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A postillion is the 'cut card' that protects/hides, the face of the bottom card in the pack in card games such as poker.

The standard definition of that word is:

a person who rides the leading nearside (left-hand side) horse of a team or pair drawing a coach or carriage, especially when there is no coachman.

And I read at wictionary this etymology:

From Middle French postillon, and its likely source, Italian postiglione (“guide for driver of post-coach”), from posta (“post”).

How and when did the cut-card become known as a postillion?

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    Off-topic, but there is also the word pillion, which originally applied to a seat behind a saddle for a woman to ride on. Now it used mainly in the UK to apply to what American bikies call "riding bitch". Commented Oct 29, 2019 at 17:22
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    Unsure. Two uses I've found while researching - (1) to postillion (verb): a coital action related to a finger at the bottom (OED); (2) the postilion basque, a Victorian basque with a skirt cut in the back to resemble coattails (Ladies' Home Journal). I haven't found any sources pre-internet for the cut-card. Commented Oct 29, 2019 at 18:31
  • @TaliesinMerlin Usage (1) is a bit leftfield, hopefully unrelated to the usage I’m referring to. Lol.
    – k1eran
    Commented Oct 29, 2019 at 18:42
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    @k1eran I hope so too. Both uses are late 19th century, by the way, in case that helps anyone. Commented Oct 29, 2019 at 18:51
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    @TaliesinMerlin The OED distinguishes between to postilion (verb - one 'l'): a coital action related to a finger at the bottom and postillion (noun, two 'l's) a co- or outrider.
    – Greybeard
    Commented Dec 2, 2020 at 11:38

2 Answers 2

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A postillion is the 'cut card' that protects/hides, the face of the bottom card in the pack in card games such as poker.

It would appear that as a postillion sat adjacent to (or rode with) the driver, and as his job was to guard the driver and coach, then the card that sits next to the bottom card is next to (or accompanying) the bottom card (to protect it from being seen.)

If you have 3 aces and you can see that the bottom card is an ace, you know that nobody else has an ace, etc.

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Ever heard of a Postillion sentence? This is one...That table has four legs...It's a sentence that would never be used.

This Postillion in poker does hide the bottom card and is often called a cut card but it's a postillion, wait for it...A card that will never be used in the game...i.e. never dealt out. Nothing to do with horses.

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