Why do we keep finding playing cards outside our front door?
December 17, 2010 9:14 PM   Subscribe

We frequently find single playing cards outside of our front door. What is going on?

My boyfriend and I live in downtown Hamilton, ON, in a walk-up apartment on top of a (currently empty) storefront. For the last few months, we have been finding single playing cards directly outside our front door. For example, a few days ago, I came home from work in the early afternoon and there was a three of hearts playing card laying on the sidewalk outside our front door. Tonight we came home from a night out and a six of diamonds was outside of our door. This has been going on since the summer. So far there have been no weird or sinister occurences, just the playing cards. Is this some kind of signal from the homeless community? Has anyone ever heard of this.
posted by Ladysin to Society & Culture (17 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Nearby restaurant or bar with a quirky promotion going on? I remember a restaurant in Ithaca, NY where the waiter asks you to pick a card out of a hat and if it matches a house card, or something, you get a free drink or a dessert or whatnot. That's the firs thing I thought of when I read your post.
posted by Buffaload at 9:19 PM on December 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: That's an interesting idea. However, the closest bar is about three blocks away...
posted by Ladysin at 9:22 PM on December 17, 2010

There's been a playing card stuck to the ceiling of Union Station in DC for over 10 years now. It moves from time to time. I guess it's a thing, but I don't know what that thing is.
posted by MrMoonPie at 9:25 PM on December 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think they are just a common urban item, available at any bodega or corner store, that gets lost a lot. I find dice pretty often. One of my friends collects wayward playing cards, she has almost a full deck.
posted by bradbane at 9:28 PM on December 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

If you have the opportunity, it may be worth watching the space with a webcam. I can't imagine why anyone would leave cards deliberately (scouting the space to see if it's occupied seems unlikely - cards would blow away.) But if it's a pattern, it might be deliberate.
posted by LSK at 9:51 PM on December 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

Are the cards all from the same deck? Any particular order they've appeared in?
posted by pseudostrabismus at 9:59 PM on December 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

When you say just outside your door, you mean outside the building, right?

I've seen cards used as part of the mechanism for live action RPG type things, but generally you don't do that sort of thing in the dead of winter.

I've also seem them used in lieu of the now serving #28 kind of thing. It could be that someone in the area is doing that and if people decide they can't wait or fail to drop the card in the collection box when their turn comes up that often drop it on the street.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 10:32 PM on December 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Happens all the time in my Washington Heights neighborhood here in NYC, but a lot of the Latin guys around here set up card tables on the corners and play for hours (when they're not rocking the dominos).
posted by JaredSeth at 10:34 PM on December 17, 2010

Best answer: Are the cards always in the same location? It's possible that someone is playing with them near your building without regard to keeping them all.

If you get enough cards for a full house or some other high-ranking poker hand, try taping the cards to your door to see if the poker fairy leaves you some money.
posted by germdisco at 10:53 PM on December 17, 2010 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Bad magician.
posted by Skygazer at 12:02 AM on December 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: seconding a magician or a nearby person trying really hard to learn shuffling and card dealing skills. I remember spending afternoons trying to launch cards across the room..
posted by 3mendo at 3:42 AM on December 18, 2010

Best answer: I've lived in Hamilton for a few years now, near Sherman and Main originally and now closer to city centre and I've never seen this or heard about it from anyone else. I'm going to go with the bad magician theory.
posted by the dief at 7:13 AM on December 18, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for your input everyone. Last night we had gotten the romantic idea that it might be a hobo code, but now it seems like bad magician or overflow from a card game is much more likely. My boyfriend has seen the patrons of a nearby store playing cards in the summer, so overflow from a continuing card game is probably the cause...
posted by Ladysin at 8:04 AM on December 18, 2010

Response by poster: ...although if it continues we may be tempted to web cam out of curiousity.
posted by Ladysin at 8:06 AM on December 18, 2010

Maybe a kid is putting cards in his bike spokes and they're falling out near your place?
posted by Menthol at 10:15 AM on December 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Neighbors have kids? I'm always finding cards outside that my son has dropped. I don't think we have a single complete deck of cards anywhere anymore.
posted by ducktape at 2:12 PM on December 18, 2010

Interesting. I encountered single playing cards on the streets of Charles Village, Baltimore, MD and wondered. I started keeping the ones I found. They were from different decks and suits. I always assumed there was something sinister about them, kind of like this poster Years later, I thought about posting my first ever AskMeFi question about it. Now you've saved me the trouble, even though I'm not sure either of us has a conclusive answer. My best bets now, after reading this thread, for both of us is that they're lost from card games or magic tricks, etc.
posted by knile at 12:47 PM on December 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

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