Why Do Playing Cards Have Jokers?

The very first Jokers started to be seen in decks of playing cards in the 1860s. Just a few years before a certain popular manufacturer of playing cards was started in Cincinnati. Yup, of course The United States Playing Cards Company! But why do decks have jokers? Let’s find out.

Joker Playing Cards

Some people are of the opinion that the name Joker is derived from Euchre but that’s unlikely to be more than a simple coincidence. The use of the word Joker meaning someone who jokes was already in circulation, but the concept of how a Joker playing card is used, without doubt stems from the game Euchre.

Around 1860, fans of Euchre created new rules for the game. These necessitated an additional trump card - the Imperial Bower, or Best Bower - which was introduced as the highest-possible trump card.

Playing card manufacturers in the United States picked up on this fashion very quickly, and started to include these new cards in their printing process. Over in England, printers followed suit (pardon the pun) about 20 years later.

The name Best/Imperial Bower quickly changed to the Jolly Joker, and was shortened to just Joker. These cards were printed to include some of the manufacturer’s branding. Maybe a logo, or name. This card was added to cards around the world after the popularity of it was more widespread.

There is no relationship between The Fool in a tarot deck and the moden Joker. Tarot cards have been popular since the middle of the 15th century and its meaning is wholly different from the ability a Joker has in a modern card game.

Jokers have found a new lease of in card magic. Using simple sleight of hand, and sometimes gaffed cards, Jokers are often used to “find” a selected card in popular magic tricks. Magic books are filled with routines using Jokers. So when you open up a new deck of cards, it’s a good idea to set aside your jokers so you start to form a collection that can be used when you need to!

Jokers FAQ

What is the meaning of the Joker? The Best Bowler was an important card in the game of Euchre way back in the 1860s. It was the highest trump card possible to hold. Since then, it’s been used as a Wild Card, or to replace a card lost from a deck of playing cards.

Can you use the Joker in any games of cards? Oh yes. There are several games that use the Jokers. Aside from the previously mentioned Euchre, they’re also used in War, Canasta, Crazy Eights and Poker - to name but four.

Are Jokers counted as part of the 52 cards that make up a deck of cards? Yes, Jokers are now included in a deck of 52 cards. But they are additional cards. So 52 plus - normally - 2 Jokers. Sometimes they match, sometimes they are different. A common difference is one is printed in color, the other in black and white.

Does the Joker count as a face card (or court card)? Just because they have a face on them, doesn’t mean they’re face cards. They are not in the same grouping as the Jack/Queen/King.

Does the Joker feature as an emoji? Actually, yes! There is an emoji featuring a joker!