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Card Games in World Literature


Source: Pixabay

There’s a story to tell in every online casino and every card game. Everyone who enjoys playing cards has a story to tell, and sometimes, the card games themselves can make for a great story. Gambling is more than just a pastime, it’s part of human nature, which is something that great authors understand and, sometimes, find a use for in their stories. Here are some great tales featuring card games.

Take Roald Dahl, the master of the “twist in the tale” within a short story. In "My Lady Love, My Dove", what starts out as a perfectly ordinary and simple game of cards between the characters Arthur and Pamela Beauchamp and their friends, the Snapes, quickly gets quite strange. The weekend entertainment takes a twist when the host couple install a microphone in the Snapes' bedroom. After losing at a game of bridge, the Beauchamps listen in and discover that their guests have a system for cheating. This insight enables the couple to try and get their own back… A simple card game becomes anything but that as the Beauchamps seek to win back their self-confidence and turn the tables on their cheating friends. It’s a gripping story that really brings out the tensions underlying seemingly conventional relationships, all centred on a game of cards. 

Classic stories, classic games

Even the online casino as it is known today has its roots in classic literature. Take Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, for example. Lead character Pip is invited by the wealthy Miss Havisham to play cards with the beautiful Estella, although poor Pip is mocked for calling the knaves Jacks, and their interaction becomes a torment during the game. Their personal dealings are intertwined with the dealings of the game itself as Pip falls for Estella. Of course, this couldn’t have happened today – everybody knows that the Jack is the court card that comes before the King and Queen, and a player who referred to the card as a Knave would probably get some funny looks from the other players.

The poet William Wordsworth refers to the card games of his youth in what is considered his autobiographical epic masterpiece, The Prelude. As is the way of poets, however, the card games are there to symbolise the author’s experiences, with the cards themselves almost becoming prophesies of events to come. Card games are so familiar to audiences that they can relate to this means of telling a story, so it’s a useful literary device to get the point across.

There’s even a collection of short stories, all with the theme of poker, a game that has a rich place in popular culture. It’s called He Played for His Wife and Other Stories, edited by Anthony Holden and Natalie Galustian. It’s subtitled as “short stories and long nights at the poker table”, with a gallery of rogue characters: gangsters and cheats with marked cards, tension and concentration as the game-themed stories unfold. The players and their approach to the game create their own memorable personalities, each with a poker tell that is part of their approach to the game, and life.

A love of writing often goes with a love of games

Source: Pixabay

Card games – the heart of the classics

Taking a trip through literary history is made even more interesting by the presence of card games that have changed the way they are played over time or even vanished from existence. In Mansfield Park, by Jane Austen, the Crawfords and Bertrams play a game called “speculation”. The contest being played out slowly reveals the nature of the characters involved – with card games, the personality of the player often shapes their role in the game and the tensions with their fellow players.

Another example is the story “Queen of Spades”, by Alexander Pushkin. When the main character, Hermann, hears that an old Countess has an unusual way of winning at cards, he seeks to find out her secret so that he can cure his own obsession with winning. In the end, though, as obsessions often do, his becomes his undoing…

The only thing more interesting than reading a well-written story about playing cards is to experience the game itself, whether with a friend or in an online casino environment – and tell the tale afterwards.

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