t back it up with an official cite.

I’m even doubtful of the claim that suit is used to allocate a leftover chip. In any hold 'em game, the leftover chip is given to the player in inferior position.

The ace shows up much better on camera. Look at that clip by Flywheel above. It would be hard to see any other card (they’re also playing bridge, but the suit ranking only matters in the bidding, not the play).

I remember one guide to card tricks that said you shouldn’t use the Ace of Spades as the card people “pick,” since it’s so easy to see. A magician wants it to be hard to see the card, the opposite of a movie.

Also, the fact that it’s the highest ranked card in the highest rank suit makes its appearance more dramatic.

I’ve heard of the concept of Spades being the highest suit, and thus the Ace of Spades the highest card, but I’ve never seen this actually used in play. Obviously the Ace is considered an important card, perhaps some cards had the Ace of Spades more highly decorated than others. I’ve seen contemporary decks that are like that.

The King of Hearts is known as the Suicide King, often depicted with his sword through his head.

This would be my theory as well. The Ace of Spades is simply distinctive and invokes a certain natural feeling of “specialness” because of its artwork.

I remember as a little kid playing with decks of cards as imaginary soldiers, the Aces were always special cards, and the foreboding black Ace of Spades was the most powerful of them all. That was even without understanding how to play any card games.

It brings up the question of why the Ace of Spades is always the most decorated in most standard decks. Perhaps it has to do with the other shapes (diamonds, clubs, and hearts) not looking quite as threatening/cool?

In the Maverick example, it’s done for story/viewer ease reasons. You have to think a (very) little to realize that the king-high straight flush wins. Everyone, however, knows that the royal flush is the highest hand in poker, so there’s no thought needed.

I blame Lemmy.

This is true. I’ve never seen the suit used to allocate a left-over chip in a chopped pot but I do see it used during color-up situations: As the blinds increase in a poker tournament, the lower denomination chips periodically get exchanged for higher denominations. There is often a remainder. For example, you have ten 25T chips and need to color those up to 100T chips. You only have enough chips for two of the 100T chips with two 25T chips left over. In this case, a chip race is used to allocate the remainders. Each player gets dealt one card (usually face up as it doesn’t matter) for each of his remaining lower denomination chips (1, 2 or 3 in the example). Then all those chips are pooled and colored up (rounding up if necessary) and then the higher denomination chips are allocated based on highest to lowest rank. No player gets more than one and suits break ties.

In our home games (and at my club) we don’t bother with chip racing and simply round up everyone’s remainders, a minor boon to players only holding one left-over.