Standard packs of cards will typically have two additional cards that show a picture of a court jester or “Joker.”
Joker cards are not used very often, but they have an important role in a small selection of games and also for card magic tricks. Jokers are found in cards that follow the French-suited model, and some Spanish and Italian-suited models.
I will talk more about these international differences later.
Jokers do not have a standard design and vary according to the playing card manufacturer.
These differences are so important to the card companies that they frequently trademark the design of the joker card.
Typically there are two joker cards in each pack.
Sometimes there will be one red joker and one black joker, other companies may place product information on just one of the jokers, and this is occasionally used to differentiate the jokers in certain games.
Table of Contents
Origin of the Joker Card
The introduction of the Joker card is connected with the card game “Euchre.”
Euchre was played in Europe and taken to the United States by immigrants.
One theory was that Euchre was brought to the USA by German immigrants to Pennsylvania.
Another theory is that it was a corrupted version of the game Ecarté.
It is thought the game reached America by 1820.
There is an alternative theory that the game reached America via immigrants from The West Country of England (Devon and Cornwall).
The game is still very popular in that part of England.
During the American Civil War, the Game of Euchre was modified to include one Joker card.
Standard Euchre uses only 25 cards (six cards from each suit – A, K, Q, J, 10, 9) and the Joker.
The first recorded manufacturer of playing cards with a clear “Joker Card” was in 1874 with packs manufactured by Charles Goodall, although Joker cards had been in use since 1861.
A year later (1875) poker began to use the Joker card as a wildcard.
Western playing cards are usually made of rectangular layers of paper or cardboard which are pasted together to create a firm card.
They are all the same size and small enough to be held in one hand.
In the mid 20th century these layers were coated in plastic to protect them.
In China, dominoes are/were made the same way as cards and there was little distinction between them.
The earliest mention of these games in China was in the 10th century.
The History of Playing Cards
Playing cards first appeared in Europe in the 1370s. it is first thought they arrived in Italy of Spain from Egypt.
These cards were luxury items and all hand-painted.
During the 15th century cards gradually spread across the European trade routes as a luxury item for the rich,
When the Germans discovered woodblock printing in the early 15th century, this marked a huge reduction in production costs.
Further cost reductions were made in France in the late 15th century when they began to paint the cards using stencils.
Because the designs were cut into a stencil the four suits were represented by images that were both easy to recognize and cut.
This led to a standardized design (which was designated as French) but was international in nature.
In the early days, Cards were games played mostly by women.
Cards also gained a reputation in literature as the early stages of seduction, which led to the church violently opposing them.
Governments also were shocked at how quickly this pastime spread and in various ways.
European states started to try and get some tax income or profit from the occupation.
In France in the 17th Century, the finance minister of King Louis XIV had the idea of turning the Palace of Versailles into a giant casino.
Whereas the British took a more direct approach and slammed a tax on playing cards.
The Stamp Act
In 1756 we saw the first time that the British and tried to collect a direct tax from the American colonists.
They introduced the “Stamp Act” which was collected on virtually any document, including playing cards.
The colonists were non too happy and a lot of protests resulted together with civil disobedience.
The stamp Act was clearly an important factor in the desire for independence a decade later.
Worshipful Company of Makers of Playing Cards
Worshipful Company of Makers of Playing Cards was incorporated in London in 1628, one of 100 Livery Companies which is a collection of ancient and modern trade associations.
These livery companies are an essential part of how the “City of London” functions.
For readers outside of the UK, please understand that the “City of London” is very different from “London.”
The “City of London” is a ceremonial county and local government division that is part of the Metropolis of London. It is the central business district.
The Worshipful Company of Makers of Playing Cards was originally formed to regulate and control imports of cheap playing cards.
The organization now has expanded to represent a host of card-related businesses, including Magicians.
Membership is limited to 150 individuals.
Types of Playing cards
The standard pack of cards today includes 52 playing cards, 13 of each of the four suits.
The pack will also include an extra two or three jokers.
Whilst this is the most popular format, in certain other countries worldwide they have different types of packs.
In France, the second most popular card game in the country is called Tarot, which has a deck of 78 cards.
Originally cards were printed in one direction and players would turn the cards in the hand around to all have the pictures in one direction.
Later on, someone thought it would be useful to have the design with a double head and a letter in the corner denoting the picture cards, or a number for the rest of the deck.
The standard pack uses two cors: black for the clubs and spades, and red for the hearts and diamonds.
Some packs have four colors; green for spades, red for hearts, yellow for diamonds, and black for clubs.
Magic Tricks That feature the Joker Card
There are many tricks out there that are using a Joker card or both Joker cards.
In most cases, Jokers are used just as “wild cards” for better effect and can be substituted by any other card.
Let’s take a look at some tricks where Jokers are used.
This trick is performed with a special deck that has a comic Joker on bicycle design.
The joker displays the Joker card behind the cellophane of the card case.
He tells the audience that he likes to keep the joker separate from the other cards as he does not like the joker card.
He displays the card to the audience turns it around, gives it a tap, and a small printed bicycle fall to the table.
He then reveals the face of the card again and there is the joker crashed on the ground because the bicycle has disappeared.
Excellent card trick for beginners!
There is only a small setup needed and the trick is then practically self-working.
It means that you just need to follow a simple set of instructions and you’ll always achieve the same result!
Jokers Find the Card
I have included a third trick from Rich Ferguson where he performs a trick on video and then shows you how it’s done, so you can learn it.
In this trick, Rich gets a volunteer to select a card, which he shows to the audience.
He then replaces it in the pack. He says that the Jokers will find the card for him.
The pack is cut and Rich clicks his fingers over the pack and then turns over the pack.
He asks the volunteer what card it was he picked and he runs through the cards until he finds the selected card with a Joker Card in front of it and behind it.
Happy Birthday Card
In this trick, the Joker was selected by accident.
In reality, the spectator can select any card from the deck but if you wish, you can change the presentation so that you prepare the Joker in advance and present this trick as a cool way to find the Joker.
This trick is very easy to do, it’s self-working and very effective.
A great trick to perform at any birthday party!
Card Games that Use the Joker
Joker cards are not used in many games and they have a secondary role as filling in for any damaged or lost cards.
The information about the lost card is just written on the missing card so the pack can still be used.
But there are some games where the Joker is used in the game.
- Euchre: It is used as the highest value trump or more correctly as “The Top Bower.”
- Canasta: The Joker and Deuce are both wildcards, but the Joker is worth 50 points and the Deuce only 220.
- Poker: A Joker can be wild or serve as a “Bug” which is a limited form of a wild card.
- Crazy Eights: The Joker is used as a “Skip Card” which forces the subsequent player to lose a turn.
- Gin Rummy: The Joker is used as a wild card.
Jokers Also Play a Role in Playing Patience
- Klondike: The game has two jokers. The red joker is a wildcard for any red card, and the black Joker is a wild card for any black card.
- Forty Thieves: The Joker is placed on the bottom of the stack and cards are then built on it. When the correct card is available it is put in place of the Joker and the joker laid on top of the stack as a wildcard.
Learn More Magic Tricks!
I showed you several card magic tricks that you can perform with Jokers.
If you’re interested in learning mare magic tricks, I prepared lists of the Best YouTube channels and Websites that I recommend to visit.
The Joker card has a long and interesting history.
It’s used in card games and also in card magic for better effect because the audience often perceives Joker cards as special wild cards.
Make sure to learn some card tricks and have fun with them.