Judy Kay-Wolff


While cleaning out a rather abused desk drawer, I happened upon a deck of Generali playing cards.   For those of you not familiar with the name Generali, it is a huge European insurance company and has been the sponsor of World Bridge through, of course, the World Bridge Federation.

The recently-retired WBF President, Jose Damiani, held that position for sixteen years.   By profession, he is a public relations and events person and never was there a more fiercely determined individual to go all out to keep the majesty and honor of the game preserved – stopping at nothing.  

As I sorted through the mess, I came upon a deck of the special Generali playing cards and I noticed that many of the cards were patterned differently than the standard pack.   I questioned Bobby and he immediately supplied the answer but too long to go into all the specifics so I shall give you the basic premise.

Spades, hearts and clubs are non-symmetrical while diamonds held in any position look the same – upside down or downside up – not true of the others.   Jose came up with the idea of changing the arrangement of the pips so they were the same right side up or upside down.   How?   In the instance of the three aces, the pip in the middle is half sized and double printed in both directions so they look the same if placed on the table in either position.   The nines were also handled the same way (with a smaller double faced pip in the middle so as not to distinguish which way a card is placed on the table by defenders.  Several other cards were redesigned but the aces and nines were the classic example and easier to explain (if I succeeded).

The reason for all this, which I couldn’t believe and it may sound paranoid – is that some defenders had devised systems where placement on the table related some pre-determined information.   Using the old cards, if you placed an ace on the table with the point toward partner, if meant one thing.   If you chose to place the rounded part toward partner, it meant another.   So, today, all cards used by the WBF employ this sort of protection.   I don’t think the American card playing companies have adopted this practice as yet, but I could be wrong as I haven’t bought a deck of cards in decades.

I’m still in shock that I never noticed it nor knew about the difference after all the WBF events I kibitzed.   Amazing how one learns something new every day!


BURTMarch 18th, 2011 at 10:17 am


I find this concept beyond belief. What will people think of next?

Judy Kay-WolffMarch 18th, 2011 at 10:21 am


I gotta whole trunk full. When you’ve been around as long as I have, you’ve seen just about everything. However, this story (which is probably not widely known) is beyond my imagination — that it was necessary to make every card uniform to prevent cheating.

Judy Kay-WolffMarch 18th, 2011 at 10:22 am


At this point nothing would surprise me!


BethMarch 18th, 2011 at 11:23 am

I looked at my deck of cards and I see what you are talking about. It is frightening that people go to such lengths to find a way to get an edge.


PaulMarch 19th, 2011 at 3:07 am

This type of card has been used in the UK for some years.

During the year of their introduction there was a huge number of problems with people mistaking the ace of spades and ace of clubs. It kept the directors busy and they all knew the revoke and penalty card laws by heart!

It happens less nowadays.

Judy Kay-WolffMarch 19th, 2011 at 5:14 am


Funny the things of which one is not aware. I had never heard of it until yesterday when I found the Generali souvenir deck and got an education from Bobby.