The Most Popular Card Games of All Time

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BetMGM Jun 17, 2024, 11:38 AM

Card games have entertained players around the world for hundreds of years and have become an important part of many cultures. To this day, card games are a top favorite among all types of games, with many of the classics inspiring various online casino games. 

Learn about the history and basic casino card game rules of three of the most popular card games of all time. 

Blackjack

The first entry on this list of card games is blackjack. Blackjack is a banking card game where each player individually competes against the banker. Most people can pick up this game within a few minutes, but it’s an undoubtedly tough card game to master. Here’s how the game works. 

Each card in the game is assigned a value, with cards 2–10 retaining their pip value (the number of pip symbols printed on the cards). However, kings, queens, and jacks are each valued at 10, while an ace carries a value of either one or 11. The aim of the game is to score more than the banker with the total value of your hand, but not to exceed a total of 21. If any player in the game, including the banker, scores more than 21, they go “bust” and lose the round. 

On the surface, this card game appears relatively straightforward. However, many of the world’s best blackjack players have developed highly advanced techniques and strategies, such as card counting, to improve their odds of winning this game of chance.

With so many people clearly passionate about the game, the question is: where did it all begin?

The Origins of Blackjack

Blackjack is a modern take on the game of twenty-one. Its exact origin is unknown and much debated, 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, first published around 1613, he references a game called “veintiuna,” which happens to be the Spanish word for 21. In the story, Cervantes 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 19th century. The game was likely introduced to the region by French colonists, who had recently arrived in the U.S.

Modern Blackjack

Dealer puts down a card on blackjack table

Funnily enough, 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 action. 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 payout with odds of +1000. This incentive helped push the game to new heights and cement it in modern culture as blackjack, not twenty-one. 

Today, blackjack and its many variations have become the most popular banking card games in both traditional and online casinos. Playing blackjack at online casinos allows you to try out variations of the casino table game, including the fun and interactive titles offered at BetMGM’s live dealer online casino.

Poker

Another one of the most common card games that is also incredibly popular is poker. Poker is a betting game with many variations and is regarded by many as one of the best casino games of all time. This is mostly because it’s a fun and exciting card game that is easy to play but will take years to get good at, making it one of the best card games for people who enjoy strategic thinking

The most popular version of poker is Texas Hold’em, in which players try to build the highest-ranked poker hand possible. The value of their hand is affected by the communal cards which are dealt by the dealer and the two cards they hold and which only they can see.

A game takes place over multiple rounds, during which each player can choose to place the minimum bet, raise their bet if they think they have a strong hand (or want to fool their opponents into believing they have a strong hand), or fold if they believe their hand is weak. 

After the first round of betting in Texas Hold’em, the dealer deals three of five community cards face-up on the table (these are known collectively as “the flop”). A new round of betting starts with players again deciding to match, raise their bets, or fold — all actions that build the size of the pot. After this, the dealer reveals the fourth or “turn” card on the table, and another round of betting ensues. Finally, the fifth community card, known as the river, is dealt. The remaining players in the running have a final round of betting during which they reveal their cards, and the player with the highest-ranked hand 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 don’t have to reveal their cards but still get to scoop the pot.

The Origins of Poker

Like blackjack, the exact origin of poker is at best murky. One theory is that poker grew from poque, a game that, like blackjack, was introduced by French colonists who settled in the southern states of America. Poque was itself influenced by the Spanish game primero. Primero, much like poker, is a betting game where players win or lose based on the value of their hand. However, it is played with a 40-card deck, and the value of the cards and hands are 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 to spread the game across the U.S. As it grew in popularity, the game is believed to have been adapted by English speakers to suit a 52-card deck and given the English name of poker. It became a regular pastime for Civil War soldiers, with both the northern and southern regiments having the odd game between battles. As people joined in the gold rush, it spread to frontier towns in the West in the mid-1800s. The game also made its way to Britain, supposedly thanks to General Schenck, the then 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 U.S. and attained some level of popularity in Britain in the 19th century, but it 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 the First World War. 

