Two-player games to enjoy when you’re sheltering with someone else

Two ten-card hands of playing cards

As the COVID-19 pandemic has intensified, more and more of us are subject to furloughs and stay-at-home orders. Many of us have the fortune to be at home with a loved one or roommate. Having someone else to spend time can make things a lot more tolerable.

However, those with a regular card game night may have some trouble adjusting to life with just two players. After all, poker gets pretty boring when it’s nothing but heads-up play. Partnership games like Canasta or Contract Bridge are obviously a no-go. If you want to pass time with a game of cards with a friend, but need guidance on what to play, try these five games. (If you happen to be isolated at home by yourself, check out last week’s recommendations for solitaire games.)

  1. Gin Rummy: Any discussion of two-player card games has to start with Gin—it’s a classic for a reason. It takes the traditional draw-meld-discard format of Rummy, but adds the simple twist of having the players keep the melds in their hands. Since you can’t see your opponent’s melds, you need a good memory and abductive reasoning skills to know what is and isn’t a safe discard. The result is a game that’s simple to pick up, but challenging to master. Our Gin Rummy strategy guide might help, though.
  2. Turnover Bridge: Actually a Whist game despite the name, Turnover Bridge is strategic for the exact opposite reasons that Gin is. In Turnover Bridge, all but two of each player’s cards will be exposed to their opponent. That means that each player has enough information to devise a strategy to outplay their opponents, barring some surprises.
  3. Mate: Mate takes the idea of the perfect-strategy game even further. The goal is forcing your opponent into a situation where they can’t play a card matching the card led in suit or rank. However, you want as many turns to pass as possible before that happens. After the hand ends, you swap cards with your opponent. Then you see if you could have done any better with their hand!
  4. Cassino: Cassino is a fairly straightforward game of capturing cards by matching them in value. You do that either by matching in pairs, or by putting together two cards and using a third that matches their total value. Cassino is the only member of its family of games that’s popular in the English-speaking world. If you like it, give some of the other games of the fishing family a try.
  5. Pishe Pasha: This game plays a lot like a solitaire game, because there’s four foundation piles in the center of the table that you’re building up in order by suit. However, instead of a tableau, the only other place you can put cards is on your opponent’s discard pile. The goal is to run out of cards first, though, so that’s not a move your opponent will be particularly happy about.

Need even more games to make the time go by? Sign up for our email service and get a free 463-page e-book with the rules to 181 card games. You’ll get even more game rules emailed to you after that. Sign up today and make not knowing what to play a thing of the past!

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5 solitaire games to enjoy in isolation

A game of Klondike solitaire

The threat of COVID-19 is forcing more and more of us to stay home due to quarantine or social distancing. As a result, we’re also often ending up with a surplus of free time. Throughout human history, people have found themselves in similar situations: lots of free time and no way to spend it with anyone. One traditional way to pass the time, in days before modern technology, was using a deck of cards to play a game by yourself.

Modern solitaire players are likely only familiar with the solitaire (or patience) games in software that comes pre-installed on their computer, such as Klondike (what people usually think of as just “Solitaire”), FreeCell, and Spider. However, with a physical deck of cards, the possibilities are limitless; there’s hundreds of solitaire games to keep things fresh. Here are five solitaire games to check out when you can’t play with a real opponent.

  1. Black Hole: Games expert David Parlett invented this game that, like Golf, centers around discarding cards of consecutive rank. However, unlike Golf, Black Hole is much easier to win; it boasts an estimated win rate of 86%.
  2. Bridge Solitaire: Stephen Rogers contributes this substitute for Contract Bridge that’s excellent for when players can’t get together to play. It’s designed to provide a challenge to experienced Bridge players to keep their skills sharp in lieu of a partner.
  3. Forty Thieves (Napoleon at St. Helena): Legend has it this two-deck solitaire game was a favorite of Napoleon in exile. That’s probably not true, but if you want to pretend you’re an exiled former emperor while playing this game instead of someone who’s hiding out from a virus, well, who are we to say you can’t?
  4. The Clock: A game that’s 100% luck-based, meaning it’s a great way to occupy your mind when you don’t feel like thinking too hard. Its striking tableau definitely makes it unique.
  5. Pyramid (Tut’s Tomb): These days, this game is probably best known from its inclusion in Windows in the early 1990s. It features a large triangular tableau, which the player seeks to eliminate by discarding pairs of cards that total thirteen.

