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The Evolution of Card Games

While sitting down to a game of cards, the last thing you are probably thinking about is the origins of the game. However, most players would probably be surprised to learn that today's playing cards are based on concepts which span over 1000 years and ideas which come from at least 8 countries around the world. Online card games like poker and blackjack are now becoming ever more popular, and gambling apps nowadays are becoming commonplace among those who enjoy gambling on the turn of a card, but in fact the history of the games are surprisingly complex.

According to The Guardian, the concept of playing card games is most likely to have originated in China, with Princess Tongchang having been said to have played “the leaf game”, as long ago as the 9th century AD. A century later, we have the first recorded episode of true playing cards which were used by Emperor Mu-Tsung, although it was many centuries later before Europe first saw the game arrive on its shores.

The Western Emergence of Card Games

It was not until the 14th century that cards arrived in Europe, although how they arrived is unclear. They may have come with the Moors to Spain, or alternatively, they could have been the result of trading between the Italians and the Mamluks of Egypt. Originally, playing cards were hand-illustrated, however this meant that they were purely a luxury item and could only be purchased by the very rich. As demand increased, a cheaper production method was needed and by the early 15th century a method of printing using wooden blocks was developed which allowed the game to spread across all levels of society.

Early playing card packs featured four suits, although they were different to those found today – swords, polo sticks, coins and cups, and there were no queens in the pack. The court cards and suits as we know them today developed in France during the mid-15th century, by which time there were at least 35 different game variants.

The Origins of the Games we Know Today

Some of today's most popular card games are descended from those played in the 16th century, however one of the most popular of all, poker, came from America. It was first documented in 1834 in a game played on a river steamer on the Mississippi and was based on a Persian game called “as nas”, although its name came from a French game with some similarities, “poque”. Gin rummy was invented as recently as 1909 in a club in New York, although it was not until the 1940s that it caught on around the world, and pontoon (otherwise known as Blackjack) was one of the top game choices in the trenches during the First World War.

The Rise of Online Gambling

Although gambling on card games has long been a popular pastime at all levels of society, it was not until the arrival of the world wide web that it became the widespread phenomenon that we know today. Online gambling was first legalised in Antigua and Barbuda back in 1994, and therefore this tiny island nation became the first host for the industry's pioneers. The first software provider which was solely dedicated to the online gambling industry, Microgaming, was established in the same year and is still leading the way today.

As increasing numbers of people started to realise the potential of online gambling, the first regulatory authorities were created to regulate and licence the industry. Canada's Kahnawake Gaming Commission was the first body to enter this market, stepping in to try to bring more control to the booming industry.

Although dial up internet was pretty slow, that didn't seem to stop online gaming from taking off in a big way, and as the web got faster and more gambling sites were launched, it was no surprise that even in its early days the industry was worth as much as $834.4 million.

The Rise of the Online Casino Site

Online poker was one of the rising stars of the internet gambling industry, and some of the early contenders, such as PokerStars and PartyPoker, are still around today. Players started to realise the potential of being able to play games like Blackjack and Poker from the comfort of their own home without having to actually go out to a casino. They also came to recognise the possibilities of being able to win a jackpot in a comfortable environment rather than in the potentially intimidating surroundings of a bricks and mortar venue, and so increasing numbers of online casino sites emerged on the market, catering for the needs of a wide variety of players who would never have considered going to a real world casino.

A Switch to App-Based Gambling

While internet card games are still incredibly popular, in 2016 the Telegraph newspaper reported for the first time that searches from mobile devices had overtaken desktop computer searches, and this reflects the current state of play with online gaming. More people than ever before are choosing to play card games from their mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets rather than from their PC, and online casinos have moved to accommodate this trend by mobile-optimising their sites and even by introducing dedicated apps which allow players to access their favourite card games on the move. Thanks to these innovative gaming apps, players can enjoy blackjack, poker and a range of other popular card games no matter where they are and at any time of the day or night. Nowadays, more than 160 million players around the world use their mobile devices to place bets and to visit mobile casinos, and the mobile gaming industry seems set to take up to 40% of the total online market by as early as 2018.

The Future of Card Games

It looks as if the future of card games lies primarily online, with many sectors expressing their interest in entering the online gambling market. Airlines, for example, are currently considering whether they are going to offer their passengers the opportunity to gamble on card games using LCD seat back screens to relieve the boredom of long haul flights. VR casino games are now starting to hit the market, and it seems clear that the online card game evolution looks set to continue. Yet, for those who love nothing better than getting together and playing a few hands of poker in their home gaming den, the pleasure of a face to face card game is still hard to beat.


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