House rules for card games
One of the most beautiful things about the standard 52-card deck of cards is its flexibility. Not the physical flexibility the cards have when you bend them—though it comes in handy when you try to shuffle, of course! Rather, what makes playing cards so great is their flexibility to be used for many different sets of rules. We tend to think of card games as discrete entities, saying we’re playing “Whist” or “Poker” or “Cash” or “Canasta“. In reality, these are just names given to a certain set of rules dictating the course of game play. When you look closer, however, you discover each of these labels covers a fair bit of ground, and there are a few different versions of each game in circulation.
Unfortunately, card games’ flexibility can also be their downfall. A lack of clarity regarding the rules can cause chaos at game night. Disagreement over rules and accusations of cheating can cause hard feelings between old friends. If not handled properly, this can break up a long-standing game group!
Fortunately, avoiding such a scene is easy with a little forethought. All you need to do is establish a set of house rules to make sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to the game.
Why are card game rules so tricky to get right?
When a new board game is created, an inventor or team of designers usually sits down and creates a brand new game from scratch. Often, this is done under the supervision of a company planning to sell it. While some traditional card games are created this way, like Contract Bridge or Triple Play, most evolve incrementally over time. A player learns the game somehow, then introduces it to their group of friends. Over time, they might make a few changes to the rules to suit their tastes. Then, someone from that group teaches their version of the game to another group, and the process repeats.
Over time, this creates a few different versions of the game under the same name. After the changed version of the game has drifted far enough away from the original game, it might receive a new name to distinguish it from the original.
Of course, this drifting will, over time, result in the library of card games expanding and giving players new games and new variations in the rules to try out. As it’s going on, though, we’re left with a problem. What people call “Whist” might be played under different rules in Chicago than it is in Charlotte. While this wouldn’t matter if everyone always played with the same group of people, inevitably someone who learned the game one way is going to play with someone who learned another. That sets the stage for conflict.
Choosing your house rules
A few games, like Contract Bridge, have governing bodies enforcing a single set of rules for professionally-organized play. Casinos also have a specific set of rules they train their dealers to follow, backed up by surveillance officers who ensure the dealers are following them to the letter. But the vast majority of games aren’t played in an organized fashion; they’re played in homes, between friends and family members. As the host, you are the one who is responsible for choosing the rules that govern. These rules are your house rules.
The easiest course of action is to bless an existing set of rules as the official rules for your game group. The game rules on our website are a good place to start. The descriptions on this site are designed, as much as possible, to provide a straightforward and easy-to-teach rules set. That makes them a good base for your house rules. There are, of course, hundreds of card game books with other, possibly more complex, rules sets you can choose from. After all, that’s where the phrase “according to Hoyle” came from.
Don’t be afraid to include your players in the discussion. Getting input from everyone goes over a lot better than “my house, my rules”. You may find some players prefer a different set of rules you hadn’t considered.
Using your house rules
Once you have chosen a set of rules, it’s time to play. Before you deal the first hand, make sure everyone knows which set of rules are your official house rules. (Be sure to inform new players of this when they join the group, as well. You may need to give them time to familiarize themselves with the rules.)
It’s crucial the rules are on hand all throughout game play. If the rules are in a book, have the book in the room. If they’re online, give everyone a link to the page they’re on. A printed copy of the webpage might be nice to have on hand as well. Some people read faster on paper than on a screen, and it’s nice to have a copy if the wifi (or the website!) goes down.
Any time there is a question as to the rules, stop and consult the rules you have made official. Not only will this prevent arguments about what the rules are, it will mean the rules stay consistent from game to game.
Customizing and updating your house rules
The great thing about card games is there is no wrong way to play them! The only thing that matters is everyone having fun. If you want to change up your game, all you have to do is update your official house rules.
As you become more comfortable with a game, you may seek out more information about it and come across a variation you want to try out. You may even come up with an idea for something you want to add, and write a new rule yourself.
Another reason you might want to edit your house rules is because the way they’re written is ambiguous. If the rules don’t make it clear how a particular situation should be handled, let the group come to a conclusion about the fairest way to resolve the situation. Then, document the group’s decision in your house rules. Next time it arises, you’ll know what to do, and the rules will be consistent with what you did last time.
