Slapjack is a classic children’s game for two to eight players. It’s one of the rare games whose main game mechanic is named in its title—you pretty much slap jacks, and that’s the game. This card-spotting-and-slapping mechanic shows up in a few other games, such as Egyptian Ratscrew. Those games probably inherited it from Slapjack, however.

Object of Slapjack

The object of Slapjack is to collect all of the cards in play by slapping jacks as they appear.

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The usual game of Slapjack uses one standard 52-card deck. A second deck can easily be added for a longer game or to expand the game to more players. It doesn’t matter much if the backs are different. Because Slapjack can be boisterous enough that it’s bad on a deck of cards, using Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards is highly recommended. They’re durable enough to handle even the most excitable players.

Shuffle and deal the entire deck out, starting with the player to the left of the dealer and continuing clockwise, as evenly as it will go. Some players may receive more cards than others, which is okay. Each player squares their cards up into a neat stack. Players may not look at their cards at any time.

Game play

The player to the left of the dealer goes first. They begin by flipping one card face up from their stack and playing it to the center of the table. Since the player would have an advantage if they turned the card up the normal way, since they would glimpse the card before anyone else, Slapjack convention is to grab the card from the far side and flip it up away from oneself. The next player to the left does the same, flipping a card face up and adding to the central pile. Cards played out of turn remain on the pile, and are considered dead cards. Any effect their rank would have on game play is ignored. The player who played them must play again when it becomes their turn. This, in essence, charges them a fee of one card for playing out of turn.

When a jack appears atop the central pile, the first player to slap the jack wins the entire pile of cards. If multiple players slap the jack, the player whose hand is on the bottom, skin in direct contact with the jack, wins the pile. The winner takes the entire pile and places it face down at the bottom of their stack. If a player slaps a card other than a jack, they pay one card, face down, to the player who played the erroneously-slapped card to the pile.

Eliminating players

Players who run out of cards are eliminated for the time being. So long as there are two active players in the game, they may slap a jack and winning the pile as per usual. This is called slapping in to the game. This privilege is revoked if the player makes a false slap, permanently shutting them out of the game. If a jack appears and a player fails to slap it, they are also permanently shut out of the game.

Game play continues until one of the final two players is eliminated from the game. The other player will have all of the cards, winning the game.


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