The pandemic has forced everyone to focus on hygiene much more than usual in recent days, for good reason. Even when you’re playing by yourself, consider upgrading to a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. Because they’re non-porous and waterproof, unlike paper cards, they’re easy to keep clean and sanitary.

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Triple Play (Hand, Knee, and Foot)

Triple Play, also known as Hand, Knee, and Foot, is a variation on Canasta for four players in partnerships. Like Hand and Foot, Triple Play gives each player extra hands of cards they must play through before going out. However, while Hand and Foot requires a player to play out their hand and one extra hand, in Triple Play, you have two extra hands to get rid of, or three in all! That means a Triple Play player effectively has a 39-card hand!

Most widely-played games evolved over time, their creators lost to history. Not so with Triple Play—it was invented by Sue Henberger of Huntley, Illinois. We even have an exact date when Henberger first began thinking of creating the game: New Year’s Eve, 2005. That night, she and three of her friends began discussing the possibility of adding new rules to their usual Canasta game to stave off boredom. Henberger kept working on the game and playtesting it, before finally introducing it to her local Canasta club, to great success. From one Illinois Canasta club, the game began to spread nationwide.

Object of Triple Play

The object of Triple Play is to score more points than your opponents over the course of four hands. Points can be scored by forming melds of three or more cards and canastas, which are melds of seven cards.

Setup

To play Triple Play, you’ll need a massive number of cards—six standard decks, plus twelve jokers (two per deck), 324 cards in all! Once you’ve put together such a big deck, you’ll want it to last as long as possible, so protect your investment by choosing Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. You’ll be holding a lot of cards in your hand, so you’ll probably want the bridge-size cards. You also need something to keep score with, such as pencil and paper or a smartphone app.

Determine partnerships, either by some form of random draw, or by mutual agreement. Partners should sit on opposite sides of the table, so that players of alternate partnerships play as the turn proceeds clockwise around the table.

Shuffle (using the multiple-deck shuffling technique) and deal a fifteen-card hand to each player. Next, deal out a thirteen-card knee pile for each player, and an eleven-card foot pile. Players may look at their hands, but not the knee and foot piles. The foot piles are stacked neatly in front of each player, face down, with the knee pile atop it at right angles.

The remaining undealt cards are placed in the center of the table, forming the stock. The top card of the stock is turned face-up and placed next to it. This is the upcard, the top card of the discard pile. If the upcard is a joker, 2, red 3, 5, or 7, bury it face-down in the middle of the stock and draw another card.

Game play

Card ranks and scoring

The following are the scores and special properties of all of the cards in the game:

  • Red 3s: Red 3s serve as a bonus card and are simply laid in front of the player and a new card is drawn to replace them. 100 points.
  • Jokers: Jokers are wild. 50 points.
  • 2s: 2s are also wild. 20 points.
  • Aces: 20 points.
  • K–8s: 10 points.
  • 7s–4s: 5 points.
  • Black 3s: Cannot be melded. 5 points.

Other than the colors of the 3s, suits do not matter. Both jokers are likewise equal.

Play of the hand

Any player holding a red 3 in their hand at the beginning of the hand lays it face-up on the table and immediately draws a replacement. Any further red 3s that a player draws while playing their initial fifteen-card hand are similarly exposed and replaced. One player on each partnership is responsible for collecting their and their partners’ melds and red 3s and keeping them on the table in front of them.

After the red 3s have been replaced, play begins with the player to the dealer’s left. On a player’s turn, they will draw and then meld if possible. Normally, they will then discard.

Drawing

The first action a player takes is to draw. In most cases, they will do this by simply drawing the top two cards from the stock.

A player can also pick up the discard pile and add it to their hand. To do so, the player must have two cards in their hand that they can immediately meld with the top card of the discard pile. (Any other cards in the discard pile are inaccessible to them until they demonstrate that they can legally meld the top card.) If this is the partnership’s first meld for that deal, additional cards from the hand may be melded alongside the card from the discard pile in order to satisfy the opening-meld requirement.

Because black 3s cannot be melded, a player cannot draw from the discard pile when the upcard is a black 3. If the top card of the discard pile is a wild card, then the player can only draw from the discard pile if the player is holding two other cards of the same natural rank. That is, if there is a 2 on the discard pile, you must hold two other 2s to draw from it; you cannot substitute jokers for the 2s).

Melding

After drawing, a player may form one or more melds, or add to any existing melds formed on previous turns. A meld consists of three to seven cards of the same rank. Melds are traditionally fanned out so that each card’s index is visible.

