As the COVID-19 pandemic has intensified, more and more of us are subject to furloughs and stay-at-home orders. Many of us have the fortune to be at home with a loved one or roommate. Having someone else to spend time can make things a lot more tolerable.
However, those with a regular card game night may have some trouble adjusting to life with just two players. After all, poker gets pretty boring when it’s nothing but heads-up play. Partnership games like Canasta or Contract Bridge are obviously a no-go. If you want to pass time with a game of cards with a friend, but need guidance on what to play, try these five games. (If you happen to be isolated at home by yourself, check out last week’s recommendations for solitaire games.)
- Gin Rummy: Any discussion of two-player card games has to start with Gin—it’s a classic for a reason. It takes the traditional draw-meld-discard format of Rummy, but adds the simple twist of having the players keep the melds in their hands. Since you can’t see your opponent’s melds, you need a good memory and abductive reasoning skills to know what is and isn’t a safe discard. The result is a game that’s simple to pick up, but challenging to master. Our Gin Rummy strategy guide might help, though.
- Turnover Bridge: Actually a Whist game despite the name, Turnover Bridge is strategic for the exact opposite reasons that Gin is. In Turnover Bridge, all but two of each player’s cards will be exposed to their opponent. That means that each player has enough information to devise a strategy to outplay their opponents, barring some surprises.
- Mate: Mate takes the idea of the perfect-strategy game even further. The goal is forcing your opponent into a situation where they can’t play a card matching the card led in suit or rank. However, you want as many turns to pass as possible before that happens. After the hand ends, you swap cards with your opponent. Then you see if you could have done any better with their hand!
- Cassino: Cassino is a fairly straightforward game of capturing cards by matching them in value. You do that either by matching in pairs, or by putting together two cards and using a third that matches their total value. Cassino is the only member of its family of games that’s popular in the English-speaking world. If you like it, give some of the other games of the fishing family a try.
- Pishe Pasha: This game plays a lot like a solitaire game, because there’s four foundation piles in the center of the table that you’re building up in order by suit. However, instead of a tableau, the only other place you can put cards is on your opponent’s discard pile. The goal is to run out of cards first, though, so that’s not a move your opponent will be particularly happy about.
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The threat of COVID-19 is forcing more and more of us to stay home due to quarantine or social distancing. As a result, we’re also often ending up with a surplus of free time. Throughout human history, people have found themselves in similar situations: lots of free time and no way to spend it with anyone. One traditional way to pass the time, in days before modern technology, was using a deck of cards to play a game by yourself.
Modern solitaire players are likely only familiar with the solitaire (or patience) games in software that comes pre-installed on their computer, such as Klondike (what people usually think of as just “Solitaire”), FreeCell, and Spider. However, with a physical deck of cards, the possibilities are limitless; there’s hundreds of solitaire games to keep things fresh. Here are five solitaire games to check out when you can’t play with a real opponent.
- Black Hole: Games expert David Parlett invented this game that, like Golf, centers around discarding cards of consecutive rank. However, unlike Golf, Black Hole is much easier to win; it boasts an estimated win rate of 86%.
- Bridge Solitaire: Stephen Rogers contributes this substitute for Contract Bridge that’s excellent for when players can’t get together to play. It’s designed to provide a challenge to experienced Bridge players to keep their skills sharp in lieu of a partner.
- Forty Thieves (Napoleon at St. Helena): Legend has it this two-deck solitaire game was a favorite of Napoleon in exile. That’s probably not true, but if you want to pretend you’re an exiled former emperor while playing this game instead of someone who’s hiding out from a virus, well, who are we to say you can’t?
- The Clock: A game that’s 100% luck-based, meaning it’s a great way to occupy your mind when you don’t feel like thinking too hard. Its striking tableau definitely makes it unique.
- Pyramid (Tut’s Tomb): These days, this game is probably best known from its inclusion in Windows in the early 1990s. It features a large triangular tableau, which the player seeks to eliminate by discarding pairs of cards that total thirteen.
The pandemic has forced everyone to focus on hygiene much more than usual in recent days, for good reason. Even when you’re playing by yourself, consider upgrading to a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. Because they’re non-porous and waterproof, unlike paper cards, they’re easy to keep clean and sanitary.
