What has Canada given to the World of Cards?

When it was announced that Donald Trump would be applying tariffs to Canadian products, it seemed pretty inevitable that there were going to be repercussions, but nobody could have expected those to include a tariff being applied to playing cards!

Indeed, while some people are worried about whether they will end up paying more to play games like Magic: The Gathering, and those who work in the steel and aluminium industries have had more than a few concerns, the broad worry remains for ordinary Canadians, who have always had an affection for playing card games as a way of relaxing.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the link between Canadians and card games is the impact that they have had on helping to bring forth new games, despite the fact that it tends to be other countries that claim the glory for the origin of certain games.

We can see this through four games that are still popular today, albeit with differing degrees of popularity: Euchre, Tarabish, Blackjack and Mille.

Euchre: A world away from Cornwall, ON

There are many forms of Euchre, Canada’s most popular card game, but for residents of Cornwall, the most important thing to note is that the game is said to have originated in Cornwall’s namesake area in the United Kingdom! While the current Cornwall, ON, is still trying to work out if it is prepared to embrace games of chance, it’s clear that this original game created in Cornwall in the UK offered plenty to those who tried it out.

The game is able to be played with four players and has plenty of variations to suit different situations and playing styles, which helps explain why this game has not just been embraced by Canadians, but arguably refined and improved by Canadians. It is no wonder that it is arguably the most popular card game in Canada today.

One of the ways you can tell it has become so loved is the fact that the joker has become known as the Benny in the game and is the high card, something that is quite unusual among card games, where the joker is often discarded and removed from the pack. With the chance to go it alone and go for broke or work together to avoid being Euchred, Canadians have helped to make sure that an excellent game is also a hugely popular one.

Blackjack: The French connection

If you go to pretty much any casino, online or land-based, anywhere in the world, you are highly likely to find that the most popular game being played is not poker or even baccarat, but instead blackjack. While Canada can’t claim to be the nation that invented the game, especially since the first recorded reference to the game comes from a short story written by Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes dated to be from either 1601 or 1602, there is no doubt that the French connections that Canada has helped to bring the game to North America.

The game needs no introduction as many North Americans play online blackjack and are used to battling the dealer in an attempt to reach 21. The game has even moved from the tables and gone online but it still remains a popular face-to-face pastime.

“blackjack” by Andreas Ghiraldaio (CC BY 2.0)

With the game being famous for providing a great challenge to those who believe they have a penchant for maths, especially those who believe they can outsmart the odds, it is certainly a game that requires more than just blind luck. This is a fact that has helped bring about the creation of countless strategies, including the most famous one in the book Beat the Dealer.

Blackjack (or 21 as it is also known) has become a game that is easy to play in Canada and is perfect for those who are looking to learn about card games.

Tarabish: A Nova Scotian delight

Tarabish has its origins in Lebanon. The game is reported to have come to Nova Scotia, and particularly Cape Breton, back in 1901 with the arrival of Lebanese immigrant George Shebib, and it has been embraced by locals ever since.

Affectionately known as bish by those who play it, the game is a trick-taking game that ends when a player has achieved a score of 500 points or more. The rules of the game are strict, with the cards being assigned very specific points, with cards 2-5 removed from the deck, leaving players with 36 Tarabish cards to play with.

There is no real reason why bish hasn’t been embraced more widely in Canada or the world, but the game clearly has a loyal following in Nova Scotia, and if you enjoy trying our new card games, this is certainly an easy one to pick up and play with some of your friends.


Mille: Montreal’s leading light

While French Canadians might have helped to bring blackjack to North America, there is no arguing that Mille is a game entirely of their own creation, having originated in Montreal, although since the 1990s it has spread to other places such as Toronto, showing that it doesn’t just have a certain je ne sais quoi for French Canadians.

“Montreal At Night” by Artur Staszewski (CC BY-SA 2.0)

With the game almost always played with money riding on the result, and bearing in mind it is played with two players, it is certainly a good one for trying to show your friends that you have the upper hand when it comes to playing card games – especially if you can win big in the process!

If you haven’t heard of the game before, it is similar in approach to rummy, with cards picked up and discarded, though it is played with two identical decks of cards (without the jokers) rather than the one used in rummy and it also has bonuses for collecting all eight cards of one rank, something that again makes it a unique and challenging game to play.

Perhaps the most important thing that these four very different games of cards show is that while decks of cards might change in price, there is no doubting that Canadians enjoy them enough to keep the varied and fascinating heritage alive.

Photo: “Gambling Addiction” by Benjamin Watson (CC BY 2.0)

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