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A card game is any game using playing cards, either traditional or game-specific. Countless card games exist, including families of related games (such as poker). Some games have formally standardized rules, while rules for others can vary by region, culture, and person.

The deck

Main article: playing card

A card game is played with a deck of cards intended for that game that are identical in size and shape. Each card has two sides, the face and the back. The backs of the cards in a deck are indistinguishable, preventing any player who cannot see the card's face from knowing its value. The faces of the cards in a deck may all be unique, or may include duplicates, depending on the game. In either case, any card is readily identifiable by its face. The set of cards that make up the deck are known to all of the players using that deck.

The form and composition of European-style playing card decks have evolved over more than 600 years, and a variety of cultural decks have resulted. The deck most often seen in English-speaking cultures, and common in other countries where the deck has been introduced, is the Anglo-American poker deck. This deck contains 52 unique cards in the four French suits (Spades, Hearts, Diamonds and Clubs) and thirteen ranks running from two (deuce) to ten, Jack, Queen, King, and Ace. Commercial poker decks commonly include two to four Jokers, which are used in some games as special cards (the role of the Joker varies by game and region).

Other decks, though less popular globally, are mainstays of a particular culture's card games. For example, a 32-card deck (no values 2-6) is known as a piquet deck and is used for many European card games including Belote, the most popular card game in France. A similar deck using German suits (leaves, hearts, bells and acorns) is used for the card game Skat, which is the national card game of Germany and also immensely popular in neighboring countries like Switzerland and Austria. Variants of the 78-card Tarot deck, largely known in the U.S. for its use in occultist divination, are common through most of continental Europe to play a family of card games known as Tarot, Tarock or Tarocco, depending on the language. The French game of this family is second only to Belote in its popularity there. The 48-card hanafuda deck is popular in Japan, and derived from a 48-card deck introduced in the 1500s by Portuguese explorers.

There are also some card games that require multiple copies of the same deck, or copies of subsets of a deck. For Pinochle and its parent Bezique, a single "deck" is composed of two poker or piquet decks with all values from 2-8 removed; originally this actually required two poker decks, but the game's popularity led to the commercialization of a specific single deck of the needed values. Four-player variants commonly use two such decks; the equivalent of all high-value cards from 4 poker decks. For games such as blackjack, multiple full poker decks are used to discourage card counting, and variants of many other card games use multiple decks shuffled together when a large number of players are participating. In these scenarios, a "deck" refers to one set of the necessary cards, while a "pack" or "shoe" refers to the collection of "decks" as a whole used to play the game.

The deal

File:Paul Cézanne, Les joueurs de carte (1892-95).jpg

Card game, 1895

In games where cards are distributed among players, 'deal' is the act of that distribution. Dealing is done either clockwise or counterclockwise. If this is omitted from the rules, then it is assumed to be:

  • clockwise for games from North America, Australia, North and West Europe and Russia;
  • counterclockwise for South and East Europe, Asia, South America and also for Swiss games.

A player is chosen to deal. That person takes all of the cards in the pack, arranges them so that they are in a uniform stack, and shuffles them. There are various techniques of shuffling, all intended to put the cards into a random order. During the shuffle, the dealer holds the cards so that he or she and the other players cannot see any of their faces.

After the shuffle, the dealer sometimes offers the deck to another player to cut the deck. If the deal is clockwise, this is the player to the dealer's right; if counterclockwise, it is the player to the dealer's left. The invitation to cut is made by placing the pack, face downward, on the table near the player who is to cut: who then lifts the upper portion of the pack clear of the lower portion and places it alongside. The formerly lower portion is then replaced on top of the formerly upper portion.

The dealer then deals the cards. This is done by dealer holding the pack, face down, in one hand, and removing cards from the top of it with his or her other hand to distribute to the players, placing them face down on the table in front of the players to whom they are dealt. The rules of the game will specify the details of the deal. It normally starts with the player next to the dealer in the direction of play and continues in the same direction around the table. The cards may be dealt one at a time, or in groups. Dependent on the rules all or a determined amount of cards are dealt out. The undealt cards, if any, are left face down in the middle of the table, forming the talon, skat, or stock. The player who received the first card from the deal may be known as eldest hand, or forehand.

Throughout the shuffle, cut, and deal, the dealer should prevent the players from seeing the faces of any of the cards. The players should not try to see any of the faces. Should a player accidentally see a card, other than one's own, proper etiquette would be to admit this. It is also dishonest to try to see cards as they are dealt, or to take advantage of having seen a card. Should a card accidentally become exposed, (visible to all), then, normally, any player can demand a redeal (all the cards are gathered up, and the shuffle, cut, and deal are repeated).

