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Card Games: A History


Card Games: A History

Just a deck of cards and a couple of people—that’s all you need to have hours of fun. And sometimes, you don’t even need the people (see: Solitaire)! Card games have been amusing people since as early as the 10th century, when playing cards were mainly reserved for wealthy or royal individuals. As trade routes spread over the globe, playing cards did, too. Thanks to the invention of woodblock printing, and later the printing press, more and more people were able to enjoy playing cards. This blog post will explore three common card games and their history.


Pinochle is a classic card game that came to the United States from Germany. It comes from the French game of “Bezique,” which is a melding card game, meaning that players of the game work toward obtaining matching sets of cards. The exact meaning of the word pinochle is contested, but some believe it stems from the French word “binocle,” meaning eyeglasses with two lens, and refers to the pinochle deck, which contains two cards of each the aces, face cards, tens, and nines of all four suits. Pinochle is so popular a game that the National Pinochle Association hosts a yearly tournament, but it is also pervasive among recreational players.

Pinochle quick fact: A pinochle deck has 48 cards in it as opposed to a normal deck, which has 52.

Gin Rummy

Another popular card game—Gin Rummy—has similarly contested origins. “Rummy” refers to the draw and discard method of playing cards and includes many different types of games, including Canasta. Some believe that the “gin” in “Gin Rummy” is a play on the fact that both words are types of alcohols, and posit that the first players enjoyed the card game whilst sipping gin. Gin Rummy reached the height of popularity in the 1930s, thanks in part to Hollywood actors and actresses who played it both in movies and while relaxing on set.

Gin Rummy quick fact: In one study, seasoned players were found to have better hand-eye coordination and people-reading skills than non-players.


For the introverted among us, or those who live alone, finding a partner with whom to play cards can be challenging. So, patience … or Solitaire! Often called “Patience” in Britain, Solitaire is a single-player game that involves arranging the deck of cards in a particular order, based on suits. In some languages such as Danish, Solitaire is called “Secret,” which is thought to be the remnant of a time when the game was used as a fortune-telling tool.

Solitaire quick fact: The first online version of Solitaire was released by Microsoft in 1989.

Playing cards, whether by yourself or with a group of people, is an excellent way to decompress and rejuvenate. Be you a pinochle whiz or a go-fish fan, card games can improve mental agility, enhance your social life, and help you unwind. Of course, there is no better reason to play cards than simply for the fun of it—unless it’s 52 Card Pickup, which is never a good time!