Big Two is a Chinese climbing game for two to four players. Although it plays much like Thirteen (tien len), it is unique among the climbing games in that it allows for the use of standard poker hands as valid combinations. For example, while most climbing games will let you play a five-card straight, only in Big Two could that straight be beaten by a flush or a full house!
Object of Big Two
The object of Big Two is to be the first player to get rid of all your cards. This is achieved by discarding cards as parts of valid combinations.
Anyone wanting to play a game of Big Two needs a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. Of course, we’d absolutely love it if you chose a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards for your game. You should also have something handy to keep score with, like pencil and paper.
Shuffle and deal thirteen cards to each player. Set aside any unused cards; they will have no effect on game play.
Big Two uses the card ranking order usually found in other climbing games of Asian origin: aces are high, and 2s are even higher than the ace. This gives a full ranking of (high) 2, A, K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3 (low).
Ties in rank (as when single cards or pairs are played against each other) are broken by suit. Suits rank in the following order: (high) spades, hearts, clubs, diamonds (low).
Play of the hand in Big Two revolves around different combinations of cards. The valid combinations that can be played fall into four categories, which have no rank or standing relative to each other. These four categories are:
Within the category of five-card combinations, there are a number of valid combos based on poker hands, which do have ranks relative to each other. These combinations are more or less what you’d expect if you’re familiar with poker, with some caveats. From highest to lowest:
- 1. Royal flush
- A royal flush consists of A-K-Q-J-10 of the same suit. Ties are broken by the suit of the royal flush, thus the best five-card combination is the spade royal flush.
- 2. Straight flush
- Five cards of the same suit, in sequence (example: 4-5-6-7-8♠). In straight flushes, 2s rank below 3s, as they do in most climbing games, and aces can be either high or low, but not both, so 6-5-4-3-2 is fine, but 2-A-K-Q-J and 4-3-2-A-K are not. The highest-ranking card is used to determine the rank of the straight flush; if two straight flushes have the same top rank, then the tie is broken by the suit of the highest-ranked card.
- 3. Four of a kind
- Four of a kind consists of all four of a particular rank of card, plus one unmatched fifth card. (example: 5-5-5-5-J). Ties are broken by the rank of the cards (four 6s beats four 5s). Note that unlike in most other climbing games, four-of-a-kinds are not a valid combination by themselves, and must be played along with a fifth card.
- 4. Full house
- A full house consists of three of one rank of card and two of another (example: 7-7-7-3-3). Ties are broken by the rank of the three matching cards (Q-Q-Q-9-9 beats 10-10-10-K-K).
- 5. Flush
- A flush consists of five cards of the same suit, not in any particular order (example: 5-6-9-J-K♦). Unlike in poker, ties are broken by the suit of the flush. Only if two flushes are of the same suit is the rank of the highest card used in determining the which flush is higher.
- 6. Straight
- A straight consists of five cards of any suit in sequence (example: 4♦-5♣-6♣-7♠-8♥). If all cards are the same suit, it becomes a straight flush. The rules for what constitutes a valid straight and how to rank it are otherwise the same as those for a straight flush.
Note that lower poker hands than straights cannot be played as five-card combos—there is no provision for playing a three-of-a-kind with two extra cards, two pairs, etc. These must be played by themselves as trips, pairs, or single cards.
Play of the hand
Game play begins with the player holding the 3♦, the lowest-ranked card in the game. If nobody holds the 3♦, then play starts with the 3♣, and so on upward to whoever is determined to hold the lowest card that’s actually in play. This player plays face up to the table any combination they desire that contains the low card. The next player to their left must then play a higher combination of the same length. That is, they must play a higher single card if the first player led with a single card, a pair if the first player led with a pair, etc. If the player cannot or does not wish to play higher, they may also pass, with the option to play again on their next turn.
This continues, with each player playing progressively higher combinations, until all of a player’s opponents pass to their play. (In a four-player game, this means three consecutive passes, or two consecutive passes in a three-player game.) When this happens, the remaining player is free to play whatever combination they wish. The next player to their left must then beat this new combination, as before, and the game continues on in this fashion.