A meld can contain only one wild card in a meld of three to five cards, and no more than two in a meld of six or seven. Melds of 5s and 7s can never contain wild cards. A player can also make a meld that consists of all wild cards. A meld with no wild cards is said to be a natural or clean meld; a meld that does include them is a mixed or dirty meld.

On the first turn of the deal that a partnership melds, they must meet a minimum point threshold, as follows:

  • First deal: 50 points
  • Second deal 90 points
  • Third deal: 120 points
  • Fourth deal: 150 points

Once the initial meld has been made, melds made by that partnership on subsequent turns on that deal are not subject to the minimums. Existing melds can be extended by either player in the partnership with more natural cards, or with wild cards, if possible. Players cannot move cards between melds, nor can they establish two separate melds of less than seven cards of the same rank. Players cannot add to their opponents’ melds.

A meld of seven cards is called a canasta. Traditionally, a canasta is denoted by squaring the meld up into a pile, with a red card on top for a natural canasta, and a black card on top for a mixed canasta. A canasta cannot contain more than seven cards; once a canasta has been completed, the partnership can begin a new meld of the same rank.

Discarding

After melding, a player that began their turn by drawing from the stock ends it by discarding a single card. If a player began their turn by picking up the discard pile instead, they do not discard. Instead, they knock on the table to signify when they are done melding. The next player has no choice but to draw from the stock.

Picking up the knee and foot

When a player finishes their partnership’s first canasta, they pick up their knee pile and add it to their hand. They then continue their turn as usual. On their partner’s next turn, they must also remember to pick up their knee pile. Nobody can remind them to do so; anyone who does is subject to a stiff 1,000-point penalty!

Beginning when a player picks up their knee pile, they no longer draw a card to replace red 3s. They simply play them and continue their turn.

After a player has picked up their knee pile, when they run out of cards, they pick up their foot pile and continue play from there. If a player’s last card was discarded, they do not pick up their foot pile until the beginning of their next turn.

Ending the deal

Throughout the game, each partnership works toward completing a set of five canastas known as the basic book. The basic book is as follows:

  • A natural canasta of 5s
  • A natural canasta of 7s
  • A canasta of wild cards
  • Any natural canasta
  • Any mixed canasta

When a player runs out of cards after picking up their foot pile, they may go out if their partnership has completed their basic book. To do so, they must first ask their partner if they can go out. Their partner’s answer is binding; a player cannot go out if their partner withholds their permission to do so.

In the rare event the stock runs out before a player can go out, follow the same procedure used in Hand and Foot to end the deal.

Each partnership totals the value of the cards it has melded. From this total, they deduct the value of any cards remaining in their hands, as well as their knee and foot piles. Unplayed red 3s have a value of –500 points each; unplayed black 3s are –100 points each.

Then, the following canasta bonuses are added:

  • 7s: 5,000 points per canasta.
  • 5s: 3,000 per canasta.
  • Wild cards: 2,500 points per canasta.
  • Natural canastas: 500 points per canasta.
  • Mixed canastas: 300 points per canasta.

The following bonuses are also included:

  • Red 3s: 100 points each.
  • Collecting seven or more red 3s: 300 points.
  • Going out: 200 points.

All of the above is combined to reach the total score for the deal and recorded on the score sheet. Then, the cards are shuffled, and the deal passes to the left. The partnership with the highest score at the end of four hands is the winner.

See also

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Getaway

Getaway is a unique trick-taking game for three to eight players. In most trick-taking games, players have to follow suit, but if they can’t, they simply can’t win the trick. Also, after the trick is finished, it’s discarded to a won-tricks pile and the cards are out of play. Getaway turns all that on its head—a player being unable to follow suit ends that trick, and the player that was winning the trick takes the cards into their hand!

Getaway is popular in Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh.

Object of Getaway

The object of Getaway is to avoid being the last player with any cards.

Setup

To play Getaway, you’ll need a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. Treat your players to the best game you can give them by playing with a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards.

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

Game play

The player that holds the A♠ leads it to the first trick. Each player then plays a card to the trick, in order proceeding to the left. All players must follow suit if able. After all players have played, the person playing the highest card of the suit led wins the trick. Cards rank in their usual order, with aces high, so the person holding the A♠ will always win the first trick. The cards are placed face down in a discard pile after the trick is played, and the winner of the trick leads to the next trick.

When a player cannot follow suit, they may play any card. Beginning on the second trick, play to a trick stops whenever a player cannot follow suit. Players later on in turn order do not contribute to the trick. The player who, at that point, had played the highest card of the suit led takes the cards from the incomplete trick into their hand. That player then leads to the next trick.

