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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
Trash is a simple card game for two or more players. In Trash, players compete to fill in a ten-card layout first. The cards you get to place are the luck of the draw, however, pretty much making any form of strategy impossible. It is an excellent game for children, though, and can be used as a teaching tool for kids still learning their numbers.
Object of Trash
The object of Trash is to be the first player to fill in a layout of ten cards with one card of each rank from ace to 10.
To play Trash, you’ll need a one standard 52-card deck of playing cards for every two players besides yourself. That is, for two players, you’ll need one deck, for three or four players, you’ll need two decks, for five or six you need three decks, and so on. Shuffle all the decks together. It doesn’t matter if the back designs don’t all match. As always, using Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards will make your game night better.
The player to the dealer’s left goes first. They begin their turn by drawing one card from the stock. If the card drawn is an ace through 10, they place it in the appropriate spot on their layout, as shown by the image above. Jacks are wild and may be placed anywhere in the layout. The player then flips over the face-down card previously occupying that space. They then place that card, and so on. A player’s turn ends whenever they expose either a card they cannot place on the layout, a queen, or a king. When this happens, they discard it and their turn ends. Discards are placed face up next to the stock, forming a discard pile.
The turn then passes to the next player. If the previous player’s discard fits into their layout, they draw it and begin their turn by playing it to their layout. Otherwise, they begin the turn by drawing a card from the stock.
If, at any point, a player draws a natural card that would fit in their layout in a spot currently occupied by a jack, they may place the natural card. The jack is then free to be played to any other space in the layout.
Should the stock be depleted before a hand ends, set aside the top card of the discard pile. Shuffle the rest of the cards, and turn them face down to form a new stock. The old top card remains as the first card in the new discard pile.
Game play continues until a player has filled in all ten spots of their layout. That player is the winner of the hand.
After the first hand, the cards are collected, and the deal passes to the left. The new dealer deals the winner of the previous hand a layout of only nine cards, leaving the previous 10 spot blank. To win a second hand, the player must only fill in the spots corresponding to ace through 9. However, this means that exposing a 10 will end their turn, the same as kings and queens. When this player wins a second hand, they are dealt an eight-card layout, corresponding to aces through 8s, and so on.
A player wins the entire game by being the first player to fill in a one-card layout with either an ace or a jack.
Dingo is a strategic card game for four players. In this game, being the last player to play a black card of a given rank gets you points, but being the second-to-last gives your opponent points. So what’s a player to do? A good Dingo player has to keep track of the location of as many cards as possible! That, plus a healthy amount of plain intuition, lets a player determine when they should play and when they might be better off passing.
Dingo doesn’t appear to be very closely related to any other card game we’ve seen. That means someone probably just invented it from scratch. Who that might be, though, we don’t know. We do know that it’s played most frequently in Cleveland, Ohio, so that’s most likely where it started out.
Object of Dingo
The object of Dingo is to score the most points possible. This is primarily done by being the last player to play a black card of a particular rank.
A game of Dingo requires a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. You can easily give your game a real upgrade by playing with a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards.
Remove all of the diamonds from the deck, except for the A♦. Arrange the diamonds in ascending rank order and place them in a pile, face up, in the middle of the table, with the 2♦ showing. These diamonds are called rabbits. Shuffle the remaining 40 cards and deal them out evenly. Each player will have ten cards.
Discards and exchanges
Starting with the dealer, each player discards one card other than an ace from their hand, face up, to a discard pile visible to each of the players. Aces may never be discarded. Players should take care to keep the discard pile squared up, so that only the most recent card played to it is visible.
After everyone has discarded, the dealer chooses one card from their hand and passes it to their left. That player looks at the card passed to them, and likewise passes a card from their hand to the left. This continues until all four players have passed. Each player, again starting with the dealer, then discards a card, as before.
