Card Games for Car Road Trips

Written by Carly Hallman

Playing cards is an ancient and popular past time, with thousands of games in existence currently. Before mass printing became available, cards were hand painted and commonly used only by the nobility. Cards are thought to have originated in China with the invention of paper before the year 1000; they most likely came to Europe through trade routes from the Middle East in the 1300’s. Playing cards have changed a great deal through time and they still vary greatly between countries, regions, and cultures. For example, the suit signs that are used in the United States today are French in origin and include hearts, spades, diamonds, and clubs. In Germany suit signs are acorns, leaves, hearts, and bells. Many cards in Europe do not have queens, and in Italy, a 78 card deck is popular. In India, cards are round and there can be as many as 8-10 suits. The earliest European games were trick taking games (where the object of the game is to win a round) like whist and hand comparison games like Primero.

American card manufacturing started in the 1800’s. America invented jokers and corner indices, which are the numbers printed in the corners of the cards; this allowed for new game development. A wide variety of designs began to be printed on the back of cards which we see today. Poker, whose predecessor was a 16th century game called Primero, became a huge past time in the American Wild West and is often depicted in Western style movies and books. By the 18th century, techniques such as bluffing and deception were well established.

Currently, more people play poker than any other card game in the United States, with the exception of solitaire. Black Jack follows. Card games popular internationally are bridge, poker, and canasta. Today, many colleges and cities have card playing clubs; card playing game software and card games online are extremely popular as well. Besides being fun, card playing is known to increase IQ in kids, teach mathematical and logic skills, and enhance social skills. In older people, card playing keeps the mind active and slows and possibly prevents memory loss, as well as provides a venue for socializing.

Playing cards have changed greatly through time, from being played by the nobility in person in palaces, to being played at home in pajamas on the internet. The games have changed and the cards themselves have changed, but one thing is almost certain; playing cards will continue to evolve and be a popular past time.

Bezique originated in France and evolved into pinochle. It is a trick taking, melding card game for two players using a 64 card deck. It was very popular in the past known to be played by Winston Churchill, but has waned in popularity.


Bridge is an extremely popular and social trick taking card game; in fact bridge clubs are found in communities and college campuses. Bridge scores are based on how well one does compared to others. Bridge uses strategy, logic, skill, and communication, not chance, to win.

Canasta, a strategic melding game from Central America and was quite popular in the 1950s. It is usually played by four people although it can be played by more, and uses two standard decks of cards.

Cribbage uses a cribbage board, pegs, and a standard deck of 52 cards. Games take about 30 minutes to play. The first player to score 121 points wins.

History of Poker
A history of card games concentrating on Poker, specifically American Poker, is explored.

Crazy Eights
Matching card game for 2 or more players the object is to discard cards until none are left.

Euchre is a trick taking game played with four people in two pairs. It uses a deck of 24 standard playing cards. The object of the game is to be the first to score ten points.

Gin Rummy, or Knock Rummy
Gin rummy became popular in the 1930s and was often played by movie stars. The object of the game is to score the point total that the players agreed upon first. It is a 2 player (although it can be played with more) 52 card melding game.

Rules of Three Card Tonk
A gambling card game that is similar to knock rummy using a standard deck and two to five players.

Guide to the Playing Card and Game Collection
This article gives a history of playing cards concentrating on card collection.

Napoleon is a trick taking, bidding card game played with 3-6 players. It uses a standard 52 card deck and does not use partnerships. The person with the highest number of points wins.

Old Maid
Old Maid is a scapegoat type of card game where the person holding the old maid loses. It is simple enough for children to play.

The Name of the Game: Piquet
An article that gives a brief history of playing cards and a description of how to play piquet, one of the oldest trick taking card games. It is a two player game using a standard pack reduced to 32 cards, or a specialized deck of 32 cards.

Poker is a gambling game of chance, using skill and psychology as well. It is the most popular card game in the U.S. with many variations. Winning is based on card combinations.

Spanish 21 (or pontoon, or a variation of blackjack)
Spanish 21 is a gambling card game almost identical to blackjack with the option of more wagers.

Whist and Duplicate Whist
Whist is a trick taking card game played by two sets of partners and a full standard deck of cards. It is a very old card game, one of the first played in Europe. It combines skill and chance and the goal of the game is to take as many tricks as possible.

President or Scum
This is an unusual trick taking game requiring four or more people to play and requiring any deck of card that has Kings, Queens, Jacks, and so on. The players fill the positions of President, Manager, worker, and Scum. The goal of the game is to become President and stay the President.

Texas Hold ’em
Texas Hold ’em is a popular variation of poker most often played at casinos.

Elizabethan card games
Instructions on how to play Maw, One&Thirty, Bone-ace, and Ruff and Honors are given.

The International Playing Card Society
A history of playing cards containing vivid illustrations of different kinds of cards throughout time from all around the world

Hearts and other card games
Instructions are given on how to play hearts, a trick taking avoidance game, and also canasta, cribbage, gin rummy, go fish, pitch, rummy 500, and spades.

Fan Tan, also called Sevens or Parliament
Fan Tan is an old Chinese gambling game that has waned in popularity. It can be played with three to eight people with a standard deck. The object of the game is to be the first one to discard all cards by laying them out in a configuration.

Kids’ Favorite Card Games
A publication giving the instructions on how to play Speed, Crazy eights, Easy to play Hearts, War, and I Doubt It! These games require two to four players and are intended for children four and older.

Cardboard Cognition
An amazing collection of 132 educational card games for children designed to boost brain power.

Games People Play
An article explaining that card playing helps children to learn valuable skills.

Card games boost mental health
Card playing boosts mental health in the elderly and disabled by giving them a way to socialize and have fun.

The World of Playing Cards
The World of Playing Cards features beautiful pictures of cards from all eras and places of the world and gives a variety of valuable information about the history of playing cards.

The History of Playing Cards
Information on popular card games, history of playing cards, suit systems, and more is given.

The Playing Card’s Progress: A Brief History of Cards and Card Games
This study outlines the history of playing cards, giving reasons why they have been seen as taboo in different times and places.

Go Fish Rules
A matching card game for children using a deck of Go Fish cards in which the object of the game is to get as many pairs as possible.

Although this article is about a game design programming language, it describes card game types and displays a chart on page two listing examples of games for each category.

Magic: The Gathering
Magic is a card collecting/ fantasy card game played with Magic cards. Decks are put together by the individual card player and can be changed. Players fight in a fantasy world and there are many gaming clubs for it.

Pinochle is an older trick taking card game, but it also involves bidding and melding. It is played with two 24 card decks and usually played with 3 people. The goal is to be the first person to score 1000 points.

An article detailing the card game Primero, the predecessor to today’s Poker.