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The Origin of Card Games

The origin of the standard pack of playing cards is uncertain.

It no doubt developed from several sources: perhaps early paper currency, or fortune telling devices like bones or sticks. The variety of games a pack of cards allows is limitless.

New games are being devised all the time and few such simple inventions can have provided so many people with so much enjoyment for so long a period.

It is a splendid pictorial pack. The earliest Tarot packs of the fourteenth century had four suits: Cups, which became Hearts; Swords, which became Spades; Money, or Gold Pieces, which became Diamonds; and Batons or Clubs, which remained clubs.

Each suit had ten numbered cards, as does the present pack, and four pictures: the King, Queen, Knight and Knave.

There were also 22 trumps, numbered 0-21 and representing figures, bodies of the universe or ideas, such as the Fool, the Emperor, the Pope, the Star, the Moon, the World, Death, Temperance or Justice.

There were thus 78 cards in the Tarot pack, and the modern pack was formed when the 22 trumps and the four Knights were dropped. The stylized suit symbols are now general, although the names given to them are not.

Hearts are still Cups in Spain, while Spades are Pikes in Italy, Germany and France and Swords in Spain.

In private card games, of course, there is no percentage lost to a casino or bank, and all players have equal chances of winning or losing.

Like Poker, it is the most widely played private gambling game. There are many variations, but the main objects of the game remain the same. The most popular form, straight-draw poker, is described first.

The 52-card pack is used, the cards ranking from Ace high down to 2, although in 'straights' the Ace can count low. Any reasonable number may play, and the deal passes in rotation clockwise round the table.

Players form a 'pot' by each contributing an agreed amount. Five cards are then dealt to each player, and, beginning with the player on the dealer's left, each may either bet or drop.

A player who drops discards his hand and takes no further part in that deal. Each player contrives to get the best poker hand; later it will be seen how he mat improve his hand by discarding cards and drawing others.

It is advisable before the game to agree on a minimum and maximum stake. If the first player decides to stay in the game, he may place any stake he wishes in the pot--- let us say it is one unit. In practice, players usually place their stakes in front of them, so that at all times the other players can check that the stakes are correct.

Most card games can be played for stakes, from the highly complex bridge, which requires considerable skill to play well, to the children's game of Sevens or Fan Tan. However, a few games are recognized and played as pure gambling games.