Play or Pay

Play or Pay is a simple game from the Stops family for three or more players. One player starts a sequence, and each player in turn must play the next higher card that continues it—or pay up!

Object of Play or Pay

The object of Play or Pay is to be the first player to run out of cards.


Play or Pay uses a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. We accompany that statement with the familiar exhortation to give Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards a try. You’ll also need something to bet with, such as poker chips or some other convenient value-bearing token.

Discuss with your players whether or not actual money will be changing hands in the game. If so, sell the players the amount of chips they wish to purchase. Otherwise, distribute an equal number of chips to each player.

Shuffle and deal out the deck as far as it will go. Some players may receive more cards than others; this is perfectly fine.

Game play

The player to the dealer’s left begins the first sequence, playing any card that they desire, face up in front of them. The next player to the left must then play the next-highest card of the same suit if they hold it. If they don’t, they pay one chip to the pot and play passes to the left. Eventually, one player will be able to play the card (since every card in the deck was dealt) and the next player after them will be required to play the next card in sequence. This continues on up to the king of that suit, which is followed by the ace, and then the 2.

The sequence ends when the card immediately below the card that started the sequence—that is, the thirteenth card of the suit—is played. Whichever player holds this card immediately plays a card of one of the other three suits to start a new sequence.

Game play continues until one player runs out of cards. That player wins the hand. Each of their opponents pays one chip to the pot for each card they hold in their hand. The winner then collects the entire pot, and the deal passes to the left for the next hand.



Kowah is a rummy-esque game for two to four players, from the Indonesian island of Java. In this game, players try to form their eight-card hands into triplets—but winning the game requires holding three cards of the same rank and suit!

Object of Kowah

The object of Kowah is to form a hand of a certain structure so that the player can make a declaration of checki. Then, the player must obtain a card of the same rank and suit as two others in their hand.


Kowah uses a highly unusual 120-card deck. To build such a deck, start with four decks of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. From each deck, remove the aces through 10s of clubs. From the other three suits, remove the 10s and face cards. You’ll be left with two 30-card decks consisting of A–9♠, A–9♦, A–9♥, and J-Q-K♣. Shuffle these four 30-card decks together to form the full 120-card deck.

Shuffle and deal eight cards to each player. Place the stub in the center of the table, forming the stock.

Game play

The player to the left of the dealer goes first. They draw from the stock, then discard one card from their hand, placing it face-up next to the stock to form the discard pile. Upon discarding, the turn passes to the left. Thereafter, players may draw either the top card of the stock or the top card of the discard pile at the beginning of their turns.

Declaring checki

Players are trying to form a hand that meets either of these criteria:

  • Two threes-of-a-kind (suits do not matter) and a pair of the same rank and suit. For example, 5♠-5♥-5♦-7♥-7♠-7♦-A♦-A♦.
  • Three of a kind and a five-of-a-kind consisting of two pairs of the same rank and suit and one card of the same rank but a different suit. For example, 5♠-5♥-5♦-7♠-7♠-7♦-7♦-7♥.

Upon forming one of these hands, they declare checki, and place the pair of identical cards face up on the table in front of them. (For a checki of the second type, they may place either pair face up.) These cards are still considered part of the player’s hand.

When a player has declared checki

After player has declared checki, each time an opponent draws from the stock, they must reveal the card they have drawn. If it is a third card matching the same rank and suit as two in a checki player’s hand, they may claim that card. Likewise, if a player discards a card that would be the third card of the rank of suit a checki player needs, they may claim that card out of turn. As play continues, additional players may declare checki and are then able to claim cards out of turn the same way.

Game play continues until a checki player gets the third card they need. This player wins the game. If the stock is depleted before a player gets the card they need, the hand ends without a winner.



Pontoon is a British banking and gambling game, deriving from the same common ancestor as Blackjack. As in Blackjack, the goal of the game is to get as close to 21 as possible without going over. Those who have played Blackjack before will find it instantly familiar; it plays much like the former game, but with a few extra rules and more places for the player to increase their bet.

