Ever played Bridge, Gin Rummy, Cribbage, Whist, Poker, Snap? Or maybe you’ve built a house of cards or performed card tricks? They’d all be impossible without this simple but brilliantly versatile invention. Stacking the Deck.
No one knows where playing cards were first invented: maybe in India, China or Egypt. Some people argue that the jacks, queens and kings on playing cards are drawn as they are because of their origins in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics, which are in the same two-dimensional style.
Wherever they first appeared, the Chinese were definitely playing card games in the first part of the twelfth century. Playing cards arrived in Europe around the late 1300s, probably based on the cards played with by Islamic soldiers called Mamluks. The Mamluks’ cards had 52 cards in a deck and four suits.
The four suits we know today, hearts, diamonds, spades and clubs, began in France in the late I 400s. But there were and still are lots of different suits in different parts of Europe, including polo sticks, roses, helmets, horses, parrots, bears, banners, swords and cups.
At first, cards had to be hand-painted, so only very rich people could afford them. After a while playing cards were reproduced using woodcuts, and Gutenberg’s printing press, invented in 1440, made printing decks of cards easier still.
Pack animal or loner, here are tens of thousands of card games. You can play more than a thousand of them on your own: these one-player games are known as Solitaire or Patience and include Baker’s Dozen, Grandfather’s Clock and Idiot’s Delight.
This game is for two or three players but can be altered to include more players. The idea is to be the first person to get rid of all your cards. The loser may be given a forfeit for losing. but be careful when handing out punishments. You’re not going to win all the games and your opponents will want retribution.
In this game 2’s are the highest cards, followed by ace, then king, queen, jack, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4 and, finally, 3. The person whose birthday it is next deals first.
Firstly, the dealer deals three cards, face down in a row, to each player. These cards can only be looked at in the final part of the game.
Then the dealer deals to each player again, this time placing three cards face up on top of the first three cards.
A further three cards are dealt, face down, to each player. The players pick up these cards. The remaining cards are placed face down in the center of the table.
Look at your hand and the face-up cards on your three piles. You can change all the top cards on the piles for the cards in your hand if you wish. It is best to have high cards left face up on the table. You are better off having lower cards (with the exception of 2’s) in your hand to start with.
The play starts with whoever has a 3: this card is laid in the center of the table face up, next to the facedown pack. If more than one person has a 3, the person closest to the dealer lays their card. If there are no 3’s then start with a 4 or the next lowest card.
Each player must play a card and then pick up a new card from the pack. Always have 3 cards in your hand unless you’ve had to pick up the pile of laid-down cards (see 12). You must either place the same card number that has already been played or something higher. It is always best to get rid of your lower cards first.
If you cannot lay a higher card or a card of the same amount, you must pick up a new card from the pack, but you cannot play this straight away; you must wait until your next go.
If you have duplicates of the same number card then you can put them all down at the same time. For example, if on your go you have three 8’s. you can play them all, but you must make sure you pick up three new cards to replace them.
Continue in this way until you cannot play a higher card. For example if the card on the pile is a queen and you only have a 6, 8 and 9 then you pick up until you pick up a higher card, a 2 or a 10.
Special Cards. 2’s can be played at any time and a 2 resets the play so the next card can be a 3 or the next lowest card. 10’s can also be played at any time and all the cards underneath are removed from play and cannot be used again. The whole pile is also removed if four cards of the same suit are played in a row.
Cards are picked up and played until all the cards run out and no more can be picked up. Keep playing until you run out of cards in your hand, BUT if you cannot play a card from your hand from this point on, you must pick up ALL the cards that have been laid down on the pile!
Once you have got rid of all the cards in your hand you can play the three cards lying face up in front of you on the table. Once you have played these cards then you can play the 3 face-down cards blind, one at a time, in any order, and hope that it is a higher number. If it isn’t playable you must pick up all the cards in the pile.
The winner is the first person to get rid of all their cards, but play is continued until there is a single loser. The loser is then issued with a forfeit to complete.
There are many thousands of card games out there, far too many to list below, so here is an old favorite. It’s a great card game called ‘Karma’, although it does go by other names. Try it.