Triple Play, also known as Hand, Knee, and Foot, is a variation on Canasta for four players in partnerships. Like Hand and Foot, Triple Play gives each player extra hands of cards they must play through before going out. However, while Hand and Foot requires a player to play out their hand and one extra hand, in Triple Play, you have two extra hands to get rid of, or three in all! That means a Triple Play player effectively has a 39-card hand!
Most widely-played games evolved over time, their creators lost to history. Not so with Triple Play—it was invented by Sue Henberger of Huntley, Illinois. We even have an exact date when Henberger first began thinking of creating the game: New Year’s Eve, 2005. That night, she and three of her friends began discussing the possibility of adding new rules to their usual Canasta game to stave off boredom. Henberger kept working on the game and playtesting it, before finally introducing it to her local Canasta club, to great success. From one Illinois Canasta club, the game began to spread nationwide.
Object of Triple Play
The object of Triple Play is to score more points than your opponents over the course of four hands. Points can be scored by forming melds of three or more cards and canastas, which are melds of seven cards.
To play Triple Play, you’ll need a massive number of cards—six standard decks, plus twelve jokers (two per deck), 324 cards in all! Once you’ve put together such a big deck, you’ll want it to last as long as possible, so protect your investment by choosing Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. You’ll be holding a lot of cards in your hand, so you’ll probably want the bridge-size cards. You also need something to keep score with, such as pencil and paper or a smartphone app.
Determine partnerships, either by some form of random draw, or by mutual agreement. Partners should sit on opposite sides of the table, so that players of alternate partnerships play as the turn proceeds clockwise around the table.
Shuffle (using the multiple-deck shuffling technique) and deal a fifteen-card hand to each player. Next, deal out a thirteen-card knee pile for each player, and an eleven-card foot pile. Players may look at their hands, but not the knee and foot piles. The foot piles are stacked neatly in front of each player, face down, with the knee pile atop it at right angles.
The remaining undealt cards are placed in the center of the table, forming the stock. The top card of the stock is turned face-up and placed next to it. This is the upcard, the top card of the discard pile. If the upcard is a joker, 2, red 3, 5, or 7, bury it face-down in the middle of the stock and draw another card.
Card ranks and scoring
The following are the scores and special properties of all of the cards in the game:
- Red 3s: Red 3s serve as a bonus card and are simply laid in front of the player and a new card is drawn to replace them. 100 points.
- Jokers: Jokers are wild. 50 points.
- 2s: 2s are also wild. 20 points.
- Aces: 20 points.
- K–8s: 10 points.
- 7s–4s: 5 points.
- Black 3s: Cannot be melded. 5 points.
Other than the colors of the 3s, suits do not matter. Both jokers are likewise equal.
Play of the hand
Any player holding a red 3 in their hand at the beginning of the hand lays it face-up on the table and immediately draws a replacement. Any further red 3s that a player draws while playing their initial fifteen-card hand are similarly exposed and replaced. One player on each partnership is responsible for collecting their and their partners’ melds and red 3s and keeping them on the table in front of them.
After the red 3s have been replaced, play begins with the player to the dealer’s left. On a player’s turn, they will draw and then meld if possible. Normally, they will then discard.
The first action a player takes is to draw. In most cases, they will do this by simply drawing the top two cards from the stock.
A player can also pick up the discard pile and add it to their hand. To do so, the player must have two cards in their hand that they can immediately meld with the top card of the discard pile. (Any other cards in the discard pile are inaccessible to them until they demonstrate that they can legally meld the top card.) If this is the partnership’s first meld for that deal, additional cards from the hand may be melded alongside the card from the discard pile in order to satisfy the opening-meld requirement.
Because black 3s cannot be melded, a player cannot draw from the discard pile when the upcard is a black 3. If the top card of the discard pile is a wild card, then the player can only draw from the discard pile if the player is holding two other cards of the same natural rank. That is, if there is a 2 on the discard pile, you must hold two other 2s to draw from it; you cannot substitute jokers for the 2s).