Players must keep their hands visible at all times, and if asked how many cards they hold, must respond truthfully. This is to allow players holding high cards in reserve to play them to stop an opponent they fear may be able to play their last cards.
Ending the hand
The hand ends whenever a player runs out of cards. At this point, the hand is scored. Each player counts the number of cards they have remaining. If they have nine or fewer, they score one point for each card left in their hand. If they have ten through twelve cards left, they score two points per card remaining. An unlucky player left with all thirteen cards—having never played a card the whole hand—scores 39 points, three points per card!
The deal rotates to the left and new hands are dealt. Game play continues until one player reaches a predetermined score (such as 100 points). Whichever player has the lowest score at that point is the winner.
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.
Dou Dizhu (斗地主), which roughly translates into English as Fight the Landlord, is a Chinese climbing game for three players. In Dou Dizhu, one player takes on the role of “landlord”, fighting to be the first to run out of cards. The other two players team up to try to dispense with their cards before the landlord does!
Dou Dizhu is a fascinating example of a climbing game because of the great flexibility the game affords players in choosing combinations of cards. This allows players to form complex strategies in planning their next moves. Because of this, the game is said to be easy to learn but hard to master.
Object of Dou Dizhu
The object of Dou Dizhu is to be the first player to run out of cards. (If playing with a partner, your partner being the first out is just fine too.)
To play Dou Dizhu, you need a standard 52-card deck of playing cards, with two jokers that are different from each other somehow. Happily, Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards fit the bill wonderfully. One joker should be designated as the higher joker. (On Denexa cards, we recommend this to be the red joker, the one with the dragon.) You’ll also need some way of keeping score. A hard-score method, using counters like poker chips, works the best, but you can also keep score with pencil and paper or similar.
Shuffle the deck. Take the top card and flip it face-up, randomly inserting it somewhere into the middle of the deck. Each player in turn draws a card from the deck until each have seventeen cards in their hand. Note which player takes the face-up card. The remaining three cards become a widow and are left face-down in the center of the table.
As with many Asian climbing games, the cards rank in their usual order, with aces high, but with the 2 ranked even higher than that. The jokers rank even higher than the 2, with one joker (the red joker) outranking the other (the black joker). Thus, the full rank of cards is (high) ★, ★, 2, A, K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3 (low). Suits are not relevant to game play.
The player who drew the face-up card in the deck bids first in the auction. They can choose to bid one, two, or three, or pass. The next player to their left then bids, and must bid higher than the first player or pass. A player can make a bid after initially passing. Bidding continues until either there are two consecutive passes or someone bids three. Once a winner has been established, they become the landlord. The landlord takes the widow into their hand, giving them a 20-card hand.
Play of the hand in Dou Dizhu revolves around different combinations of cards. The valid combinations in Dou Dizhu are:
- Single card
- Trips (three of a kind)
- Straights (five or more cards in sequence, e.g. 3-4-5-6-7)
- Quads (four of a kind)—but see restriction below
- Consecutive pairs (three or more pairs in sequence, e.g. 3-3-4-4-5-5)
- Consecutive trips (two or more trips in sequence, e.g. 3-3-3-4-4-4)
There are some restrictions on when the high-ranking 2s and jokers can be used. They can appear as single cards, or in pairs or trips. They cannot be used in straights or consecutive pairs or trips.
In addition, extra cards called kickers may also be attached to trips and consecutive trips. A kicker can be either a single card or a pair. For example, 7-7-7-5 and 7-7-7-5-5 are both valid combinations. When attaching kickers to consecutive trips, there must be one kicker or kicker pair for each triplet, each of which must be a different rank. For instance, 3-3-3-4-4-4-9-J and 4-4-4-8-8-8-7-7-Q-Q are both valid, but 3-3-3-4-4-4-9-9 is not (as this is one pair kicker for two triplets, not one single card for each triplet). Both 2s and jokers can be used as kickers, but not both jokers at the same time.
