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Four joker cards

The Joker is a special card found in most modern decks of playing cards, or a Mahjong tile in some Mahjong game sets.

Contents

Name

An example of a joker playing card.

It is believed that the term "Joker" comes from a mispronunciation of Juker, the German/Alsatian name for the game Euchre (in German, the "J" sounds as "I" or "Y" so the German and English names should be pronounced similarly). The card was originally introduced in about 1860[1] for games of that family to be used as the highest trump[2][3]. It is first mentioned in connection with Euchre in the book Euchre: How to Play it (1886). The book includes a description of a game called Railway Euchre in which a 33rd card is used.

The name could also derive from Poker, where it was first mentioned a decade earlier, in the American Hoyle (1875). Catherine Perry Hargrave in her book A History of Playing Cards, has found even earlier jokers, from 1862 and 1865. The 1862 card has a tiger on it and the label "Highest Trump", while the one from 1865 is inscribed "This card takes either Bower" and "Imperial Bower", or "Highest Trump Card". So it may be that Euchre was the game for which the Joker was invented, not Poker, because part of this confusion on the issue may be due to the fact that both games spread simultaneously northward on the Mississippi[4].

The Joker came to be represented as a clown or court jester by the 1880s. [2]

Appearance

A quick sketch of a typical playing card Joker.

The Joker is usually depicted as a court jester. There are usually two Jokers per deck, often noticeably different. For instance, Bicycle Playing Cards prints their company's guarantee claim on only one. More common traits are the appearance of colored and black/noncolored Jokers. At times, the Jokers will each be colored to match the colors used for suits; there will be a red Joker, and a black Joker. In games where the jokers may need to be compared, the red or full-color joker usually outranks the black-and-white one; if the joker colors are similar, the joker without a guarantee will outrank the guaranteed one. With the red/black jokers, the red one can alternately be counted as a heart/diamond and the black is used to substitute clubs/spades.

In the USA-Produced Bicycle brand of playing cards, The Joker sometimes bears an S superimposed over a U as its index symbol. This is a trademark of the U.S. Playing Card Company. In Canada, the US monogram is replaced by a star.

In Australia, the Joker in the Queen's Slipper brand of playing cards depicts a Kookaburra, a bird native to Australia with a call which resembles human laughter. In Australian games of 500, the Joker is often referred to colloquially as 'The Bird'. Most other decks simply use a stylized "J" or the word "JOKER" in the corner index.

In Portugal, Litografia Maia has printed French decks where the Joker figure is substituted by a donkey head. It is intended to be used in Burro em pé ("standing donkey")[5].

Tarot and cartomancy

The Joker is often compared to "the Fool" in the Trumps of the Tarot deck. They share many similarities both in appearance and play function; the Fool is often the highest trump, or else an "excuse" that can be played at any time but cannot win. Though the inspiration for using the "jester" imagery on the joker may have derived from the Fool card, they have differing origins as stated above; the Tarot deck has included the Fool since its invention in the 1400s while the Joker is a relatively recent (re)addition to the French/Anglo-American 52-card deck.

Because of the above correspondence, practitioners of cartomancy often include a Joker in the standard 52-card deck, with a meaning similar to the Fool card of Tarot. Sometimes the two Jokers are used: one approach is to identify the "black" Joker with the Fool and the "red" Joker with "the Magician", also known as the Juggler, a card which is somewhat similar in interpretation and is considered the first step in the "Fool's Journey".

Use of the Joker in card games

The Joker's use is greatly varied. Many card games omit the card from use entirely; due to this fact, Jokers are often simply used informally as replacements for lost cards in a deck by writing the lost card's value on the joker. Other games, such as a 25-card variant of Euchre, make it one of the most important in the game. Often, the joker is a wildcard, and thereby allowed to represent other existing cards. The term "Joker's Wild" originates from this practice, as does the game show of the same name.

The Joker can be an extremely beneficial, or an extremely harmful, card. In Euchre it is often used to represent Benny, the highest trump. In poker, it is wild. However, in the children's game named Old Maid, a solitary joker represents the Maid, a card that is to be avoided.

