Cactus

Cactus is a card game for two players where memory plays a crucial role. Initially, all of a player’s cards are face down, so they will have no knowledge of the value of their hand. However, as the game continues, the initial, unknown cards will be replaced with cards the player does know the identity of. They still can’t look at the cards, though—so they have to remember which card is which to make sure they don’t accidentally discard or reveal the wrong card!

Cactus is part of a small family of games collectively referred to as “Golf” (distinct from the better-known Golf solitaire game). They carry this name because, like in the sport of golf, the goal is to end with the lowest score. Cactus is a Golf variant hailing from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Object of Cactus

The object of Cactus is to end the game with the lowest point total. Players try to reduce their point total by selectively discarding and drawing cards.

Setup

To play Cactus, you’ll need a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. To make sure that your cards are always durable enough to stand up to your game, always use Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards.

Shuffle and deal four cards to each player. Players may not look at their cards. Each player arranges their cards in a two-by-two grid in front of them, making sure to keep them face down. Place the stub face down in the center of the table, forming the stock.

Game play

Game play in Cactus revolves around players trying to reduce the total point value of the cards in their hands. The values of each card are as follows:

  • Aces: one point.
  • Kings: zero points.
  • Queens and jacks: ten points each.
  • All other cards: pip value.

The non-dealer goes first. They draw a card from the stock and look at it, keeping it hidden from the dealer. They may then swap it with any of the face-down cards in front of them. The player may not look at the face-down cards before deciding which to swap. The player then turns the card they wish to remove face up and places it next to the stock, forming the discard pile. The card drawn is placed face down in the vacant spot in the layout.

Once a card has been placed on the layout, a player cannot look at it again. Instead, they must remember which card is which for the rest of the game!

After the non-dealer has discarded, the dealer plays. On this and all subsequent turns, a player may choose to draw the top card of the discard pile rather than from the stock.

Matching cards

At any time, even if it’s not their turn, if a player believes a card in their layout matches the top card of the discard pile, they may turn the card face up. If the card does indeed match, they may discard the matching card. Their layout will now be one card smaller. If the card does not match, they turn the card back face down, then draw two penalty cards from the stock and add them to their layout without looking at them.

Power cards

Queens through 6s are called power cards, allow a player to invoke a special move when drawn from the stock. Instead of swapping the power card with a card from the layout, a player can simply discard it, then perform the appropriate action, according to the card’s rank:

  • Queen: Swap any card from your layour with a card from your opponent’s layout. You may not look at either card before swapping.
  • Jack, 10, or 9: You may look at any one of your opponent’s cards. They don’t get to know what it is.
  • 8, 7, or 6: You may look at any one of your own cards.

A player may also choose to play a power card to their layout, as normal. Doing so does not invoke the special power associated with the card.

If a power card ends up in the discard pile without having been used, that is, if it is discarded from a player’s layout, the opponent may draw it off the discard pile. They may then immediately re-discard it and invoke the power.

Ending the game

Game play continues until one player is satisfied with their layout. At the end of their turn, they call out “Cactus!” Their opponent then has one more turn in which to act. After the opponent takes their turn, both players turn up all of their cards. Whichever player has the lower total score is the winner.

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Superfecta

Superfecta is a betting game for two or more players. In Superfecta, players are betting on a horse race simulated by drawing cards from a deck. Players can simply bet on which horse they think will win, or can place more exotic wagers to try to predict the order of finish of two or more horses!

Superfecta is based on Horse Race, a much older game which appeared in John Scarne’s Scarne on Cards (written 1949, revised 1965). Horse racing has changed a lot since 1965, and so have card games. Bookmaking isn’t a part of horse racing anymore; horse betting is done with a parimutuel system, where the winning bettors are paid out from the bets of the losers. Fortunately, it’s much easier to implement such a system in a card game than it is to play bookie—most people don’t have such a reflexive grasp of probability to allow them to quote odds in real time.