Quads must always be played with kickers to be used as a regular play. This can take the form of two single cards (5-5-5-5-8-K) or two pairs (5-5-5-5-8-8-K-K). Quads played without kickers are a special combination called a bomb (described below in “Bombs and rockets”).
Play of the hand
The landlord plays first. They may play any combination of cards they wish. The next player to the left then must play a higher-ranking instance of the same combination. To be considered the same combination, the same number of cards must be played: straights must be of the same length, consecutive pairs must have the same number of pairs, the same number of kickers must be played, etc. Combinations are ranked by the highest card present, with any kickers disregarded. For example, 7-7-7-5 is higher than 4-4-4-A (because the ace is a kicker and is thus not counted toward the rank of the combination). If a player cannot or does not want to play higher, they may pass.
This continues, with play continuing around the table, each player playing higher and higher combinations. Players may jump back into game play, even after passing, on their next turn. After two consecutive players have passed, the remaining player is free to play whatever combination of cards they choose (i.e. they are not compelled to play the same type of combination as before). As before, play continues to to the left, with the next player following up on the most recently played combination with a higher one of the same type.
Bombs and rockets
There are two special combinations in the game. These are the bomb, four of a kind with no kickers, and the rocket, which is a pair of jokers. Bombs and rockets may be played at any time, regardless of the combination being played. A bomb can only be beaten by a higher-ranked bomb or a rocket, and a rocket is unbeatable.
Ending the hand
Game play continues until one player runs out of cards. If that player is the landlord, each of their opponents pays them the amount bid (one, two, or three chips). If the landlord did not go out, the landlord must pay each opponent the amount bid. The payout is doubled for each time a bomb or rocket was played over the course of the hand.
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.
Crash, also known as Thirteen-Card Brag, is a more laid-back, social variant of Brag for two to four players. There are two main differences between Crash and Brag. First, in Crash, a player receives thirteen cards, and divides them into up to four three-card Brag hands. In essence, Crash does to Brag what Chinese Poker does to poker. Additionally, the usual Brag betting mechanic is stripped away in favor of a simple point scoring method. If money is involved, it is in the form of an agreed-upon payment from the losers to the winner.
Object of Crash
The object of Crash is to split the thirteen-card hand given to a player into four Brag hands in such a way that, ideally, each of the hands is stronger than their opponents’ hands.
To play Crash, you’ll need a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. We, of course, endorse choosing Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards for your game. You’ll also want something to keep score with. Specialized scoreboards are available, but you can just use pencil and paper (or a mobile scorekeeping app) if that’s all you have handy.
Shuffle and deal thirteen cards to each player. Any undealt cards are set aside and not used.
Each player looks at their hand and decides how to divide it into up to four three-card Brag hands. (If you’re not a Brag expert, here’s the rank of Brag hands). Each hand formed must be at least a pair or better. Players will have at least one card left over; they may have more if they cannot (or don’t want to) form at least a pair in all four possible hands. All unused cards are simply discarded. When a player has set their hand in a way they’re satisfied with, they place their three-card hands face down in front of them, with the highest-ranking hand the furthest to the left, the next-highest hand just to the right of it, and so on, with the lowest-ranked hand to the far right.
After all players have set their hand, each player turns up their highest-ranked hand and compares them with each of their opponents. Whichever player has the highest hand scores one point. The players then turn up the second-highest hand, with the holder of highest scoring a point. This repeats for the third and fourth hands. A tie for highest hand is called a stick-up or stopper, and nobody scores for that particular hand.
Note that if a player did not form four hands, their highest ranked hand must still always be scored as hand #1, the second as #2, etc. A player with, say, only three hands simply does not compete for hand #4.
If, at any time, a player’s hands are found to have been placed out of order, this constitutes a foul. A player who fouls their hand automatically loses the game and takes no further part in game play.
If one player scores for all four points on a hand, it is called a crash. A player that scores a crash automatically wins the game.
