While it is difficult to calculate, some 1,000 – 10,000 card games have been developed through the years, according to the International Playing-Card Society. Not everything to do with cards is fun and games though. Fortune tellers use tarot cards in order to forecast someone’s future, magicians use cards to develop mind-boggling tricks, and history reveals some cards even being used as a form of currency.
How did cards evolve?
The precursor for playing a game of cards developed centuries ago in China, sometime around 1000 AD. They made their way through the Middle East and Egypt, reaching the European continent around 1360. Recorded in history was a Swiss ordinance banning cards in Bern in 1367. In Paris, a 1377 ordinance referenced the use of playing cards, showing that card games were catching on around the continent.
While ever-evolving, the idea of 52 cards in a deck seems to have come along from the Middle East, which was very active in the study of astronomy. The most prevailing concept is that the four suits represent the four seasons. Thirteen cards per suit, from the ace to the king, are thought to represent the nearly 13 lunar cycles of a year.
While the face cards continually changed from country to country, the idea of the king, queen, and jack undoubtedly developed in Europe. The joker came about later and is believed to be derived from the juker in the game Euchre, invented in 1860. The Euchre juker is the card that trumps all others, and the joker is similarly used in many card games today.
Game Cards Come to America
While card decks arrived with European settlers into the US, it was in 1885 that the first Bicycle brand cards were produced by Russell, Morgan & Co. Different types of games evolved including versions of poker which included gambling, family games, and, of course, solitaire.
The top three family card games, according to Bicycle cards, are Slapjack, Crazy Eights, and Play or Pay played with poker chips or candy, rather than real money. A ladies afternoon tea and game of cards often involves bridge or canasta. Some specialty games have warranted development of special decks for children such as Go Fish, and Old Maid, although regular decks of cards will also work.
Cards games have become an institution in everyday life for fun, relaxation, and skill. Few family households don’t have a deck of cards in a drawer, and few computer users don’t have at least one card game bookmarked on their favorites list.