The name Pontoon is most likely a corruption of vingt-et-un, French for twenty-one.

Object of Pontoon

The object of Pontoon is to, through selectively drawing more cards, obtain a better score than the dealer without going over 21.


Unlike in Blackjack, which can be dealt with as many as six decks of cards, Pontoon only uses one 52-card deck of playing cards. There’s absolutely no reason not to use Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards in your game. You’ll also need something to bet with, most likely poker chips.

Establish one player to be the dealer and banker. This player will be required to shoulder the risk of paying out all winning players, but also the reward of collecting all the losing players’ bets. Therefore, the banker is permitted to establish the maximum and minimum bets they are comfortable with.

Shuffle and deal one card, face down, to each player. Each player looks at their card, not revealing or disclosing it to the other players. Starting at the dealer’s left and going around, each player then places a bet between the dealer and their cards, making it clear which bet corresponds to which player. The dealer then gives each player a second card, face up.

Game play

Hand ranking

The point value of each hand is calculated by adding the values of its cards together. Aces are worth one or eleven points, at the player’s option, face cards are worth ten points, and all other cards are worth their pip value.

The hands rank in the following order, highest first:

  1. Pontoon. Two cards totaling 21, i.e. an ace and a ten-point card: A-K, A-Q, A-J, A-10.
  2. Five-card trick. Five or more cards totaling 21 or less. For example, 5-3-3-2-A (counting ace as one).
  3. All other hands in order of point value, starting at 21 (with three or more cards) and going down from there.

If a player exceeds a score of 21 at any time, they are said to have busted, and can no longer win anything from their bet.

Play of the hand

Before the hand is actually played, if the dealer is showing an ace or a ten-valued card, they check their face-down card to see if they have a pontoon. If they do, they collect double the amount bet from each player, and the hand ends with no further play.

The player to the dealer’s left goes first. They have the following options:

  • Declare pontoon. If a player has a pontoon, they simply note this and move the cards so that the ace is face up and the ten-point card is face down. Play moves to the next player to the left.
  • Stick or stand. To take no action because they are satisfied with the current total of their hand. Play moves to the next player to the left.
  • Buy a card. To place an additional bet, at least the amount of the original bet but no more than twice the bet, and receive an additional face-down card. Unlike doubling in Blackjack, a player can continue to buy cards as long as they have the money and remain under 21 (unless they twist a card, as explained below).
  • Twist a card or hit. To request an additional face-up card without having to pay for it. Upon twisting a card, a player can no longer buy cards. Any further cards must be twisted.
  • Split. If a player has two cards of the same rank, they may turn them both face up and split their original hand into two hands, receiving a second card for each. Only available on the first action after being dealt a hand. The player first plays out the two hands in turn order, only moving to the second hand when the first is resolved. They may stick, twist, or split again if dealt a pair.

If a player busts as a result of buying or twisting cards, they turn all of their cards face up and announce this fact. The dealer then collects their bet and their cards (the latter of which go on the bottom of the deck).

After all players have had a chance to act on their hands, the dealer reveals their face-down card. They may draw until they are satisfied with their hand total (unlike in Blackjack, there is no requirement for the dealer to stop at 17).


After the dealer resolves their own hand, all players reveal their cards. The dealer collects bets made by all players with a point total lesser than or equal to theirs (e.g. if the dealer stops at 19, the dealer collects all bets from players holding 19 or lower. Players holding a pontoon or a five-card trick are paid double the amount of their wager.

If the dealer makes a five-card trick, only players with pontoons are paid out, receiving twice the amount of their bet as normal, and all other bets are lost to the bank.

If the dealer busts, all active players get paid, with pontoons and five-card tricks paying double, as per usual.

The next hand

If anyone had a pontoon on the last hand, the cards are collected and the deck shuffled. If the pontoon was held by a player, that player becomes the banker for the next hand. Should there be multiple people with pontoons, the first one to the left of the dealer has the right to bank the next hand.