There are a number of special combinations that can appear in a Crash game:
- If a player has four of a kind and uses all four cards in their set hands (i.e. does not discard any of them), the player scores one extra point. Should multiple players hold four-of-a-kinds, only the highest-ranking four of a kind gets the bonus point. For the purposes of ranking four-of-a-kinds, 4s are the highest rank, then aces, then the rest of the ranks in their usual order.
- If a player has six pairs, a player may, at their option, choose to declare this rather than setting their hand. In this event, the hand is void and the same dealer deals a new hand. (If the player would rather play the hand, often because it’s possible to form runs from the pairs, they may choose to do so instead.)
- If a player has a thirteen-card straight, from ace down to 2, they may simply reveal their hand, which automatically wins the game.
Ending the game
After all four hands have been evaluated, the deal passes to the left, and new thirteen-card hands are dealt. Game play continues until one player reaches a score of seven points. That player immediately wins; no further hands are evaluated once a player reaches a score of seven.
Porrazo (also sometimes called Porosso, Parosso, or Parear) is a fishing game of Mexican origin for two to five players. (Four players may play either in partnerships or singly.) Like the most well-known fishing game, Cassino, game play centers around playing cards to the table and then capturing them with cards from the hand of the same rank. However, in Porrazo, there are all manner of available bonuses for playing the right card at the right time.
Porrazo first appeared in American game books around the turn of the twentieth century. It experienced a couple of decades of popularity before being quietly dropped from the books and fading into obscurity in the 1920s.
Object of Porrazo
The object of Porrazo is to be the first player or partnership to score 61 points. Points are scored chiefly by forming pairs of cards between the cards on the table and the cards in your hand.
To play Porrazo, you’ll need a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. Hopefully, you’ve got a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards you can press into service for the occasion. You’ll also need something to keep score with. Because of the frequent scoring and the target score of 61 points, using a Cribbage board for scoring is a natural fit (see how to keep score with a Cribbage board). If you don’t have a Cribbage board, or you’re playing with more than three individual players (since most Cribbage boards have three scoring tracks at most), you’ll probably have to use pencil and paper or something like that.
Shuffle and deal three cards, face down, to each player. The rest of the deck becomes the stock.
Cards rank in their usual order, with aces low.
Rondas and rondines
Before any cards are played, the players look at their cards and may declare any pairs or three-of-a-kinds that they may have. A pair is declared as a ronda and a three-of-a-kind as a rondine. The ranks of the rondas and rondines are not declared. The hand is then played out, and the player with the highest ronda or rondine scores a bonus, as follows:
A rondine always outranks a ronda. That is, three aces, the lowest rondine, outranks a pair of kings, the highest ronda. Only the highest declaration scores a bonus; the others score nothing. Any ties go to whichever player is first in turn order, going clockwise from the dealer. The ronda/rondine bonus is not scored until the set of three cards is played out. This means it’s possible the game may end before the bonus is scored.
Play of the hand
After any declarations have been made, the player to the dealer’s left goes first. On their turn, a player must play one card, face-up, to the table. If there are any cards already on the table of the same rank, the player captures one card of that rank, and they place the captured card along with the card that they played in a face-down won-cards pile in front of them. (If there is a pair of cards on the board and a player holds a third card of that rank, they capture only one of the table cards, not both.)
A player can also capture a sequence of two or more consecutive cards if the card that they play to the table matches the lowest card of the sequence. For example, if a 7, 8, 9, and 10 are all on the table, a player may capture them all by playing a 7. For the purposes of sequences, aces are considered consecutive to kings, so if the table contained Q-K-A-2, it would be a sequence that could be captured by a jack.
If a player can make no captures, the card they play simply remains on the table. That card can then be captured by any player on a later turn. (Depending on the card being played, the card may score for being played in place, as described below.)
When the players have exhausted their hands, the dealer replenishes them by dealing three more cards to each player from the stock. Any cards already on the table stay there, and play continues.
