One day a card play had been held at Narumov. After the game, Tomsk told the amazing story of his grandmother, who knows the secret of three cards, allegedly opened to her by famous Saint-Germain, and one is sure to win, if one put them in a row. After discussing the story the players went home. This story seemed implausible to everyone, including Hermann, the young officer, who had never played, but, without stopping, was always watching the game until the morning.
Tomsk’s grandmother, an old countess, is sitting in her dressing room, surrounded by servants. Here for the hoop is her pupil. Tomsk enters, and starts a polite conversation with the Countess, but quickly leaves. Lizaveta, Countess’s pupil, was left alone, looking out the window and sees a young officer, whose appearance makes her blushshe is distracted by the countess, extending the most contradictory orders and at the same time demanding their immediate execution. Lizaveta’s life is unbearable at the house of this wayward and selfish old woman. She is guilty in everything that annoys the Countess. The endless carping and caprices irritated the proud girl who eagerly waited for the savior. That is why the appearance of the young officer, whom she had seen for several days in a row standing on the street and looking at her window, made her become flushed. This young man was none other than Hermann.
He was a man of strong passions and a fiery imagination, and only the strength of character saved from delusions of youth. Tomsk’s anecdote inflamed his imagination, and he wanted to know the secret of the three cards. This desire became an obsession, unwittingly brought him to the house of the old countess, in one of the windows of which he saw Lizaveta Ivanovna. This minute became fatal.
Hermann begins to show affection to Lisa, to penetrate into the house of the Countess. He secretly sends her a letter with a declaration of love. Lisa responds. Hermann in the new letter demands a date. He writes to Lizaveta every day and finally gets what he wants: Lisa agrees for a date in the house at that time, when her mistress would be at the ball, and explains how to enter the house unnoticed. Barely waiting for the appointed time, Hermann enters the house and sneaks into the Countess's room. Waiting for the return of the countess, Hermann goes into her bedroom. He begins to beg the Countess to reveal him the secret of the three cards; seeing the resistance of the old woman, he begins to demand and to threat and finally pulls out a gun. Seeing the gun, the old woman falls in fear in chair and dies.
Lizaveta is afraid to meet in her room Hermann and even experiences some relief when he turns out not to be there. She indulges in meditation, when suddenly Hermann comes and tells about the old woman's death. Lisa learns that it is not love - the goal of Germany and that she was an unwitting culprit in Countess’s death. Remorse torments her. At dawn Hermann leaves the house of the Countess.
Three days later, Hermann attends the funeral of the Countess. When parting with the deceased it seemed to him that the old woman looked at him quizzically. The upset he spends the day drinking a lot of wine. Waking up late at night, he hears someone coming in to him, and recognizes the old countess. She reveals to him the secret of the three cards, three, seven and ace, and requires him to marry Lizaveta Ivanovna, and then disappears.
The three, seven and ace haunted Hermann’s imagination. Unable to resist the temptation, he goes to the known player Chekalinsky and puts a huge amount on three. His card wins. The next day he put it on seven, and again wins. The next evening Hermann again stands at the table. He put the card, but instead of the expected ace in his hand was the queen of spades. It seems that the lady squinted and smiled. The image on the card affects with its similarity with the old countess. Hermann becomes crazy. Lizaveta Ivanovna has married another man.