The dealer then leads the next round of passing, this time passing a card to the player directly across from them. The player to the dealer’s left does likewise. Then the turn continues to the left, with the player across from the dealer passing a card back to the dealer. Finally, the player to the dealer’s right passes a card back across to the player on the dealer’s left. Each player in turn, again starting with the dealer, discards a third card.
The final round of passing begins with the dealer, as you might expect, passing a card to their right. The turn still follows the usual clockwise order, though, meaning that the only player who gets to see the card they’ve gotten before choosing to pass a card of their own will be the player to the dealer’s right. Once this is done, there is a fourth and final round of discards. Each player will have discarded four of their initial ten cards, leaving them with their final six-card hands.
Hunting the rabbits
With the players having established their hands, the hunts now begin. The dealer calls out the rank of the card showing on the rabbit pile (for the first hunt of the game, this will be the 2). Whichever player holds the heart of that rank, called the dingo, must immediately play it. If nobody holds the dingo, meaning it was discarded, the hunt ends with nobody scoring, and the rabbit is discarded.
If someone does play the dingo, each player after them in turn may play one of the black cards of that rank, known as the wolves. Unlike the dingo, a player holding a wolf is not compelled to play it; they may simply pass. Wolves can only be played by players other than the dingo player.
When the dingo and only one wolf is played, the wolf catches the rabbit—the person playing the wolf places it and the rabbit in a score pile in front of them. The dingo player also places the dingo in their score pile. If both wolves are played, the second wolf played catches the rabbit. The dingo player places both the dingo and the first wolf in their score pile.
If all three players pass, with no wolves being played, the rabbit is discarded. The dingo then counts against the player who played it. They place the dingo in a penalty pile placed at right angles to their own score pile.
After each hunt is completed, the hunt for the next-higher rank begins. This continues for each rank from 2 all the way up to king.
Hunting the A♦
After the players complete the king hunt, they hunt the ace. Because all of the aces, including the A♦ (the rabbit), are in the players’ hands, this hunt goes a little differently. First, the dingo is played, as usual. Each player in turn then may play one or both wolves (playing wolves is still optional). If both wolves have been played by the time whoever holds the rabbit takes their turn, they may play it then. (If a player holds wolves and the rabbit, they must play the wolves first. They can then immediately play the rabbit afterward.) After the other three players have taken their turn, the dingo player gets a turn to play wolves or the rabbit, if they have them. The hunt then ends.
If the dingo was the only card played and everyone else passed, the dingo is added to that player’s penalty pile, as usual. If any wolves were played, those that played them add them to their own score pile. The dingo player scores for the dingo. The player holding the rabbit adds it to their score pile if they were able to play it; otherwise, they reveal it to the other players and put it in their penalty pile.
After the ace hunt is complete, the players expose their remaining cards. Players should not have any red cards remaining in their hand; playing these cards at some point in the hand is compulsory. Any players who are found to hold any red cards forfeit the game.
Each player tallies up the value of their score piles. The A♦ is worth ten points, all other aces three points each, face cards and 10s two points each, and 9s and lower one point each. The players then compute the value of their penalty piles the same way, although the A♦ is worth only three points in the penalty pile. Finally, by subtracting the value of the penalty pile from that of the score pile, the players arrive at their scores for the game.
Whichever player has the highest score wins the game. In the event of a tie, the player holding the highest rabbit in their score pile (not their penalty pile) wins.
Hasenpfeffer is a trick-taking game, based on Euchre, for four players in partnerships. Hasenpfeffer adds a bidding system to determine who gets to choose the trump suit. It also adds a joker as the most powerful trump in the game. However, if you hold the joker, and nobody else bids, you have to, whether you want to or not!
Despite the German name, Hasenpfeffer isn’t from Germany, but instead most likely originates from the Pennsylvania Dutch, much like Euchre itself. While there is a rabbit stew called hasenpfeffer, the name more likely derives from the German idiom “Hase im Pfeffer“, which roughly translates to “in a pickle”. This is particularly appropriate, considering that the player dealt the joker may well find themselves in a pickle because of it!
