3 Of The Most Popular Card Games Of All Time

playing cards around the table
Card games have entertained players across the world for hundreds of years and become an important part of many cultures. In this article, we’ll explore the basic rules and history of three of the most popular card games, and how they’ve stood the test of time.

Blackjack

Blackjack is a banking card game where each player individually competes against the banker. Each card in the game is assigned a value, with cards two through to ten retaining their pip value (the number of pip symbols printed on the cards). However, jacks, kings and queens are each valued at 10, while an ace has a value of either one or eleven. The aim of the game is to score more than the banker, but to not exceed a total value of 21. If any player in the game, including the banker, scores more than 21, they go “bust” and lose the game.

The origins of blackjack

Blackjack is a modern take on the game of Twenty-one. It’s exact origin is unknown, but multiple sources credit the Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes (of Don Quixote fame) for the first written record of the game. In Novelas Ejemplares, which was first published around 1601, he references a game called veintiuna, the Spanish word for 21. In the story he describes the aim and rules of the game, which have much in common with modern day blackjack.

However, David Parlett, a games scholar and historian, believes its origins are more closely connected to the game of 31, which gained popularity in the 15th century across Western Europe. This game is first mentioned in a sermon translated in 1464, in which a monk preached about the problems he believed were caused by gaming.

The growing popularity of blackjack’s precursor, Vingt-et-Un

Over the 18th century, blackjack’s precursor, Twenty-one (known as Vingt-et-Un in French) would continue to grow in France, thanks to its popularity with Napoleon and the Royal Court of King Louis XV.

The game continued to spread across Europe, with the Germans referring to the game by three additional names: Siebzehn und Vier (Seventeen and Four), Einundzwanzig (Twenty-One), and Hoppsen. The game also made its way to Britain, where it evolved into the game of Pontoon.

Twenty-one first appeared in the United States in the early 1800s. It’s likely that the game was introduced to the region by French colonists who had recently arrived in the US.

Modern blackjack

Dealer puts down a card on blackjack table
However, the original game of Twenty-one wasn’t that popular with American players. With the legalization of gambling in Nevada in 1931, gambling houses decided to add bonus payouts to help spice up the game.

One of these payouts was more commonly known as a blackjack. If a player had an ace of spades, and a jack of clubs or spades, they would receive a 10 to 1 payout. This incentive helped push the game to new heights, as well as cementing it in modern culture as blackjack, and not Twenty-one.

Today, blackjack, and its many variations, has become the most popular banking card game in both the traditional and online casinos.

Poker

Poker is a betting game in which players each take turns to assess the value of their hand in relation to the cards revealed by the dealer on the table. There are many values of hands, depending on the pip of the cards, their suit, and their combination.

A game takes place over multiple rounds, during which each player can choose to match or raise their bet, or fold if they believe their hand to be weak. At the end of each round, the dealer reveals one of three cards on the table.

A new round of betting starts with players again deciding to match or raise their bets, or to fold. This ends when the third card, also known as the river, is revealed. The remaining players reveal their cards, and the player with the highest value of cards wins.

A player can also win if all the other players fold at any point during the game. If the player wins the game this way, they do not have to reveal their cards.

The origins of poker

Much like blackjack, the exact origin of poker is unknown. One theory is that poker grew from the game of poque, a game that, just like blackjack, was introduced by French colonists who settled in the southern states of America.

The game of poque was itself influenced by the Spanish game primero. Primero, much like poker, is a betting game where players won or lost based on the value of their hand. However, it was played with a 40 card deck and the value of the cards and hands were quite different.

The seeds of a global phenomenon are planted

poker player holding playing cards, chips and earth projection with users icons on tablet pc
The boat crews who traveled the Mississippi helped spread the game across the United States. As it grew in popularity, the game is believed to have been adapted by English speakers to suit a 52 card deck, as well as being given the English name of poker. The game became a regular past-time of soldiers during the civil war, with both the northern and southern soldiers playing in-between battles. It also spread to frontier towns in the west as people joined in the gold rush in the mid-1800s.

The game also made its way to Britain, supposedly thanks to General Schenck, the ambassador to Britain, who either shared the rules with a member of the royal court, or with Queen Victoria herself.

Poker in the 20th century

Poker may have caught on quickly in the US and attained some level of popularity in Britain in the 19th century, but was only introduced to Europe in the 20th century. This was thanks to American soldiers who were sent to fight on behalf of the Allies during World War 1.

Moving to the latter half of the 20th century, poker saw an increase in interest in poker thanks to the World Series of Poker (WSOP). The first WSOP tournament took place in 1970 and helped drive interest in the game in casinos across the US, but it wasn’t until the Californian legalization in 1987, and the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act in 1988, that poker became more mainstream.

Poker continues to grow across the world, thanks to technology

Online poker. Chips and the dice nearby keyboard on wooden table top view copyspace
However, poker’s growth doesn’t stop there. Many people didn’t originally take online poker seriously, but all of that changed when Chris Moneymaker qualified through an online poker room and went on to win WSOP 2003. Thanks to this win, the attitude towards online poker changed. Now there are numerous online casinos that allow you to play casino games and poker online, as well as dedicated online poker sites.

Baccarat

While it might not have the same reputation as blackjack or poker, Baccarat is still an incredibly popular card game. In Baccarat, players must place a bet on whether the banker or the player will achieve the closest score to nine, or if it will be a tie. It’s important to note that there are only ever two hands in the game, one for the player and one for the banker, but that multiple players can bet on the outcome.

Cards are scored according to their pip value, with an ace valued at one and a nine valued at nine. However, tens, jacks, queens, and kings have no value in Baccarat. If a player has a hand with an ace and a four, their score is five. If a player has a queen and a seven, the queen is ignored and the value of the player’s hand is totaled at seven.

The origins of Baccarat

Considering how long people have been playing card games for, it’s no surprise to hear that, again, little is known about the exact origins of Baccarat.

What is known is that the game became very popular during the 19th century amongst the French nobility. Baccarat, more commonly known as Chemin de fer, became more popular amongst the general French populace once casinos were legalized in specific locations in 1907.

The future of Baccarat

Collecting chips winning baccarat
The game also spread to other parts of the world during the 20th century. In Britain, the game even became synonymous with the incredibly popular fictional spy, James Bond. Baccarat also gained popularity in South America, and North America. The United States version of Baccarat is believed to be highly influenced by the South American version of Baccarat known as Punto Banco.

Baccarat, unlike blackjack and poker, never managed to achieve the popularity of either of these games. However, the best online casinos with the best online casino games understand that the game has a dedicated, albeit niche, following, and ensure that Baccarat players can still enjoy the game online.