After drawing, a player may form one or more melds, or add to any existing melds formed on previous turns. A meld consists of three to seven cards of the same rank. Melds are traditionally fanned out so that each card’s index is visible.
A meld can contain only one wild card in a meld of three to five cards, and no more than two in a meld of six or seven. Melds of 5s and 7s can never contain wild cards. A player can also make a meld that consists of all wild cards. A meld with no wild cards is said to be a natural or clean meld; a meld that does include them is a mixed or dirty meld.
On the first turn of the deal that a partnership melds, they must meet a minimum point threshold, as follows:
- First deal: 50 points
- Second deal 90 points
- Third deal: 120 points
- Fourth deal: 150 points
Once the initial meld has been made, melds made by that partnership on subsequent turns on that deal are not subject to the minimums. Existing melds can be extended by either player in the partnership with more natural cards, or with wild cards, if possible. Players cannot move cards between melds, nor can they establish two separate melds of less than seven cards of the same rank. Players cannot add to their opponents’ melds.
A meld of seven cards is called a canasta. Traditionally, a canasta is denoted by squaring the meld up into a pile, with a red card on top for a natural canasta, and a black card on top for a mixed canasta. A canasta cannot contain more than seven cards; once a canasta has been completed, the partnership can begin a new meld of the same rank.
After melding, a player that began their turn by drawing from the stock ends it by discarding a single card. If a player began their turn by picking up the discard pile instead, they do not discard. Instead, they knock on the table to signify when they are done melding. The next player has no choice but to draw from the stock.
Picking up the knee and foot
When a player finishes their partnership’s first canasta, they pick up their knee pile and add it to their hand. They then continue their turn as usual. On their partner’s next turn, they must also remember to pick up their knee pile. Nobody can remind them to do so; anyone who does is subject to a stiff 1,000-point penalty!
Beginning when a player picks up their knee pile, they no longer draw a card to replace red 3s. They simply play them and continue their turn.
After a player has picked up their knee pile, when they run out of cards, they pick up their foot pile and continue play from there. If a player’s last card was discarded, they do not pick up their foot pile until the beginning of their next turn.
Ending the deal
Throughout the game, each partnership works toward completing a set of five canastas known as the basic book. The basic book is as follows:
- A natural canasta of 5s
- A natural canasta of 7s
- A canasta of wild cards
- Any natural canasta
- Any mixed canasta
When a player runs out of cards after picking up their foot pile, they may go out if their partnership has completed their basic book. To do so, they must first ask their partner if they can go out. Their partner’s answer is binding; a player cannot go out if their partner withholds their permission to do so.
In the rare event the stock runs out before a player can go out, follow the same procedure used in Hand and Foot to end the deal.
Each partnership totals the value of the cards it has melded. From this total, they deduct the value of any cards remaining in their hands, as well as their knee and foot piles. Unplayed red 3s have a value of –500 points each; unplayed black 3s are –100 points each.
Then, the following canasta bonuses are added:
- 7s: 5,000 points per canasta.
- 5s: 3,000 per canasta.
- Wild cards: 2,500 points per canasta.
- Natural canastas: 500 points per canasta.
- Mixed canastas: 300 points per canasta.
The following bonuses are also included:
- Red 3s: 100 points each.
- Collecting seven or more red 3s: 300 points.
- Going out: 200 points.
All of the above is combined to reach the total score for the deal and recorded on the score sheet. Then, the cards are shuffled, and the deal passes to the left. The partnership with the highest score at the end of four hands is the winner.
Getaway is a unique trick-taking game for three to eight players. In most trick-taking games, players have to follow suit, but if they can’t, they simply can’t win the trick. Also, after the trick is finished, it’s discarded to a won-tricks pile and the cards are out of play. Getaway turns all that on its head—a player being unable to follow suit ends that trick, and the player that was winning the trick takes the cards into their hand!
Getaway is popular in Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh.
Object of Getaway
The object of Getaway is to avoid being the last player with any cards.
To play Getaway, you’ll need a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. Treat your players to the best game you can give them by playing with a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards.
Shuffle and deal out the entire deck as far as it will go. Some players may receive more cards than others; this is fine.
