How Did Card Games Develop in South African Culture?

It’s amazing how a deck of 52 cards can produce so many different games. There are hundreds of ways to take a set of cards and play something entertaining with them. Some are famous the world over, while others are less notorious. In South Africa, there are numerous pastimes that are engrained in the culture. Several of these have roots in other countries as well and were adapted over the years. For anyone interested in the heritage of these games, here are some interesting facts.

A deck of cards. | Source: Pixabay

Strategy Card Games Like Klaverjas

The internet is awash with a vast variety of card games for players to choose from. It’s easy to access the famous ones like poker and blackjack, as there are hundreds of sites offering them. Players also have the chance to experience different variants, as the games have progressed. This is especially true with blackjack, as there are now numerous state-of-the-art versions to choose from. These include titles like Quantum Blackjack Plus and Frankie Dettori’s Magic 7 Blackjack.

These strains came about because the game is so well known, and many people are looking to play it. You may be surprised to know, though, that some lesser-known card games are getting representation online now as well. One example of this is Klaverjas which, until recently, was fairly unknown across the planet. Players all over the world are now getting a chance to play it thanks to the introduction of recent mobile apps. If you type in Klaverjas, there are plenty of games to choose from in the App Store. Select any one of them to get an introduction to this unique offering.

For people who like strategy card games like poker and blackjack, Klaverjas could be appealing. This is a strategy game as well, in which players have to take tricks using a 24-card stripped deck. This is often known as a piquet deck, and it only includes the values nine to ace in each suit. The game is known for being complex and requiring a depth of knowledge from players. There are also several variants so it can be slightly hard for newcomers to get on board with it.

Klaverjas can be traced back to late 19th-century Netherlands. It came from a family of games that have been claimed by numerous other countries including and Hungary. However, it has been confirmed by historians that the Dutch invented this version of the card game. It spread to due to the number of people of Dutch descent living in the country. Mastering a game like Klaverjas can give players great card game knowledge that can be applied to other options that rely heavily on strategy.

Kalooki Can Be Traced Back to Jamaica

Kalooki is another card game that’s hugely popular in and engrained within the culture here. The pastime has roots in Jamaica, which is why it’s also often referred to as Jamaican Rummy. This is a matching game that can be played by three to eight players. The interesting thing about this one is that it uses more than two packs of cards, and can involve up to four decks if the maximum number of people are playing.

The aim of the game is to eliminate all your cards by making sets. When a player goes out, the others who are left in get points based on their remaining cards. For instance, a joker is worth a whopping 50 points, a black ace is 15, and a red ace is worth one point. Who knows, maybe this is what inspired the excellent “Red Card” song from Makhadzi. Players add up their scores at the end of each round. When the game finishes, the player with the lowest point score is the winner. There are nine hands in total, so there is a lot of potential for different winners and vastly diverse point scores.

This is a highly strategic card game, as players need to consider how close their opponents are to completing their hands, while at the same time trying to focus on their own. Getting rid of the high-value cards is essential as well, as it is disastrous if any of these are left at the end of a hand. The popularity of this game has led to numerous variants, including Super Kalooki and Baby Kalooki. These games are widespread across South Africa, and most adults will have at least a vague idea of the rules.

Thunee Has Indian Roots

Thunee is a much-loved card game that officially originated in South Africa, specifically in Durban. It’s now one of the most popular trick-taking card games across the country, and it’s classified as part of the Jack Nine card games family. It’s mainly enjoyed by South Africans of Indian descent, and Indian people living in South Africa. It also has variants in India and Mauritius, which has led to some dispute about the exact origin of the game.

Source: Pixabay | Someone looking at cards.

It’s widely agreed now, though, that the game was thought up by Indian labourers who were working in South Africa. These people then brought it back to India, which is how the other variants emerged. Because it is played by people in a few different countries, there has been a Thunee world championship in the past. This was first held in Pietermaritzburg in 2003.

To play Thunee, you need to have four players who work in partnerships. There could also be two teams of three players if you have six people who want to play. The main thing that people need to get the hang of in this one is the obscure way the cards are valued. The Jack is the highest-ranked card, and worth 30 points, while the King and the Queen are worth three and two points respectively.

It’s interesting to explore how these three games were introduced to by other nations, but they’ve become engrained in the culture here. Thanks to the digitalisation of card games, more people than ever can learn about them by playing online.

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