Uses and Abuses

The oldest card game on record was played in Bavaria, with references dating back to 1460. It was called Karnöffel. It was a game of trump cards, following the type of game played by the Mamluks, with their "original" deck. The early records of its existence refer to bans by governments and ecclesiastical authorities. Incidentally, these are the most widely available and reliable sources on the history of playing cards and the games played with them. The rules were only recently known, with the discovery, in a secluded valley in Switzerland, of a game that matched the original descriptions.

Karnöffel was certainly not the first game played by the Europeans after they identified the Mamluk cards as an excellent tool for leisure as well as potential financial gain. Games using cards in various structures are counted in the thousands. Some are simple family entertainment. Others, are "dangerous" battles involving bets and experienced and cunning professionals.


Trappola, Tressette, Ombre, Briscola, Primiera and Poch are names of famous old games. Some are still in use; others are predecessors of modern games. Today we have Bridge, Poker, Rummy, Hearts, and Canasta as popular "international" games. "National" games include Cribbage (England), Belote (France), Skat (Germany), and Jass (Northeastern Switzerland), just to name a few. In Brazil, we have Buraco, popular as a family game, Truco (in its versions from São Paulo and Rio Grande do Sul), Sueca, a game of fast bets, and various children`s games. Immigrants bring their traditional games and continue to play them in their communities.
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In casinos, typical banked games include: Blackjack, Baccarat, Chemin de Fer (a modified version of Baccarat, more common in Europe) and Trente et Quarante. These games do not represent what we would call a leisurely card game. Are all played against the dealer, that is, against the casino.