The player that holds the A♠ leads it to the first trick. Each player then plays a card to the trick, in order proceeding to the left. All players must follow suit if able. After all players have played, the person playing the highest card of the suit led wins the trick. Cards rank in their usual order, with aces high, so the person holding the A♠ will always win the first trick. The cards are placed face down in a discard pile after the trick is played, and the winner of the trick leads to the next trick.
When a player cannot follow suit, they may play any card. Beginning on the second trick, play to a trick stops whenever a player cannot follow suit. Players later on in turn order do not contribute to the trick. The player who, at that point, had played the highest card of the suit led takes the cards from the incomplete trick into their hand. That player then leads to the next trick.
Between tricks, a player may choose to take the entire hand of the player to their left. Since that player is then left with no cards, they instantly get away (see below). Exercising this option is sometimes in a player’s best interest, because the player to the left does not have any cards in the suits the player holds. Thus, the trick will always end prematurely by the player to the left failing to follow suit, and the player will never be able to play their cards. In such a situation, it makes sense to take that player out of the game in hopes of being able to pass control to another player.
Unlike most trick-taking games, not all players are going to play cards to every trick, and players will be bringing new cards into their hand. Because of this, players will run out of cards at different rates. A player that runs out of cards is said to have gotten away. When a player has gotten away, they are out of the game and are not at risk of losing. If a player who was supposed to lead gets away, the player to their left leads instead.
Ending the hand
The number of players will gradually shrink as more and more players get away. Special rules apply when only two players are left and one of them runs out of cards. If the other player plays a higher card of the suit led, as usual, that player wins the trick, and the player who depleted their hand gets away. The player with cards remaining loses the game. However, if the player with more cards can play a lower card of the suit led, that forces a special situation called a shootout.
The discard pile is shuffled, excluding the two cards from the trick just concluded. The player with no cards randomly draws a card from the deck and exposes it. This card serves as their lead. If the other player can again play a lower card of the suit led, the game continues with the player with no cards drawing a new lead from the shuffled discard pile. If the player with cards is forced to play a card of a higher rank than the card drawn from the deck, the player with no cards gets away and the player with cards remaining loses. Should the player with cards have no cards of the suit drawn, however, the player with cards gets away, and the player with no cards loses.
Pishe Pasha is a simple competitive solitaire game for two players. In Pishe Pasha, players turn over cards one at a time from a stock pile, trying to get rid of them. This can be done by building up foundation piles in the center of the table, putting the cards out of play. However, you can also get rid of cards by forcing your opponent to take them. Unfortunately for you, though, they’re going to be trying to do the same thing to you!
Object of Pishe Pasha
The object of Pishe Pasha is to be the first to run out of cards. Players can get rid of cards in two ways. One is by playing them to a set of shared foundation piles. They may also play cards onto their opponent’s discard pile.
To play Pishe Pasha, you’ll need a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. To ensure a smooth, trouble-free game, we recommend Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. Shuffle and deal out the cards as far as they will go, so that each player has 26 cards. Players cannot look at their cards. Instead, they should collect them into a squared-up pack, keeping it face down. This pack constitutes the player’s stock.
The non-dealer turns up the first card of their stock to form their discard pile, placing it face-up next to the stock. If is this card is not an ace, the hand begins with the dealer’s first turn. However, if this card is an ace, the non-dealer immediately moves it to the center of the table to form one of the foundation piles. They then turn over another card. If this card can also be played to the foundation piles, as described below, they continue moving cards to the foundations and turning cards face up until they find a card that cannot be played.
On a player’s turn, they may move cards from their discard pile to one of two places. As aces are turned up, they are moved to the center of the table to form the foundation piles, shared by both players. The foundation piles, one per suit, are then built up in sequence. Cards rank in their usual order, with aces low. If a player is able to play a card to the foundations, they must do so first. They may not take any other action before doing so.
On their turn, a player may also play a card to their opponent’s discard pile. To do so, the card must be one rank above or one rank below the top card already showing on the discard pile. Suit does not matter. For example, with a 7 showing on a player’s discard pile, their opponent may play any 6 or 8 to it.
