The History of the Most Useless Card in the Deck

First off, I know that I missed a week in posting; my apologies. I was out of town.

Back to the topic.

I have always had this love of cards. I don’t know why, but I do. Recently I have begun to collect them. I buy them, open them, sort them (setting aside the Jokers in their own special Joker pile), and attempt to build a house of cards with them.

I’m pretty sure that most everybody who has seen a deck of cards wants to know why the Jokers are even there. I mean, for every game you just take them out and set them aside, right?


Surprise, Surprise; this single image card is not useless.

Before the 1860’s Joker cards didn’t really exist. However, around this time the game Euchre was becoming increasingly popular. For the British rules of Euchre, there is a card called the Imperial Bower, also called the Best Bower. This card was the most powerful, trumping any other card.

Eventually, people began including a special Imperial Bower card. And this, ladies and gentlemen, morphed over time into the Joker card we know today.

Now, why would a Jester of all things be pictured on the most powerful card in the deck? Well, it’s all in the name.

It seems that the name ‘Joker’ is not just derived from Jucker, the German spelling of Euchre, but also from the Playing Card’s morph from the Tarot Card deck.

Playing Cards are the child of Tarot Cards, yes. And the Joker Card is derived from the Tarot Card, ‘The Fool’, which serves a similar purpose, as well as loaning it’s appearance to our Joker card. The appearance of various cards will change over time, and now some Joker cards aren’t even jesters anymore.

Of course, this is just the history behind it, and other games have different uses for the card. Such as a ‘Skip’ card in Crazy Eights, or a ‘Wild Card’ in Gin Rummy.

So, contrary to popular belief, the Joker card has more uses than just being a substitute for lost number or royal cards.

The apparently useless card in the deck turns out to be, in reality, the most powerful.


4 thoughts on “The History of the Most Useless Card in the Deck

  1. Very nice post and I am terribly sorry but playing cards did not come from the tarot. Playing cards were around a lot longer than the games Tarot cards were created to play. This is a common mistake and shows our desire to mysticize things from the past. Even the divination nature of the Tarot did not come about until the late 1700s, three hundred years after playing cards came to Europe. As you pointed out, the name of the extra cards was not even Joker. It was the Best Bower.


  2. Pingback: JEOPARDY & JAM’S HOLZ HAUER – Fracked Facts cause Fiction Friction

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