Regency Era Card Games

Rafe Densmore, the hero of my latest historical romance, The Courtesan’s Book of Secrets, is a skilled card player. So is the woman he loves, Cornelia, Cometesse de Vane. Sadly, when it comes to Regency era card games, my education was sorely lacking. As a result, I had to learn a thing or two about how to play cards in Regency England.

Cornelia’s game of choice is Commerce. Although, by the Regency it was more a game for the older set, it worked perfectly for the scene where Cornelia plays against the villain, the Dowager Countess of Daltmouth. I decided against the more common Whist because of the need for partners. Commerce is like an early version of poker with players placing bets, selecting and discarding cards and trying to win with certain hands. With the way the play moves around the table, and the betting, Commerce worked well for my card party scene. It was fun to research the rules of the game and then to employ them and some of the terminology in my gambling scene. I even watched a video on-line of people playing it in order to get a real sense of how it was done. If you want to learn a little more about some popular Regency era card games like Whist, please check out my friend Kristen Koster’s great Regency research page. For more detailed instruction on Commerce, check out the UK Jane Austen Society's post on Commerce.

Rafe’s game of choice is Vingt-et-un, an early version of Blackjack that has not changed a great deal since Regency times. Like our modern Blackjack, Vingt-et-un doesn’t require partners and, if a man can keep track of cards, read his opponents well, and is brave enough to double down, then the play can be as tense and exciting as a well played hand of poker. Also, because it is a game that I and many readers have played, I thought it would be easier for readers to relate to Vingt-et-un than many other popular Regency card games.

I hope you enjoy reading the gambling scenes in The Courtesan’s Book of Secrets as much as I enjoyed writing them. Perhaps the next time you play blackjack, you’ll be inspired play like Rafe and take a chance and double down. Or, like me, maybe you’ll read up on the games and perhaps try a hand with some willing friends. With the holidays just around the corner, it might be fun to step back in time and enjoy a game of Commerce after dinner.

You could also relax with a good book, like one of mine www.Georgie-Lee,com


Anonymous said...

Very interesting post, I love looking at old era pictures. Would love for you to come and share via our linky party at

Karren Haller said...

Great old photos, I have always been drawn to this era. Thanks for sharing this week.

Stacey Gannett said...

How absolutely wonderful! I absolutely love the regency era! Thank you so much for sharing on Meandering Mondays! Have a great week!

Joy said...

I paid attention to things related to the regency area in my wanderings in England, but I didn't run across any card games. Great to learn about -- thanks!

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