Whenever you update the rules, again, be sure to get the group’s buy-in. Make sure everyone is aware of the changes, especially members of the group who may not have been there when it was discussed. Keeping everyone informed will keep your players happy and your game fair.
Toepen is a simple and quick trick-taking game for three to eight players, although it is most frequently played with four. In Toepen, only the last trick counts—whoever wins it wins the entire hand! However, it’s possible the game may not even get that far. A player who feels confident can raise the value of the hand in the middle of play, and if everyone else decides to drop out rather than keep playing, they can win the hand that way, too!
Toepen is most frequently played in the Netherlands, where it is often played as a drinking game. Accordingly, the game is set up so that one player loses rather than one player winning—the losing player is the one who buys the next round of drinks!
Object of Toepen
The object of Toepen is to win the last trick of each hand.
To play Toepen, you’ll need a 32-card pack identical to the one used for Piquet. To make such a pack, start with a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards—if you’re drinking, the waterproof plastic will be invaluable in guarding against spills! Remove all of the 2s through 6s. The remaining 32 cards will be the 7s through aces in each of the four suits.
Toepen scoring is easiest using the hard score method. Distribute the same number of tokens (chips, bottle caps, drink stirrers, condiment packets, whatever is on hand) to each player. Ten tokens for each player is the usual number, but you can adjust if you want a longer or shorter game. If there’s nothing handy to use as tokens, they can be represented as points on a score sheet.
Shuffle and deal four cards to each player. Place the stub in the center of the table, forming the stock.
One thing making Toepen unusual is the number cards ranking higher than aces and face cards! Other than that, however, cards rank in their usual order. That makes the full rank of cards (high) 10, 9, 8, 7, A, K, Q, J (low).
Discards and declarations
Before game play begins, if any player’s hand consists of only aces and face cards, they may discard it, face down, and draw a new hand of four cards from the stock. Another player may challenge the discard, if they wish. The discarded cards are then exposed. If the challenger was correct, and there were any number cards in the hand, the discarding player loses one token. If the discard was correct (the hand contained no number cards), the challenging player loses a token instead. In either case, the player keeps the new hand they drew from the stock. When the stock is exhausted, no further player may discard their hand.
When any discards have been taken care of, any player holding four 10s must stand up for the rest of the hand. Likewise, a player holding three 10s must whistle or sing (probably badly and obnoxiously, since this is a drinking game). This indicates to the other players the strength of the player’s hand. However, a player holding three or four jacks may, if they wish, take the same action as if they instead had the same number of 10s in order to mislead their opponents.
Play of the hand
The player to the dealer’s left leads to the first trick, playing any card they wish. Each player in turn, proceeding to the left, plays one card to the trick. They must follow suit if possible; if they cannot do so, they may play any card. Whoever played the highest card of the suit led wins the trick. They then lead to the next one, with the cards played in the first trick remaining on the table.
Game play continues until the players have played all four of the cards from their hand. The winner of the fourth and final trick wins the hand. The other players lose the number of chips the hand is worth. By default, the hand is worth one chip, but this can be changed over the course of the hand by knocking, described below. Lost chips are put out of play, not given to the winner of the hand.
The deal for the next hand passes to the player that wins it.
Knocking and folding
A player who is happy about how the hand is going may knock at any time. When a player knocks, they propose adding one chip to the value of the hand. For example, the first knock proposes to raise the hand’s value from the default of one chip to two; the second would raise it from two to three, and so on.
If a player does not wish to continue playing at the raised stakes, they may immediately fold by laying their cards face down on the table (or calling out “fold” if they have no cards in their hand). A player who folds must immediately pay the prior hand value. For example, if a knock raises the hand value from three to four chips, a player who folds would pay three chips. A player who folds takes no further part in the hand. If a player does not immediately fold upon hearing the knock, they commit to playing on at the increased hand value.
If all of the players fold except for the knocking player, that player automatically wins the hand and pays nothing. They then deal the next hand, as usual.
A player cannot knock if doing so would cause the hand to be worth more than the number of chips they have. They may, however, choose to stay in if another player knocks, even if this would cause the hand to be worth more than they could cover.