Between tricks, a player may choose to take the entire hand of the player to their left. Since that player is then left with no cards, they instantly get away (see below). Exercising this option is sometimes in a player’s best interest, because the player to the left does not have any cards in the suits the player holds. Thus, the trick will always end prematurely by the player to the left failing to follow suit, and the player will never be able to play their cards. In such a situation, it makes sense to take that player out of the game in hopes of being able to pass control to another player.

Getting away

Unlike most trick-taking games, not all players are going to play cards to every trick, and players will be bringing new cards into their hand. Because of this, players will run out of cards at different rates. A player that runs out of cards is said to have gotten away. When a player has gotten away, they are out of the game and are not at risk of losing. If a player who was supposed to lead gets away, the player to their left leads instead.

Ending the hand

The number of players will gradually shrink as more and more players get away. Special rules apply when only two players are left and one of them runs out of cards. If the other player plays a higher card of the suit led, as usual, that player wins the trick, and the player who depleted their hand gets away. The player with cards remaining loses the game. However, if the player with more cards can play a lower card of the suit led, that forces a special situation called a shootout.

The discard pile is shuffled, excluding the two cards from the trick just concluded. The player with no cards randomly draws a card from the deck and exposes it. This card serves as their lead. If the other player can again play a lower card of the suit led, the game continues with the player with no cards drawing a new lead from the shuffled discard pile. If the player with cards is forced to play a card of a higher rank than the card drawn from the deck, the player with no cards gets away and the player with cards remaining loses. Should the player with cards have no cards of the suit drawn, however, the player with cards gets away, and the player with no cards loses.

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Stop the Bus (Bastard)

Stop the Bus, also known as Bastard, is a simple English card game for two to six players. It is part of the Commerce family of games, where players gradually build up a good hand by exchanging cards from their hand with better ones. It plays somewhat similar to Knock Poker, but using Brag hands rather than poker hands.

Object of Stop the Bus

The object of Stop the Bus is to form the best three-card Brag hand.

Setup

Stop the Bus is played with a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. If you want to treat your players to the best game of Stop the Bus possible, make sure you play with a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. You’ll also need some sort of counter or token, such as poker chips.

Give each player an equal number of tokens (higher numbers of tokens will produce a longer game). Shuffle and deal three cards to each player. Then, deal three face-up cards to the center of the table. Set the remaining deck stub aside; it has no further part in game play.

Game play

The player to the dealer’s left goes first. They draw one card from the three face up on the table. They then choose one card to discard, face up, replacing the card they drew. The turn then passes to the next player.

Game play continues in this way, with players seeking to improve their hands through successive draws and discards. When a player is satisfied with their hand, they may call out “Stop the bus!” Each of their opponents then takes one more turn. When the turn reaches the player who called “Stop the bus”, the hand ends. All players then turn their hand face up and compare their hands. Whichever player has the worst Brag hand surrenders one token.

The cards are collected and the deal passes to the left. Another hand is played. Game play continues in this fashion, with players dropping out whenever they run out of tokens. The last player with at least one remaining token wins the game.

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King

Four king playing cards

King is a trick-taking card game for four players. A game of King consists of ten hands. During the first six hands, players lose points if they capture certain tricks or tricks containing certain cards. These conditions change on each hand. During the last four hands, players score points by either capturing tricks or not capturing them, as determined by the dealer.

King is played throughout the world, especially in Europe, Russia, and South America. It’s unclear where it ultimately originated from, though; despite the English name “King”, it is not well known in any English-speaking countries.

Object of King

The object of King is to have the most points after ten hands. For the first six hands, players avoid capturing tricks to avoid negative scores. For the last four hands, players scored points by capturing tricks, or avoiding them, depending on the rules decided by the dealer.

Setup

To play King, you’ll need a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. To provide your players with the best game-night experience they’ve ever had, though, you’ll need a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. You also need something to keep score with, like pencil and paper or a smartphone app.

Choose the first dealer randomly by shuffling the deck and dealing cards one at a time, face up, until a player receives the king of hearts. That player is the first dealer. Shuffle and deal thirteen cards (face down) to each player, dealing out the entire deck.

Game play

On each hand, game play follows much the same formula, though the goal and thus the players’ strategies are different on each hand. The player to the dealer’s left leads to the first trick. Each player in turn plays a card to the trick of the same suit, if they have one; otherwise, they may play any card. After all four have played, whoever played the highest card of the trump suit, or the highest card of the suit led if no trumps were played, takes the trick. Cards rank in their usual order, with aces high.