Thus, we’ve updated the old game of Horse Race to create a new game we call Superfecta. We’ve eliminated the bookmaking, and worked in a few different wagers used in modern horse racing to add excitement to the game. We think the result is a smoother and more fun experience for your game night.

Object of Superfecta

The object of Superfecta is to win money by successfully predicting which of the four suits will win a race. Additional money can be won by successfully predicting the second, third, and fourth-place finishers.

Setup

Horse Race layout

To play Superfecta, you’ll need a standard 52-card pack of playing cards. Of course, using a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards will allow you to provide a polished and professional casino feel to your players.

You’ll also need something to bet with, like poker chips. Decide amongst your players whether you want them to represent real money or not. If so, each player buys their desired amount of chips. Otherwise, distribute an equal number of chips to each player. Determine what the minimum bet for each pool will be, for example $1. Additionally, you’ll need some paper and pen for each player to record their bets on.

The dealer will be responsible for managing three pots, each corresponding to the different types of bets available in the game. The three pools should clearly be labeled “WIN”, “EXA”, and “SFC”. You can create a betting layout on a piece of posterboard or felt. Another option is to place each pot in a bowl, or use the indentations in a cupcake tin. The exact form of the layout isn’t important, as long it clearly establishes which bet each pile of chips belongs to.

Remove the four aces from the deck and line them up on a horizontal row. This row represents the starting gate. Then, shuffle the remainder of the deck and deal a column of six cards perpendicular to the starting line, forming the rail. Refer to the attached image for an example layout.

Game play

Before placing any bets, the players can take a look at the rail to determine the probability of each horse winning the race. The more frequently a suit appears in the layout, the fewer cards of that suit are in the rest of the deck. Therefore, the more cards of a given suit are on the rail, the less likely that suit’s horse is to win.

After each player has decided on what they would like to bet on, they write down their name and their wagers on a slip of paper (their ticket) and pass it, along with the money needed to cover the wagers, to the dealer. Each wager must also list the horses the bets are placed on. The dealer verifies the correct amount of money has been provided. They then place the money in the three betting pools, according to the player’s bets. The dealer retains the ticket until later.

Types of wagers

There are three types of wager available to players: the win, exacta, and superfecta. Players may make bets on as many of these different wagers, or none of them, as they wish. The amount of each bet alone must equal the minimum bet. If the player chooses to bet a greater amount, it must be a multiple of the minimum bet. A player may make multiple bets of the same type, but must bet at least the minimum on each.

The three types of bets are:

  • Win (WIN): A bet on one particular horse to win. The player is only paid if this horse wins the race.
  • Exacta (EXA): A bet on a horse to win, and a second horse to come in second. The horses must finish in the exact order listed on the ticket (their order cannot be reversed).
  • Superfecta (SFC): A bet on the exact order all four horses will finish in.

On their ticket, players list each bet on its own line, starting with the amount of the bet, then the type of bet, then the horses (in order) the bet covers. For brevity, horses can be listed as “H”, “D”, “C”, and “S” for hearts, diamonds, clubs, and spades respectively.

Example ticket

Here is an example showing how a player might fill out their ticket. In parenthesis is what needs to happen for that bet to win (this is for illustrative purposes, a player would not need to write this out). The minimum bet in this game is $1.

  • Player: James
  • $2 WIN D (diamonds comes in first)
  • $1 EXA D/C (diamonds comes in first and clubs comes in second)
  • $1 EXA C/D (clubs comes in first and diamonds comes in second)
  • $1 SFC D/C/H/S (horses place in this exact order)

This ticket would have a total price of $5. Note that both exacta wagers cannot win here; the player is making multiple bets of the same type to increase the likelihood of realizing a payout from at least one bet.

Running the race

After all players have placed their bets, the race begins! The dealer begins to deal cards, one at a time, from the stock. With each card dealt, the ace of that suit is advanced one space toward the end of the line (using the rail cards as a guide). The dealer continues drawing cards until one ace crosses the finish line (i.e. seven cards of that suit have been dealt). That horse wins the race. Further cards are dealt to determine the second- and third-place finishers, with cards belonging to already-finished horses simply being ignored.

After the order of finish has been determined, the bets are paid out. The dealer checks the tickets to determine who has a winning bet. A player with a winning bet takes the pool of that bet type. If there are multiple players with a winning bet, they divide the appropriate pool among themselves as evenly as possible. Any remainder, as well as pools that have no winning bets, are carried over to the next race.

Game play continues until a predetermined number of races (such as 12). After this race, any money left in the pools is divided equally among the players.


If you give this game a try, let us know what you think in the comments! Any suggestions that would improve the game would be appreciated.

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Ristiseiska

Ristiseiska tableau (layout)

Ristiseiska is a card game for three to five players. It is a simple Stops game very similar to Fan Tan. However, in Ristiseiska, whenever you are unable to play a card, you are given one by your opponent to the right. Given that your opponent gets to choose the card, it’s not likely to be one that’s very helpful to you!

Ristiseiska is originally from Finland, and is an extremely popular game there. The name Ristiseiska is Finnish for “seven of clubs”, because the player holding the 7♣ is the first to play.

Object of Ristiseiska

The object of Ristiseiska is to be the first player to run out of cards. Players get rid of their cards by playing them to the tableau.

Setup

To play Ristiseiska, you’ll need one standard 52-card deck of playing cards. Be sure to play with Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, because then you’ll know your cards will always be durable enough to last for game after game.

Shuffle and deal the entire deck out to all the players. Some players may end up with more cards than others.

Game play

The player holding the 7♣ plays first. They play it face up to the center of the table, becoming the first card of the tableau. The turn then passes to the left.

If the next player holds any other 7, they may play it to the right of the 7♣, forming a horizontal row. If they hold the 6♣, they may play it in the space below the 7♣. Likewise, if they hold the 8♣, they may play it to the spot just above the 7♣. As further 7s are added to the layout, the 6s and 8s of those respective suits may also be played in the appropriate spots.

Once a 6 has been played, further cards of the same suit may be built onto it, in descending rank order downward to the ace. Similarly, once an 8 has been played, later players may build onto the 8, upward to the king. Once a pile has reached the ace or the king, the pile is turned face down to show no further cards may be built upon it.

Begging for cards

A player may find themselves unable to play any card to the tableau on their turn. If it is their first turn of the game, they simply pass and play continues as normal. On any other turn, they must beg for a card. They ask their opponent to the right for a card. This player selects any card they wish from their hand (usually a card which is unlikely to be played for a long time) and passes it, face down, to the beggar. The beggar’s turn then ends.

A beggar cannot take a player’s last card from them. If a player must beg, and the player to the right only has one card, they skip over that player and beg from the player second to the right.

If a player is found to have begged when they did, in fact, have a valid play in their hand, each of their opponents passes them one card as a penalty.

Ending the game

Game play ends when one player runs out of cards. That player wins the game.

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Vazhushal

Vazhushal is a rummy game for two to six players. Its most distinguishing feature is the practice of organizing the discards into a line, rather than a typical discard pile. If a player can use a card anywhere in the discard line in a new meld, they can take it—and all the cards on top of it!

Vazhushal originates from the city of Chennai, India. The name translates from the Tamil word for “wipe”, referring to the way that a player can “wipe” a considerable number of cards away from the discard pile in one fell swoop!

Object of Vazhushal

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

Setup

A two-player game of Vazhushal will need one standard 52-card deck of playing cards, including two jokers. For a game with three or more players, you’ll need two 52-card decks with two jokers each (108 cards in all). For a worry-free hosting experience, make sure you always use the most durable playing cards in the world, Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards.

Shuffle and deal thirteen cards to each player. If anyone has been dealt three or more instances of both copies of the same card (for example 2♥-2♥-5♣-5♣-J♦-J♦), they must alert the other players. In this case, the hands are thrown in, and the same dealer deals new hands. Otherwise, the dealer places the stub in the center of the table, forming the stock. They then turn the top card of the stock face up and placed it next to the stock, which becomes the first card of the discard line. The bottom card of the stock is turned up as well and placed so that it is partially covered by the stock. This card is called the negative joker.