Object of Hasenpfeffer
The object of Hasenpfeffer is to be the first partnership to score ten or more points. Points are scored by taking tricks and by fulfilling contracts made by bidding.
Hasenpfeffer uses a unique 25-card pack. Fortunately, such a deck is easy to construct from a pack of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. Just add one joker and take out all the 2s through the 8s. You’ll be left with a deck with aces through 9s only in each of the four suits, plus the joker, of course.
The players need to be divided into two partnerships, with partners sitting across from one another. The turn of play will alternate between partnerships when going clockwise. You can decide the partnerships by whatever method you agree on—random card draw or just mutual agreement both work.
Shuffle and deal six cards to each player. Place the odd, 25th card face down in the center of the table, forming the widow.
As in Euchre, the card ranking in the trump suit is a little different than usual. The trump suit contains two extra cards the other suits do not: the joker, and an extra jack from the suit of the same color as the trump suit. The rank of cards in the trump suit is as follows:
- The joker.
- Right bower. Jack of trumps.
- Left bower. The jack of the suit as the same color as trumps is considered a trump, and is ranked here. (For example, if clubs were trump, the J♣ would be the right bower, and the J♠ would be the left bower.)
- All of the remaining cards, in their usual order, with ace high. (A, K, Q, 10, 9.)
Cards rank in the usual order, ace high, in the non-trump suits (save for the jack serving as the left bower).
The bidding begins with the player to the dealer’s left. This player may either pass or bid any number of tricks, from one to six, that they think their partnership can take if they get the right to choose the trump suit. The next player to the left, if they wish to bid, must make a higher bid than the preceding player; they may also pass. This continues until all four players have had a chance to bid. The dealer gets the final bid; the bidding does not continue for a second round.
Should all four players pass, the player holding the joker reveals it to the other players. This player is obligated to make a bid of three tricks, which automatically becomes the high bid for the hand. If the joker is the widow card (meaning nobody holds it), the hand is void, and a new hand is dealt by the next dealer.
The side which won the bidding becomes the declarers, and their opponents become the defenders. The high bidder takes the widow card into their hand, declares the trump suit for the hand, then discards one card, face down. The high bid becomes the declarers’ contract for that hand.
Play of the hand
The high bidder leads to the first trick. Each player to the left, in turn, then plays a card. If a player is able to follow suit, they must. Otherwise, they are free to play any card they wish, including a trump. The highest card of the suit led wins the trick, unless a trump is present, in which case the highest trump wins the trick.
When a player wins a trick, they do not add it to the hand. Rather, captured tricks are kept in a shared discard pile in front of one of the partners. Since scoring depends on the number of tricks captured, each trick should be placed onto the pile at right angles, so that the tricks can be easily separated after the hand. Whichever player wins a trick leads to the next one.
After all six tricks have been played, the hand is scored. If the declarers managed to capture a number of tricks equal to or greater than stipulated by their contract, they score one point per trick collected. If they do not, they lose points equal to the contract. For example, a partnership has a contract of four. If they take five tricks, they score five points. If they take three, they score –4.
Regardless of whether the declarers make their contract or not, the defenders always score one point for each trick they take.
Game play continues until one partnership reaches a score of ten or better. That team is the winner. If both partnerships reach a score of ten on the same hand, the declarers for that hand win the game. This makes it impossible to win a game while defending, unless the declarers fail to make their contract.
Last One is a variant of Crazy Eights for two to six players. Like other Crazy Eights variants, Last One takes the base gameplay of its parent game and adds additional cards beyond 8s that have special effects. It also incorporates a scoring system, allowing the game to go on beyond a single hand. Last One dates back to at least the 1970s, having been reported then being played in Maine.
Object of Last One
The object of Last One is to be the last one remaining under a certain point threshold. This is achieved by discarding as many cards as possible from your hand.