Ending the game
Game play continues until one player runs out of chips. This player loses the game. If you’re playing Toepen as a drinking game, the loser is responsible for buying the everyone the next round of drinks.
If you find it preferable to find a winner rather than a loser, have players drop out as they run out of chips. The last player with any chips wins the game.
Chicago (not to be confused with the Low Chicago rule that is sometimes added to Seven-Card Stud games) is a unique game for two to four players. In Chicago, players form the best poker hand they can through a few rounds of Draw Poker-style play. Then, they use these cards to play through a trick-taking game. However, the only trick that matters for scoring purposes is the last one!
Despite bearing the name of an American city, Chicago is a Swedish game. It first gained popularity in Östergötland province in southern Sweden. From there, it spread throughout the country.
Object of Chicago
The object of Chicago is to be the first to score 52 points. Players score points by having the best poker hand, and by capturing the last trick.
To play Chicago, you’ll need a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. Make sure you never have to worry about beaten-up or dirty cards by always playing with a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. You also need something to keep score with, such as pencil and paper, or a smartphone scorekeeping app.
Shuffle and deal five cards to each player. The remainder of the deck becomes the stock.
First draw and showdown
The player to the dealer’s left goes first. They may discard any number of cards, from zero to five. They keep these discards face down, and placing them in a discard pile in the center of the table. The dealer then deals the player the same number of cards they discarded, bringing them back to a five-card hand. The next player to their left then has the chance to discard as well, and so on around the table to the dealer.
After all players have had a chance to draw new cards, the player to the dealer’s left may declare that they hold a poker hand of at least a pair or better. Initially, they name only the type of hand they have, not the rank of the cards. If the player does not have at least a pair, or they do not wish to disclose the content of their hand, they may pass. The next player to the left may then declare a higher poker hand, or likewise pass. This continues on around the table.
If a player holds a poker hand of the same type previously declared by a previous player, the first player must declare the rank of the relevant cards (for example, “two pair, kings high”). The other player may then pass or declare a higher combination. If the combinations remain tied, they continue going back and forth until one of the two passes, or it is established that the combinations are in fact equal.
Note that the showdown is conducted entirely through verbal declarations. At this point, nobody reveals their hand to the other players.
Once it has been established who holds the highest poker hand, that player scores as follows:
- Royal flush: 52 points
- Straight flush: 8 points
- Four of a kind: 7 points
- Full house: 6 points
- Flush: 5 points
- Straight: 4 points
- Three of a kind: 3 points
- Two pair: 2 points
- One pair: 1 point
If two players tie for the highest poker hand, nobody scores for that showdown.
Second draw and showdown, and third draw
After the first showdown has been settled, the players then go through another drawing phase, conducted the same way as before. If the player (or players) holding the highest poker hand in the previous round wishes to discard any of the cards used to form that hand, they must expose all five of their cards to the other players to prove that they indeed held that combination.
After the second drawing round, a second showdown takes place. After that, players draw for a third and final time. No showdown takes place after this draw, however.
If, at any time, the stock is depleted, the discard pile is immediately shuffled to form a new stock.
After the third drawing round, the player to the dealer’s left leads to the first trick. Each player in turn plays a card to the trick. A player must follow suit, if possible; if they cannot, they may play any card. The player who plays the highest card of the suit led wins the trick, and leads to the next one.
As tricks are played, rather than collecting them into won-tricks piles, as is common in other games, the cards are left face up on the table in front of the person who played them. This allows the hands to remain easily identifiable for end-of-hand scoring.
The player who captures the fifth and final trick scores five points for doing so. The player holding the highest poker hand at the end of the hand scores for it, as above.
Ending the game
The cards are then collected, and the deal passes to the left for the next hand.
When a player starts a hand with 46 or more points, they are no longer allowed to discard cards and draw replacements. They must play the hand all the way through with the cards they started with. Note that if a player reaches 46 points in the middle of a hand, this restriction does not apply until the start of the next hand.
Game play continues until one or more players reach a score of 52 or more points. The player with the highest score at the end of that hand wins the game.
Should a player declare a poker hand that it cannot be proven they actually held, because it is not present after the trick-taking and they did not reveal it prior to discarding cards, that player forfeits the game.
