Joker



The Joker is a playing card found in most modern card decks, as an addition to the standard four suits (clubs, diamonds, hearts and spades). Originating in the United States during the civil war, the card is unique in that it lacks an industry-wide standard appearance. Created as a trump card for Euchre, it has since been adopted into many other card games where it may function as a wild card.

 

Origin

In the game of Euchre, the highest trump card is the Jack of the trump suit, called the right bower (from the German Bauer); the second-highest trump, the left bower, is the Jack of the suit of the same color as trumps. Around 1860, American Euchre players may have devised a higher trump, the "Best Bower", out of a blank card.


Samuel Hart is credited with printing the first illustrated "Best Bower" card in 1863 with his "Imperial Bower". Best Bower-type jokers continued to be produced well into the 20th-century. Cards labelled "Joker" began appearing around the late 1860s with some depicting clowns and jesters. It is believed that the term "Joker" comes from Juker or Juckerspiel, the original German spelling of Euchre. One British manufacturer, Charles Goodall, was manufacturing packs with Jokers for the American market in 1871. The first joker for the domestic British market was sold in 1874.

The next game to use a joker was poker around 1875 where it functioned as a wild card. Packs with two jokers started to become the norm during the late 1940s for the game of Canasta. Since the 1950s, German and Austrian decks have included three jokers to play German rummy; in Poland the third joker is known as the blue joker. In Schleswig-Holstein, Zwicker decks come with six jokers.

 

Joker development

As a recent introduction to the pack, jokers do not have any standardized appearance across the card manufacturing industry. Each company produces their own depictions of the card. The publishers of playing cards trademark their jokers, which have unique artwork that often reflect contemporary culture.

Out of convention, jokers tend to be illustrated as jesters.

There are usually two Jokers per deck, often noticeably different. For instance, the United States Playing Card Company (USPCC) prints their company's guarantee claim on only one. More common traits are the appearance of colored and black/non-colored Jokers. At times, the Jokers will each be colored to match the colors used for suits; there will be a red Joker, and a black Joker. In games where the jokers may need to be compared, the red, full-color, or larger-graphic Joker usually outranks the black, monochrome, or smaller-graphic one. If the joker colors are similar, the joker without a guarantee will outrank the guaranteed one. With the red and black jokers, the red one can alternately be counted as a heart/diamond and the black is used to substitute clubs/spades.


Many decks do not provide the Joker with a corner index symbol, of those that do, the most common is a solid five-pointed star or a star within a circle. It is also very common for decks to simply use a stylized "J" or the word "JOKER" in the corner.