Of all the images that might pop into your head when you think of casinos, it is more than likely that for most people, the first image or object they think of will be a deck of cards.
Despite being a relatively simple invention — with the standard deck consisting of 52 individual cards, four suits, and 13 ranks — the deck of cards is arguably the most important object in a casino. Card games are by far the most popular games played in both in-person and the online casino around the world. It forms the basis of an almost endless array of different games and variations.
These different card games have exploded in popularity in recent years as a new generation of players have discovered them through playing at the online casino. Despite the fact that some of these games are hundreds of years old, they clearly have not lost their contemporary appeal!
But what is the history behind the many different classic and more modern card games played at online casinos these days, and how did they become so popular?
Of the many different card games played at both online and in-person casinos, blackjack is easily one of the most popular. There are plenty of good reasons for this: the rules are incredibly simple, the rounds are short and fast paced, the betting strategies are beginner friendly and the low house edge makes it player friendly. But what is the history of this game?
The game we now know as blackjack evolved from a much older Spanish card game called ‘veintiuno’, which is Spanish for 21. Although the roots of the game are likely much older, some of the earliest references to the game are found in the works of the famous Spanish writer, Miguel de Cervantes.
Blackjack eventually made its way to the furthermost Western edges of Europe around the 18th century, when it became increasingly popular as a parlor game in England — in addition to being enthusiastically played in the many backstreet gambling houses dotted across the island!
It then made its way across the pond to America, where it eventually became a mainstay of modern casinos. As evidence of its final ascent to iconic status, it is now heavily featured in movies, TV shows and other cultural outputs.
While it might not be quite as well-known among American players, baccarat has long been a staple of European and Asian gambling establishments. Much like blackjack, a great deal of its lasting appeal and popularity is tied to its simple ruleset which can be picked up in a matter of minutes. It is also relatively player friendly, with a lower house edge compared to many other casino games. This has made it a hit at both online and in-person casinos!
As with many of the other popular casino games, baccarat’s origins stretch back to early European history. Baccarat is believed to have emerged from what is now modern Italy, with records identifying a similar game from around the 14th century onwards.
It is believed to have been created by Felix Falguiere, who called the game ‘baccara’ — which translates as ‘zero’ in Italian. It is called ‘zero’ as all the face cards and tens are worth zero.
From there, the game spread throughout European high society. It quickly made its way to France and was reportedly a favorite of King Charles VIII.
It eventually made its way to the Americas, with a popular version called ‘Punto Banco’ being particularly popular in South America, Costa Rica and the Caribbean. American tourists to the region helped to spread it to the burgeoning American casino scene in areas such as Las Vegas, where it has remained a quietly popular favorite ever since!
Although it is not quite as popularly played as blackjack or baccarat — largely due to its more complicated ruleset — poker is without question one of the most iconic casino games. With the rise of online poker and the growing popularity of professional poker tournaments, it has become a cultural phenomenon in the 2000s. Professional poker is now even a viable career option, with top poker champions raking in millions each year!
Despite the incredible level of popularity it has achieved, the precise origins of the games are somewhat debatable. Some academics and amateur casino game historians have linked the roots of the game to a number of ancient card games including the Persian game ‘As-Nas’, and the Renaissance-era European games ‘Primero’ and ‘Brelan’.
However, there is another school of thought that argues the roots of the game are much more contemporary. For these scholars, poker was invented in the early 1800s in the Americas, where it spread throughout the Mississippi River region.