While the history of online card games is rather short, with the Internet being only two decades old, the history of traditional card games played in land-based gaming venues is rich and fascinating. It has been speculated that playing cards first appeared in ninth century China, with ancient Chinese playing cards featuring four suits: coins, strings of coins, myriads of strings as well as tens of myriads. Some suggest that the first cards might have represented paper currency used both for trading and gambling by its owners.
Historians largely disagree regarding the exact time playing cards first appearance in Europe. The 38th canon of the council of Worcester is often brought as evidence to the fact that card games were established in England as early as the middle of the 13th century. However, today, experts consider the games 'de rege et regina,' which are named in the aforementioned canon, to more likely be chess. Additionally, if card games were already known in Europe by 1278, it is somewhat peculiar that prominent Italian scholar Petrarch never mentioned them in his reputed work 'On remedies of good/ bad fortunes.'
It’s been also suggested that the first playing cards were brought to Europe by the Egyptian Mamlukes in the late 1300s, by which time they had already bore close resemblance to the modern playing cards. In fact, the Mameluke deck included 52 playing cards of four suits: polo sticks, coins, swords, and cups. Each suit had ten 'spot' cards (cards differed from others based on the number of suit symbols) and three 'court' cards named King, Deputy King, and Second Deputy. The Mameluke court cards did not depict individuals but featured abstract designs.
According to card game history, by the end of the 14th century, card games become a very popular pastime for Europeans, both aristocrats and commoners. Documents mentioning playing cards date from 1371 in Spain and 1380 from numerous locations all across Europe, including France and Italy. In his account book for 1392/3, Charles Poupart, treasurer of the household of the French King Charles VI, mentioned a payment for the making of three sets of playing cards.
In the 15th century, the suits in the European playing cards varied. Although the deck typically contained four suits, there were also card decks with five suits and more. The German card deck featured hearts, bells, leaves, and acorns, which became the standard suits and are still in use in Eastern Germany for some games. In Italy and Spain, playing card decks displayed swords, batons, cups, and coins as the standard suits. The suits featured in the modern card deck, namely spades, hearts, diamonds, clubs, originated in France towards the end of the 15th century. While British card game lovers first used the Italian suits, they later switched to the more popular French suits.
The history of playing cards also tells us that during the 17th century, with the exact date being difficult to pinpoint, card games were introduced in America. Some of the games, such as poker, enjoyed tremendous popularity among American players, while others were soon forgotten. Today, the most popular card games are poker, blackjack, solitaire and gin rummy. Here, at Europaplay, you will find a selection of outstanding card games, including Pontoon, Casino Hold 'em, Pai Gow Poker, Wild Viking and Stravaganza. Many others are available as well.