To play Last One, you’ll need access to a standard 52-card deck of playing cards with two jokers. If you don’t, do yourself a favor and grab a set of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. You’ll also need something to keep score with, whether it be the time-honored pencil and paper or something more modern, like a scorekeeping app on a phone.
Shuffle and deal the cards out. The dealer may choose to deal any number of cards for the hand, from four to eight. The dealer may also deal a nine-card hand if there is unanimous agreement among the players. Place the stub in the center of the table, forming the stock. Turn the top card of the stock face up; this card, the upcard, will be the top card of the discard pile.
The player to the dealer’s left normally goes first, unless the first upcard has a special effect that would change this, as described below. As in Crazy Eights, they must play a card to the discard pile that matches the current upcard in either suit or rank. This card becomes the new upcard. If a player has no cards that they are able or willing to play to the discard pile, they draw one card from the stock and the turn passes to the next player.
When a player is reduced to having one card in their hand, they must call out “last one”. If they fail to do so by the time the next person plays, they draw two cards from the stock as a penalty.
When the stock is depleted, set aside the current upcard and shuffle the remainder of the discard pile, turning it face down to start a new stock.
Special card effects
Almost half of the cards in the deck have some special effect that happens when they are played. The only cards that do not are 5s–7s, 9s, 10s, queens, and kings.
The next player must draw two cards and their turn is skipped.
After playing a 3, a player may stack any additional card on top of it, essentially giving them a free play. This stacked card becomes the new upcard.
Playing a 4 starts a run of plays called a melee. The player who discarded the 4 is the aggressor and the next player in turn becomes the defender. If anyone holds the 5 of the same suit as the 4, they may play it. In so doing, they become the new aggressor and the previous aggressor becomes the defender. This continues, with anyone holding the 6 of the appropriate suit being able to play it and becoming the new aggressor, and so on. If a player does not play, the most recent defender draws a number of cards equal to the pip value of the last card played. Play then continues as normal, starting with the player in turn order after the defender.
An 8 may be played at any time. The player who plays it names any one of the four suits, with the next player required to play a card of that suit, or switch suits with another 8.
The next player in turn is skipped.
The turn of play reverses direction. If, before the ace was played, play was proceeding to the left, it now proceeds to the right, and vice-versa.
A joker can represent any natural card in the deck, as chosen by the person who plays it. The next player must continue with a card of the same rank or suit as the card named.
Ending the hand
The hand ends when a player runs out of cards. That player, as well as any other player who holds only one card, scores zero for the hand. All other players total up the values of the cards in their hand, with jokers worth 40 points, 8s worth 25, aces worth 15, face cards worth 10 each, and all other cards worth their pip value. The total arrived at is added to their score.
The deal then passes to the left. When players reach a predetermined score threshold (such as 250 points), they drop out of play, sitting out of further hands. Game play continues until only one player is left. That player wins the game.
Backhand is a spinoff of Blackjack that removes one key element from the game—the ability to stand! In Backhand, the goal is not to be the closest to 21 without going over, as it is in Blackjack. Instead, the player must keep taking cards until they’re sure the next one is going to make them bust. If they’re right, only then do they win the hand!
Backhand was created by Louis Ginns in 2016 as a way of practicing Blackjack strategy. Ginns found himself focusing on guessing whether or not the next card to come was going to cause a bust, and soon abandoned Blackjack altogether in favor of developing a whole new game around this concept of predicting when a bust was going to happen. Ginns has since created an entire series of games based on the Backhand concept, introducing elements such as head-to-head play against a house dealer or another player.
Object of Backhand
The object of Backhand is to accurately predict when the next card to be dealt will send the value of the player’s hand over 21.
Backhand is played with one or more decks of playing cards, such as Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. One deck of cards is required for every two players in the game, so a three-player game would require two decks, a five-player game would require three decks, and so on.