Specific ranks

  • Go Fish, In this game the Jokers are not used but in the variant Go fish for two, when the cards are paired-hearts with diamonds and spade with clubs-the jokers are a pair and so can be utilised.
  • Euchre, 500, Spades: As the highest trump, "Benny" or top Bower.
  • Canasta: The joker, like the deuce, is a wild card. However, the joker is worth 50 points in melding, as opposed to 20 for the deuce.
  • Gin Rummy: a wild card, able to be used as any necessary rank or suit to complete a meld.
  • Hearts: The joker does not appear in standard hearts, but when playing with 3 or 6 players, both Jokers are commonly added to make the deck divide evenly, and are played as off-suit, non-Heart cards. Other variants use one or more Jokers to replace another card or cards, and give the Joker special properties.
  • Poker (1): A wild card. Some poker variants restrict the capabilities of the joker, only allowing it to be used as an ace, or to complete a flush or straight (when it is called a bug). Unrestricted jokers can be very powerful; they guarantee a pair, promote an existing pair to three of a kind, and promote two-pair to a full house. In some forms, the joker may be used to promote a four-of-a-kind hand into a five-of-a-kind. A five-of-a-kind is considered the highest among all hands, even the royal flush.
  • Poker (2): Alternatively, the joker is sometimes used as a buck or button to indicate which player is the dealer.
  • Chase the Joker: An alternative version of Old Maid where the Joker card is used instead of the Ace.
  • War: Beats all other cards.
  • Pitch: A point card in some variations. Jokers rank between the Jack and the 10 (trumps only), and are marked as "High" and "Low", one outranking the other.
  • Mighty: Second most-powerful card in the game, though it cannot be legally played on the first or last trick.
  • Daihinmin: a wild card, or a deuce (which ends the round and clears the discard pile).
  • Crazy Eights: a "skip" card, playable on top of any other card, that forces the next player to lose a turn.
  • Spades: uncommon, but when playing with three or six players they are added to make the cards deal evenly (18 or 9 cards each, respectively). They are either "junk" cards playable anytime that cannot win a trick, or they count as the two highest trumps (the two Jokers must be differentiable; the "big Joker" outranks the "little Joker").

References

  1. ^ Oxford Dictionary of Card Games, David Parlett, pg. 104 Oxford University Press (1996) ISBN 0-19-869173-4
  2. ^ a b US Playing Card Co. - A Brief History of Playing Cards (archive.org mirror)
  3. ^ Beal, George. Playing cards and their story. 1975. New York: Arco Publishing Comoany Inc. p. 58
  4. ^ Hoyle Card Games 2007, pg. 108
  5. ^ Donkey Playing Cards at the shop of the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum.

The Joker is a special card found in most modern decks of playing cards, or a Mahjong tile in some Mahjong game sets.

Contents

Name

It is believed that the term "Joker" comes from a mispronunciation of Juker, the German/Alsatian name for the game Euchre. The card was originally introduced in about 1860 and is worth 1 in any game of cards[1] for games of that family to be used as the highest trump.[2][3][4] Catherine Perry Hargrave documents jokers from 1862 and 1865 in her book A History of Playing Cards. The 1862 card has a tiger on it and the label "Highest Trump", while the one from 1865 is inscribed "This card takes either Bower" and "Imperial Bower", or "Highest Trump Card". So it may be that Euchre was the game for which the Joker was invented, not Poker, because part of this confusion on the issue may be because both games spread simultaneously northward on the Mississippi.[5]

The Joker came to be represented as a clown or court jester by the 1880s.[2]

Appearance

The Joker is usually depicted as a court jester. There are usually two Jokers per deck, often noticeably different. For instance, Bicycle Playing Cards prints their company's guarantee claim on only one. More common traits are the appearance of colored and black/noncolored Jokers. At times, the Jokers will each be colored to match the colors used for suits; there will be a red Joker, and a black Joker. In games where the jokers may need to be compared, the red or full-color joker usually outranks the black-and-white one; if the joker colors are similar, the joker without a guarantee will outrank the guaranteed one. With the red/black jokers, the red one can alternately be counted as a heart/diamond and the black is used to substitute clubs/spades.

