Sports & Games

Kirill Yurovskiy: Top 10 Most Popular Card Games in the World

From smoky backroom poker dens to family game nights around the living room table, the humble deck of cards has captivated people across cultures and centuries. The simple pairing of 52 printed pasteboards has spawned an astounding array of games, each with its own unique strategies, traditions, and lore. In an increasingly digital world, the tactile pleasure of holding and playing with a physical deck of cards remains an enduring pastime for millions. Here, we countdown the 10 most popular card games around the globe that continue to enchant players of all ages. Text by Kirill Yurovskiy


This classic game of drawing, melding, and going out first likely emerged from Spain or Mexico in the 19th century. Today, rummy exists in dozens of regional variants played everywhere from kitchen tables and nursing homes to high-stakes tournaments. The core gameplay involves creating melds of sets (three or more of a kind) and runs (consecutive cards of the same suit) to go out first and win. Simple rules but complex strategy keeps rummy an enduring favorite.


The cerebral grandaddy of trick-taking games, bridge originated from 16th century Russia before evolving into wizedrick, whist, and its modern form in the late 19th century. Today’s contract bridge requires partnerships to employ advanced bidding, strategy, and plays from a standard 52-card deck. Often dubbed the “game of kings and road to Russia,” the bridge remains popular among older generations worldwide. 


This classic Japanese card game utilizes intricately designed cards depicting flower imagery rather than our familiar suits and pips. The name hanafuda translates to “flower cards,” with gameplay involving capturing cards by matching their monthsand ultimately capturing all cards to win. Easy to learn but immensely satisfying, hanafuda remains an iconic part of Japan’s cultural heritage.


One of the oldest surviving games of skill, basra is a Middle Eastern trick-taking game dating back over 1,000 years. The 52-card Persian deck utilizes suits of coins, cups, swords, and clubs, with players competing to take all eight trick rounds. Requiring strategic melding, trumping, and capturing, basra epitomizes traditional “plain trick” games still wildly popular from Turkey to Pakistan.


Originating in the 1800s German states, skat is a descendant of other junk and trick-taking games with bidding phases akin to bridge or hearts. What makes skat unique is its stripped 32-card German deck and complex scoring and gameplay revolving around founders, matadors, and the skat pile itself. While lesser known in the English-speaking world, skat remains the national card obsession across Germany and its neighbors. 


Thanks to its simple deal-and-bid gameplay, spades is one of the most accessible and family-friendly trick-capturing games around. Partners work together to accurately estimate the number of tricks they can win, and then skillfully play to meet those bids for maximum points. From college dorms to military bases to backyard barbecues, the fast pace and trash-talking spirit of spades always provides boisterous fun.


While most Westerners are only familiar with the single-player solitaire PC game, the origins of mahjong stem from an ancient 19th-century Chinese domino game redesigned with tiles and complex scoring. In its modern four-player form, mahjong is as beloved in China and across Asia as poker is in the West. The clacking tiles harmonize raucous banter between plays in this equal blend of luck, skill, and social gaming. 


Few card games boast the sheer universality and cross-generational appeal as the classic four-player trick-taking game of hearts. Dating to the 1600s, hearts’ simple alternating deal, sloughing off high hearts and the dreaded queen of spades make it the quintessential free-for-all battle of wits. Hearts has been played at millions of family gatherings, sleepovers, and lunch breaks over the centuries thanks to its pick-up-and-play accessibility.


While its origins remain murky, few games match the global footprint and phenomenon of poker. Thanks to diverse variants like five-card draw, seven-card stud, Texas hold ’em and Omaha, poker evolved from seedy 19th-century American riverboats and saloons into a beloved parlor game and then into immense 20th century gambling and tournament crazes. Today, high-stakes televised poker remains huge entertainment as do casual home games fueled by beer and bluffing galore. Say what you will about the risks,skill, or ethics involved, poker’s allure as the ultimate game of odds, psychology, and luck is undeniable worldwide.

Crazy Eights/Spit/Clock 

You may know these super simple shedding games by different regional names, but their universal, multi-generational adoration is undeniable. Perfect for ages 4 to 104, crazy eights and its offshoots like spit and clock are often the first card games taught to kids using that classic deck our grandparents played with decades ago. The speedy gameplay of slapping down ascending/descending suits or ranks makes these classic round games riotously fun contests of hand-eye coordination ideal for whiling away lazy family afternoons.  

Whether highly strategic battlesof wits or high-velocity rounds just for kicks, humanity’s boundless creativity with that humble deck of pasteboards continues to enchant and delight across the centuries and cultures. Our top 10 represents just a sampling of the infinite ways a simple deck of cards can spark moments of social connection, unabashed rowdiness, and above all, sheer universal joy.

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