There are limitless types of card games to be played. People think because two games use the same deck of 52-cards that they are similar games, but nothing could be more different than Barbu and Speed, or Pai Gow and Pinochle.
Here's a list of twenty different kinds of card games, and some facts about them.
Bridge is a popular contract bidding game. Bridge has a culture -- there are websites, newspaper columns, and even radio shows devoted to bridge strategy. There is a world-wide obsession with bridge, even though it has been called the hardest card game in the world. With a complicated strategy and steep learning curve, to many bridge is not just a game, it is a lifestyle. I wish I were exaggerating.
Whist could be called "Bridge, Jr" -- and though it is not as big a game as it once was, and is dwarfed in popularity by big-brother Bridge, Whist has never really died out. Card gamers love trick-taking games -- beating out your opponent in such a visual way is one of the more exciting part of any card game. Whist has some of the complexity of Bridge without any bidding.
3. Texas Hold'em
Texas Hold'em is something of a legend -- a poker variation with a story as rich as a Spaghetti western. This version of poker, a drawing and betting game, was invented and then made popular by old time poker sharks in Texas, hence the name. This is easily the most popular poker variant right now, and is bringing more new people to card gaming than any other game.
It is said that most of the professional poker tour players are hardcore Hearts players and that they bet big money on cutthroat games of Hearts in dark mysterious rooms during tournaments. Romantic as that may sound, it would make sense for these card sharks to love the game of Hearts - an otherwise childlike game of matching cards (and no bidding) usually turns into a competitive nightmare. Because of the game play, there are lots of ways to screw your opponents in Hearts. Trick-winning and passing card are big elements of Hearts.
People don't realize it, but spades is a variation of bridge that simplifies the game even more than Whist and changes the outcome of the game as well. Spades is really popular in large groups, on college campuses, and in tournaments around the world. There may be as many variations of Spades as there are groups playing it -- thanks to "jailhouse rules" which penalize tactics like point sandbagging and the existence of multiple versions of "house rules". A strategic game you can play without paying much attention if you want.
This is the simple children's card matching game we all remember from our childhood. You can play Go-fish with as many players as you have cards. Some people claim Go-Fish is a variation of Rummy but the simplicity of the game and the children's game gimmick make it likely just some toy company's creation. Strangely enough, Go-fish is known as Literature in some parts of the world. Write in if you understand that one.
Another children's game (or time-killing game) War is a straight luck based game. Depending on the flop of the card, you either win or lose a war. Most people under the age of 30 learned War before they learned any other card game. You'll see War played a lot in lines at airports.
8. Oh Hell!
Substitute your own dirty word for "Hell!" and you know this party game. Most of the fun is the fact that you get to cuss a lot and people laugh at you. What keeps this game popular is that it is a strict betting game. The object of Oh Hell! is to bid the precise number of tricks you will win. You have to take only the number that you bid, no more and no less. Play is precise, and because of the structure of the game, one player always blows it big time. There. That's what's fun. Screwing your opponent.
A skill game that in some casinos is the best bet you can make, if you can play a perfect hand. This is one of the most popular casino card game, and has a place in popular culture as THE "Vegas" game. The point is to build a hand that adds up to a total of 21 points without going over, and ending up with a higher number than the dealer. Players compete against the House directly, adding to the fun. Little known fact -- there exists somewhere in this world a blackjack player's hall of fame. Safe to say that this game's got a cult following
James Bond's favorite game (don't believe the hype -- it wasn't poker or blackjack -- read the books) Baccarat is a basic betting game. Players bet on who will win a given hand - the player, the banker, or if there will be a tie. Sure it looks easy, but Baccarat is a skill game. A small sidenote about Baccarat -- the name comes from the name of the worst possible hand. This would be like calling your video poker machine "High Card Poker". Just doesn't have the same ring as "Royal Flush".
The most varied card game in the world. In England, they call this game Patience, and for good reason. Solitaire requires little set up beyond putting cards in specific places, and is usually played by yourself. Solitaire is another popular airport line waiting game.
12. Rummy and variations
There are lots of different kinds of Rummy, more than are probably written down on any list. I've written for a website that had me list 500 variations or other names for Rummy, so I'll spare you the reading and just say there's lots of kinds of Rummy. The more popular versions are called Gin Rummy, Liverpool Rummy, and Contract Rummy. The feature that makes a game a Rummy is a player matching identical cards into pairs and other groups. Some experts believe the Chinese game of Mahjong is part of the Rummy family, though I'd bet the Chinese are just fine with Mahjong as it is.
13. Pai Gow
This is an old Chinese domino game that has been passed down through the years as a poker variation. You'll see Pai Gow at casinos in both as a poker and a domino game -- it is probably the casino game that the least number of people understand. This is a game of fast bets, player versus dealer. Pai Gow strategy is just as rich as any other poker betting game, and the culture of Pai Gow is similar to the Blackjack culture -- super-fast bets and edgy behavior at the margins.
A silly card game probably invented to keep kids out of trouble, Spoons is a bluffing game (with some elements of matching) that uses simple kitchen utensils as an added play element. The first player in the group to draw a poker style four of a kind reaches to a pile of spoons in the middle of the table, signalling the other players to grab for one. Since there's one less spoon than players, one player will be left out every time. So its a social interaction game, and not a game chock full of card strategy. its still fun. Great date night game.
Speed (sometimes called Spit) is a matching game that is unique because both players play simultaneously and as fast as they can. In Speed, a player tries to 'get rid' of his or her cards by matching them to cards placed face-up on the table. This is a face to face game, though there's actually little interaction between the two opponents. The last few moments of any game of Speed reminds me of solitaire on fast-forward, with hands and cards flying around and rows forming and draining like water pipes. Strange game, Speed.
16. Crazy 8s
This is another children's matching game, you could say it is cousin to the popular game Uno. The 8s in the deck of standard cards are considered "crazy" not because they need to be medicated but to indicate they are wild cards. In some variations of Crazy 8s, not just Wild Cards but other "rule cards" exist, making the game more complex for older players.
If you want to teach more complex card games to younger kids, Slapjack is the perfect vehicle. The object of Slapjack is to acquire the whole deck of cards by matching and slapping pairs. Kids like to slap stuff, and the game can be played over and over again.
18. Old Maid
You don't need an "Old Maid" deck to play this kid's card game -- any standard 52 card deck will do. Just remove one of the Queens. Old Maid is a matching game where players find pairs You trade cards with your opponent until that player is left with the unmatched Queen. Matching games are popular, and the novelty "Old Maid" packs are fun for kids.
This is a hybrid board and card game with complicated rules that generally intimidates people, even hardcore card gamers. You play cribbage by forming groups of cards that are worth different point values, and moving a peg on a board that represents your progress accordingly. Requiring a specific board (or a quick hand with a pen and paper) cribbage isn't the best travel game, but as fans of cribbage will tell you, no two games are alike. There are solitaire versions of cribbage, and other varieties of cribbage game play to choose from if you're bored with the standard version.
Pinochle is popular because it is a trick-taking game that you play with a 48 card deck. In Pinochle, you try to make melds or tricks, much like in Gin, but there's a really complex scoring system making the game fun to learn and to master. To be good at pinochle, you have to play for a number of years, and lose plenty of hands. Though it is less popular year after year, Pinochle is one of those "heritage games".