Backhand can be played as either a betting game or simply to be the first to win a certain number of hands (or score a certain number of wins within a given number of hands). Ginns has also created a number of additional scoring systems to provide players with different challenges. If playing with betting, you’ll need something to bet with, like poker chips, and also to agree on maximum and minimum bets. Otherwise, you’ll need some way of keeping track of the number of hands each player has won. Pencil and paper works well for this purpose.
Players place the amount of their wagers in front of them (if playing with betting). Shuffle and deal two cards, face up, to each player. The remainder of the deck becomes the stock.
Before a player has the chance to act on their hand, any aces are discarded from the hand and replaced with a card from the stock. Aces are only discarded from the initial two cards dealt to the player; if an ace is dealt as a replacement card for a discarded ace, the newly dealt ace is retained. Players then evaluate the value of their hand. Aces are worth one point, face cards are worth ten, and all other cards their pip value.
The players act on their hands one at a time, starting with the player to the left of the dealer. When a player wins or loses their hand, their bet (if playing with them) is paid out at even money or collected by the dealer, respectively. Action then passes to the next player to the left.
Hits and backhands
If a player’s hand is valued at 11 or less, the player is dealt additional cards until they arrive at a score of 12 or higher. When a player has a score above 12, they may choose to hit or call backhand. Players choosing to hit receive one additional card. If the player’s new total exceeds 21, then they have busted, and the player loses. If the new total is 21 or less, the player has the option to hit again or call backhand, as before. Should a player hit to five cards without busting, they win the hand.
When a player calls backhand, one card is dealt face-up, but not added to the hand. (This card is not counted toward a possible five-card hand.) If this card would have made the player’s score higher than 21, the player wins the hand. Otherwise, the player loses.
Special rules apply to hands with a score of 17 through 20 on the first two cards (after any aces have been replaced). These hands are called push hands. In this situation, a player cannot immediately call backhand. Instead, they have the option to either hit or push the hand away. (This is not to be confused with the meaning of push in Blackjack, which is to tie.) If the player chooses the latter, the hand is discarded and two new cards are dealt. Any aces are replaced, as usual, and the hand proceeds as before. If the player is dealt another hand with a value between 17 and 20, they may push again, if desired.
A player may also choose to play the push, rather than push the hand. When playing the push, the player receives one additional card, as if hitting. If their combined total with this card remains at 21 or below, they win the hand. If they bust with this card, they lose the hand, as usual.
Delphi is a simplified version of Eleusis for three to seven players. As in Eleusis, the central premise of the game is discovering a secret rule created by the dealer. Accomplishing this goal is done by looking over the line of previously-played cards and attempting to spot a pattern. The main difference between Delphi and Eleusis is that in Delphi, each card played to the table is one randomly drawn from the deck, rather than intentionally placed by the players. Players are rewarded for correctly declaring which cards correctly fit the pattern and which do not.
Delphi is the creation of the American scientist and mathematician Martin David Kruskal. Dr. Kruskal published the game in 1962 while a professor of astronomy at Princeton University. Noted for his playfulness, Dr. Kruskal also devised the “Kruskal count”, a magic trick that could even stump other magicians because it was based on deep mathematical principles, rather than the usual sleight of hand.
Object of Delphi
The object of Delphi depends on whether you’re the dealer or just a player. For the players, the object is to figure out the dealer’s secret rule as quickly as possible. For the dealer, the object is to create a secret rule that’s neither too hard nor too easy to figure out (ideally, about half the players should be able to guess it).
For a game of Delphi, you’ll need one standard 52-card deck of playing cards. Of course, we very much recommend using a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. You also need pencil and paper (or something similar like a smartphone app) to keep score with, as well as some form of marker or token (like poker chips, beans or other counters) to keep track of the number of correct guesses a player has made on that hand. You should have around 25 tokens for each player (other than the dealer) in the game. If desired, you may also give a decision marker to each player, something that clearly indicates a yes or no response, such as a coin (heads being yes and tails being no) or simply an index card marked “YES” and “NO” on opposite sides.