Whoever takes the trick takes the four cards in it and places them in a face-down won-tricks pile in front of them. For some hands, it is necessary to know how many tricks each player has taken; on these hands the tricks should be placed at right angles to each other to keep them separated. The player that captured the last trick then leads to the next one.

After thirteen tricks, the hand is over. The score is then computed according to the rules of the hand.

The negative hands

The first six hands of the game are called the negative hands. The one thing all of these hands have in common is that there is no way to score positive points. Rather, on each hand, one or more players will lose points by taking tricks or tricks containing certain cards. The scoring for each hand, in order, is as follows:

  1. −20 for each trick captured
  2. −20 for each heart captured
  3. −50 for each queen captured
  4. −30 for each king or jack captured
  5. −160 for capturing the K♥
  6. −90 for capturing each of the last two tricks

There are no trumps during the negative hands. After the sixth hand, the four players’ scores should total −1,300.

The positive hands

After the six negative hands are the four positive hands. Players have the opportunity to score positive points on these hands. On some hands, players may score for capturing tricks, while on others, they may be rewarded for avoiding doing so.

The dealer decides whether they would like to designate one of the four suits as the trump suit, play with no trump, or auction the right to choose trumps to the other three players. If they choose to auction, the player to the dealer’s left starts the bidding with some number of tricks. Each player in turn then may either bid higher than the previous high bid, or pass. The dealer is skipped. Once there have been two consecutive passes, the high bidder gets the right to name the trump suit, or declare no trump.

After the trump suit has been determined, the dealer (not the winner of the bidding) chooses whether the game will be played playing up or playing down. If the game is played up, then capturing each trick scores a player 25 points. If the game is played down, each player starts with a hand score of 325 points, and 75 points are deducted for each trick captured. Note that a player can still have a negative hand score if they capture more than four tricks!

The hand is then played out. After the thirteen tricks have been played, each player counts the number of tricks they captured. If the dealer auctioned off the right to name trumps, then the high bid is deducted from the bidders’ trick count and added to that of the dealer. The scores are then calculated from these adjusted trick totals.

Ending the game

After the four positive hands, whoever has the most positive points wins the game.

The total hand score for the four positive hands is 325 points per hand, or 1,300 points altogether. This cancels out the −1,300 points scored across the six negative hands. Thus, the scores can be checked by adding all of the players’ scores together at the end of the game and ensuring that they balance (the sum is zero).

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Pishe Pasha

Pishe Pasha is a simple competitive solitaire game for two players. In Pishe Pasha, players turn over cards one at a time from a stock pile, trying to get rid of them. This can be done by building up foundation piles in the center of the table, putting the cards out of play. However, you can also get rid of cards by forcing your opponent to take them. Unfortunately for you, though, they’re going to be trying to do the same thing to you!

Object of Pishe Pasha

The object of Pishe Pasha is to be the first to run out of cards. Players can get rid of cards in two ways. One is by playing them to a set of shared foundation piles. They may also play cards onto their opponent’s discard pile.

Setup

To play Pishe Pasha, you’ll need a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. To ensure a smooth, trouble-free game, we recommend Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. Shuffle and deal out the cards as far as they will go, so that each player has 26 cards. Players cannot look at their cards. Instead, they should collect them into a squared-up pack, keeping it face down. This pack constitutes the player’s stock.

The non-dealer turns up the first card of their stock to form their discard pile, placing it face-up next to the stock. If is this card is not an ace, the hand begins with the dealer’s first turn. However, if this card is an ace, the non-dealer immediately moves it to the center of the table to form one of the foundation piles. They then turn over another card. If this card can also be played to the foundation piles, as described below, they continue moving cards to the foundations and turning cards face up until they find a card that cannot be played.

Game play

On a player’s turn, they may move cards from their discard pile to one of two places. As aces are turned up, they are moved to the center of the table to form the foundation piles, shared by both players. The foundation piles, one per suit, are then built up in sequence. Cards rank in their usual order, with aces low. If a player is able to play a card to the foundations, they must do so first. They may not take any other action before doing so.

On their turn, a player may also play a card to their opponent’s discard pile. To do so, the card must be one rank above or one rank below the top card already showing on the discard pile. Suit does not matter. For example, with a 7 showing on a player’s discard pile, their opponent may play any 6 or 8 to it.

If a player notices that their opponent failed to play a card to the foundations when able, they may call “Stop!” The player calling Stop may then either force their opponent to move the card to the foundations, or force their opponent to end their turn and take their turn instead.

