ĀS, a game of playing cards (see CARD GAMES) which became popular in the Qajar era, and hence replaced ganjafa, the card game associated with the Safavids. The cards were made of papier-mâché strengthened by calico. Their oblong size did not exceed 6 x 4 cm. in general. The surface was painted and lacquered. The reverse side was mostly black. The front sides were distinguished from each other by five ground-colors. They are listed as follows in order of their value, starting with the highest ranking: black: Ās (the Ace); green: Šāh (the Shah); yellow: Bibi (the Queen); golden yellow: Sarbāz (the Jack); and red: Lakkāt (harlot, the lowest in value).
The above faces are mostly framed, either by simple lines, or by medallions with leaf decoration. In the most common packs, the ās is represented by a lion fighting a dragon or attacking a gazelle; sometimes the human-faced sun (Ḵoršid-ḵānom) is added. The šāh is mostly shown seated on a chair, wearing a uniform distinguished by regal head-gear, attended by one to three young noblemen in a pose of obeisance. The bibi is also shown seated, sometimes with an infant on her knees, and attended by servants but not always distinguished by signs of royalty. The sarbāz is mostly represented by one or more soldiers, noblemen or hunters, all wearing clothes of European design. The lowest suit, the lakkāt, is represented by a female of low rank like a servant or dancer.
There are four more types of decoration for a pack: flower-designs, arabesques, erotic scenes, or mythological figures. Some cards of the last type have names of the figures inscribed on them: Kayumarṯ representing the Shah, Farangis the Queen, Kāva the Jack, and Sudāba the Lakkāt.
The rules are similar to those of American poker but there is no flush, straight flush, color and straight. Moreover it is not possible to exchange cards because a pack is composed of 25 cards only, with five suits. Normally five persons play, each one receiving five cards. The highest hand is panj-sar, which means a player has five cards of one suit. Should more than one player who placed his stakes have a suit, the one whose suit has the higher value wins the game, i.e. the suit of ās precedes that of Shahs etc. The next highest hand is čāhār-sar, which means holding four cards of one suit. It is followed by se-opas, i.e. three cards of one suit and two of another. This is followed by se-sar, i.e. three cards of a suit and two cards of different suits. Then do-pas follows for which the player needs two cards of two suits each. The lowest hand is do-sar, i.e. two cards of one suit. Bluffing is a main feature of this game.
Michael Dummet, The Game of Tarot, London, 1980.
D. Hoffman, Die Welt der Spielkarten, Munich, 1972.
R. von Leyden, “Oriental Playing Cards,” Journal of the Playing Card Society 4, Supplement 4/1D. pp. 1-37, 1976.
Mehdi Roschanzamir, “Persische Lackmalereien auf As-Spielkarten,” in Mitteilungen aus dem Museum für Völkerkunde (Hamburg), N. S. 16, 1986, p. 71-90.
Originally Published: July 20, 2002
Last Updated: August 16, 2011