What Card Games Did They Play in the Civil War?

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By Ralph Torres

During the American Civil War, soldiers were not just fighting battles but also indulging in various games to pass the time and relieve stress. Card games were one of the most popular pastimes among soldiers during this era. Let’s explore some of the card games that were played during the Civil War.


One of the most popular card games played by soldiers was Casino. It is a two-player game that is similar to poker, but with a few slight differences. The objective of the game is to capture cards from a layout on the table by playing a card from your hand that matches in number or face value.


  • The dealer deals four cards to each player and four cards face-up on the table.
  • Players take turns playing one card at a time from their hands and capturing cards from the table that match in number.
  • The game continues until all cards have been played and captured, and players count their captured cards to determine who has won.


Poker was also popular among soldiers during the Civil War. It is a game of skill and luck that involves betting and bluffing. There are several variations of poker, but five-card draw was most commonly played by soldiers.


  • Each player is dealt five cards face-down.
  • Players take turns betting or folding.
  • After betting, players can discard up to three cards from their hand and draw new ones.
  • The player with the best hand at the end of betting wins.


Whist is a trick-taking game that was popular during this era as well. It is a four-player game that involves bidding and winning tricks.


  • The dealer deals out the entire deck of cards to the four players.
  • The player to the left of the dealer leads with a card, and each player must follow suit if possible.
  • The player who wins the trick leads with a card for the next trick.
  • Players bid on how many tricks they think they can win before the game starts.
  • The player or team with the most tricks at the end of the game wins.


In conclusion, soldiers during the Civil War played various card games to pass their time when they were not fighting battles. Casino, poker, and whist were among the most popular games played by soldiers. These games provided not only entertainment but also helped in relieving stress and building camaraderie among soldiers.