Game play

The player to the dealer’s left goes first. Game play in Vazhushal follows the normal draw-meld-discard flow found in most rummy games. A player starts their turn by drawing, either from the stock or from the discard line (as described below). Then, they meld any cards they are able and willing to. Finally, the player discards one card to the discard line.

Melding

Vazhushal allows the two types of meld commonly found in rummy games. One is the sequence, which is three or more consecutively-ranked cards of the same suit, like 5-6-7♦. Aces can be at either end of a sequence, but not in the middle (A-2-3 or Q-K-A, but not K-A-2). The other type of meld is three or four cards of the same rank. Two cards of the same rank and suit are not allowed in the same meld.

Jokers are wild for the purposes of melding. The cards of the same rank, but the opposite color, of the negative joker are considered wild. For example, if the A♠ is the negative joker, the A♦ and A♥ are both wild. A wild card being used as its natural value, like a wild A♦ in a Q-K-A♦ meld, does not count as a wild card.

There are some restrictions on melding. A player cannot have two melds identical in suit and sequence at any time. Also, a meld cannot consist of only jokers; it must have at least one natural card in it.

A player’s first meld of the hand must be a sequence of three or more cards with no wild cards. Once this is done, a player may meld whatever they are able to on their turn. Melds are placed face up in front of the player they belong to. A player cannot lay off cards on their opponents’ melds.

A player can rearrange their previously-melded cards to facilitate new melding as much as they like. However, there must always be a sequence of three or more cards with no wilds, and all of the melds must follow the rules outlined above. Also, a player cannot return previously-melded cards to their hand.

The discard line

After a player has melded, they end their turn by discarding one card to the discard line. Unlike most rummy games, in Vazhushal, the discards are not kept in a simple pile. Instead, they’re spread out in a line, with each index kept clearly visible.

Drawing from the line

At the start of their turn, a player can choose to draw from the discard line instead. A player drawing from the discard line may take as many consecutive cards from the line that they wish, starting from the most-recently discarded. However, the deepest card taken (the one that was least-recently discarded) must immediately be used in a new meld (not an existing one already on the table). The new meld can be made using additional cards from the discard line as well. Having done this, the player then takes all of the cards on top of the drawn card (those discarded more recently) and adds them to their hand. These cards are then also available for melding.

For example, suppose the discard line contains the following (oldest) 7♦-Q♦-3♥-9♠-10♠-K♦-10♦ (newest). A player holds the 8♠ in their hand. They may start their turn by taking the 9♠ and 10♠ from the line to form a new meld. This 9♠ is immediately used in a new meld, so the draw is legal. The player would also take the K♦-10♦ into their hand, as those cards were on top of the 9♠.

Drawing from the line for the initial meld

A player who has not made their initial natural sequence meld may only draw from the discard line if the card drawn allows them to immediately form the sequence meld. A player who has not yet melded, but already has a natural sequence meld in hand, may meld this sequence first, then draw from the discard line, so long as the card drawn can immediately be used in a meld. This is the only time a player can meld before drawing.

Going out

When a player is able to form all of their cards into melds except for one, which they then discard, they have gone out. That player wins the game.

If the stock is depleted before a player can go out, game play stops at the end of the turn that the last card was drawn from the stock. Each player may make any additional melds from their hand at that point. Then, the hand scores are determined. Aces and face cards count as ten points each, and all other cards count as their pip value. Wild cards count as the card they are substituting for. Each player calculates the value of their melds and subtracts the value of the cards left in their hand. The player with the highest score wins the game.

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Lórum

Lórum is a card game for four players. Lórum is a great example of a compendium game, rolling seven different styles of game play into one game. In Lórum’s case, the first four hands are played as a trick-taking game. Then, it’s followed up with a point-counting game. The two final hands are Stops games. Then, the cycle begins anew, with a new dealer.

