Cuckoo is an interesting game where each player looks at their hand and decides whether or not to keep it—and if they choose not to, they take the hand of the player next to them.

Object of Cuckoo

The object of Cuckoo is to avoid ending the hand with the lowest card.


Cuckoo uses one standard 52-card deck of playing cards. Naturally, the thing to do is to use Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. Shuffle and deal one card to each player. Place the deck stub to the dealer’s left.

You will also need a way to keep track of the players’ “lives”—some form of token, such as a poker chip, a bean, a coaster, etc. Give three life tokens to each player.

Game play

Each player looks at their card and decides whether to keep it or give it away. The goal is to obtain the highest card possible (conventional card ranks apply, aces are low).

The player to the left of the dealer plays first, with play proceeding to the left.  If the player wishes to get rid of their card, they switch cards with the player to their left. The other player is obliged to complete the switch, unless they hold a king, in which case they may expose the king, and the trade is stopped.

On the dealer’s turn, they may choose to discard their card; if they do, they may expose the top card of the deck. If it is a king, they return it to the top of the deck; otherwise, they make the switch.

After everyone has either kept their card or switched, the cards are revealed. Whoever has the lowest card loses one life token. (If multiple players are tied for low, they all lose a life.) After this, the cards are collected and shuffled, new cards are dealt, and another hand is played.  When a player loses all three life tokens, they are eliminated from the game.

Play continues until there is only one player that has not been eliminated.  That last player is the winner.  In some cases, all of the active players will lose their final life on the same round due to ties; when this happens, the hand is ignored and a new hand is dealt.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *