Unschooling and Card Games

Cards connect to history, art, statistics, logic, geography, religion, law, entertainment, paper manufacturing, printing technology... well they don't connect to more things than everything else does, but they're an easy way to see how things connect!

The cards that are traditional in English speaking countries aren't the same as in Germany, or Spain. There are surely other traditional systems. Then there are specialized decks which are nothing very new either. Children's cards, or games like Authors, or Uno, and more recently the VERY popular-among-unschoolers game Five Crowns. see below

Happy exploring!

—Sandra Dodd

See more card-playing dogs here

An illustration of some Spanish cards and other card history is at Wikipedia. There are more illustrations at the International Playing-Card Society page.

Two history pages, A Concise History of Playing-cards from the U.K. and an American site, Playing Cards.

National and Regional Card Games, with links for dozens of countries, and links to other kinds of topics in every direction.

Differences in English terminology:

"Pack is British English; deck is U.S. English. They mean the same thing." (from gamelow.com)

"Card Counting" and other problems

People who have great memories and think in patterns are sometimes accused of "counting cards," meaning they know exactly which cards have been played. To them it doesn't seem like cheating, but because their skill is rare, they just need to play with others with that ability. There were other REAL ways to cheat, though, and those have been documented in paintings for hundreds of years. This page claims to be The World's first Card-Cheating Web Site and has some history of known cheats.

The History of Poker in the Old West

"Poker in the United States was first widely played in New Orleans by French settlers playing a card game that involved bluffing and betting called Poque in the early 1800's. This old poker game was similar to the "draw poker" game we play today. New Orleans evolved as America's first gambling city as riverboat men, plantation owners and farmers avidly pursued the betting sport." Lots more western U.S. history there, with links. Click title above.

Five Crowns:

Beautiful deck, good game, kind of like rummy but better. It's recommended for ages 8 and up, but some younger kids will get it, if they can hold a large hand of cards.

We've worn out several decks at our house; they've been played lots.
A little on Cards and Church

On the traditional history of cards, here is a Frequently Asked Questions about Playing-cards. The site isn't colorful, but go on in anyway. Links have some wonderful illustrations and old cards. There's a very nice copy of a broadside from the 18th century, a story that went around in print in various versions in England and north America, much as e-mail stories are exchanged today (OH! still is being distributed that way.) It's about a man arrested for playing with his card in church, and the story he tells how the cards remind him of the Bible, from aces to kings. The link above is okay, but this one has the earlier version and some history.

When I was a little kid, in Texas, being Southern Baptist, at the family gatherings they'd never play cards as that was sinful. But they would play dominos—42. If anyone has reference on why cards were villified and dominos weren't, let me know.

SOME WORD ON 42 and religion

Paul Proft, the webmaster of texas42.net/ sent this:

During my research on the game of 42, historical accounts indicate "polite society" did not play cards because card-playing was associated with gambling. That's how 42 got started—as a way to play card games using domino tiles (which was acceptable). Most of my research is summarized at texas42.net/scenario1887.html in the contributions, references and links following the short story.

The Christian ethic, including Baptist doctrine, in those days was pretty strong and had a profound influence on government regulations, e.g., no card playing on trains in Texas (held on until the 1940s).

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