Play of the hand

The dealer plays first, turning the top card of their stock up to form their discard pile. If they can play this card according to the rules above, they may do so. Then, they draw another card from their stock. They may keep playing until they draw a card they are unable to play. They then place this card on their discard pile, ending their turn.

The non-dealer then plays, following the same rule. The dealer and non-dealer continue alternating turns in this way. If a card played to the discard pile on a subsequent turn (or one that is moved there by the player’s opponent) is exposed, it may be played just like any other card. As always, if the card can be played to the foundations, this must be done before the player can take any other action.

A player will eventually run out of cards in their stock, while still having cards in their discard pile. When this happens, they turn their discard pile over, without shuffling, to form a new stock.

A player wins when they have gotten rid of all of the cards from both their stock and discard pile.

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Diloti

Diloti is a Greek fishing game for two players (or four players in partnerships). It plays similarly to another Greek fishing game, Kontsina. However, it also incorporates bonuses for capturing all the cards in one fell swoop, as in Xeri. This, along with the ability to form cards into sets that can only be captured together, makes Diloti one of the most strategic games in the fishing family.

Object of Diloti

The object of Diloti is to capture as many cards as possible. Cards are captured with a card matching them in rank, or by using one card from the hand to capture a combination of cards that add up to its rank. Particular attention is given to capturing all the cards on the table on one turn, which scores higher.

Setup

If you want to play Diloti, you’ll need a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. If you want to give your players the best Diloti game ever—and who doesn’t?—you’ll need a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. You also need something to keep score with, like pencil and paper or a smartphone app. You can also use a Cribbage board.

If you’re playing with four players, determine partnerships by some convenient method like high-card draw, or simply mutual agreement. Partners should be seated across from each other, so that as the turn progresses around the table players from alternating partnerships get a turn.

Shuffle and deal six cards to each player. Then, deal four cards face up to the center of the table. If three or more of these cards are the same rank, shuffle all four of them back into the deck and deal four new cards. Place the stub next to these four cards, forming the stock.

Game play

The player to the dealer’s left plays first. On each turn, a player plays a single card from their hand. If it doesn’t match with anything else on the table, they simply play it face-up to the table. This is called laying the card. If possible, however, a player will try to capture cards from the table, since this is how points are scored.

Capturing cards

A player may form one or more cards on the table into a bundle that must be captured as a single unit. This bundle is known as a declaration. For example, with a 2 and a 3 on the table, a player may play a 5 and form all three cards into a declaration with a value of 10. This declaration would only be able to captured on a later turn with a 10. Note that because face cards have no defined value, they cannot be included in a declaration. To avoid ambiguity, it is customary to state the value of the declaration when forming it. The declaration should be formed into a pile on the table, with all indices visible, to denote it can only be captured as a unit, as well as allowing players to see its value.

A player can also capture multiple cards by playing a card whose rank is equal to the total of the values of the cards being captured. For example, with a 5 and a 3 on the table, playing an 8 will capture both cards. Cards’ values are equal to their pip value; face cards have no value. If multiple combinations of cards add up to the card played, all of them can be captured at once. For example, if there are an 8, 6, 5, 3, and 2 on the table, an 8 could capture all five cards (8 alone, 5+3, and 6+2).

When a player captures cards, they place them, as well as the card used to capture them, face down in a pile in front of them. (In the four-player game, each player shares a captured-cards pile with their partner.) No player can inspect these cards for any reason until the end of the hand.

Regular declarations

A player may form cards on the table into a bundle that must be captured as a single unit. This bundle is known as a declaration. For example, with a 2 and a 3 on the table, a player may play a 5, then group all three cards into a declaration with a value of 10. This declaration would only be able to captured on a later turn with a 10. Note that because face cards have no defined value, they cannot be included in a declaration. To avoid ambiguity, it is customary to state the value of the declaration when forming it.

After a declaration has been formed, any player can capture it if they have a card of a proper value. An opponent may also raise the declaration by adding an additional card to it, thus increasing the value of the card needed to capture it. A player cannot raise their own declaration or one formed by their partner. Of course, a player cannot raise the value of a declaration above 10, because no single card in the deck has a value greater than 10.

To form a declaration, a player must have a card in their hand that can capture it. Likewise, to raise a declaration, the raising player must hold a card with the new value of the declaration. The player that formed or raised the declaration cannot use the card for any other purpose but capturing the declaration (unless it is captured or raised by another player). After forming a new declaration, a player cannot lay cards, nor form new declarations until the existing declaration is captured (either by themselves or someone else) or raised by an opponent. This restriction passes to an opponent who raises a declaration already on the table.

