Card games are incredibly popular in the 21st century, with both physical and digital experiences building on the simple concept of assigning specific information and set values to playing cards.

To understand why they have endured as a pastime and even a professional pursuit, here is a quick dive into the history of card games, and a look at the state of play today.

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An ancient pursuit

First and foremost, it is important to appreciate just how long card games have been enjoyed by humans around the world.

Historians will often debate the exact origins of the practice of playing games with cards, but there is general consensus regarding the theory that they first emerged in Ancient China, perhaps around the 9th century CE. Back then it was not paper cards which were used, but rather blocks of wood which had text and iconography printed onto them.

By around the 1300s, the concept of card games had trickled across to Europe from the east, and by the 1500s the use of kings and queens, along with suits, to represent the different cards in addition to their numeric values, was commonplace.

A modern age dawns

Today, card games like poker and blackjack are amongst the best known examples using a standard deck of 52 playing cards, and it is interesting to note that both of these table games in particular were introduced relatively recently, given the context of the more than a millennia of history that exists around this specific hobby.

Blackjack is a particularly interesting example, as it was first described in print in a book by Miguel de Cervantes, best known for authoring Don Quixote. If you learn how to play blackjack in the 21st century, you will be adhering to the same rules as those from around 400 years ago.

Poker, meanwhile, is even more recent as an invention, having emerged relatively organically from the USA during the 1800s. The fact that poker is a card game that is unequivocally American in origin which explains its enduring popularity.

The impact of digitization

What is important to note about card games is that while they have been a constant presence for a long time now, it is only really in the digital era that they have evolved from a casual pastime into a huge business that encompasses so much more than the traditional games played for centuries.

The emergence of online casinos in the past 3 decades has been particularly impactful, for example, introducing a new generation of players to poker, blackjack and other table games, while also incentivizing those in the industry to mix things up with new styles and varieties of play at a rate never seen before.

By making the leap to digital, connected platforms, card games can also transcend geographic limitations and allow people to participate in friendly or for-money matches no matter where they are based. This has brought a raft of regulatory issues with it, but it still demonstrates that the improved levels of access are blowing the market wide open and forcing authorities to adapt their archaic laws to accommodate these emerging trends.

Likewise the reliance on playing cards and their suits is no longer a necessity, with digital collectible card games like Hearthstone rising to prominence, and creating an entirely different approach to playing and investing in this pastime.

This is ultimately the reason that card games have stayed relevant for so long; they require minimal equipment, are fairly straightforward to understand and are thus enjoyed by people of all ages and backgrounds, whether in a physical or digital form.