The next hand is dealt by the same banker if there were no pontoons on the preceding hand. The cards are collected and simply placed on the bottom of the deck, with no shuffle. This rewards players with a good enough memory to remember which cards were in play on the previous hand, and therefore are less likely to come up.


Stealing Bundles

Stealing Bundles is a game from the same fishing family as Cassino. It is played with two players. Players collect cards from the board with cards from their hand of the same rank. But if you happen to have another card of the same rank as the one your opponent just captured, you’re in luck, because then you can capture every card they’d collected up to that point!

Because of the simple game play and how one lucky card can radically change the game, there’s not a lot of strategy to Stealing Bundles. However, that makes it an excellent game to play with a young child. It can be used as a fun way to introduce kids to card games and the idea of forming pairs of cards. By the time they’re old enough to add, they might find Cassino more engaging.

Object of Stealing Bundles

The object of Stealing Bundles is to capture more cards than your opponent by pairing cards from your hand with those on the board and the card your opponent most recently paired.


Stealing Bundles requires one 52-card deck of playing cards. If you’re playing with a youngster, you could probably use the durability of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards even more than usual.

Shuffle and deal four cards to each player. Then, deal four board cards face up to the center of the table. Place the stub to one side of the board cards, forming the stock.

Game play

The non-dealer plays first. They examine their hand and the four board cards. If a card from their hand forms a pair with a card from the center of the table, they may capture that card. This is done by revealing the card from their hand, collecting the board card, and putting both cards face-up into a stack in front of them. This pile is called the player’s bundle. (Every capture a player makes is added to the same bundle pile.) Should there be multiple cards of the same rank on the board, one card from the hand can capture every card of that rank.

If a player cannot capture any cards on a turn, they discard one card, face up, to the board. This is known as trailing. After either making a capture or trailing, a player’s turn ends.

After a player’s opponent has started a bundle, the player may capture the bundle by revealing a card of the same rank as the top card of the bundle. By doing so, the player captures every card in the opponent’s bundle, adding them all to their own bundle pile!

After four turns, the players will have exhausted their hands. Deal four new cards from the stock to each player (but not the board). Continue refreshing the players’ hands every four turns until the stock is depleted. When the stock runs out, each player continues playing cards until they are unable to make any more plays. Each player then counts up the number of cards in their bundle. Whoever has more cards (i.e. whoever has more than 26 cards) wins.



Tute is a trick-taking game most often played with four players in partnerships. Originating in Italy as Tutti (meaning all), it spread to Spain, where it became one of the country’s most popular games. In Tute, only aces, 3s, and face cards matter—none of the lower cards carry any sort of point value!

Object of Tute

The object of Tute is to score the highest number of points in cards taken in tricks. Players may also score points by holding K-Q combinations and by taking the last trick.


Tute is played with the Spanish 40-card deck. To form such a deck from a standard 52-card deck like Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, simply remove the 8s, 9s, and 10s. You’ll be left with a 40-card deck with aces, face cards, and 7s through 2s in each of the four suits. (In the Spanish deck, the face cards are King, Knight and Knave; these are functionally equivalent to the English deck’s king, queen, and jack.) It may also be helpful for having something to compute scores—a calculator or pencil-and-paper will do.

Determine partnerships by whatever method is preferred—either some way of determining it randomly, or through plain mutual agreement. Players should sit across from their partner, so that as the turn of play proceeds around the table, players alternate in taking turns.

Shuffle and deal ten cards to each player, which distributes the entire deck. Reveal the last card dealt (which belongs to the dealer). The suit of this card becomes the trump suit for the hand. (The dealer adds this card to their hand as usual after everyone is aware of the trump suit.)

Card ranking

In Tute, the cards rank in their usual order, with aces high, with one exception. The 3 is elevated to rank just below the ace. That means that the full rank of cards is (high) A-3-K-Q-J-7-6-5-4-2 (low).

All of the face cards, aces, and 3s also carry a point value. Aces are worth eleven points, 3s are worth ten points, kings four, queens three, and jacks two. The number cards other than 3s are worth nothing in terms of points.

Game play

Tute is played counter-clockwise, so the player to the dealer’s right leads to the first trick. Continuing around to the right, each player in turn plays a card to the trick. Players must always follow suit, if possible. Additionally, they must head the trick if they can. That means that if the player can follow suit, they must; if they can’t follow suit and they can trump, they must do so (and overtrump if possible). Only if a player has no cards of the suit led or the trump suit can they play a card from one of the other two suits.

After all four players have contributed a card, the player who played the highest trump, or the highest card of the suit led if no trump was played, wins the trick. That player collects all four cards and places them into a won-tricks pile in front of them called a baza. (Each player shares a baza with their partner.) The individual player that won the first trick then leads to the second one.


After a player wins a trick, but before leading to the next one, they may make a declaration for any marriages they hold. The two possible declarations are las cuarenta (the 40) for holding the king and queen of trumps, and las veinte (the 20) for holding the king and queen of any other suit. When making a declaration, the player must reveal the two cards. If a player has multiple such combinations, they may only declare them one at a time (they must declare any additional marriages after winning a later trick).

If a player holds las cuarenta, it must be the first declaration made; once las veinte has been declared, las cuarenta may no longer be declared. Of course, upon declaring las veinte, if the player holds any additional veintes they can still be declared on later tricks.

Holding all four kings is a special combination called a tute. If a player holds a tute, they may declare it as usual after winning a trick. Making such a declaration instantly wins the hand for the player holding the kings.


After all ten tricks have been played, each team looks through their baza and totals up the point value of the cards they have collected in tricks. To this they add:

  • 40 points for las cuarenta
  • 20 points for each veinte
  • 10 points for taking the last trick

Whichever partnership has the higher total score wins the hand.

If a longer game is desired, play a pre-determined number of hands. Whichever team wins the majority of the hands wins the overall game.


Pitty Pat

Pitty Pat is a simple card game for two to five players. Players compete to get rid of cards in their hand by matching them with the top card of the discard pile. The game is quite popular in the Central American country of Belize, and has been described as that country’s national card game.

Object of Pitty Pat

The object of Pitty Pat is to be the first player to get rid of all of your cards by forming them into pairs.


Pitty Pat is played with one standard 52-card deck of playing cards. While you can use any deck you can think of, we highly recommend Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards for any card game you can think of.

Shuffle and deal five cards to each player. Place the deck stub in the center of the table, forming the stock. Then, turn the top card of the stock face up; this card, the upcard, is the first card of the discard pile.

Game play

The player to the dealer’s left goes first. They compare the upcard with the cards in their hand. If they hold any card of the same rank as the upcard, they discard that card. They may then discard any other card they wish (which becomes the new upcard), and the turn passes to the player to their left.

If the player doesn’t have any cards that match the rank of the upcard, they turn over a new card from the stock. If they can match this new upcard, they discard the matching card and any other card from their hand, as before. Regardless of whether they can play or not, the turn then passes to the left. The next player then tries to match against the new upcard, and so on.

Game play continues until one player runs out of cards. That player is the winner.


Canadian Salad

A saladCanadian Salad (also known as Wisconsin Scramble or any number of other things depending on where it’s being played) is a trick-taking game for three to six players. On each hand, players have a different objective, hoping to avoid certain cards that count against them. On the final hand of the game, all of the cards to avoid from previous hands all count against them at once—meaning the players have quite a lot to dodge!

Object of Canadian Salad

The object of Canadian Salad is to score the fewest points by avoiding the point-scoring cards or tricks in each hand.


Canadian Salad uses a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. It’s always a good idea to play with Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards if you’ve got ’em (and if you don’t, why not?). Some cards are removed depending on the number of players, to make the deal come out evenly. When playing with three players, remove the 2♣. With five, take out the 2♣ and 2♦. Playing with six, remove 2-3♣-2-3♦. For a four-player game, use the full 52-card deck. In addition to cards, you’ll need something to keep score with, like pencil and paper.

Shuffle and deal the cards out evenly to each player, using the whole deck.

Game play

The player to the dealer’s left leads to the first trick. If able to follow suit, a player must do so. If they are unable to, they may play any card. The trick is won by the highest card of the suit led. Cards rank in their usual order, with aces high. Upon winning a trick, the player collects the cards and adds them to a won-trick pile. If knowing the number of tricks won is necessary at the end of the hand (i.e. on the first and sixth hands), each trick may be placed at right angles to the previous one to keep them separated. The player that wins each trick then leads to the next one.

Each hand has a different condition for awarding points. Since everyone’s trying to avoid points, these are the things you want to keep from taking. What gets you points on each hand:

  1. On the first hand, each trick captured scores ten points.
  2. Each heart captured on the second hand scores ten points.
  3. Each queen captured on the third hand scores 25 points.
  4. Capturing the K♠ on the fourth hand scores 100 points.
  5. Whoever takes the fifth hand’s last trick scores 100 points.
  6. On the sixth and final hand, all of the scoring conditions on hands one through five apply.

Each hand is scored after the final trick has been played. After the sixth hand, whoever has the lowest score is the winner.



Crates is a game in the Stops family that can be played by two to five players, with four players in partnerships being the usual arrangement. Like many games before and after it, Crates extends the basic game play of Crazy Eights, adding additional effects by various cards and an entire scoring system.

Crates was invented by a group of Chicago Contract Bridge players in 1970, who used it as a way to kill time waiting for Bridge sessions to start. It was spread throughout the United States by Bridge players traveling to tournaments in other states.

Object of Crates

The object of Crates is to have the lowest score at the end of fifteen hands. This is achieved by discarding as many cards as possible from your hand.


To play Crates, you’ll need a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. We don’t think it’s too crazy to recommend using Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. You’ll also need something to keep score with. The traditional pencil-and-paper combo works well, as does one of the many smartphone applications developed for the purpose of keeping score.

If you’re playing the four-player partnership game, determine your partners first, either by mutual agreement or by some random method. Each player should sit across from their partner, with their opponents at their left and right. In partnership games, the partners share a score, but otherwise, play is governed by the same rules as non-partnership games.

As in Oh Hell!, the starting hand size varies from hand to hand. The first hand is dealt with eight cards, the second with seven, and so on until a one-card hand has been played. Thereafter, the hand sizes start increasing again, by one card each hand, until the fifteenth and final hand, which is again played with eight cards.

Shuffle and deal the appropriate number of cards. Place the stub in the center of the table, forming the stock. Turn the top card of the stock face up; this card, the upcard, will be the top card of the discard pile. If the upcard is an 8 or a 9, the dealer must name a suit for the first play of the game before looking at their cards. If it is a 9, the suit named must be the same color as that of the 9.

Game play

The player to the dealer’s left plays first. They play one card from their hand of the same suit or rank as the upcard. If a player is unable to play, they draw one card from the stock, ending their turn. Play then passes to the next player in turn.

If a player is unable to draw when required to because the stock has been exhausted, they receive a pressure. A player’s first pressure of the game is worth five points. Each subsequent pressure in a game scores double the previous one; a player’s second pressure (even if on a later hand) is worth ten points. The third is then worth 20 points, the fourth 40, etc. (In partnership games, the two partners’ pressures are counted together.) Pressures are scored immediately as they happen. After scoring for a pressure, that player then turns the discard pile face down and shuffles it to form a new stock. They then draw from the replenished stock as usual, and their turn ends.

Special card effects

Many cards in Crates have special effects when played. The “typical” cards which do not have any immediate effect on game play when played are aces, 3s, queens, and kings.