Determine the first dealer, who is also referred to as the oracle. The oracle devises a secret rule and writes it down on a scrap of paper, keeping it concealed from the players. The rule dictates which cards will be considered “correct” throughout the play of the following hand. The rule must determine this based solely on the cards previously played, and not anything outside the game. (Further explanation and some example rules can be found in the Eleusis setup section.)
Give each player one token, keeping the rest as the oracle’s bank. Shuffle the deck and turn one card, face up, to serve as a starter. The rest of the deck becomes the stock.
The oracle turns one card face up from the stock, placing the card where it can be easily seen by all of the players and announcing its rank and suit. The players then decide whether this is a “correct” play according to the dealer’s secret rule. Obviously, on the first turn of play, this is likely little more than a 50/50 guess, but as the game goes on players will become more confident in their knowledge of the rule and thus be able to decide more accurately.
Once players have reached a decision, they set their decision counter, if playing with one, to reflect this, keeping it concealed with their hand from the other players. If not playing with a decision counter, each player just takes a token or other small object in their hand, shuffles it from hand to hand under the table, and places their closed fist above the table. If they have something concealed in their hand, it indicates a “yes”, and if their hand is empty, it indicates a “no”.
Once all players have reached a decision on the card, on a signal from the oracle, they all reveal their decision. The oracle then declares whether the card was “correct”. If so, the card is placed to the right of the last card played, forming a continuous line of correct cards across the table. If the card is incorrect, it is placed below the last correct card played. The oracle then pays out one token to each player who guessed correctly and collects one token from those who did not. (If a player does not have a token to collect, no penalty is assessed.)
The next card is then drawn, and the process repeats until all 52 cards have been placed on the table.
After the hand ends, each player counts the number of tokens they have. Their hand score is the difference between their own token count and that of each player who collected fewer tokens, added together, minus the total count the difference between their count and that of each player who collected more tokens.
For example, consider a game where Player A collected 29 tokens, B collected 26, C collected 19, D collected 11, E collected 9, and F collected 6. Player C’s hand score would be the difference between their count of 19 and that of D, E, and F, minus the difference between their count and that of A and B. Thus, their score would be (8 + 10 + 13) – (10 + 7) = 31 – 17 = 14. Note that it is possible to get a negative hand score, as F’s score would be 0 – (23 + 20 + 13 + 5 + 3) = –64.
The oracle’s score for the hand is the total of each player’s difference between their count and that of each player who collected more tokens. (That is, everything that is subtracted when each player calculates their score.) In the example above, Player A’s total difference is 0, B’s is 3, C’s is 17, D’s is 25, E’s is 27, and D’s is 64, so the oracle would score 136 points.
Crates is a game in the Stops family that can be played by two to five players, with four players in partnerships being the usual arrangement. Like many games before and after it, Crates extends the basic game play of Crazy Eights, adding additional effects by various cards and an entire scoring system.
Crates was invented by a group of Chicago Contract Bridge players in 1970, who used it as a way to kill time waiting for Bridge sessions to start. It was spread throughout the United States by Bridge players traveling to tournaments in other states.
Object of Crates
The object of Crates is to have the lowest score at the end of fifteen hands. This is achieved by discarding as many cards as possible from your hand.
To play Crates, you’ll need a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. We don’t think it’s too crazy to recommend using Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. You’ll also need something to keep score with. The traditional pencil-and-paper combo works well, as does one of the many smartphone applications developed for the purpose of keeping score.
If you’re playing the four-player partnership game, determine your partners first, either by mutual agreement or by some random method. Each player should sit across from their partner, with their opponents at their left and right. In partnership games, the partners share a score, but otherwise, play is governed by the same rules as non-partnership games.