Lórum originated in Hungary at the very beginning of the 20th century. It is the oldest member of a group of compendium games that all involve avoiding tricks. Other games likely descended from Lórum are the French game Barbu and the Russian game King.

Object of Lórum

The object of Lórum is to have the most chips after 28 hands. On some hands, players collect chips by avoiding taking certain cards, which vary from hand to hand. On others, the goal is to run out of cards first.

Setup

To play Lórum, you’ll need a 32-card deck of cards. You can easily make such a deck out of a sturdy deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards by removing all the 6s through 2s. You’ll be left with a deck that has only aces, face cards, and 10s through 7s in each of the four suits.

Lórum is typically played with hard scoring, so you’ll need a bunch of tokens or chips. An amount of real money may be attached to each chip, if desired. If so, each player purchases however many chips they’d like to start the game with. Otherwise, distribute the same number of chips to each player.

Determine the first dealer randomly. This dealer will deal the first seven hands, then pass to the next dealer, who will deal the next seven, and so on. Shuffle and deal eight cards to each player, exhausting the whole pack.

Game play

A game of Lórum cycles through seven different types of hands. Several of these are trick-taking games. The player to the dealer’s left leads to the first trick. Each player, proceeding clockwise, plays one card to the trick. They must follow suit if able; otherwise, they can play any card they wish. Whoever played the highest card of the suit led wins the trick; they take the cards and place them in a face-down won-tricks pile in front of them. That player then leads to the next trick.

Cards rank in their usual order, with aces high.

The seven hands

1. No hearts

The first hand is played as a trick-taking game. Hearts cannot be led to the first trick.

After all eight tricks have been played, each player counts up the number of hearts in their won-tricks pile. What happens next depends on how many players captured hearts:

  • All players took at least one heart: For each heart captured, a player pays one chip to the pot.
  • Three players took hearts, and one didn’t: For each heart captured, a player pays one chip directly to the person who didn’t take any hearts. The player who didn’t take any hearts will collect eight chips from their opponents.
  • Two players took hearts, two didn’t: For each heart captured, a player pays one chip. The two players who didn’t take hearts each get four of these chips.
  • One player took all eight hearts: Each player who didn’t take hearts has to pay the one who took the hearts eight chips! They’ll end up receiving a total of 24 chips from their opponents.

2. Queens

In this trick-taking hand, players must pay when they capture queens. Capturing the Q♥ costs four points, the Q♦ three, the Q♠ two, and the Q♣ one.

  • All players took one queen: Players pay into the pot.
  • Three players took queens, and one didn’t: The players who took queens pay the person who didn’t directly. The player who didn’t take any queens will collect ten chips from their opponents.
  • Two players took hearts, two didn’t: The two players who captured queens pay, and the ten chips are split between the two players who didn’t take queens.
  • One player took all four queens: Each player who didn’t take queens has to pay the one who took the queens ten chips! The player who captured all four queens gets a total of 30 chips from their opponents.

3. No tricks

A trick-taking hand where the aim is to avoid taking any tricks at all. Be sure to keep the tricks separate in the won-tricks pile by placing them atop each other at right angles to one another. Payments are made the same as on the no-hearts hand.

4. Hairy Ape

Players do not look at their cards as they’re being dealt. Instead, they pick their cards up and hold them with their backs facing them. This means that they can only see their opponents’ hands and not their own. Players then play a faintly ridiculous trick-taking game. If at least one of the cards played follows suit to the lead, the trick is captured by the highest card of the suit led, as normal. Otherwise, each player captures their own card. Whoever captures the K♥ pays four chips into the pot.

For a more serious game, hold the cards facing toward you and just play a normal trick-taking game, avoiding capturing the K♥.

In any case, once the K♥ has been captured, there’s no point in playing the hand out. The deal can be abandoned at that point.

5. Train

For this hand, aces count eleven each, kings count four, queens are worth three, jacks two, and 10s one. The remaining ranks (9s, 8s, and 7s) have no value. The player to the dealer’s left plays any card they wish, and call out its value. The next player to the left plays a card, calling out the combined total of their card and the one before it, and so on.