Aggravation is a simple game of quick reactions for two players. As in California Speed, players each have half of the deck they’re trying to get rid of by spotting two or more cards of the same rank and dealing new cards to cover them. However, in Aggravation, the number of cards in the layout— and thus the possible number of matches—keeps going up and up!
Object of Aggravation
The object of Aggravation is to be the first to play all of their cards to the tableau.
To play Aggravation, you’ll need a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. Since you’re going to be moving quickly and placing cards as fast as you can, cards can get damaged very easily in this game. Make sure you have a deck of cards which can escape even the most boisterous games unscathed by always playing with Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards.
Shuffle and deal 26 cards (half the pack) to each player. Players may not look at their cards. Instead, they hold them in their hand as a squared-up, face-down pack.
On the count of three, each player simultaneously plays one card from their deck, face up, in front of them. If these cards are not of the same rank, the players turn up another card, again at the same time. The players should place their cards on the table so they form a neat grid. The cards played by one player should form one horizontal row near them. Meanwhile, the cards played by the other will line up vertically with their opponent’s cards. These cards collectively form the tableau.
So long as no cards in the tableau are of the same rank, this continues, with players adding more and more cards to the table. Whenever a player notices two or more cards of the same rank, they quickly cover the matching cards with cards from their deck, hoping to beat their opponent to doing so. If this forms any new matches, then whichever player notices it first may likewise cover the matching cards. This continues until all cards in the tableau are of different ranks. Players then resume simultaneously turning over cards, as before.
If both players spot a match and try to cover it at the same time, whoever has played cards to cover it may leave them there. It is fine if a match is partially covered by one player and partially covered by their opponent.
Running out of cards
When a player is reduced to having one card or less left in their deck, their opponent continues turning cards over, one by one, on their own row. A player with only one card can play it to cover part of a match.
When a player has no cards remaining, the next time a match forms, they touch two of the cards and call out “Aggravation!” That player wins the game.
Polignac is a French trick-taking game for three to six players. In many respects, it is a rather straightforward example of the trick-taking genre. However, much like Hearts, the aim is to avoid taking certain cards, in this case, jacks. Watch out for the Polignac, the J♠. Capturing him is twice as bad as any other jack!
Object of Polignac
The object of Polignac is to avoid taking tricks containing jacks, especially the J♠.
To play Polignac, you’ll need a 30- or 32-card deck of cards, depending on how many you’re playing with. Starting from a standard 52-card deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, remove all of the 2s through 6s. If you’re playing with any number besides four players, also remove the black 7s. You’ll be left with a deck of aces through 8s in each of the four suits, making 28 cards. Then you’ll also have either the two red 7s, making 30 cards, or all four of them, making 32 cards.
You also need something to keep score with. Pencil and paper works well, but tokens will also work. You’ll need at least ten tokens for each player.
Shuffle and deal the entire deck out, as far as it will go. Each player should have the same number of cards.
Polignac uses a somewhat unusual card ranking. The ace ranks below the jack and above the 10. This leads to a full card ranking of (high) K, Q, J, A, 10, 9, 8, 7 (low).
Game play starts with the player to the dealer’s left. They may lead any card they wish to the first trick. Each player in turn plays a card to the trick, following suit if able, and playing any card they wish if they can’t.
After everyone has played, whoever played the highest card of the suit led wins the trick. They take the cards and place them into a won-tricks pile in front of them. Then, they lead to the next trick.
After enough tricks have been played that the players’ hands are exhausted, the hand is over. Players look through their won-trick piles for the four jacks. Capturing the Polignac, the J♠, is worth two points. Each other jack is worth one point.
Game play continues until at least one player has scored ten or more points. Whoever has the lowest score at that point wins.
Speculation is a light and simple betting game. While the main goal of the game is straightforward—you just have to end the hand holding the highest-ranking card of a certain suit—more money can change hands by players selling potentially valuable cards to each other! A player may not win the game, but can still come out ahead by making a deal with another player to sell off a high-ranking card.