Group declarations

A more complex type of declaration is the group declaration. A group declaration is a set of multiple single cards or bundles of cards, where the value of each set is equal. For example, with a 2, 6, and two 4s on the table, a player could make a group declaration with a value of 8 (the first set being 2+6 and the second being 4+4). Later, all four cards could be captured by playing an 8. When forming a group declaration, a player should state that they are doing so by stating “group of 8s”. This avoids ambiguity regarding the type of declaration being made.

The real power of a group declaration is that it can incorporate existing regular declarations as one of the sets. For example, Alpha creates a declaration of 7 by playing a 3 onto a 4. The next player, Bravo, raises the declaration to 9 by adding a 2 to it. Then they combine it with another 9 on the table to make a group declaration. Bravo (or any other player) could then capture all four cards with another 9.

A player is permitted to incorporate an existing regular declaration that they are obliged to capture into a new group declaration. This is the only way a player can form a new declaration while they already have a uncaptured declaration on the table. A player may also incorporate their partner’s declaration into a group declaration. All of the same restrictions that apply to a player with a pending regular declaration apply to a player that has formed a group declaration as well.

Capturing xeri

Beginning on the second turn of the hand, when a player plays a single card that captures every face-up card on the table, they are said to have captured those cards xeri (an Greek word meaning “plain” or “dry”). A xeri capture scores more points than cards captured otherwise. Because of this, a good deal of the strategy in Diloti involves blocking your opponents from getting xeris, while seizing any opportunities your opponent may leave open to get one.

To record a xeri, the player places one card from the batch captured face up and at right angles to the rest of the their won-cards pile.

Replenishing the hands

After six turns, the players will have run out of cards. The dealer then deals every player a new hand of six cards from the stock. Play continues as before.

When the last batch of cards has been dealt from the stock, the game continues until all the cards have been played. This ends the hand. The last player to capture cards takes any cards remaining on the table and adds them to their won cards. (This does not count as a xeri.)

Scoring

After the hand ends, each player or partnership looks through the cards in their won-tricks pile and totals up their score for the hand, as follows:

  • Ten points for each xeri
  • Four points for capturing the most cards. If both players or teams tie at 26 cards, neither side scores these four points.
  • Two points for capturing the 10♦
  • One point for each ace captured
  • One point for capturing the 2♣

The scores are recorded on the scoresheet, the deal passes to the left, and another hand is played. Game play continues until a player or partnership reaches a score of 61 or higher. Whichever side has the higher score at that point wins the game.

See also

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Seven Rummy (Seven Bridge)

Seven Rummy is a rummy game played in Japan. It’s also known as Seven Bridge, despite the fact that it has no trick taking, bidding, or any other characteristic of Bridge. It can be played by two to five players. What makes Seven Rummy unique among rummy games is the unusual role 7s play in the game. Any meld containing a 7 doesn’t have to contain three cards; it can have two, or even just one!

Object of Seven Rummy

The object of Seven Rummy is to be the first player to form their entire hand into melds.

Setup

Seven Rummy uses the standard 52-card deck. You can play with any 52-card deck, but to give your players the best that they deserve, insist on Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. You also need pencil and paper or some other way of keeping score.

Shuffle and deal seven cards to each player. Place the stub face down in the center of the table, forming the stock. Turn over the first card of the stock. This card, the upcard, is the first card of the discard pile.

Game play

The player to the dealer’s left goes first. A Seven Rummy player’s turn follows the usual Rummy pattern of draw, then meld, then discard. A player normally draws from the stock—unlike in other rummy games, in Seven Rummy, there are some restrictions on when a card can be drawn from the discard pile, described below. After drawing, a player may lay any melds they can form face up on the table in front of them. Then, they discard a card face up onto the discard pile, and their turn ends. The turn then passes to the left.

Melding

Organizing their hands into melds is the goal of every player. There are two types of melds. The first is three or four of a kind. The other meld type is the sequence, which is three or more consecutive cards of the same suit, such as 4-5-6♣. For the purposes of sequences, cards rank in their usual order, with aces always low.

A player may lay down as many melds as they are able to on their turn. (However, if a player is able to meld all seven cards at once, they score double for the hand.) If a player can extend another player’s meld on the table using cards from their own hand, they may also lay off cards onto those melds.

Including a 7 in a meld waives the normal minimum-card requirements for that meld. A 7 may be melded by itself. It can also be part of a two-card sequence (like 6-7♦) or part of a pair (like 7♥-7♠).