When the deal is complete, all players pick up their cards, or hand, and hold them in such a way that the faces can be seen by the holder of the cards but not the other players, or vice versa depending on the game. It is helpful to fan one's cards out so that if they have corner indices all their values can be seen at once. In most games, it is also useful to sort one's hand, rearranging the cards in a way appropriate to the game. For example, in a trick taking game it may be easier to have all one's cards of the same suit together, whereas in a rummy game one might sort them by rank or by potential combinations.

The rules

A new card game starts in a small way, either as someone's invention, or as a modification of an existing game. Those playing it may agree to change the rules as they wish. The rules that they agree on become the "house rules" under which they play the game. A set of house rules may be accepted as valid by a group of players wherever they play. It may also be accepted as governing all play within a particular house, café, or club.

When a game becomes sufficiently popular, so that people often play it with strangers, there is a need for a generally accepted set of rules. This need is often met when a particular set of house rules becomes generally recognised. For example, when Whist became popular in 18th-century England, players in the Portland Club agreed on a set of house rules for use on its premises. Players in some other clubs then agreed to follow the "Portland Club" rules, rather than go to the trouble of codifying and printing their own sets of rules. The Portland Club rules eventually became generally accepted throughout England and Western cultures.

It should be noted that there is nothing static or "official" about this process. For the majority of games, there is no one set of universal rules by which the game is played, and the most common ruleset is no more or less than that. Many widely-played card games, such as Canasta and Pinochle, have no official regulating body. The most common ruleset is often determined by the most popular distribution of rulebooks for card games. Perhaps the original compilation of popular playing card games was collected by Edmund Hoyle, a self-made authority on many popular parlor games. The U.S. Playing Card Company now owns the eponymous Hoyle brand, and publishes a series of rulebooks for various families of card games that have largely standardized the games' rules in countries and languages where the rulebooks are widely distributed. However, players are free to, and often do, invent "house rules" to supplement or even largely replace the "standard" rules.

If there is a sense in which a card game can have an "official" set of rules, it is when that card game has an "official" governing body. For example, the rules of tournament bridge are governed by the World Bridge Federation, and by local bodies in various countries such as the American Contract Bridge League in the U.S., and the English Bridge Union in England. The rules of skat are governed by The International Skat Players Association and in Germany by the Deutsche Skatverband which publishes the Skatordnung. The rules of French tarot are governed by the Fédération Française de Tarot. The rules of Poker's variants are largely traditional, but enforced by the World Series of Poker and the World Poker Tour organizations which sponsor tournament play. Even in these cases, the rules must only be followed exactly at games sanctioned by these governing bodies; player in less formal settings are free to implement agreed-upon supplemental or substitute rules at will.

Rule infractions

An infraction is any action which is against the rules of the game, such as playing a card when it is not one's turn to play and the accidental exposure of a card.

In many official sets of rules for card games, the rules specifying the penalties for various infractions occupy more pages than the rules specifying how to play correctly. This is tedious, but necessary for games that are played seriously. Players who intend to play a card game at a high level generally ensure before beginning that all agree on the penalties to be used. When playing privately, this will normally be a question of agreeing house rules. In a tournament there will probably be a tournament director who will enforce the rules when required and arbitrate in cases of doubt.

If a player breaks the rules of a game deliberately, this is cheating. Most card players would refuse to play cards with a known cheat. The rest of this section is therefore about accidental infractions, caused by ignorance, clumsiness, inattention, etc.

As the same game is played repeatedly among a group of players, precedents build up about how a particular infraction of the rules should be handled. For example, "Sheila just led a card when it wasn't her turn. Last week when Jo did that, we agreed ... etc." Sets of such precedents tend to become established among groups of players, and to be regarded as part of the house rules. Sets of house rules become formalised, as described in the previous section. Therefore, for some games, there is a "proper" way of handling infractions of the rules. But for many games, without governing bodies, there is no standard way of handling infractions.

In many circumstances, there is no need for special rules dealing with what happens after an infraction. As a general principle, the person who broke a rule should not benefit by it, and the other players should not lose by it. An exception to this may be made in games with fixed partnerships, in which it may be felt that the partner(s) of the person who broke a rule should also not benefit. The penalty for an accidental infraction should be as mild as reasonable, consistent with there being no possible benefit to the person responsible.

Ah, i see. Well that's not too tirkcy at all!"

See also

  • Games of chance
  • Games of skill
  • Playing card
  • R. F. Foster
  • Edmond Hoyle
  • Henry Jones ("Cavendish")
  • David Parlett
  • John Scarne

External links

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