Occasionally, a player may be able to capture all of the cards off the table in one fell swoop. This is called a limpia. The simplest limpia occurs when there is one card on the table, and the player captures it by pairing. If there are more cards than that, the only way a limpia can happen is if they all form a sequence.
A player making a limpia immediately scores the same point value as a ronda of the last rank of the sequence captured in the limpia (or the rank of the card captured, if only one card was involved). Note that the last rank is not necessarily the highest rank. For example, if a sequence of K-A-2-3-4 is captured as a limpia, it would only score one point. This is because the 4 is the last rank in the sequence. The fact that a king is involved, despite its higher rank, is irrelevant.
Playing in place
If a player places an ace through 4 on the table without capturing anything, and the pip value of that card matches the number of cards on the table, that card is said to be played in place. That is, a card is played in place if it is an ace played to an empty table, a 2 as the second card on the table, a 3 as the third card on the table, or a 4 as the fourth card on the table. A 5 or above cannot be played in place. Playing a card in place scores the player the pip value of the card.
If a card could both be played in place or capture a card, a player can choose to forgo the capture in order to play it in place. This is the only situation in which a player is not compelled to take a capture.
Once per hand, after dealing three cards to the players, the dealer may deal a tendido (layout). This can occur after the first three cards have been dealt, or after any time the dealer replenishes the player’s hands. When the dealer chooses to deal their tendido, they deal two pairs of cards, face up in a horizontal row, to the table. The two cards in each pair may be swapped, but cards cannot be crossed between the two pairs.
The dealer counts from left to right or right to left, as desired, to find any cards that appear in their “correct” places in the tendido: an ace in the first position, a 2 in the second, etc. If any cards have been so dealt, the dealer scores the pip value of the card. Also, if any pairs, three- or four-of-a-kinds have been formed within all of the cards now on the table, the dealer may score for them. The points scored equal the same as a ronda or rondine of the appropriate rank. Four-of-a-kinds score twice as much as a rondine of that rank.
The cards of the tendido remain on the table after being scored and can be captured just like any other card on the table.
If a player places a card on the table without capturing anything, and the next player in turn plays a card of the same rank, it is called a porrazo. If the next player plays a third card of this same rank, then this is a counter-porrazo. If a porrazo is allowed to stand, that player immediately scores the same value as a ronda of the appropriate rank and captures the card, as normal. Should a player counter-porrazo, the original porrazo does not score, the counter-porrazo scores the same value as a rondine of the appropriate rank, and the player captures both the non-capturing card and the card played for the porrazo.
After a counter-porrazo has been played, the next player may be able to play the fourth card of that rank. This is called a san benito and scores the player the entire game! Therefore, especially in a two-player game, it may be better to simply let a porrazo stand rather than countering it and risking the san benito. (One can sometimes use players’ ronda declarations to deduce whether a san benito may be possible.)
A porrazo (or a counter-porrazo or san benito) must take place with cards all from the same deal. That is, if the players run out of cards and new cards are dealt, it interrupts the sequence of play, and any porrazo cannot be declared using cards from before the hands were replenished.
Ending the hand
If playing with an even number of players, the deck will, at some point, be exhausted. If playing with an odd number of players, there will be three odd cards left in the deck. These three cards are placed face up on the table immediately after the last three-card hands are dealt to the players. They do not count as a tendido for the dealer.
After the players’ hands are exhausted, on the dealer’s last turn, they automatically capture all of the cards remaining on the table. This does not count as a limpia, even if they would have been able to legitimately capture it as one.
Each player or partnership counts the number of cards in their captured-cards pile. Whoever has the highest number of captured cards wins the hand. They score the difference between the number of cards they captured and that of their next-closest opponent.
The deal passes to the left, and new hands are dealt. Game play continues until one player or partnership reaches a score of 61 or more points. Play immediately ceases—even if it happens in the middle of a hand—and that player is the winner.
Botifarra is a trick-taking game for four players in partnerships. Unlike many trick-taking games, Botifarra includes a number of rules restricting which cards can be played when. As a result, players are able to deduce information about what their opponents may hold.
