(Article originally published on Spotter Up)

If, after the first twenty minutes, you don’t know who the sucker at the table is, it’s you.  ~David Levien and Brian Koppelman, Rounders

There are many early examples of playing cards from Egypt, Persian and India but most experts agree that playing cards originated in China. The idea is that they came from China and spread from India and Persia into Europe.

It may have been the Chinese in 9 AD to give us cards but America added the round edges and other additions. The joker card, poker, bridge, pinochle and the lamination process are of our own doing.

Cards are a good way of bringing people together. Even if you don’t play cards, keep a deck in your kit, because it’s a good way to break down barriers. Your foreign counterparts might enjoy a game of cards. Still, to this day I recall playing card games for hours with my team-mates when we could. Some us were smoking, all of us joking in order to ignore the pulsing desert heat and to enliven our dull moments.


We made a ring of chairs, just shaky boxes ofMRE’s, and spread our cards atop a dusty cot while music played lowly. Morning might bring a mission or two but until then we bonded by laughing and slapping down cards and trying to break the concentration of the other players with our ridiculous put-downs.

Eventually there would be a winner at UNO, or Poker and the games would begin anew and continue until it got severely late. We’d stand among our debris of cards and packages of trash. The betting time was over, the winnings of cigarettes or M&M’s were collected. Each man went off to bed and his uncertain private thoughts, for a sliver of time, was joyfully redirected.

If you’re looking for something cheap and effective to help you pass the time, I highly recommend card games. Whether a person is a beginner or an expert is unimportant. There are hundreds of card games out there to suit anyone’s personality. Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines have been playing cards for a very long time.

Historic photographs and illustrations make this clear, whether they traveled on foot or in ships and planes, it was a method to keep the troops entertained by slugging away their idle hours.

Cards are good for teams and if you have kids on camping trips this is an especially good way to keep them mentally engaged. Many playing cards can be purchased for under $5.00. Cops get together after a difficult week and build friendships by playing poker. Cards are good for getting to know your team mate better.

Keep in mind, there are many single player card games such as Klondike, Solitaire, Amazons, Beehive, Forty Thieves…a good, sturdy playing card pack is what you need to throw into your back pack.

If you’re really into playing card games, I recommend purchasing a used edition of the Ultimate Book of Card Games: The Comprehensive Guide to More than 350 Games.  Over 400 pages and loads of game descriptions.


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