Jacks or Better to Open

Hancock.Tom, Game of Authors card deck from 1897, marked as public domain, more details on Wikimedia Commons

After responding to comments this morning, I started thinking about family time and how often we played card games. There was always a well worn deck of playing cards within easy reach. There were also specialty cards, too.

Of course some of the earliest games were Match, a memory game where half the deck was placed face down as the players try to find the matching cards. There was always War with the goal being to capture the entire deck of cards or Go Fish for the younger set. If you were by yourself, then a quiet game of Solitaire would help pass the time. When you got mad at a sibling, there was always 52 Pickup!

We also had a deck of Old Maid but playing cards would do in a pinch using the Joker as the Old Maid.

How about a game of Authors? It was a deck of cards with photos of well known classic authors with names of their works. That’s how I learned who James Fenimore Cooper was.

Our family, especially my mom’s parents, loved Rook. Another classic game with the goal of ‘taking tricks’.

We learned to play poker at a very early age. Five Card Draw, Jacks or Better to Open was a family favorite. We all learned very early what card combinations would beat another. Five Card Stud was another favorite.

Of course there was Black Jack, too. “Hit Me” was often echoing through the house, but learning when to split, stand, or take a hit was critical. Do you dare take a hit on a sixteen?

Rummy, Hearts, and Spades were popular when several people would play. My mom was a bit of a sore loser and I have seen her hurl her hand of cards across the room when she lost.

No one in my family played Bridge but I remember all the 50s TV couples playing. We did play Euchre but I do not remember the rules well enough to play today. Pinochle was another favorite but I would need a major refresher on that one, too!

It was easier to play cards back in the day because everyone played and therefore almost everyone was well versed in the rules. No extra time was needed to ring people up to speed. Families spent a lot more time together then it seems.

I am sure there are others, but these were the most common in our house.

Did you play any of these games? Do you still play cards today?


Care for a Hand of Cards, Anyone?

Day 127

When I lived in Florida I wandered into a little upscale antique store in Winter Park. I was perusing the well-organized display cases when a small deck of cards caught my eye. By small, I mean miniature. Maybe two inches by three inches.

“Oh, wow. A miniature deck of Authors“, I said.

Authors? You are the first person to ever recognize those cards.” The cashier was surprised.

“We played all the time when we were kids.”

“Amazing. I have never heard of it!”

I passed on paying $29.00 for the miniature deck of cards, however.

Today I ran across a post on Facebook and someone mentioned the game of Rook. Ahhh, what fun! The memory wheels were set in motion.


We always had a deck of Authors cards. I knew all these authors names by heart as well as several of their books from playing this game. The face I remember most vividly was that of Robert Louis Stevenson. According to Wikipedia, the authors most often represented were:

  • Louisa May Alcott
  • James Fenimore Cooper
  • Charles Dickens
  • Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • Washington Irving
  • Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  • Sir Walter Scott
  • William Shakespeare
  • Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Alfred, Lord Tennyson
  • Mark Twain
  • John Greenleaf Whittier

I think the set we might have owned is available for sale on eBay if you want to take a look.


Rook is a card game we always had lying around the house. I remember playing at my grandmothers’ houses as well as at home. This is another of many card games where one bids on the opportunity to name the trump suit and using trump cards to take tricks.

We played Rook a lot. Adults and children together. I used to love playing, but I must admit it has been a number of years since I’ve even seen a Rook deck. Again, the set we owned (red cards) is available on eBay.

It was interesting to discover that the Rook deck was created as a substitute for a regular deck of cards which some religions associated with gambling or fortune telling. They were often referred to as Christian cards or Missionary cards. I never knew that until today!

Cards Were a Source of Amusement

It seemed we played cards a lot more than most families do today. Everything from Old Maid to poker to cribbage to euchre to gin rummy to hearts to spades and of course solitaire. Anything to pass the time when there wasn’t much opportunity for things like television. The only one I was never exposed to was bridge.

I do remember, however, that my mother was a bit of a sore loser. I’ve seen her throw the deck of cards across the room if she lost too many hands in a row.

Now, as I sit here, I cannot remember the last time I played a hand of cards. How about you?