In the USA-Produced Bicycle brand of playing cards, The Joker sometimes bears an S superimposed over a U as its index symbol. This is a trademark of the U.S. Playing Card Company. In Canada, the US monogram is replaced by a star.

In Australia, the Joker in the Queen's Slipper brand of playing cards depicts a Kookaburra, a bird native to Australia with a call which resembles human laughter. In Australian games of 500, the Joker is often referred to colloquially as 'The Bird'. Most other decks simply use a stylized "J" or the word "JOKER" in the corner index.

In Portugal, Litografia Maia has printed French decks where the Joker figure is substituted by a donkey head. It is intended to be used in Burro em pé ("standing donkey").[6]

Tarot and cartomancy

The Joker is often compared to "the Fool" in the Trumps of the Tarot deck. They share many similarities both in appearance and play function; the Fool is often the highest trump, or else an "excuse" that can be played at any time but cannot win. Though the inspiration for using the "jester" imagery on the joker may have derived from the Fool card, they have differing origins as stated above; the Tarot deck has included the Fool since its invention in the 15th century while the Joker is a relatively recent (re)addition to the French/Anglo-American 52-card deck.

Because of the above correspondence, practitioners of cartomancy often include a Joker in the standard 52-card deck, with a meaning similar to the Fool card of Tarot. Sometimes the two Jokers are used: one approach is to identify the "black" Joker with the Fool and the "red" Joker with "the Magician", also known as the Juggler, a card which is somewhat similar in interpretation and is considered the first step in the "Fool's Journey".

Use of the Joker in card games

The Joker's use is greatly varied. Many card games omit the card from use entirely; due to this fact, Jokers are often simply used informally as replacements for lost cards in a deck by writing the lost card's value on the joker. Other games, such as a 25-card variant of Euchre, make it one of the most important in the game. Often, the joker is a wild card, and thereby allowed to represent other existing cards. The term "Joker's Wild" originates from this practice, as does the game show of the same name.

The Joker can be an extremely beneficial, or an extremely harmful, card. In Euchre it is often used to represent Benny, the highest trump. In poker, it is wild. However, in the children's game named Old Maid, a solitary joker represents the Maid, a card that is to be avoided.

Specific ranks

  • Euchre, 500, Spades: As the highest trump, "Benny" or top Bower.
  • Canasta: The joker, like the deuce, is a wild card. However, the joker is worth 50 points in melding, as opposed to 20 for the deuce.
  • Gin Rummy: a wild card, able to be used as any necessary rank or suit to complete a meld.
  • Chase the Joker: An alternative version of Old Maid where the Joker card is used instead of the Ace.
  • War: In some variations, beats all other cards.
  • Pitch: A point card in some variations. Jokers rank between the Jack and the 10 (trumps only), and are marked as "High" and "Low", one outranking the other.
  • Mighty: Second most-powerful card in the game, though it cannot be legally played on the first or last trick.
  • Daihinmin: a wild card, or a deuce (which ends the round and clears the discard pile).
  • Crazy Eights: a "skip" card, playable on top of any other card, that forces the next player to lose a turn.
  • Spades: uncommon, but when playing with three or six players they are added to make the cards deal evenly (18 or 9 cards each, respectively). They are either "junk" cards playable anytime that cannot win a trick, or they count as the two highest trumps (the two Jokers must be differentiable; the "big Joker" outranks the "little Joker").

References

  1. ^ Oxford Dictionary of Card Games, David Parlett, pg. 104 Oxford University Press (1996) ISBN 0-19-869173-4
  2. ^ a b US Playing Card Co. - A Brief History of Playing Cards (archive.org mirror)
  3. ^ Beal, George. Playing cards and their story. 1975. New York: Arco Publishing Comoany Inc. p. 58
  4. ^ "Trumps". The modern pocket Hoyle. 1868. New York; Dick & Fitzgerald. p. 94. [1]
  5. ^ Hoyle Card Games 2007, pg. 108
  6. ^ Donkey Playing Cards at the shop of the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum.







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