Speculation was most popular in the late 1700s through about 1880. During this time period, it was mentioned in works by several prominent authors, including Jane Austen and Charles Dickens. The producers of a film of Austen’s Mansfield Park called in card game author and historian David Parlett as an advisor for a scene involving a game of Speculation. Parlett’s research on the game resulted in him publishing this reconstructed set of rules, allowing card players everywhere to rediscover the classic game.
Object of Speculation
The object of Speculation is to hold the highest card of the trump suit at the end of the hand.
To play Speculation, you’ll need a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. Keep all of your risk limited to that in the game—don’t risk your cards failing you in the middle of the game! Always make sure to play with Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards.
Players should decide if real money will be wagered, and if so, the value of each chip. If chips have real-world value, each player buys in for their desired number of chips. Otherwise, give each player an equal number of chips. All players ante, forming the pot.
Shuffle and deal three cards, face down, to each player. Players may not look at their cards. Instead, they should keep the three cards in a squared-up stack. Then, deal yourself one card, face up, in front of you. The suit of this card, the upcard, becomes the trump suit. The stub takes no further part in game play.
Cards rank in their usual order, with aces high.
The upcard belongs to the dealer. If it is an ace, there is no way it can be beaten, so the dealer automatically wins the hand and takes the pot. Otherwise, they may choose to keep this card, or sell it to any other player. The form such a sale takes is up to the dealer to decide; they may offer a firm price, or negotiate a price with a buyer, or even auction it off. Payment is made directly to the dealer, not the pot.
Play of the hand
The player to the left of whoever ends up with the upcard (the player to the dealer’s left, if they did not sell the upcard; otherwise, the player to the left of whoever bought it) takes the first turn. They turn up the first card of their stack of cards. The turn then passes to the left, and that player turns up a card, and so on. When the turn reaches whichever player is showing the highest trump, that player is skipped over and does not have to reveal any cards.
When a new highest trump is revealed by any player, they may choose to keep it or to sell it, in the same way the upcard could be sold. Again, this money goes to the player turning up the trump, not the pot. Once the owner of this card is decided, play picks up with the person to that player’s left.
Between turns, a player may also offer to buy one of another player’s face-down cards, sight unseen. This is normally done by the current holder of the high trump, to reduce the number of opportunities for higher cards to be revealed. Again, the other player may refuse the deal, or haggle with the buyer over the price.
Ending the hand
As players run out cards to reveal, eventually the ultimate holder of the highest trump will be known. This player takes the pot. They then serve as dealer for the next hand.
Cactus is a card game for two players where memory plays a crucial role. Initially, all of a player’s cards are face down, so they will have no knowledge of the value of their hand. However, as the game continues, the initial, unknown cards will be replaced with cards the player does know the identity of. They still can’t look at the cards, though—so they have to remember which card is which to make sure they don’t accidentally discard or reveal the wrong card!
Cactus is part of a small family of games collectively referred to as “Golf” (distinct from the better-known Golf solitaire game). They carry this name because, like in the sport of golf, the goal is to end with the lowest score. Cactus is a Golf variant hailing from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Object of Cactus
The object of Cactus is to end the game with the lowest point total. Players try to reduce their point total by selectively discarding and drawing cards.
To play Cactus, you’ll need a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. To make sure that your cards are always durable enough to stand up to your game, always use Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards.
Shuffle and deal four cards to each player. Players may not look at their cards. Each player arranges their cards in a two-by-two grid in front of them, making sure to keep them face down. Place the stub face down in the center of the table, forming the stock.
Game play in Cactus revolves around players trying to reduce the total point value of the cards in their hands. The values of each card are as follows:
- Aces: one point.
- Kings: zero points.
- Queens and jacks: ten points each.
- All other cards: pip value.
The non-dealer goes first. They draw a card from the stock and look at it, keeping it hidden from the dealer. They may then swap it with any of the face-down cards in front of them. The player may not look at the face-down cards before deciding which to swap. The player then turns the card they wish to remove face up and places it next to the stock, forming the discard pile. The card drawn is placed face down in the vacant spot in the layout.
Once a card has been placed on the layout, a player cannot look at it again. Instead, they must remember which card is which for the rest of the game!
After the non-dealer has discarded, the dealer plays. On this and all subsequent turns, a player may choose to draw the top card of the discard pile rather than from the stock.
