Primero – The Forefather of Brag

We often refer to three card brag as the predecessor to poker but where did three card brag originate from? The card game that most historians credit as being the forerunner to three card brag is Spanish game of primero. Many details of the historic game are blurry and indecisive but we do know that primero is similar to three card brag only older and therefore likely to be major influence in the creation of three card brag.

Primero is played with between four and six players, uses a 40-card deck and, in a similar fashion to three card brag, requires players to make the best hand from a combination of cards or at least convince their opponents that they have a strong hand from a list of hand ranks.

The exact date when primero was created is uncertain but the historic card game can be found mentioned as far back as 1526, when Francesco Berni mentioned primero in the poem entitled Capitolo del Gioco della Primiera. Primero then made its way to the shores of England, with King Charles V being a keen player.

English monarchs are recorded as having been fond of card games such as primero. An entry into the Remembrance’s Office of Henry VII, dated December the 26th, in the ninth year of his reign stated that the king required one hundred shillings paid at one time to him for the purpose of playing at cards. Henry VIII’s daughter, Princess Mary is recorded as requesting money, with the request being stated as ‘for the playe at cardes’.

By the 1700’s games of three card brag can be found in the history books following its evolution from the game of primero. How the game changed is not entirely certain but the similarities between the two card games makes us fairly confident that primero is three card brag’s predecessor.

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