The History of the Joker

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Casino Joker card on the flour

The name “Joker” has gained popularity far beyond the scope of card games or gambling. A full-fledged symbol of pop culture, the Joker has always been associated with mystery. Nobody has seen his real face as it is hidden under a mask, but we can definitely say that his image is multifaceted. In fact, he has many alter egos because he is more like a twin, two entities that coexist in one body. His identity allures, awakens your dark side and is unpredictable and full of surprises! This person totally rejects the concept of community. It seems that this image is already adjacent by eternal bonds with our consciousness and culture. And it’s clear cut that there is no other card in history that could inspire so many – directors of Hollywood blockbusters, comic book authors and software developers – to create brand new, highly requested products.

This article is a brief review of how the Joker hewed its way on gambling tables.

Going Back to the Joker Origins

Joker Card in the pastThe appearance of the Joker’s image is owed to “the Fool” – the Italian Tarot card – because of similarities of their function. In a Tarot deck, the Fool is often used as the highest value trump. However, then the Joker was paradoxically portrayed as a positive symbol of a fresh new start. That depiction has a completely opposite meaning in comparison to its current association among the greatest villains. So it is no wonder that this symbol has some kind of spiritual meaning.

In 1863, the British card manufacturer Samuel Hart illustrated the Joker for the first time as the “Best Bower,” thus having made his name legendary in the history of American playing cards. Hart called it the “Imperial Bower.” And Bower-kind jokers kept being produced up to the 20th century.

It is said that this term is derived from Jucker, the initial German spelling of Euchre. But there is also another theory, marked in an American Hoyle book, according to which the name came from the game of Poker. So it is still not clear for which game the Joker was first used.

In 1875, gamblers started to use the Joker as a wild symbol. In the meantime, an additional highly ranked trump card became popular in the American gambling society. Card manufacturers began to include these extra cards that took their rightful places in their decks so that this image became famous worldwide. Although the card didn’t have any standardized look, a few years later it received a unique design that easily set it apart from the rest of the pack. Due to such trademarks as a flaming clown costume, a jester hat with balls and a big grin, this image of excentric buffoonery became funny, catchy, unique and inimitable. However, this image is still regularly transformed and modified in accordance with today’s trends and fashion.

Use of the Joker in Various Card Games

Traditionally, this card acts as a wild card. Normally, the standard deck consists of two Jokers. But the Joker in various card games is only used as a replacement of a particular card.

For example, in Crazy Eights, the Joker equals 50 points and acts as a card by which the following player can “skip” a turn. In Canasta, it gives you 50 points during the melding and acts as a wild card. The Joker overpowers the rest of the cards in the game of War and serves as the highest trump in a trick-taking game called Euchre, 500.

In Gin Rummy (a variant of rummy), the Joker acts as any necessary rank or suit to finish a meld. In Double King Pede, it is the lowest rank card, but it brings you18 points.

In Go Fish, another game consisting of 2 players, the pair of Jokers are able to bring the number of pairs to 27 and avoid the 13-13 draw. In Pitch, Jokers usually act as a point card in some variations and their pair stamped as ‘High’ and ‘Low,’ one takes precession of the other.

This card is also widely-accepted in the Solitaire games. For instance, in

Pyramid, the Joker can be discarded along with any available card. In this particular case, the stock is dealt only one card at a time, and you have an opportunity to use it twice.

In Forty Thieves, it placed on the foundation while the natural card is not available. In this case, any suitable card is placed over the Joker. Once the natural card becomes accessible, it takes the Joker’s place, which meanwhile is placed on the top of the foundation bunch. Once the Joker takes place on an empty foundation, it remains there until an ace appears.

In Aces Up, the Jokers acts as it sometimes called “Joker Bombs” meaning they can move out all cards of a particular row. If a Joker is dealt into a column, the entire column is reshuffled into the stock and that specific Joker falls out of the game. As a result, it gives you an empty foundation slot and dramatically increases your win rate.

The Role Of the Joker in Poker

Once a poker player draws a wild card, he can designate it to stand for any card of his choice. It has two advantages; namely, it introduces a random element to the game and influences the odds.

Nowadays, there are a lot of expressions that are widely used not only in the closed circle of sophisticated gamblers. For instance, this term can describe a very annoying person; “the joker in the pack” means that something or someone is very unpredictable; if the joker smiles at you, there is a chance that you will have a hidden privilege or a streak of good luck, etc.

How a drawn character became so famous is a fascinating story. The Joker is a very iconic fictional figure in pop culture and undeniably one of the most picturesque contributions to the history of playing cards.

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