As in Oh Hell!, the starting hand size varies from hand to hand. The first hand is dealt with eight cards, the second with seven, and so on until a one-card hand has been played. Thereafter, the hand sizes start increasing again, by one card each hand, until the fifteenth and final hand, which is again played with eight cards.
Shuffle and deal the appropriate number of cards. Place the stub in the center of the table, forming the stock. Turn the top card of the stock face up; this card, the upcard, will be the top card of the discard pile. If the upcard is an 8 or a 9, the dealer must name a suit for the first play of the game before looking at their cards. If it is a 9, the suit named must be the same color as that of the 9.
The player to the dealer’s left plays first. They play one card from their hand of the same suit or rank as the upcard. If a player is unable to play, they draw one card from the stock, ending their turn. Play then passes to the next player in turn.
If a player is unable to draw when required to because the stock has been exhausted, they receive a pressure. A player’s first pressure of the game is worth five points. Each subsequent pressure in a game scores double the previous one; a player’s second pressure (even if on a later hand) is worth ten points. The third is then worth 20 points, the fourth 40, etc. (In partnership games, the two partners’ pressures are counted together.) Pressures are scored immediately as they happen. After scoring for a pressure, that player then turns the discard pile face down and shuffles it to form a new stock. They then draw from the replenished stock as usual, and their turn ends.
Special card effects
Many cards in Crates have special effects when played. The “typical” cards which do not have any immediate effect on game play when played are aces, 3s, queens, and kings.
When a 2 is played, it starts a run of cards called a 2-sequence. Normal play is suspended until the 2-sequence is resolved. The next player in turn from the player who played a 2 must play either another 2 or an ace. If they can, the next player in turn after them must do the same, and so on. This continues until a player is unable to play either of these cards. That player adds up the total pip value of all of the cards played in the sequence and draws that many cards from the stock. The next player in turn after the person who drew cards plays as usual off the last card of the 2-sequence.
When a 4 is played, the next player’s turn is skipped.
When a 5 is played, each player in turn draws a card, ending with the player before the one who played the 5. (The person who played the 5 does not have to draw a card.) It is important that each player draw in turn, in case a pressure occurs while resolving the 5.
When a 6 is played, the person playing it must play a second card before their turn ends. If they are unable to play another 6 or card of the same suit, they must draw a card, as per usual.
Should a player be stuck with a 6 as their last card, they cannot actually go out, because the 6 would require them to play a second card, which they do not have, so they must draw. Such a situation is called a Cooper.
In the two- and three-player games, the next player in turn draws a card. In bigger games, the player after the next one draws a card. (It’s your partner that draws the card in the four-player partnership version. Convention is to sarcastically thank your partner for the card when they play a 7.) In all cases, this does not count as a turn; they play as normal after drawing.
8s and 9s
Both 8s and 9s allow the player to call a new suit. The following player is required to play a card of that suit, or switch suits with another card of the same rank. The suit called when playing a 9 must be the same color as that 9. There is no such restriction when playing an 8.
The order of play reverses when a 10 is played. That is, if play had been proceeding to the left, it now goes around to the right, and vice-versa. In a two-player game, of course, 10s have no unusual effect.
In a two-player game, a jack acts the same as a 7—the other player draws a card. In a three-player game, the player before the person playing the card draws one card. Jacks have no effect in games of four or more players.
Ending the hand
When a player holds two cards, they must say “One card” upon playing one of them. (The player is jeered by their opponents if they say “Uno” instead.) If they fail to do so, they must start their next turn by drawing two cards. (Note that this means that if another player goes out before their next turn, the penalty is never actually assessed.)
The hand ends when a player ends their turn with no cards. The only exception to this is if a 2-sequence is in progress when this happens. In that case, the hand ends when the 2-sequence is resolved first. (This means it’s possible for a player to run out of cards, watch the 2-sequence to go around back to them, and be forced to draw because they have no cards. The hand still ends then, meaning nobody ends with no cards.)