The player who makes the running total greater than or equal to 25 must pay a chip into the pot. The player who brings the count to 50 pays two chips, to 75 three chips, and to 100 four chips.

6. Quart

The player to the dealer’s left plays any card they wish. The player who holds the next higher card of the same suit plays it, regardless of turn order. When an ace is played, it is followed by the 7 of that suit. This continues until either four cards have been played, or play cannot continue because the card continuing the sequence has already been played. When this happens, the cards are turned face down, and the last person to play may play whatever they like, starting a new sequence.

The hand continues until someone runs out of cards. Each of their opponents pays that player one chip for every card they hold.

7. Domino

The player to the dealer’s left begins by playing any card they want. The next player must then play a card of the same suit either one rank below or one rank above the starter, placing it to the left or the right of the starter respectively. They may also play another card of the same rank as the starter, placing it below the starter to begin a new row. Game play continues in this manner, with the players laying the deck onto the table in a grid-like layout. If a player has no valid card to play on their turn, they pass.

When a player runs out of cards, each of their opponents pays one chip into the pot for every card they hold. The winning player then takes the entire pot.

The eighth hand onward

After playing seven hands with the same dealer, the deal passes to the left. The new dealer will then deal the next seven hands, starting with a no-hearts hand, and running through the above cycle. Then they pass the deck off to the next dealer, and so on. The game continues until all four players have dealt seven hands. Whichever player has the most chips at that point wins the game.

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Chinese Ten

Chinese Ten layout

Chinese Ten, also known in Chinese as Jian Hong Dian (拣红点), which translates to Pick Up Red Spots, is a simple card game for two to four players. It is a member of the fishing family of games, where players try to capture cards from the table using cards in their hand. In Chinese Ten, players are trying to make pairs of cards whose values total ten. However, there’s one other little quirk of this game—the red cards are worth the vast majority of the points; the black cards are mostly worthless!

Object of Chinese Ten

The object of Chinese Ten is to amass the highest score by capturing red cards from the layout. Cards are captured by pairing them with another card, such that the total pip value of the pair is ten. Cards that already have a pip value of ten are paired by matching.

Setup

To play Chinese Ten, all you need is a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. To make sure your deck of cards stands up to the rigors of extended play, always make sure you play with a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards.

Divide 24 by the number of players in the game. This number is the number of cards to deal each player. That is, in a two player game, deal twelve cards to each. In a three-player game, deal eight cards to each. In a four-player game, deal six to each. Place the stub in the center of the table, face down, forming the stock. Turn four cards face up from the top of the stock, putting them at the corners of the stock, as shown in the diagram above.

Game play

The player to the dealer’s left goes first. A player’s turn begins with them playing a card from their hand face up to the table. If the pip value of this card plus the pip value of a card already on the table add up to ten, the player captures both cards. For example, a 7 on the table can be captured by playing a 3. A player can capture face cards and 10s on the table by playing another card of the same rank.

When a player captures a card, they place both it and the card used to capture it in a face-down won-cards pile on the table in front of them. Players do not add cards to their hands; the cards they are dealt initially are the only cards they will have for the whole game.

After playing a card from their hand, the player turns a card up from the stock. If this card can capture a card on the table, the player makes the capture. Otherwise, the card is simply left on the table with the others. The turn then passes to the left.

Special rules apply to face cards, 10s, and 5s, to prevent them from becoming uncapturable. If the initial layout includes a three-of-a-kind of one of these ranks, the fourth card of that rank captures the other three. When the four cards of the initial layout are all face cards, 10s, or 5s, the dealer captures all four of these cards before the first player’s turn.

Scoring

The game should end with the last player running out of cards on the same turn the deck runs out, with the last card in the deck capturing the last card in the layout. Each player then turns over their won-cards pile and calculates its value, as follows:

  • The A♣: 40 points in a four-player game, 0 points in a two- or three-player game
  • The A♠: 30 points in a four- or three-player game, 0 points in a two-player game
  • All other black cards: 0 points
  • Red aces: 20 points each
  • Red face cards, 10s, and 9s: 10 points each
  • All other red cards: Pip value

The player with the highest score wins the game.