If a player notices that their opponent failed to play a card to the foundations when able, they may call “Stop!” The player calling Stop may then either force their opponent to move the card to the foundations, or force their opponent to end their turn and take their turn instead.
Play of the hand
The dealer plays first, turning the top card of their stock up to form their discard pile. If they can play this card according to the rules above, they may do so. Then, they draw another card from their stock. They may keep playing until they draw a card they are unable to play. They then place this card on their discard pile, ending their turn.
The non-dealer then plays, following the same rule. The dealer and non-dealer continue alternating turns in this way. If a card played to the discard pile on a subsequent turn (or one that is moved there by the player’s opponent) is exposed, it may be played just like any other card. As always, if the card can be played to the foundations, this must be done before the player can take any other action.
A player will eventually run out of cards in their stock, while still having cards in their discard pile. When this happens, they turn their discard pile over, without shuffling, to form a new stock.
A player wins when they have gotten rid of all of the cards from both their stock and discard pile.
Diloti is a Greek fishing game for two players (or four players in partnerships). It plays similarly to another Greek fishing game, Kontsina. However, it also incorporates bonuses for capturing all the cards in one fell swoop, as in Xeri. This, along with the ability to form cards into sets that can only be captured together, makes Diloti one of the most strategic games in the fishing family.
Object of Diloti
The object of Diloti is to capture as many cards as possible. Cards are captured with a card matching them in rank, or by using one card from the hand to capture a combination of cards that add up to its rank. Particular attention is given to capturing all the cards on the table on one turn, which scores higher.
If you want to play Diloti, you’ll need a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. If you want to give your players the best Diloti game ever—and who doesn’t?—you’ll need a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. You also need something to keep score with, like pencil and paper or a smartphone app. You can also use a Cribbage board.
If you’re playing with four players, determine partnerships by some convenient method like high-card draw, or simply mutual agreement. Partners should be seated across from each other, so that as the turn progresses around the table players from alternating partnerships get a turn.
Shuffle and deal six cards to each player. Then, deal four cards face up to the center of the table. If three or more of these cards are the same rank, shuffle all four of them back into the deck and deal four new cards. Place the stub next to these four cards, forming the stock.
The player to the dealer’s left plays first. On each turn, a player plays a single card from their hand. If it doesn’t match with anything else on the table, they simply play it face-up to the table. This is called laying the card. If possible, however, a player will try to capture cards from the table, since this is how points are scored.
A player may form one or more cards on the table into a bundle that must be captured as a single unit. This bundle is known as a declaration. For example, with a 2 and a 3 on the table, a player may play a 5 and form all three cards into a declaration with a value of 10. This declaration would only be able to captured on a later turn with a 10. Note that because face cards have no defined value, they cannot be included in a declaration. To avoid ambiguity, it is customary to state the value of the declaration when forming it. The declaration should be formed into a pile on the table, with all indices visible, to denote it can only be captured as a unit, as well as allowing players to see its value.
A player can also capture multiple cards by playing a card whose rank is equal to the total of the values of the cards being captured. For example, with a 5 and a 3 on the table, playing an 8 will capture both cards. Cards’ values are equal to their pip value; face cards have no value. If multiple combinations of cards add up to the card played, all of them can be captured at once. For example, if there are an 8, 6, 5, 3, and 2 on the table, an 8 could capture all five cards (8 alone, 5+3, and 6+2).
When a player captures cards, they place them, as well as the card used to capture them, face down in a pile in front of them. (In the four-player game, each player shares a captured-cards pile with their partner.) No player can inspect these cards for any reason until the end of the hand.
A player may form cards on the table into a bundle that must be captured as a single unit. This bundle is known as a declaration. For example, with a 2 and a 3 on the table, a player may play a 5, then group all three cards into a declaration with a value of 10. This declaration would only be able to captured on a later turn with a 10. Note that because face cards have no defined value, they cannot be included in a declaration. To avoid ambiguity, it is customary to state the value of the declaration when forming it.