At any time, even if it’s not their turn, if a player believes a card in their layout matches the top card of the discard pile, they may turn the card face up. If the card does indeed match, they may discard the matching card. Their layout will now be one card smaller. If the card does not match, they turn the card back face down, then draw two penalty cards from the stock and add them to their layout without looking at them.
Queens through 6s are called power cards, allow a player to invoke a special move when drawn from the stock. Instead of swapping the power card with a card from the layout, a player can simply discard it, then perform the appropriate action, according to the card’s rank:
- Queen: Swap any card from your layour with a card from your opponent’s layout. You may not look at either card before swapping.
- Jack, 10, or 9: You may look at any one of your opponent’s cards. They don’t get to know what it is.
- 8, 7, or 6: You may look at any one of your own cards.
A player may also choose to play a power card to their layout, as normal. Doing so does not invoke the special power associated with the card.
If a power card ends up in the discard pile without having been used, that is, if it is discarded from a player’s layout, the opponent may draw it off the discard pile. They may then immediately re-discard it and invoke the power.
Ending the game
Game play continues until one player is satisfied with their layout. At the end of their turn, they call out “Cactus!” Their opponent then has one more turn in which to act. After the opponent takes their turn, both players turn up all of their cards. Whichever player has the lower total score is the winner.
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.
Ristiseiska is a card game for three to five players. It is a simple Stops game very similar to Fan Tan. However, in Ristiseiska, whenever you are unable to play a card, you are given one by your opponent to the right. Given that your opponent gets to choose the card, it’s not likely to be one that’s very helpful to you!
Ristiseiska is originally from Finland, and is an extremely popular game there. The name Ristiseiska is Finnish for “seven of clubs”, because the player holding the 7♣ is the first to play.
Object of Ristiseiska
The object of Ristiseiska is to be the first player to run out of cards. Players get rid of their cards by playing them to the tableau.
To play Ristiseiska, you’ll need one standard 52-card deck of playing cards. Be sure to play with Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, because then you’ll know your cards will always be durable enough to last for game after game.
Shuffle and deal the entire deck out to all the players. Some players may end up with more cards than others.
The player holding the 7♣ plays first. They play it face up to the center of the table, becoming the first card of the tableau. The turn then passes to the left.
If the next player holds any other 7, they may play it to the right of the 7♣, forming a horizontal row. If they hold the 6♣, they may play it in the space below the 7♣. Likewise, if they hold the 8♣, they may play it to the spot just above the 7♣. As further 7s are added to the layout, the 6s and 8s of those respective suits may also be played in the appropriate spots.
Once a 6 has been played, further cards of the same suit may be built onto it, in descending rank order downward to the ace. Similarly, once an 8 has been played, later players may build onto the 8, upward to the king. Once a pile has reached the ace or the king, the pile is turned face down to show no further cards may be built upon it.
Begging for cards
A player may find themselves unable to play any card to the tableau on their turn. If it is their first turn of the game, they simply pass and play continues as normal. On any other turn, they must beg for a card. They ask their opponent to the right for a card. This player selects any card they wish from their hand (usually a card which is unlikely to be played for a long time) and passes it, face down, to the beggar. The beggar’s turn then ends.
A beggar cannot take a player’s last card from them. If a player must beg, and the player to the right only has one card, they skip over that player and beg from the player second to the right.
If a player is found to have begged when they did, in fact, have a valid play in their hand, each of their opponents passes them one card as a penalty.
Ending the game
Game play ends when one player runs out of cards. That player wins the game.
Vazhushal is a rummy game for two to six players. Its most distinguishing feature is the practice of organizing the discards into a line, rather than a typical discard pile. If a player can use a card anywhere in the discard line in a new meld, they can take it—and all the cards on top of it!
Vazhushal originates from the city of Chennai, India. The name translates from the Tamil word for “wipe”, referring to the way that a player can “wipe” a considerable number of cards away from the discard pile in one fell swoop!
Object of Vazhushal
The object of Vazhushal is to be the first player to form their entire hand into melds.