The game originates from the disputed region of Catalonia (currently a province in the northeast corner of Spain, but which declared its independence in October 2017). The game is popular enough that organized duplicate-style tournaments are played there.
In Catalonia, Botifarra is traditionally played counter-clockwise (all action proceeding to the right). The description below is written to follow the clockwise fashion most card games follow. If you wish to play it the traditional way, just reverse the directions.
Object of Botifarra
The object of Botifarra is to be the first partnership to reach 101 or more points. Points are scored by collecting face cards, aces and 9s in tricks.
Botifarra is typically played with a 48-card Spanish deck. To make an equivalent deck from the 52-card English deck, like a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, just remove the 10s. You also need something to keep score with, such as paper and pencil.
Determine partnerships by whatever method is convenient, either randomly or by mutual agreement. (Players often choose to play three games per session, so that each player may play one game partnered with each of the other players.) As is typical, players should be seated across from their partner. This ensures that the turn of play alternates between partnerships as it proceeds around the table.
Shuffle and deal twelve cards to each player (dealing out the entire pack).
In Botifarra, the highest card is the 9. All other cards rank in their usual order. The full rank of cards, therefore, is (high) 9, A, K, Q, J, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 (low).
Determining trumps and doubling
Unlike in most other trick-taking games with trumps, there is no bidding or random trump selection in Botifarra. The dealer simply chooses a trump suit for the hand, or botifarra, which is to select no trumps. The dealer may also elect to pass the right to choose to their partner. (They cannot then pass the decision back to the dealer.)
After a trump suit has been chosen, the dealer’s opponents may choose to double, thereby doubling the points scored by the winner of the hand. If the hand is doubled, the dealer’s partnership may redouble, multiplying the value of the hand by four. The opponents can then reredouble, increasing the multiplier to eight. (This is the highest multiplier possible.) Players get the opportunity to speak in turn order from the last player to make a declaration.
A botifarra bid automatically doubles the value of the game, so
Play of the hand
The player to the dealer’s left leads any card they wish to the first trick. Each player in turn then plays one card to the trick. Once all four players have played a card, the highest trump played, or the highest card of the suit led if no trump was played, wins the trick.
Botifarra has a number of unique restrictions on which card you can play. First, of course, you must always follow suit if you can. Secondly, you must head the trick if you are able. The only exception to this is when the trick is currently being won by your partner. When this is the case, subject to suit-following rules, you may play any card worth points (9s, aces, or face cards). If you wish to play a card worth no points, it must be the lowest card you hold of the suit you’re playing in. (Because of this rule, your opponents are able to determine that any other cards that you hold of that suit must be higher.)
Once a player wins a trick, they place it face-down in a shared won-tricks pile located in front of either them or their partner. Tricks should be kept distinct from one another somehow, such as by putting them at right angles to the previous trick. Whichever player won the trick leads to the next one.
Once all twelve tricks have been played, the players count up the value of their tricks captured, as follows:
- Tricks taken: 1 point each
- 9s: 5 points each
- Aces: 4 points each
- Kings: 3 points each
- Queens: 2 point each
- Jacks: 1 point each
The maximum trick score possible on one hand is 72 points. Whichever partnership scores more subtracts 36 from the value of their tricks to arrive at their score for the hand. This score is multiplied as decided before the hand and recorded on the scoresheet. (If the partnerships tie at 36 points each, neither team scores.)
Game play continues until one partnership exceeds 101 points. That partnership is the winner.
Totit is an extremely simple fishing game from the Indonesian island of Java. It can be played by two to six people. In Totit, it’s all about making pairs—while pairs of the same rank can be captured, only pairs of identical copies of the same card score!
Object of Totit
The object of Totit is to capture the most cards from the board by pairing them with the corresponding cards from your hand.