After a declaration has been formed, any player can capture it if they have a card of a proper value. An opponent may also raise the declaration by adding an additional card to it, thus increasing the value of the card needed to capture it. A player cannot raise their own declaration or one formed by their partner. Of course, a player cannot raise the value of a declaration above 10, because no single card in the deck has a value greater than 10.
To form a declaration, a player must have a card in their hand that can capture it. Likewise, to raise a declaration, the raising player must hold a card with the new value of the declaration. The player that formed or raised the declaration cannot use the card for any other purpose but capturing the declaration (unless it is captured or raised by another player). After forming a new declaration, a player cannot lay cards, nor form new declarations until the existing declaration is captured (either by themselves or someone else) or raised by an opponent. This restriction passes to an opponent who raises a declaration already on the table.
A more complex type of declaration is the group declaration. A group declaration is a set of multiple single cards or bundles of cards, where the value of each set is equal. For example, with a 2, 6, and two 4s on the table, a player could make a group declaration with a value of 8 (the first set being 2+6 and the second being 4+4). Later, all four cards could be captured by playing an 8. When forming a group declaration, a player should state that they are doing so by stating “group of 8s”. This avoids ambiguity regarding the type of declaration being made.
The real power of a group declaration is that it can incorporate existing regular declarations as one of the sets. For example, Alpha creates a declaration of 7 by playing a 3 onto a 4. The next player, Bravo, raises the declaration to 9 by adding a 2 to it. Then they combine it with another 9 on the table to make a group declaration. Bravo (or any other player) could then capture all four cards with another 9.
A player is permitted to incorporate an existing regular declaration that they are obliged to capture into a new group declaration. This is the only way a player can form a new declaration while they already have a uncaptured declaration on the table. A player may also incorporate their partner’s declaration into a group declaration. All of the same restrictions that apply to a player with a pending regular declaration apply to a player that has formed a group declaration as well.
Beginning on the second turn of the hand, when a player plays a single card that captures every face-up card on the table, they are said to have captured those cards xeri (an Greek word meaning “plain” or “dry”). A xeri capture scores more points than cards captured otherwise. Because of this, a good deal of the strategy in Diloti involves blocking your opponents from getting xeris, while seizing any opportunities your opponent may leave open to get one.
To record a xeri, the player places one card from the batch captured face up and at right angles to the rest of the their won-cards pile.
Replenishing the hands
After six turns, the players will have run out of cards. The dealer then deals every player a new hand of six cards from the stock. Play continues as before.
When the last batch of cards has been dealt from the stock, the game continues until all the cards have been played. This ends the hand. The last player to capture cards takes any cards remaining on the table and adds them to their won cards. (This does not count as a xeri.)
After the hand ends, each player or partnership looks through the cards in their won-tricks pile and totals up their score for the hand, as follows:
- Ten points for each xeri
- Four points for capturing the most cards. If both players or teams tie at 26 cards, neither side scores these four points.
- Two points for capturing the 10♦
- One point for each ace captured
- One point for capturing the 2♣
The scores are recorded on the scoresheet, the deal passes to the left, and another hand is played. Game play continues until a player or partnership reaches a score of 61 or higher. Whichever side has the higher score at that point wins the game.
Seven Rummy is a rummy game played in Japan. It’s also known as Seven Bridge, despite the fact that it has no trick taking, bidding, or any other characteristic of Bridge. It can be played by two to five players. What makes Seven Rummy unique among rummy games is the unusual role 7s play in the game. Any meld containing a 7 doesn’t have to contain three cards; it can have two, or even just one!
Object of Seven Rummy
The object of Seven Rummy is to be the first player to form their entire hand into melds.
Seven Rummy uses the standard 52-card deck. You can play with any 52-card deck, but to give your players the best that they deserve, insist on Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. You also need pencil and paper or some other way of keeping score.
Shuffle and deal seven cards to each player. Place the stub face down in the center of the table, forming the stock. Turn over the first card of the stock. This card, the upcard, is the first card of the discard pile.
The player to the dealer’s left goes first. A Seven Rummy player’s turn follows the usual Rummy pattern of draw, then meld, then discard. A player normally draws from the stock—unlike in other rummy games, in Seven Rummy, there are some restrictions on when a card can be drawn from the discard pile, described below. After drawing, a player may lay any melds they can form face up on the table in front of them. Then, they discard a card face up onto the discard pile, and their turn ends. The turn then passes to the left.
