Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Classic and modern British Card Games for Christmas nights in

In the deep months of winter, with the cold crunching down ever tighter, we can at least look forward to the festivities of Christmas. At this time of year, we all like to get together for a general chinwag, an evening out, or even for a sneaky party. Core to the merriment of many of these occasions will be some games, and without a doubt, card games are among the most popular British ways to add some pep to an evening.

Card games are inherently easy to learn, with some having a high learning curve to master, but as decks are cheap and some are even available online, they’re very accessible. If you’re staying indoors and want to test your luck against a 52-card deck, beat your peers in a game of skill, or even have some low-stakes fun with a few coins in your pocket, there are many classic and modern games that you can try your hand at.

Card gaming: a most British past time

Classic and modern British Card Games for Christmas nights in

Like so many of the greatest elements of British society and life as a Brit, card games don’t originate from the British Isles: rather, they were imported and embraced en masse by the people. It’s said that playing cards hail from China in what we’d call the 9th century. Around the same time, it’s likely that Alfred the Great had designs for a united England and was clashing with the Vikings.

It’s very difficult to establish exactly how and when playing cards in any form made it to Britain, but evidence suggests that they had at least become prevalent by the mid-15th century. It’s likely that in the 14th century, cards made it across continental Europe, likely coming via the Middle East and Egypt. Late in the 15th century, Europe began to colonise North America, and with them, they brought their card games.

Over the centuries and through to the modern day, thousands of different games and localised variants have risen to the fore around the world. Preferences have changed greatly even within the last half-century in the UK. In the 1970s, the cribbage board card game was very popular across East Anglia, with organised leagues keeping tabs on games across pubs and bars.

Classic and modern British Card Games for Christmas nights

As you can see, the card games that were popular enough to warrant organised competitions can quickly fade into the background. So, to prepare you and even give some ideas for your Christmas meets and game nights, here’s a selection of British classics and new favourites that are coming to the fore in the world of card gaming. Each has been chosen for its accessibility and use of a standard deck of playing cards.


Drawing from the established link between Henry VIII and Suffolk, Primero was once a favourite card game of the king. Not only is his grand warship a part of local history now, but he is said to have played Primero with the 1st Duke of Suffolk, Charles Brandon, in his day. As is the case with many card games between peers, a bit of money was often wagered on rounds of Primero.

The game is simple to grasp but does have some key values to keep track of. To start, you need to remove the eights, nines, and tens from the deck. Then, cards two to five count as ten plus their values, sixes and sevens are tripled in value, aces are 16, and face cards have a value of ten. Four cards go to each player, and they opt to pass, stake, or bid, with the aim being to have the highest value four-card hand than anyone else at the end of the decision phase.

Card Match Up

With football fever in strangely full swing this winter, due to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, some card game creators have become inventive with their ideas to appeal to fans of the sport and card gaming. This is where Card Match Up has come to the fore, with it having a similar run as the classic game Dragon Tiger but with a twist that makes each round more like a game of football.

Demonstrated at the live casino in the form of OnAir Live Card Match Up, players set their bets down on home, away, or a draw, just as they would in football betting. Then, the dealer draws the cards to the home and away slots. The slot with the highest card value wins, with the same cards on both sides, resulting in a tie. In an at-home version, a table of people could rotate being the dealer, with winners on either side of the draw taking the pot each time and losses to all players going to the dealer.


Newmarket is one of the longest-standing distinctly British card games that continues to be a go-to choice for a night of in-home gambling. It came about in the late 19th Century, with the game starting by placing bets on any of the staking cards from each suit. Then, all cards are dealt to each player and a spare hand. With the hands set, the eldest places their lowest card of a suit, and then anyone can follow with consecutive numbers. If you get to the final card of the suit, you get the staked amount in the middle, and the first out also wins.

Teen Patti

Teen Patti is an incredibly popular card game that’s often played during major festivals. You could describe it as three-card poker but with more options to rile up the others at the table. The playing stages are very simple, but instead of just having the raise as a way to bump others, you can perform actions like requesting a side show, demanding a showdown, or entering an alternative showdown to get to the end of the game.

If you fancy playing new or something classic with your pack of cards this winter, try giving Primero, Newmarket, Card Match Up, or Teen Patti a go!

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