Totit uses a special 60-card deck. To build such a deck, start with two standard 52-card decks of the same back design and color—we always use Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, naturally. From each deck, remove the aces through 10s of clubs. From the other three suits, remove the 10s and face cards. You’ll be left with two 30-card decks consisting of A–9♠, A–9♦, A–9♥, and J-Q-K♣. Shuffle these two 30-card decks together to form the full 60-card deck. (Note that this is the same deck used for Kowah, another Javanese card game.) You should also have something handy to keep score with.
Shuffle and deal eighteen cards face up to the table. Then, deal seven cards to each player, or eleven cards to each player in a two-player game. Set aside any unused cards; they will have no bearing on the game.
The player to the dealer’s left goes first. If they have any cards identical in rank and suit to any of the cards on the table, they may capture the table card by revealing the matching card in their hand. They then place both cards in a face-down captured-cards pile in front of them. A capture must always consist of one card from the hand and one from the table. Players can never capture a card with another one from the table. Players may only make one capture per turn. If a player cannot make a capture, they must trail one card of their choice face up to the table. The turn then passes to the left.
On the second and subsequent turns, a player may capture a card if they hold a card of the same rank as a card on the table, regardless of suit. All of the face cards and aces are considered to be equivalent to one another. The A♠ can be captured by the K♣ and vice versa, the J♣ and Q♣ can capture each other, and so on.
One special restriction occurs when two cards of the same rank and suit appear alongside one or more cards of that rank, but a different suit. In this case, any cards of the odd suit must be captured first. Only when the two identical cards are the only cards of that rank left on the table can one be captured.
Ending the hand
The hand ends when the players’ hands are depleted. Any cards remaining on the table are discarded. Each player scores one point for each pair of captured cards of the same rank and suit. (Note that they need not necessarily have been captured with each other. Both cards could have been on the table at the same time and captured one at a time by different cards, or the first one captured early on, and the second trailed by another player and then captured, for instance.)
The deal passes to the left, and game play continues. The game ends when every player has dealt once. Whichever player has the highest score at that point wins the game.
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 principals, 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.
All of the tokens are then returned to the bank, and the next player to the oracle’s left becomes the new oracle. Game play continues until each player has been the oracle once.
Triple Draw Lowball (often called just Triple Draw) is a form of lowball poker for two to six players. It’s a fairly simple game, especially if you’re familiar with Five-Card Draw or other Draw Poker variants. However, having four chances to bet instead of one makes Triple Draw an exciting, competitive game with large pots and lots of betting action. Triple Draw has become popular in Las Vegas casinos, being included in many high-limit mixed game rotations.
Object of Triple Draw Lowball
The object of Triple Draw Lowball is to form the lowest-ranking poker hand after drawing new cards up to three times.
Triple Draw uses the same standard 52-card deck as most other poker games. We suggest that you give Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards a try if you haven’t yet. You’ll also need something to bet with, probably poker chips. The game is typically played with fixed limits (see “Betting in poker“), so all players should agree to what the limits will be.
Upon receiving their cards, players evaluate the strength of their hand. Triple Draw is most frequently played with deuce-to-seven lowball rules. In this version of lowball, straights and flushes are taken into consideration when ranking hands, and aces count high. That means the lowest possible hand is 2-3-4-5-7 (because 2-3-4-5-6 forms a straight). The first betting round then begins, with the player to the left of the big blind (the player under the gun) starting the betting. Betting follows the typical rules of betting in poker.
After the first round of betting is resolved, the first draw occurs, starting with the player to the left of the dealer (the small blind). This player discards any number of cards, from zero to five, face down in front of them. The dealer then deals them the appropriate number of replacement cards from the stub. This continues, clockwise, until all active players have had a chance to swap cards. The dealer then collects the discards and sets them aside.
When the first draw finishes, the second betting round begins, starting this time with the small blind player. This is followed by a second draw (conducted the same way as the first), then the third betting round, then the third draw, then the fourth and final betting round. Betting limits are typically doubled on the third and fourth betting rounds. If there are at least two active players left at the end of the fourth betting round, they reveal their hands. Whoever has the lowest-ranked poker hand wins the pot.