The United States, since its inception as a British Colony on the East Coast of the North American continent, has adored playing card games. Both for gambling, and for pastime, card games are an American tradition.
History of American Card Games
The United States was a former British Colony, and during this colonial period card games were exceptionally popular. In the pubs and taverns of England and Scotland arose a gambling culture, where card games were played extensively.
This culture of gambling spread to the United States. The American Colony of Plymouth, later to be Massachusetts, was populated largely by Puritanical Protestants, who abhorred the idea of gambling and saw it as sinful. However, not every colony was quite so up-tight.
As time passed and more of the United States was populated, card games and a gambling culture grew to spread across the Colony. A large part of American identity rests in the Revolution against Great Britain, and that Revolution was in part begun by card games.
In order to pay for debts accrued during a war against the French, the British Crown instituted a new law in the Colonies: The Stamp Tax.
The Stamp Tax would be an additional tax paid on any and all paper goods. In order to prove a paper good was legally paid for and taxed by the government, vendors were provided with a governmentally regulated stamp, which they could then stamp the paper good with.
Playing cards were considered a paper good, and as such were subject to this Stamp Tax. Outrage over the tax escalated until the Crown decided to rescind the Stamp Tax, but the damage had already been done. American colonists, who adored gambling, were infuriated at the financial encroachment on their hobby of choice. The Stamp Tax is often directly correlated to the American Revolution by American Historians.
Card games did not only exist in America as a method for gambling, however. During the “Great Migration” and “Wild West” periods of American History, card games as a pastime surged in popularity. The months long journey from the East to the West coast, usually completed by an Ox-drawn wagon, offered ample time with little to do. In order to pass time more quickly, card games became a popular way to try and find solace from the boredom of a long journey.
List of Most Popular American Card Games
A trick-taking card game, Pitch is a game with a bidding and contracting phase. Pitch is set apart from other bidding games by a game mechanic that allows other Players to take points from your contract, if they manage to take tricks containing specific cards.
A trick-taking card game that is entirely based around its bidding phase, with Players required to win at least the number of tricks they declared. If Players do not make their contract, they are awarded no points, and all other Players are awarded points instead.
A game for 2-4 Players utilizing the most popular rules from the Rummy Family of Card Games. Gin Rummy, unlike other Rummy games, is played entirely in the hand, with opposing Players not able to set cards on your melds.
A game for 2-8 Players in the Rummy family. Like in other Rummy Games, rounds end when a Player uses all of the cards in their hand. The game’s name derives from the total score limit which determines the true winner of a match, 500.
The proprietary version of Rummy, which is published by Mattel. Rather than using a traditional 52-card Anglo-American deck, Phase 10 uses its own proprietary deck. However, this means that this deck can only be used to play Phase 10.
A shedding game in which Players, up to four, must discard specific cards into a discard pile, with the top card of the discard pile determining which cards are legal for discard at a given time. Also utilizes “special cards” which have special effects, such as skipping the next Player’s turn.
The proprietary version of Crazy Eights, trademarked by Mattel. Utilizes its own special deck, rather than designating cards of particular rank as power cards.
The most popular variation of Poker, a meld-making game played in the United States, and the one most frequently seen in casinos. Texas Hold’em gives each Player 2 cards, and then Players must play off of the 5 card “Turn, River, and Flop” on the center of the table.
Favorite card game of Jazz Legend Duke Ellington. A meld-making card game that’s derived from the Rummy family of card games, became so popular in the United States during the 1920’s that a Filipino variation called Tong-Its is now the most popular game in the Philippines.
A unique card-game in which turns are not taken. Rather, both Players play simultaneously and attempt to shed their hands one card at a time, moving as quickly as possible in order to run out of cards before their opponent.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which decks are used for American Card Games?
Although there are many different American Card Games, due to the United States’ status as a “nation of immigrants”, there are many different decks utilized for the number of card games played by cultural pockets across the whole nation. However, as the name suggests, the overwhelming majority of American Card Games utilize the Anglo-American 52-card deck.
What are the most popular card games in the U.S.A?
The most popular games in the United States, which can be played by almost any American due to their cultural familiarity with the rules are Uno, Gin Rummy, Hearts, Spades, and Texas Hold’em. Generally speaking, an American can be just about guaranteed to have played those five games before.