University Press present (a) histories of classic games such as Poker and Euchre and (b) details of historic games, such as Gleek and Quadrille, that are now only museum pieces. This project was started at the suggestion of John McLeod, who tells me that visitors to his award-winning Pagat website for the rules of card games often inquire after the play of some old game that they have come across in period novels or films or readings in cultural history.
Some of the descriptions first appeared in my Oxford Guide to Card Games (1990, republished as A History of Card Games in 1991), but I've since been revising them in the light of further research and discoveries. If you have any comments, queries, or suggestions for additional entries, please contact me.
In the table below, p = number of players, pp = playing in fixed partnerships, 2-4p = 2, 3 or 4 players, 2/4p = 2 or 4 players (not easily or usually 3).
See also: A family tree of card games - historical infographic.
|Blackjack||Pontoon, Twenty-One, and related point-count games|
|Calypso||The personal trump game from Trinidad (4pp)|
|Costly Colours||The colourful cousin of Crib (2/4pp)|
|Euchre||A classic American game of European origin (2/4pp)|
|Gin Rummy||The great game of Hollywood and Broadway (2p)|
|Gleek||An old English of tricks and bluff (3p)|
|Karnöffel||Europe's oldest known card game (2, 4, 6p)|
|Laugh & lie down||An hilarious pairing-off game of Tudor England (4/5p)|
|Loo||A once notorious trick-taking gambling game (3-7p)|
|Losing Lodam||The Gargantuan ancestor of Hearts (3-7p)|
|Maw||The five-fingered game of the Gaels (2-7p, 5 best)|
|Noddy||The knavish ancestor of Cribbage (2/4pp)|
|Ombre||One of the greatest classics (3p)|
|Patience||Origins and history of card solitaires (1p)|
|Penneech||The game that changes trump from trick to trick (2p)|
|Piquet||The aristocrat of card games (2p)|
|Poker||Origins and history of the great American pastime (2-10p)|
|Pope Joan||Introducing "the Curse of Scotland" (3-7p)|
|Quadrille||The courtly ladies' game of 18th century France (4p)|
|Quinto||Invented c.1900 by "Professor Hoffmann" (4pp)|
|Reversis||The 16th-century ancestor of Hearts (4pp)|
|Speculation||Jane Austen's Mansfield Park game (3-7p)|
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