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Umtali

Umtali is a rummy game for two players. Unlike most rummy games, which only allow sets or sequences of three or more cards, Umtali includes those melds, as well as marriages, and even single cards and pairs under certain circumstances! The result is a fascinating rummy game with lots of melding opportunities. That also means it’s a quick game—expert players can play a hand in five minutes!

Umtali’s heyday is said to have been during the days of colonial Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). Indeed, the name Umtali is the former name of what’s now called Mutare, the fourth-largest city in Zimbabwe. Umtali was a popular pastime among train passengers in Rhodesia; its quick play time and the limited play space required make it a great travel game. Nevertheless, by the late 1970s the game had mostly died out in Africa.

Object of Umtali

The object of Umtali is to score more points than your opponent over the course of four hands. Players score points by forming their hand into melds.

Setup

To play Umtali, you need a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. Keep your game protected from drink spills and damage by using a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. You’ll also need something to keep score with, like pencil and paper or a smartphone app.

Shuffle and deal ten cards to each player. Place the deck stub in the center of the table, forming the stock. Turn up the top card of the stock and place it next to it. This card becomes the first card of the discard pile. Note that the stock and discard pile divide the play area into two halves; the side nearest each player will be where they play their melds.

Game play

The non-dealer plays first. As in most rummy games, a player always starts their turn by drawing, then melding if possible, and finally discarding.

A player begins their turn by drawing a card. They may either draw the top card of the stock, or the top card of the discard player. If the player draws from the discard pile, and they are immediately able to meld the card they drew, they may then also take the next card of the discard pile if they can immediately play it too.

Melding

After drawing, a player can meld as many cards as they wish. There are three basic types of melds in Umtali. The first is the set or group, which consists of three or four cards of the same rank, other than jacks. Second is the sequence, which consists of three or more consecutive number cards of the same suit (for example, 5-6-7♥). Aces are always low, ranking below the 2, in sequences. The third is the marriage, which consists of the king and queen of the same suit (e.g. K-Q♣).

Whenever a player wishes to play one of these melds, they place the cards in a vertical, overlapping column, face up, on their side of the play area.

Single-card melds

Once a set or sequence has been laid down, it can be extended by either player. For example, the 5-6-7♥ sequence can be extended by adding the 4♥ or 8♥, or a 2♦-2♥-2♣ set extended with the 2♠. However, the extending card is not added in with the existing meld. Instead, the player extending the meld states their intention to do so (e.g. “extending your heart sequence with the 4♥”), and places it on their own side of the table as a new, single-card meld. Single-card melds can in turn be extended the same way, with other cards of the same rank, or a card of the same suit one rank above or below it.

If a player holds a set of cards that form a valid basic meld (a set, sequence, or marriage), it must always be played as such. A player cannot break it up and play it as several single-card melds.

Melding jacks

Special rules apply for melding jacks. Jacks cannot form part of a set or sequence. Instead, they must be melded individually, as single-card melds. Single-card 10s or queens may then be played from them.

Going out

A player has gone out when they have melded all of the cards in their hand. On the turn that a player goes out, they may meld one pair (the only time this is a valid meld). A player may discard when going out, but they are not required to. If they do discard, they may choose to turn their discard face down.

The opponent then gets one further turn to try to go out as well. If the player went out with a face-down discard, the opponent must draw from the stock. They then meld as many cards as possible, with pairs being treated like two-card sets for the purposes of extensions. The opponent also has the opportunity to meld a pair, if this would result in them going out. After allowing a discard, any remaining cards the opponent is unable to meld are then added to the side of the player who went out, as single-card melds.

Each player then scores the value of all of the cards on their side of the play area. Face cards and 10s score five points, and all other cards score one point. Marriages count double (i.e. they score 20 points each, rather than 5 for the king and 5 for the queen).

Whichever player has the highest score at the end of four hands wins the game.

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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.

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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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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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.

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