In the latter half of the 20th century, poker saw an increase in interest 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. Only after the Californian legalization in 1987 and the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 did poker become more mainstream. It continued to grow in popularity thanks to it being featured in movies, as well as thanks to broadcasts of professional poker games on TV that exploded in popularity with the development of the hole cam. This special camera allowed commentators and people watching on TV to see what cards each player had.

Technology Enables Poker To Keep Growing Globally

Online poker. Chips and the dice nearby keyboard on wooden table top view copyspace

However, poker’s growth didn’t stop there. Having established a presence online soon after the internet came into being, many people initially failed to take online poker seriously. But all that changed when Chris Moneymaker qualified through an online poker room and went on to win the WSOP’s Main Event in 2003. Thanks to this win, the attitude towards online poker changed. 

Now, numerous online casinos and dedicated online poker sites allow you to play casino games and poker online. Poker is one of the best casino games to play online, offering both a fun time and a great mental challenge. You can choose from a whole host of variations, including Texas Hold’em, Omaha, and seven-card stud, with each offering a slightly different take on the poker experience. Thanks to technology, poker has become infinitely more accessible. For example, there are many ways to make casino payments at virtual casinos, and online poker is playable on many different devices, allowing people from all different walks of life to enjoy the game.

Baccarat

While it might not have the same reputation as blackjack or poker, baccarat is still an incredibly popular card game and is one of the most influential card games of all time. 

In baccarat, players must 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 9 valued at nine. However, 10s, jacks, queens and kings have no value in baccarat. 

If a player has a hand with an ace and a 4, their score is five. If a player has a queen and a 7, the queen is ignored, and the value of the player’s hand is totaled at seven. And if you get two cards that add up to more than nine — say an 8 and a 9 — you’d ignore the “tens” column after adding them up. In this case, 17 would become just seven. What’s fun about this game is that you don’t have to actually have the better hand if you can predict when the banker’s about to come out on top.

The Origins of Baccarat

Considering how long people have been playing card games, it’s no surprise that so little is known about the exact origins of baccarat. What is known is that the game became very popular during the 19th century among the French nobility. Baccarat, more commonly known as “chemin de fer,” became more popular among the French once casinos were legalized in certain locations, such as spas and seaside resorts, in 1907. 

The Future of Baccarat

Collecting chips winning baccarat

Baccarat spread to other parts of the world during the 20th century. In Britain it became synonymous with the fictional spy James Bond when it was referenced in Ian Fleming’s original books, including Casino Royale which was published in 1953. Baccarat also gained popularity in both South America and North America. The U.S. version is believed to be highly influenced by the South American version, called “punto banco.” 

Unlike blackjack and poker, baccarat has still not achieved the same popularity as either of these games. However, real online casinos that offer some of the best online casino bonuses understand that the game has a dedicated niche following and ensure that baccarat players can enjoy the game online. 

Try Your Hand at the Top Casino Card Games at BetMGM

You can play all three of these popular card games to play right here at BetMGM, where there is a whole range of casino table games to keep you thoroughly entertained. 

Register at BetMGM to get access to many thrilling card games, including their most popular variants, variety games that offer new online gambling experiences. You can also try your hand at popular online slots and casino games. BetMGM also provides an unmissable live dealer online casino experience if you’re looking for a fun, interactive element to your gaming. There’s something for all tastes and types of players.

Actress Vanessa Hudgens flipping casino chips next to the text "The King of Casinos"
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Our BetMGM editors and authors are casino experts with a wealth of knowledge of the online casino industry at all levels. Their coverage includes company news, game reviews, how-to instructional articles, strategy guides, and editorials showcasing BetMGM’s superior product and game library.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are casino experts with a wealth of knowledge of the online casino industry at all levels. Their coverage includes company news, game reviews, how-to instructional articles, strategy guides, and editorials showcasing BetMGM’s superior product and game library.