Why do they include jokers in a deck of cards?

Jokers are one of those funny things -- many decks don't have jokers, and in most cases you can lose the jokers and it doesn't matter. So why include them? And while we're on the topic, where did any of the cards in a deck come from? Why are there 52 cards, with four suits and 13 cards to a suit?

According to Britannica.com, the 52-card deck that we use today is a modification of part of the standard Tarot deck, made up of the Major Arcana and Minor Arcana, minus the knight cards. Probably around the 15th century, the deck started settling into the modern form we know today.

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The joker, however, did not appear until sometime around the 1860s. At that time, the game of euchre was extremely popular (it was later unseated by bridge). In euchre, under the British rules, there is a card known as the Imperial Bower (or Best Bower) that trumps all others. Decks of cards began to include a special Imperial Bower card, and it later morphed into the joker card that we know today.

According to this page:

The "Best Bower" was invented for use in the game of Euchre in which two of the Jacks are named Right and Left Bower; this happened during the 1860s in the USA. "Bower" is a corruption of the German word "Bauer" used in Alsace, from where Euchre or Juker originated as the ordinary word for "Jack." This card evolved into the Joker during the 1870s. The Joker arrived in Europe in the 1880s along with the game of Poker. It was gradually incorporated into French-suited packs with 52 cards.

These links will help you learn more:

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Originally Published: Apr 1, 2000

Jokers Cards FAQ

What does the joker card mean?
Back in the 1860s, the Imperial Bowler card was popular as part of the card game euchre. Over time, that Imperial Bowler Card turned into the joker card we know today. So, it's nothing more than a holdover of an older card used specifically in euchre.
Is the Joker ever used in card games?
Yes, the two joker cards included in a traditional 52-card deck can actually be used in some games. Joker cards are used in euchre, poker, Indian rummy, canasta, war, and crazy eights, to name a few.
Are jokers part of the 52 cards?
Yes, jokers are part of a standard 52-card deck. There are typically two of these cards.
Is the joker a face card?
Although joker cards do typically feature the face of a joker or clown, these cards actually aren't considered face cards like kings, queens, and jacks are.
Is there a joker emoji?
There actually is a joker card emoji -- it looks like a little playing card with a joker's face on it.

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