Organizing their hands into melds is the goal of every player. There are two types of melds. The first is three or four of a kind. The other meld type is the sequence, which is three or more consecutive cards of the same suit, such as 4-5-6♣. For the purposes of sequences, cards rank in their usual order, with aces always low.
A player may lay down as many melds as they are able to on their turn. (However, if a player is able to meld all seven cards at once, they score double for the hand.) If a player can extend another player’s meld on the table using cards from their own hand, they may also lay off cards onto those melds.
Including a 7 in a meld waives the normal minimum-card requirements for that meld. A 7 may be melded by itself. It can also be part of a two-card sequence (like 6-7♦) or part of a pair (like 7♥-7♠).
Drawing from the discard pile
Normally, a player is only allowed to draw from the stock, not the discard pile. However, there are two situations in which a player can draw the top card of the discard pile instead. Both of them require a player to be able to immediately form a new meld with cards from their hand. Also, in both cases, a player must have already had at least one turn where they drew a card from the stock.
If a player can use the previous player’s card along with one or more cards from their hand to form a new sequence, they can do so. They must meld it immediately. They may then lay down any other melds they have in their hand and discard. The turn then passes to the left, as normal.
If a player discards a card that another player can use to form a new three or four of a kind, that player may draw the card immediately, even if it’s not their turn. As with a sequence formed with a discard, the meld must be laid on the table immediately. The player can then lay down any other melds, as desired, and discards to end their turn. The next player to the left still plays next, not the player whose turn would have been next had the active player not interrupted—this often results in players getting skipped.
If two players can draw and meld the same discard, the player melding the three or four of a kind has priority.
Ending the hand
The hand ends when a player has no cards left in their hand after melding and discarding. (A final discard is always required.) This player wins the hand. All of the other players total up the value of the deadwood left in their hands, as follows:
- 7s—20 points each
- Face cards—10 points each
- All other cards—their pip value
The winner of the hand scores the total of all of the other players’ deadwood scores. If a player goes out without having previously melded any cards at all (i.e. they melded all seven cards at once, then discarded), they score double for that hand.
The player to the left of the dealer becomes the new dealer for the next hand. Game play continues until a predetermined stopping point, either a certain number of hands or a target score. Whoever has the highest score at that point wins the game.
Thanksgiving is this Thursday! Lots of folks are excitedly preparing for a Thanksgiving feast with their family, but in the back of their minds, they’re thinking, “what else are we going to do?” After the turkey is picked clean and all the pumpkin pie is gone, your family is still all together, and you’re searching for a way to keep everyone together and engaged to stave off that food coma. It’s a perfect time for a game of cards!
Not sure what you want to play this year? Try these games. They’re the five most popular games on our website over the last year:
- Cash (aka Kemps): Not only do you have to be first to get four of a kind, you have to send a secret signal to your partner telling them, too. When you get the hang of it, check out our companion guide to Cash signals to help throw your opponents off.
- Pitty Pat: A simple game of discarding your hand as quickly as possible by matching cards with the with the top card of the discard pile.
- Jack Change It: Like Crazy Eights, but need to kick it up a notch? Jack Change It has you covered by adding special powers to certain cards.
- Mexican Sweat: This poker variant will leave your players sweating as they slowly reveal their hands—to the rest of the table and themselves!
- Crash (13-Card Brag): A more laid-back, social variant of Brag that does away with the betting in favor of a point-scoring system. Players get 13 cards and divide them into four three-card Brag hands.
But of course, that’s just scratching the surface—there are over 230 games on our website. Whatever you decide to play this Thanksgiving, have fun and good luck!
Forty Thieves, also known as Napoleon at St. Helena, is a two-deck solitaire game. Because so much of the game depends on the order the cards are dealt to the tableau, winning the game is very much dependent on luck, rather than skill.
A legend, likely untrue, says that the French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte played solitaire to pass the time when exiled to the island of St. Helena. This game is supposedly the version he preferred.
