Sitting down with friends to play a few rounds of cards or heading to an online casino to place a few bets are only some of the popular things that involve card games. They have a long-established history around the world and are believed to have been created in the East, before making their way across to the West, where they were adapted to become what we know today.
How Playing Cards Came To Europe
In Europe, playing cards date back to around the 14th century. They are thought to have originally been created in China, and they are believed to have been started during the Tang Dynasty. Many people hold the belief that cards were brought over from India or Persia at some point late in the 13th century and they quickly gained popularity. After a few years, local creations of these cards sprang up and slowly they became more commonplace with people from all walks of life.
The first fully European cards are believed to have been created for those from privileged backgrounds, who had money to spend on the beautifully painted and intricately designed cards that were being produced. The first recognized card suits are assumed to have been a way to depict how society was classed back in the day, with icons and other factors used to represent them. It is now widely believed that staffs and batons were used to showcase the peasant class, while swords were used to represent the nobility. The suit of cups is believed to have represented religious factions and coins were said to be representative of the merchant classes.
As the century progressed, printing cards, and playing cards became more prevalent across the different classes and were no longer used exclusively by nobility. The widespread use of cards became attributed to more simplistic designs being created, coupled with using more affordable pigments to paint the cards. It is sometime around the 15th century that playing cards were fully integrated across Europe, and the widespread use of alternative suits had become more common, with hearts, diamonds, clubs, and spades, being the four chosen icons and they are what is in use today.
Playing Cards And Gambling
Naturally, the fun that card games instilled was soon linked to money. While the initial card games of the east are believed to have been for money or other items, in Europe, it was only in 1377, in Switzerland, that gambling was done with cards. The game that was gambled upon was called Karnöffel and it was played using money as the wager. Nowadays, we’re spoilt for choice with card games at online casinos. From poker through to blackjack, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Blackjack is one of the top gambling card games as it has a high return rate of wins and it’s one of the few games players can use strategy and skill in to beat the house.
Playing Cards And The Tarot
As the use of playing cards spread throughout Europe, each country created their own versions of this popular entertainment form. As such, various other card games were created, such as the tarot deck, which emerged in Italy during the Renaissance.
This tarot deck of cards was used not only for what is believed to be gameplay but as a way to go on a symbolic and spiritual journey of discovery as to various hidden parts of your psyche, and as such, they became known as a tool for soul-searching and interpreting future possible events.
As opposed to a standard deck of 52 cards, the newly created tarot deck came with 78 cards, which included 22 trump cards that had various meanings attributed to them. These trump cards include the Fool (a young and naive person going on a journey), the Magician (wise sage) and the Moon (intuition). Whether the original purpose of tarot cards was just for soul searching and divination, or if it was originally a popular card game filled with symbology and high scoring ‘face cards’ remains unknown to this day.
It is believed that the French, during the 18th century, were the ones who created the current suits that we know and use today of diamonds, clubs, hearts, and spades. It is also believed that they added in the court cards card pictures of a King, Jack, and Queen. While there are many sources today which believe that the Royal suits are based on the faces of historical figures this is only partly true.
Most of the depictions of royalty in the decks of cards are not based on real people. Instead, they were used to reflect cultural and historical symbols. During the 16th century in France, Kings were said to be based upon historical people such as Julius Caesar, Constantine, King David, and Charlemagne. Queens were said to be Isobel of Bavaria, Joan of Arc or the goddess Athena, Rachel from the Bible, and even Mary of Aragon, and the goddess Juno.
While the Kings were well-known historical personalities, the Jack tended to be heralds of admired professions, such as minstrels, court jesters, and soldiers. Their faces are often said to depict classic heroic figures, such as the French hero Etienne de Vignoles, Charlemagne knight Ogier, and Arthurian knight Lancelot. These royal cards with faces have endured to this day and are a beloved and recognizable feature.
Being around for well over 700 years, playing cards have not lost their appeal. They are a form of entertainment that is used in games for children like solitaire, rummy, and go-fish, right up to adult-only casino games like poker and blackjack that you can enjoy at Mandarin Palace or in land-based casinos.. While the original card templates and designs have changed over the years, the designs in use today have been customized by various countries, and by artists, to depict everything from zombie playing cards right through to prohibition themed card sets.
All in all, the games of cards we play today are all thanks to travelers who brought them back to European shores.