The Rich History of Playing Cards

Playing cards have been a source of amusement and game playing fun for centuries. For hundreds of years people have been playing them for fun, gambling with them and even fortune telling with them! They are a truly international and universally known and acknowledged game. With literally hundreds of variations of games that can be played and enjoyed any number of players from one individual to a group. What are your favourite card games to play? There’s no doubt you can think of one straight way, in fact, you may know may card games you enjoy.

The history of card games is rich and varied and illustrates how versatile this old game really is.

Let’s look at the deck of cards first. A deck or pack is made up of 52 playing cards. They are made up of four suits, Clubs, Hearts, Diamonds and Spades. Each suit is made up of numbered and face cards, the numbers run from Ace through to 10, and then the face cards are Jack, Queen and King. In most games, the Ace value can be counted as high or low depending upon the game rules. For example, in Poker and Black Jack the Aces are high.

On the back of the cards is usually a design or custom image, this depends upon who has had the cards printed. Companies and casinos have their own customer designs done. There are also traditional ornate card designs and colours which are usually red, blue or black. There is also a wide variety of designs and themes for the suits. Even well-known film franchises like Star Wars and Marvel comics have created their own playing card suits.

Over the year literally hundreds of games have been created and passed down through generations. The traditional card games are all still played, like Poker as previously mentioned. But there are also fun games like Solitaire, Hearts, Go-fish, Trumps and more.

For years cards have been used to tell fortunes. Fortune tellers use the suits and the cards are they are dealt out to give the questioner a glimpse into their futures. Whether you believe in this or not, there is no doubt that it is an art in itself and something that is still popular with many people today.

It is believed that the four suits represent the four season of the year, and that each card a day. When you had the cards up they do come to 365 which is the total number of days in the year. There are many little facts like this that add to the interest and mystery of playing cards and how they came about so many hundreds of years ago.

The next time you pick up a pack of cards and start to play think about how historical they really are. Many books have been published on this subject and for many it has become and hobby and passion. In auction houses around the world the oldest packs in perfect condition go for literally thousands of dollars and more. The older they are, and if all cards are present, they can fetch huge sums of money.

The History of Bookmakers

The origins of bookmaking have vanished into the past, but betting, especially on horse racing, has been ingrained in the character of England for centuries. Originally betting would have been between individuals, with the largest sums of money wagered on the Classic races, such as the Derby and the St Leger. Betting was the domain of the wealthy, but betting contracts, where no money changed hands, often led to large debts and animosity. The Gaming Act of 1845 banned this practice and bookmakers began to insist on cash up front.

Betting shops started being set up around the country but were outlawed by the 1853 Betting Act, and were not legalised until 1 May 1961, after which 10,000 were set up within 6 months, with some of the illegal bookies making it through the new vetting procedures, established by the 1960 Betting and Gaming Act. However a lot of them found that entering into the business world was outside of their capability, being unable to set up premises, pay staff and ‘go straight.’ As well as this, betting tax was increased and the Government imposed a 33 per cent tax on the fixed-odds coupons issued by bookmakers. The number of High Street shops began to decline, and now there are just over 8,000.

Punters could listen only to an audio commentary on races in the betting shops, provided by the Exchange Telegraph Company, with each region having a ‘local’ commentator with a ‘local’ accent. In 1986 the regulation relaxed and television screens were permitted which would bring live racing via satellite to the majority of shops. Bookmakers were permitted to open in the evenings and on Sundays, but duty at 10 per cent was driving punters to illegal bookmakers, who, operating in pubs, clubs and factories, accounted for a 10 per cent of betting turnover.

Another two events have had a massive impact on bookmakers – the first when Frankie Dettori rode all seven winners at Ascot in 1996, which resulted in massive payouts. The second was the introduction of the National Lottery and particularly scratchcards in 1995, with the betting shops being denied the right to sell tickets. A Government survey on gambling revealed that 57% of gamblers use the lottery, 20% buy scratchcards and 17% bet on horseracing.

However in the past decade, measures have been taken to rebalance the nation’s gambling impulses. Tax on betting-shop wagers was cut from 10% to 9% and abolished in 2002, in favour of a tax on the bookies’ gross profits. Rules regarding betting on football were relaxed, allowing bets on single matches, and betting shops have been allowed to install fixed-odds betting terminals and fruit machines.

Online gambling is today’s worry on bookmakers but the figures suggest that the world of internet gambling and betting shops could live side by side -the four biggest betting shop companies still seem strongly committed to betting shops. William Hill currently runs more than 2,250 shops; Ladbrokes has 2,350; Coral owns 1,600; and totesport manages 540. Paddy Power, which has 58 British shops, mostly in and around London, announced profits of £55.2m for 2007, half of this coming from online operations. But its UK shops also made money and it plans to have twice as many by 2011.