Green’s Dictionary of Slang

card n.2

1. [late 18C; 1940s+] a joker, a clown.

2. [mid-19C+] a character, a noticeable person, a likeable eccentric [? one who stands out from the ‘pack’].

3. [mid-19C+] an attraction, a ‘drawing card’.

4. [1940s] (US) an amusing thing or circumstance.

5. [1970s] a fool.

6. (US) in drug uses.

(a) [1900s–40s] pieces of opium weighed out onto a (playing) card; the usual ration of prepared opium used in a single smoking session.

(b) [1920s–30s] a means of selling opium in which pills of the drug are stuck to a playing card.

In phrases

give someone cards and spades (v.) [card-playing imagery; prob. from the 19C game casino]

[late 19C–1940s] to allow someone else an advantage.

hot card (n.) [hot adj. (4d)]

[late 19C–1920s] (US) a provocative, lively person.

pull someone’s card (v.)

1. [1980s+] to attack, to beat up, to kill.

2. [2000s] (US prison) to find out information about another inmate [the image is of file cards; the records are now computerized].

sure card (n.) (also correct card) [note mid-16C SE sure card, an expedient to gain a desired object, a person whose name will help one]

[early 16C–mid-18C] a safe plan, a trustworthy person.