Drawing from the discard pile

Normally, a player is only allowed to draw from the stock, not the discard pile. However, there are two situations in which a player can draw the top card of the discard pile instead. Both of them require a player to be able to immediately form a new meld with cards from their hand. Also, in both cases, a player must have already had at least one turn where they drew a card from the stock.

If a player can use the previous player’s card along with one or more cards from their hand to form a new sequence, they can do so. They must meld it immediately. They may then lay down any other melds they have in their hand and discard. The turn then passes to the left, as normal.

If a player discards a card that another player can use to form a new three or four of a kind, that player may draw the card immediately, even if it’s not their turn. As with a sequence formed with a discard, the meld must be laid on the table immediately. The player can then lay down any other melds, as desired, and discards to end their turn. The next player to the left still plays next, not the player whose turn would have been next had the active player not interrupted—this often results in players getting skipped.

If two players can draw and meld the same discard, the player melding the three or four of a kind has priority.

Ending the hand

The hand ends when a player has no cards left in their hand after melding and discarding. (A final discard is always required.) This player wins the hand. All of the other players total up the value of the deadwood left in their hands, as follows:

  • 7s—20 points each
  • Face cards—10 points each
  • All other cards—their pip value

The winner of the hand scores the total of all of the other players’ deadwood scores. If a player goes out without having previously melded any cards at all (i.e. they melded all seven cards at once, then discarded), they score double for that hand.

The player to the left of the dealer becomes the new dealer for the next hand. Game play continues until a predetermined stopping point, either a certain number of hands or a target score. Whoever has the highest score at that point wins the game.

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Kontsina

Kontsina (also sometimes known as Koltsina or Kolitsina) is a straightforward fishing game for two to four players. Much like in Cassino, players try to capture cards laid out on the table. This can be done through matching cards in rank, or by adding the values of the target cards together to equal the rank of a card in your hand.

Like Xeri, Kontsina originates in Greece. There, the game is often learned and enjoyed by children. A more complex Greek game, Diloti, is similar to a merge between Kontsina and Xeri, allowing more latitude for strategy.

Object of Kontsina

The object of Kontsina is to capture as many cards as possible. Cards are captured with a card matching them in rank, or by using one card from the hand to capture a combination of cards that add up to its rank.

Setup

To play Kontsina, you’ll need a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. Of course, to make your Kontsina game the place to be, you’ll want to play using a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. You’ll also want something to keep score with, like pencil and paper.

Shuffle and deal four cards to each player. Then, deal four cards face up on the table. The rest of the deck becomes the stock.

Game play

The player to the dealer’s left goes first. On their turn, a player may play a single card from their hand. If the card doesn’t match any of the other cards on the table, it is called laying the card. A card that is laid simply remains on the table. However, if possible, a player will normally try to match another card on the table, as doing so allows them to capture the card.

Capturing cards

The simplest way to capture a card is to merely match it by rank. For example, a jack can capture another jack, a 4 can capture another 4, and so on. Note that if there are multiple cards on the table of the same rank, a player can only capture one of them through matching.

Another way a player may capture a card is by playing a card that two or more cards on the table add up to in pip value. For example, a 9 could be used to capture a 5 and a 4, or a 6 and a 3, or a 2, 3, and 4, and so on. Aces are considered to have a value of one. Face cards do not have a value in this way and can only be captured by matching by rank.

When a player captures a card, the cards so captured, as well as the card used to capture them, are placed face-down in a pile in front of the player. This pile is kept separate from the player’s hand, and no player may look through it until the hand is over.

After playing one card, whether it captures anything or not, the player’s turn ends. The turn then passes to the left.

Replenishing the hands

When each player has played four times, everyone will be out of cards. The dealer then deals four new cards to each player from the stock, and the game continues.

Ending the hand

The hand ends when all of the players are out of cards and there are none remaining in the stock. Any remaining cards on the table are taken by the last player to capture any cards. Each player then looks through their captured-cards pile, and scores points as follows:

  • Two points for capturing the most cards. If two or more players tie for capturing the most cards, these two points are not scored by anyone.
  • One point for capturing the most clubs.
  • One point for capturing the 2♣. (Note that the 2♣ still counts as a club for the purpose of capturing the most clubs.)
  • One point for capturing the 10♦.

The deal then passes to the left, and a new hand is played. Game play continues until at least one player reaches a predetermined score, for example, 21 points. Whichever player has the highest score at that point is the winner. If there is a tie, additional tiebreaker hands are played until a winner is determined.

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