Players score for the hand based on the values of cards left in their hand. Cards score as follows:
- Aces: 1 point
- 2s: 20 points
- 4s: 15 points
- 5s and 6s: 30 points each
- 7s: 20 points
- 8s: 50 points
- 9s: 30 points
- 10s: 25 points
- Face cards: 10 points each
Scoring for 3s is a little more complicated. A hand with only 3s in it scores –50 points per 3 held. If there are other ranks in the hand, each 3 “covers” one of the other cards. Each card covered by a 3 scores only three points. The only cards that cannot be covered in this way are 8s.
Game play continues until fifteen hands have been played. Whichever player or partnership has the lowest score at that point wins the game.
One-Eyed Jack is a game for two to four players, played in North Carolina and Tennessee. When played by two or three, they play against each other; four play in partnerships. One-Eyed Jack uses a board created with an extra deck of cards. Players compete to claim spots on the board to complete rows of five adjacent spaces.
Like many card games, especially ones with special equipment, One-Eyed Jack has been adapted as a commercial game. It has been published by two different companies, under the names Sequence and Double Series. The commercial sets include a pre-printed board, chips, and a double-deck of cards, all you need to run the game.
Object of One-Eyed Jack
The object of One-Eyed Jack is to be the first player to complete two rows (horizontal, vertical, or diagonal) of five adjacent spaces. In the three-player game, players need only complete one row.
One-Eyed Jack uses two standard 52-card decks of playing cards. We’d like to take the time to advise you to use Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, as per usual.
You’ll also need a third deck of cards you don’t want to use for anything else ever again. (Once you’ve gotten some Denexa cards, you can use whatever you were playing with before for this.) Remove all of the jacks from this deck and add two jokers, leaving you with 50 cards. Now, cut each card in half (yes, with scissors! not what we usually mean when we say “cut the cards”!). Then, make another cut to the opposite side of the index to make the piece square. You should end up with 100 square-shaped card pieces. (See the image in this section for a diagram of how to cut the cards.)
Now, take your 100 card squares and paste them down in a 10×10 grid on whatever you want to use as a game board. You can use something as simple as posterboard, or get more elaborate and glue them to a piece of wood and apply a coat of varnish. No matter what you do, make sure the four corner squares are the four joker pieces. The rest can be in any order, either random or following some sort of pattern.
You will also need something to serve as markers on the game board. Each player or partnership should have identifiable markers belonging only to them. Differently-colored poker chips work well, but anything will do as long as they will fit in the squares on the board.
To set up for the actual game, supply each player with roughly the same number of markers (about 50 or so should do). Shuffle the two decks together and deal to each player seven cards if there are two players, six if there are three, or five if there are four. The rest of the deck is set aside to become the stock.
The player to the dealer’s left goes first. That player reveals one card from their hand and plays it face-up to the table. They then place a marker on either of the two spaces on the board corresponding to that card. You cannot play a chip in an occupied space, however. Then, they draw a replacement card, ending their turn.
There are no jacks on the board, because the jacks instead of special properties. The two-eyed jacks (J♦-J♣) serve as wild cards. Upon playing them, a player can place a marker on any square they wish. One-eyed jacks (J♠-J♥) are kill cards. When played, you may choose any chip on the board and return it to its owner.
Sometimes, due to a two-eyed jack, a player will have a card in their hand that has both spots on the board occupied. They have two choices when this happens. The player can hold onto the card and hope to draw a one-eyed jack to kill one of the markers in the way. They can also reveal the card and draw a replacement before taking their actual turn.
The four corner spaces are considered community property. These can be used by any player as part of a row, same as if they had a chip on the square.
The first player or partnership to form two horizontal, diagonal, or vertical rows of five claimed squares wins the game. The two rows are allowed to intersect (therefore only requiring nine chips instead of ten). In the three-player game, only one row is needed to win.