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.

Baccarat – A Casino Card Game With III Phases and a Bit of History

Before I explain this Baccarat game that dates back to the 15th Century, let’s review a brief bit of history. Americans got their first real glimpse of this casino game during the 1962 James Bond movie, Dr. No, when Bond, played by Sean Connery, was winning in a Monte Carlo casino. The game was Chemin de fer.

Phase I – Chemin de fer

In this original version Players wagered among themselves and won or lost with their own money. A dealer shoe rotated around the table counterclockwise after each hand. Players could decline the bank and pass the shoe to the next player. A 5% commission for winning bank hands paid to the house was to cover the casino overhead.

Phase II – Punto Banco

Punto Banco, meaning Player, Banker, was introduced in Nevada from Cuba in the late 1950’s, where it was very popular until Castro closed he mob run casinos. The main difference from the French version is that the house banks the game. A tie bet was added to increase the house edge, and the 5% commission to the house for a winning bank bet remains in place. Eventually the name baccarat, Italian for zero, was coined. Today baccarat is played in high limit rooms throughout the world where millions are won and lost each day.

Phase III – Mini-Baccarat

Eventually gaming establishments saw profit potential with Baccarat however they had to make it attractive to the average player. Hence, a new version was born, Mini-Baccarat.The rules for this game are exactly the same as Punto Banco except one house dealer controls he game for up to seven players. Table minimums are as low as $5 or $10. Numerous optional side bets have been added to increase the house edge.

How to Play Baccarat

The objective of baccarat is for the player to come as close to the number 9 as possible. Aces count as one, 2’s – 9’s are face value and 10’s – K’s count as zero.

Regardless of the number of players, the dealer only deals two hands from a six or eight deck shoe. Prior to the deal players must first place one bet on either the bank hand, player hand, or tie. Croupiers pass the shoe so players have the option in turn to deal the cards. In Mini-Baccarat, the shoe remains in place and the dealer controls all the action.

When a hand is totaled, it cannot exceed 9. If the two cards total more than 9, the first digit is dropped. The second digit becomes the total. Ex: 7,8=15. (the 1 is dropped) total = 5.

Baccarat requires no skill to play. All the player needs to do is place one bet before the deal. The dealer examines both hands to determine if a third and final card should be drawn. The determination is made according to a fixed set of game rules. Here they are:

Game Rules for Player Bet

The player position always draws on a 0, 1, and 2,3,4,5, unless the banker has a natural 8 or 9. Player always stands on 6,7,8, and 9. When the play bet has a natural 8 or 9, the game is over.

Game Rules for Banker Bet

The banker position always draws on a 0, 1, and 2 unless the player has a natural 8 or 9. The banker always stands on 7,8, and 9. When a banker has a natural 8 or 9, the game is over.

Strategy

No playing strategy is required. Always bet the bank which has the lowest house edge at 1.06%, even with the 5% commission owed to the house. A player bet has a house edge of 1.24% while the tie bet that pays 8 to 1 has a whopping house edge of 14%!. This bet is not recommended. A number of optional side bets at the mini tables have house edges from 2 to 13%. These are not recommended.

Good luck!

The History of Solitaire

While people have been playing solitary games with cards, dice, stones and pegs since the dawn of recorded history, solitaire, used to describe games for which the goal is to arrange a deck of cards from a chaotic pattern to an ordered pattern, only saw description in card gaming literature beginning about 1765. This element of creating order from chaos likely stems from a combination of cartomancy forms like Tarot and Germanic culture, as the mid 18th century was when many of the modern cartomantic layouts were established. The first definitive recording of a game of Solitaire comes from a German gaming book from 1783.

Solitaire was originally known as Patience, and was a competitive game between two players. The goal was to complete the game before the other player. However, it soon took hold as a solitary pursuit, probably due to the fact that practicing it alone offered the same gaming experience as competing with another. The solitary nature of Patience also likely stemmed from its similarities with another solitary card pursuit, Tarot.

Similarities and Differences between Solitaire and Tarot

Indeed, there are many similarities between Tarot and Solitaire, known as Patience back when it was first created. Both are solitary pursuits, often done to engage the mind with a system of rules rather than with another person. Both can use the same set of cards, with both fifty-two and seventy-eight card Solitaire games recorded in its infancy. Both make use of pre-ordained arrangements. There is even a tradition, still alive in Germany and Scandinavia today, of using Solitaire as a means for divination. If one “wins” within the first few games, times will be good and luck will smile on you, whereas if one loses a string of games, the cards are saying to be cautious.

Yet they differ also, and this is where the German cultural values come in as opposed to the Roma or even Egyptian elements that found Tarot. Namely, Solitaire is concerned with building an ordered card structure at the end, rather than an ordered mental or “spiritual” structure in the way that Tarot is designed to do.

Historical Stories about Solitaire

Napoleon was said to be a card gaming fanatic, and everywhere he went, he learned the local forms of playing cards. The strategic mind that won him so many battles across Europe was well-suited for cards, and Solitaire was no exception. While the conqueror was generally surrounded by enough people that he didn’t play Patience or other forms of Solitaire while he was rampaging through Europe, upon his exile the stories went that all he did was play Patience endlessly. A brilliant strategist’s mind never sleeps, so the story went.

Around that time in the 19th century, different forms of Solitaire were gaining traction throughout France, but historical evidence shows that while Napoleon played cards in exile, he never played Patience. Regardless, so popular did Solitaire become in France, in part due to the stories told about their greatest general, that many of the terminology used in Solitaire today derives from French.

Solitaire caught on among English speakers beginning in the mid 19th century, when Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria and passionate social reformer, was said to play Solitaire often in his spare time. It is fascinating to trace the rise and fall of Solitaire’s popularity in terms of changes, orderings, and restructurings of a society at any given time. It took about half a century for Solitaire to make its way across the pond to the United States, where it caught on like wildfire during the gold rush of the early 20th century, and again during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

One final story about Solitaire is tragic. During the fall of the Nazi Regime, Adolf Hitler was said to have taken his most trusted lieutenants and staff, among them Joseph Goebbles and his wife and children, to a bunker to avoid being raped and defiled by the advancing Soviets. Magda Goebbles was said to be a solitaire enthusiast, and the story goes that after she fed cyanide to her children, she played Patience, a sort of sad tribute to the Nazi attempts to create a “perfectly ordered society.”

Common Solitaire Synonyms

Patience – Used throughout the UK today, Patience was the original name for solitary card games. The sense was that rather than using bluffs, personality traits, or luck to win the game, the primary quality exercised was that of patience.

Klondike – Solitaire is often a synecdoche for Klondike, meaning that it is so well-known that people use the term “Solitaire” to refer to Klondike exclusively. Klondike is a form of solitaire that involves alternating suits, cascades of cards, a four-suit set of foundations, and a deck. It is the simplest form of solitaire that still contains every element solitaire is best known for. The name “Klondike” comes from the fact that it was made popular during the Gold Rush of the early 1900s which took place in the Alaskan Klondike region.