Types of Card Games

The phrase “card games” doesn’t begin to describe the variety of game play available through cards.

Types of Card Games

You can’t think of card games as just casino games or gambling tokens–cards are used for everything from Tarot and fortune-telling to fans’ participation in their favorite science fiction and fantasy series. Sure, poker and blackjack make up a big chunk of the card gaming market, but there are plenty of people who play card games that have nothing to do with suits, trumps, or pairs.

Different types of card games require different types of cards, different rules, even different numbers of players and game setups.

Solitaire Card Games

Solitaire games, for instance, are usually played by one person, though there are plenty of solitaire variations to include more people. The name itself implies that play should take place by yourself, but solitaire games have their own addictive appeal that you can’t help but want to share with multiple people.

All solitaire games can be played with a standard deck of playing cards. Pick up a pack of Bicycle cards, throw out the instructions, advertising, and the jokers (unless you want to use them in your game) and you can be playing a basic game of solitaire in no time. The most common type of solitaire game is known as Klondike. When playing Klondike, you set up the cards in a specific order and attempt to put them in a different order by ordering them according to face value.

Other forms of solitaire offer variations like free cells for “holding” certain cards, odd card setups to break the monotony of good old Klondike (the kind of solitaire on most people’s computers), or really specific rules about what cards can move where and when they can move there.

Solitaire is a good way to relax, to develop math and card game strategy, and to kill time.

Trick Taking Card Games

The family of “trick taking” card games includes any game in which opponents try to win individual “rounds” or “tricks” of a hand of cards. Games like Spades, Whist, Euchre, Bridge, and any number of variations of these games are considered “trick taking games”, and are probably the most popular home card games in the world.

Trick taking card games are played with standard cards, though some games require you remove certain cards, add Jokers, or decide on wild cards in advance. You can play trick taking games in teams, like the various trick taking dominoes games or the partners games Bridge and Euchre, or you can play them as an individual.

It is the variety of game play involved in the various trick taking games that make them so popular. Like the best games, trick taking card games are full of strategic nuance, and it may take an entire lifetime to become an expert.

Gambling Card Games

The most famous card games are the ones used for casino gambling. Think of a deck of cards and you probably think of people gathered around a poker or blackjack table, dropping wads of bills.

Yes–gambling card games are popular. Poker fits into this category, and poker is considered the world’s most popular card game (though fans of Bridge may disagree). Poker and its variations pretty much require some kind of wagering with money to make them truly enjoyable. Other gambling card games may surprise you–people are technically ‘gambling’ when they play Bingo.

Pai Gow Poker is a gambling card game that is a hybrid of both dominoes and card games — while Baccarat is a gambling card game that puts more emphasis on the gambling aspect than any difficult card playing strategy.

You can gamble on any card game, I suppose, but not every card game can be considered a “gambling card game”.

Comparing Card Games

Comparing card games are generally children’s games that teach basic mathematical skills or card game strategy, though some more complicated adult games can be considered “comparing” card games. Think of Go-Fish, in which one play must ask another player if they have a card they need to make a pair–and thus “compare” their opponents hand to their own. Old Maid is another rudimentary comparing card game that most of us learn at a young age.

The game I most closely attach to my childhood is a comparing card game — War. In that game, opponents simply compare cards drawn at random to determine a winner. Some casinos are now offering War, which creates a strange blend of gambling card games and children’s card games. Still, if you’re a fan of some classic War action, drop a dime and put your luck to the test. You won’t find me blowing my money that way.

Melding Card Games

The final major category of card games are “melding card games”–these are games where the object is to form groups of cards. Depending on the type of melding card game, this grouping could be three of a kind, straight, four of a kind, like suits, or just about anything under the sun.

The Rummy games are the best known melding card games–though Rummy could just as easily be described as a “comparing” or “matching” card game. In Rummy, players make groups or “melds” of cards in order to form a winning hand.

Other melding card games are Mahjong (not traditionally a card game, but still viable for this list), the popular commercial game UNO, and even Canasta, that old nursing home standby.

Collectible Card Games

Collectible card games are usually commercially produced and proprietary brand name games like Pokemon, Magic: The Gathering, and other type-specific card competition games that blend the thrill of card collecting and the strategy of card-gaming.

People love buying packs of cards and digging through to see what they’ve found. People love the competition of role playing card games (in which a player tries to form the most competitive hand of a specific set of cards with varying powers) and combining a love of collecting with the strategy attached to role playing is a natural hit.

These collectible card games are the least like traditional “card games” of any game involving the use of cards.

Commercial Card Games

Some card games aren’t collectible card games, but they’re not played with a traditional deck, either. Some examples of popular commercial card games include Dominion, Illuminati, and Race for the Galaxy.

When you think of a “card game”, think outside the poker box. There are so many games you can play with a simple deck of cards, there’s no reason to be bored on a Saturday night. Whether you’re into role playing, matching, melding, collecting, or comparing, there’s a kind of card game you can enjoy playing again and again.