A two-player game of Vazhushal will need one standard 52-card deck of playing cards, including two jokers. For a game with three or more players, you’ll need two 52-card decks with two jokers each (108 cards in all). For a worry-free hosting experience, make sure you always use the most durable playing cards in the world, Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards.
Shuffle and deal thirteen cards to each player. If anyone has been dealt three or more instances of both copies of the same card (for example 2♥-2♥-5♣-5♣-J♦-J♦), they must alert the other players. In this case, the hands are thrown in, and the same dealer deals new hands. Otherwise, the dealer places the stub in the center of the table, forming the stock. They then turn the top card of the stock face up and placed it next to the stock, which becomes the first card of the discard line. The bottom card of the stock is turned up as well and placed so that it is partially covered by the stock. This card is called the negative joker.
The player to the dealer’s left goes first. Game play in Vazhushal follows the normal draw-meld-discard flow found in most rummy games. A player starts their turn by drawing, either from the stock or from the discard line (as described below). Then, they meld any cards they are able and willing to. Finally, the player discards one card to the discard line.
Vazhushal allows the two types of meld commonly found in rummy games. One is the sequence, which is three or more consecutively-ranked cards of the same suit, like 5-6-7♦. Aces can be at either end of a sequence, but not in the middle (A-2-3 or Q-K-A, but not K-A-2). The other type of meld is three or four cards of the same rank. Two cards of the same rank and suit are not allowed in the same meld.
Jokers are wild for the purposes of melding. The cards of the same rank, but the opposite color, of the negative joker are considered wild. For example, if the A♠ is the negative joker, the A♦ and A♥ are both wild. A wild card being used as its natural value, like a wild A♦ in a Q-K-A♦ meld, does not count as a wild card.
There are some restrictions on melding. A player cannot have two melds identical in suit and sequence at any time. Also, a meld cannot consist of only jokers; it must have at least one natural card in it.
A player’s first meld of the hand must be a sequence of three or more cards with no wild cards. Once this is done, a player may meld whatever they are able to on their turn. Melds are placed face up in front of the player they belong to. A player cannot lay off cards on their opponents’ melds.
A player can rearrange their previously-melded cards to facilitate new melding as much as they like. However, there must always be a sequence of three or more cards with no wilds, and all of the melds must follow the rules outlined above. Also, a player cannot return previously-melded cards to their hand.
The discard line
After a player has melded, they end their turn by discarding one card to the discard line. Unlike most rummy games, in Vazhushal, the discards are not kept in a simple pile. Instead, they’re spread out in a line, with each index kept clearly visible.
Drawing from the line
At the start of their turn, a player can choose to draw from the discard line instead. A player drawing from the discard line may take as many consecutive cards from the line that they wish, starting from the most-recently discarded. However, the deepest card taken (the one that was least-recently discarded) must immediately be used in a new meld (not an existing one already on the table). The new meld can be made using additional cards from the discard line as well. Having done this, the player then takes all of the cards on top of the drawn card (those discarded more recently) and adds them to their hand. These cards are then also available for melding.
For example, suppose the discard line contains the following (oldest) 7♦-Q♦-3♥-9♠-10♠-K♦-10♦ (newest). A player holds the 8♠ in their hand. They may start their turn by taking the 9♠ and 10♠ from the line to form a new meld. This 9♠ is immediately used in a new meld, so the draw is legal. The player would also take the K♦-10♦ into their hand, as those cards were on top of the 9♠.
Drawing from the line for the initial meld
A player who has not made their initial natural sequence meld may only draw from the discard line if the card drawn allows them to immediately form the sequence meld. A player who has not yet melded, but already has a natural sequence meld in hand, may meld this sequence first, then draw from the discard line, so long as the card drawn can immediately be used in a meld. This is the only time a player can meld before drawing.
When a player is able to form all of their cards into melds except for one, which they then discard, they have gone out. That player wins the game.
If the stock is depleted before a player can go out, game play stops at the end of the turn that the last card was drawn from the stock. Each player may make any additional melds from their hand at that point. Then, the hand scores are determined. Aces and face cards count as ten points each, and all other cards count as their pip value. Wild cards count as the card they are substituting for. Each player calculates the value of their melds and subtracts the value of the cards left in their hand. The player with the highest score wins the game.