When the Jester is King: The Story of the Joker in Playing Cards

How did the Joker come to be a part of playing 13 cards rummy? Come to think of it, games like “Crazy Eights” and “Go Fish” can go on even without this card. However, the “Joker” is a unique playing card found in most card decks today, in addition to the standard suits of clubs, spades, diamonds and hearts. And we all do light up when this card comes to complete our sets and sequences, as we play a Rummy tournament. This colourful card actually does have a significance of its own, dating back as far as the late 1800s.

How the Jester was Born

According to Britannica.com, playing cards came into being sometime around the 15th century, drawing inspiration from tarots cards, which were used for fortune telling. However, the Joker did not make his appearance until the 18th century, when the Americans added this “extra” card to the standard playing deck, while bending the rummy rules of the game of Euchre.

The name “Joker” is said to come from the name Jucker, which was what the Alsatians, who invented the game of Euchre, called the card. Introduced in the American playing deck around 1863, it took some time to reach the English shores. When the idea finally caught up with the British in 1880, this card was used in “Imperial Bower,” the British version of Euchre. Alternatively, it is believed that this card was originally intended for the game of Poker, as a “wild card,” although this has been largely discredited by those in favour of the Jucker theory.

Today, this “Jester” is being used in many card games, if not all, across the world. It is a favourite in Rummy tournaments and there is even a card game that it actually called “Joker.”

When the Jester is King

In today’s card games, the Jester can be a rather important card and is being used in a number of games. Here are a few popular games that showcase this card at its best:

  1. Euchre: The Joker is used as the highest trump, wielding maximum power.
  2. Canasta: Here it is used like a wild card. While fusing a set, the Joker is worth 50 points.
  3. Rummy Tournaments: In the game of Rummy, it is a wild card used as any necessary rank to complete a set or sequence.
  4. Chase the Joker: This game is similar to the game of “Old Maid.” Here, the card is used as an alternative to the “Ace,” thus giving the game its name.
  5. War: There are many variations of this card game. However, in some variations, the Jester beats all cards.

So, the next time you play a Rummy tournament, know that the Joker isn’t always the “fool,” like the tarot cards portray it to be.

When the Jester is King: The Story of the Joker in Playing Cards
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