History of Rummy Game- How Rummy has evolved over the years

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History of Rummy Game- How Rummy has evolved over the years

Everyone loves playing rummy but ever wondered how your favourite card game evolved over the years? Whether you play rummy game online or in the good old fashion with a deck of cards the common thread that runs through its history is how it kept on evolving and went through different versions and became what we know today as 13 card Rummy – the most popular variant among online rummy players. There are many stories and conjectures around the origin of Rummy though. It’s not clear as to where it was first played but the earliest records show that it is very similar to the 18th-century Chinese game Mahjong which was later adapted by the Mexicans who named it Conquian while Indian Rummy is said to have been derived from Gin Rummy or 500 Rum. Let’s ferret out a few facts about the history of Rummy and see if the past is as blurred as it seems.

From the Chinese Mahjong to the Japanese Hanafuda

If one has to establish the earliest connection then Rummy game might find its origins in the ancient Asian card games. It is believed that the Portuguese settlers in Japan brought with themselves a card game in the mid-16th century which were locally called Tensho cards. In 1633 all foreign games were banned in Japan following a country-wide suspension. But that didn’t stop people from playing cards.

Another popular narrative traces back Rummy’s roots to Mahjong, in the 19th century China. The similarity between the two games is pretty peculiar. Mahjong is also connected to Khanhoo, a multi-trick Chinese game said to share similarity with Tienkiu which finds a mention in the 1130 AD journal of Kao Tsung and is said to be the mother of all rummy games.

Rummy and its Poker connection

Some people are of the opinion that Rummy might have just originated from a form of Poker called Whiskey or Rum Poker which was further shortened to Rum and went on to be called Rummy. And how can one miss the similarities in both the card games starting from the dealer to crucial initial hand and a fold anytime during the game? Both games require to form sets and sequences, players need to have a strategy to ace both the games. There is a lot more comparability between the two which makes it all the more believable that Poker might have been a prototype for Rummy game

Conquian – the ancestor of Modern Rummy

According to the game historian, David Parlett, Conquian is the source of Modern Rummy game. The game gained popularity in the mid-1800 Mexico and soon found itself listed as a game of recreation in New Mexico in 1852. A rage in the Spanish-speaking communities across Southern American states, the name Conquian is said to be derived from the Chinese Kon Khin – a corrupted version of Khanhoo itself.

There are a few, who opine that Conquian might not be Mexican at all originally. It may have hailed from the Philippines which is another Asian reference sharing the game rules with the 19th century Philippine card game, Kungkiyang. Later in the 20th century Tonk Rummy got immensely popular in Luzon Island in the country.

The French card games

Belote or Belotte, the French trick, and meld game is pretty similar to Rummy and was the most popular card game in France and neighbouring countries in the early 20th century. The initial version of the game allowed two players which in the later stages of the 20th century saw the emergence of a new variant called Coinche played in a four-player partnership. Belote witnessed staggering fame during World War II which as some game scholars note might have been adapted to what is today known as Rummy game. Today, the much-loved card game is known by Rami in French-speaking quarters.

Seen as a sin in the Middle Ages

The turbulent history of card games is marked by several incidents which tell stories of how playing cards was seen as a work of devil back in the Dark Ages and the subsequent ban imposed on the leisure activity. Since the wagering was often associated with anti-social behaviour, a huge section from the religious order of the society started denouncing the pastime and demanded a ban on it with several priests and clergymen burning the deck of cards and preaching people to stay away from it as it is evil. Meanwhile, the nobility across Europe was enjoying it at social gatherings from kings to the ladies at the court playing cards and indulging in gambling. Henry VII was known to be one lover of the game. And it’s this upper class which eventually bolstered the proliferation of card games across the continent and elsewhere.

Whatever the history may say, the only veracity of the account is that the cards were always enjoyed by people in every era and so it continues even today. While the past may have been equivocal, the future of online rummy game looks bright if mobile rummy is anything to go by. 

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