The history of the humble deck of playing cards is a long and illustrious one, no doubt about it. Scholars maintain that they were first introduced as a pastime in Imperial China, as early as the 9th century, before spreading east across India, Persia and into continental Europe.
The precise evolution of playing cards over the past millennium is still largely debated, though we can safely say that their invention spurred a human passion for communal gambling in a multitude of forms. We’re here to take a quick look at five distinct playing card games from around the world, each of which has stood the test of time. Let the games begin.
As one of the world’s most popular playing card games, Baccarat is commonly played on casino floors from United States to Macau, and pretty much everywhere else in between.
It was an Italian gambler named Felix Falguerein who first invented the game as far back the early 15th century; however, it wasn’t until much later in the century, when it was introduced to the soldiers of Charles VIII, that it started gaining national popularity in France – more so than Italy, in fact.
Poker (United States)
It’s generally acknowledged that modern poker as we know it today evolved following the migration of French colonists to the southern states of North America – particularly Louisiana. The rules and format of play were then honed and polished throughout the 19th century, particularly during the American Civil War when the game became a popular pastime for soldiers.
Since then, poker has become a favourite in a vast swathe of countries from Brazil to Kazakhstan; in fact, you could say it is regularly played on every continent except for Antarctica – although there have very likely been a few games there too. The most well-known modern variant, Texas Hold’em, started gaining popularity in the 1970s and is now used in most major high stakes tournaments.
Before it became commonly known as blackjack, the earliest recorded version of 21 was in fact written by famed Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes’ in his book of short stories entitled Novelas Ejemplares. Here it is referred to as veintiuna (Spanish for ‘twenty-one’) and involves more or less the same rules as the modern day equivalent.
21’s relatively simple rules made it a quickfire success around Europe and beyond, and it remains one of the most accessible playing card games for players of all abilities.
Fighting the Landlord (China)
One of the most popular card games in China, dou dizhu literally translates into English as ‘fighting the landlord’. It originated during the Cultural Revolution in China, and the name refers to the class struggle between peasants and landlords around this time.
People say that dou dizhu is easy to learn but difficult to master as it requires the player to have a decent knowledge of mathematical strategy to do so. Nevertheless, it remains one of the nation’s most-played card games.
So there you have it: four classic playing card games that each originated in a different part of the world. Next time you’re starting to get the itch to play a hand or two, why not give one of them a try?