When a 2 is played, it starts a run of cards called a 2-sequence. Normal play is suspended until the 2-sequence is resolved. The next player in turn from the player who played a 2 must play either another 2 or an ace. If they can, the next player in turn after them must do the same, and so on. This continues until a player is unable to play either of these cards. That player adds up the total pip value of all of the cards played in the sequence and draws that many cards from the stock. The next player in turn after the person who drew cards plays as usual off the last card of the 2-sequence.


When a 4 is played, the next player’s turn is skipped.


When a 5 is played, each player in turn draws a card, ending with the player before the one who played the 5. (The person who played the 5 does not have to draw a card.) It is important that each player draw in turn, in case a pressure occurs while resolving the 5.


When a 6 is played, the person playing it must play a second card before their turn ends. If they are unable to play another 6 or card of the same suit, they must draw a card, as per usual.

Should a player be stuck with a 6 as their last card, they cannot actually go out, because the 6 would require them to play a second card, which they do not have, so they must draw. Such a situation is called a Cooper.


In the two- and three-player games, the next player in turn draws a card. In bigger games, the player after the next one draws a card. (It’s your partner that draws the card in the four-player partnership version. Convention is to sarcastically thank your partner for the card when they play a 7.) In all cases, this does not count as a turn; they play as normal after drawing.

8s and 9s

Both 8s and 9s allow the player to call a new suit.  The following player is required to play a card of that suit, or switch suits with another card of the same rank. The suit called when playing a 9 must be the same color as that 9. There is no such restriction when playing an 8.


The order of play reverses when a 10 is played. That is, if play had been proceeding to the left, it now goes around to the right, and vice-versa. In a two-player game, of course, 10s have no unusual effect.


In a two-player game, a jack acts the same as a 7—the other player draws a card. In a three-player game, the player before the person playing the card draws one card. Jacks have no effect in games of four or more players.

Ending the hand

When a player holds two cards, they must say “One card” upon playing one of them. (The player is jeered by their opponents if they say “Uno” instead.) If they fail to do so, they must start their next turn by drawing two cards. (Note that this means that if another player goes out before their next turn, the penalty is never actually assessed.)

The hand ends when a player ends their turn with no cards. The only exception to this is if a 2-sequence is in progress when this happens. In that case, the hand ends when the 2-sequence is resolved first. (This means it’s possible for a player to run out of cards, watch the 2-sequence to go around back to them, and be forced to draw because they have no cards. The hand still ends then, meaning nobody ends with no cards.)


Players score for the hand based on the values of cards left in their hand. Cards score as follows:

  • Aces: 1 point
  • 2s: 20 points
  • 4s: 15 points
  • 5s and 6s: 30 points each
  • 7s: 20 points
  • 8s: 50 points
  • 9s: 30 points
  • 10s: 25 points
  • Face cards: 10 points each

Scoring for 3s is a little more complicated. A hand with only 3s in it scores –50 points per 3 held. If there are other ranks in the hand, each 3 “covers” one of the other cards. Each card covered by a 3 scores only three points. The only cards that cannot be covered in this way are 8s.

Game play continues until fifteen hands have been played. Whichever player or partnership has the lowest score at that point wins the game.

See also




Through the Window

Through the Window is a simple game of quick thinking, perfect for children. It can accommodate three to thirteen players. Although it’s played with cards, it’s really more of a word game than anything else!

Object of Through the Window

The object of Through the Window is to be the first player to name a noun that starts with the same letter as the card just revealed.


Through the Window is played with a typical 52-card deck of playing cards. Kids tend to get rambunctious with cards—make sure you use durable cards like Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards.

Shuffle and deal four cards, face down, to each player. Players may not look at their cards. Set the rest of the deck aside; it will not be used in further game play.

Game play

The dealer goes first. They say “I looked though the window and saw…” and, at that point, turn over one of their face-down cards. Players immediately say any noun that starts with the same letter. (For those of you who don’t remember, or haven’t yet taken, English class, a noun is a person, place, or thing.) For example, if a 3 is turned up, players might call out “tree”, “tiger”, “tank”, “tomato”, “Texas”, or whatever else they might think of. Whether or not something might realistically be seen out the window is beside the point, and coming up with particularly amusing things to see outside is part of the fun.

Whichever player was first to name a word collects the card and keeps it face up in front of them, separate from their face-down cards. The player to the dealer’s left goes next. They, too, say “I looked through the window and saw…” and turn over a card. Again, the players call out nouns to try to win the card. At this point and beyond, players may not repeat any words that successfully won a card. (Words that were called out but beaten to the punch by another player, however, are fair game.)

Game play continues until all of the cards have been awarded to a player. Each player counts the number of cards in their won-cards pile. Whoever has the most cards wins.


Most of the game involves quickly seeing the card, recognizing its first letter (which may not be as obvious as it seems at first; 8→E is not necessarily a quick association for some people due to the A sound at the beginning of it), and recalling a word that starts with the right letter. The first two parts are just practice. If you’re having problems thinking of words, come up with some before the game. You only need words starting with A, E, F, J, K, N, Q, S and T. At this point it just becomes an exercise of quick memory.



Comet, also known as Commit, is a game in the Stops family for four to about eight players. As in Pope Joan, the players know about one of the game’s “stops”—the 8♦ is removed from play. Unlike in that game, though the 9♦, called the comet, is much easier to play—it functions as a wild card!

Comet is supposedly named after the 1758 pass-by of Halley’s Comet, having been invented in France around that time period. The name Commit circulated just as early, however, leading to some question as to whether it was the original name and which, if either, is a corruption in spelling for the other.

Object of Comet

The object of Comet is to be the first to score 100 points. Players score points by being the first to run out of cards on each hand.


Comet is typically played with a deck composed of 51 cards or fewer. You can make such a 51-card deck by removing the 8♦ from any standard deck, like Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. You will also need something to keep score with, such as pencil and paper.

There are two methods to dealing the game. One is to simply deal out the cards as far as they will go, then simply set aside the stub. The unknown cards in the stub will be the “stops” that halt progress in the game, which players will have to discover as they play. The other method is to simply remove additional 8s (and 7s if necessary) until the deck is evenly divisible by the number of players. This has the effect of allowing players to know the stops ahead of time and adjust their strategy.

Game play

In Comet, cards rank in their usual order, with aces low.

The player to the dealer’s left goes first. They may play any card they wish, face up, to the table in front of them. Whoever holds the next higher card of the same suit then plays their card, then the next higher, and so on. Ideally, this continues until someone plays the king of that suit. Sometimes, however, it will be because the next card in the sequence would be one of the cards in the stub or the 8♦. As the game progresses, sequences may also stop due to previously-played cards. If the sequence is broken for any reason, the last person to play a card is free to play any card they desire, and the chain begins anew.

The role of the 9♦

The player holding the 9♦ (the comet) is free to play it at any time, even out of turn in an existing sequence. They may play it immediately after playing an in-sequence card, or after another player. When the 9♦ is played, normal play stops. The player to the left of the one who played the 9♦ must either play the 10♦ or the next card in the previous sequence, if any. If the player is unable to play either card, the next player to the left has the same option, and so on. Play proceeds normally after that.

For example, say a sequence begins with the A♣ and continues normally through the 6♣. Someone then plays the 9♦. The person to that player’s left must then play either the 10♦ or the 7♣. If they cannot, the next person to their left must play one of the two cards, if able, and so on.


The player that runs out of cards first wins the hand. They score one point for winning the hand, another point for every card in their opponents’ hands, and two points for each king that was not played. If a player holds the 9♦, unplayed, at the end of the hand, they lose one point.

Pass the deal to the left, shuffle, and deal a new hand. Game play continues until one player reaches a score of 100 or more points. That player wins the game.


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