Object of Forty Thieves (Napoleon at St. Helena)
To play Forty Thieves, shuffle together two decks of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. (It doesn’t matter whether the back designs differ, so using one of our two-deck sets works well.) Deal ten face-up columns of four cards each. These 40 face-up cards form the tableau. The spaces above the first eight tableau columns are reserved the foundations. The 64 cards in the deck stub then become the stock.
As aces are revealed, move them to the foundations. Each foundation may be built up with further cards of the same suit, in ascending rank. Cards rank in their usual order, with aces low. (For example, a foundation starting with the A♠ would have the 2♠ played next upon it, then the 3♠, and so on.)
In the tableau, only the top card of each column (i.e. the card with no other cards overlapping it) may be moved. Multiple cards cannot be moved as a unit. Cards from the tableau may either be moved to the foundations or onto another card in the tableau of the same suit but one rank higher. When empty spaces occur in the tableau, they may be filled by any card.
Cards can be drawn from the stock, one at a time, and moved either to the tableau or the foundations. If a card from the stock cannot be used, it is placed next to the stock in a discard pile. When the stock is exhausted, the discard pile may be turned over to refresh the stock.
The game ends whenever all 104 cards are moved to the foundations (a win) or no further moves are possible (a loss).
Xeri is a simple fishing game for two players. In Xeri, players alternately discard single cards to a pile in the middle of the table. When someone plays a card that matches the rank of the top card of the discard pile, they get to claim all the cards in the pile!
Xeri originates from Greece, and xeri is a Greek word meaning “dry” or “plain”. This comes from the bonus scored when capturing a single-card pile. The notion of collecting bonuses for capturing cards one at a time is also found in the more complex and strategic Greek game Diloti.
Object of Xeri
The object of Xeri is to capture as many cards as possible. Cards are captured by matching cards from the hand to the top card of the discard pile.
To play Xeri, you’ll need a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. As a discerning host that wants to provide the best to their players, you’ll of course want to play with a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. You’ll also need something to keep score with, like pencil and paper or a smartphone app.
Shuffle and deal six cards to each player. Then, deal four cards, face up, to form a discard pile. Take a look at these cards to see if the top card of the pile is a jack, or if the card on top of the pile and the card below it are the same rank. If either of these are true, shuffle the discard pile back into the deck and deal a new four-card discard pile. After the discard pile has been formed, place the stub next to it, forming the stock.
The non-dealer goes first. They may play any card they wish to the discard pile. The turn then passes to the dealer, who also discards a card, and so on.
If a player plays a card of the same rank as the card currently showing on top of the discard pile, they capture the pile. They take the whole pile and place it face down in front of them, forming a won-cards pile. Their opponent then discards a card, starting a new discard pile.
Jacks are essentially wild. When played, they capture the pile as if they matched the top card, whatever its rank is.
Once cards are captured and placed in the won-cards pile, neither player can look through them to see what has and hasn’t been played yet.
After a player captures cards, their opponent starts a new discard pile with a single card. The capturing player is then faced with a discard pile with only one card in it. If they capture this card with a card of the same rank, they are said to have captured that card xeri (an adjective meaning “plain” or “dry”). Capturing xeri scores more points than cards captured otherwise. To signify this, the card captured xeri is turned face up and placed at right angles to the rest of the pile.
If a single card is captured by a jack, it does not count as a xeri capture unless the single card in the pile was also a jack.
Replenishing the hands
After six turns, both players’ hands will have been depleted. The dealer then deals each player a fresh hand of six cards from the stock. Play continues as before.
When the stock is depleted, the hand is played out until all the cards have been played. This ends the hand. The last player to capture cards takes any cards remaining in the discard pile and adds them to their won cards.
At the end of the hand, each player calculates their score for the hand as follows:
- 10 points for each xeri (note that the xeri cards also count as captured cards, and so should be included when considering the scoring options below)
- 3 points for capturing more cards than the opponent
- 1 point for each ace, king, queen, jack or 10
- 1 point for capturing the 10♦ (note that the 10♦ also counts as a 10, so capturing it is worth two points altogether)
- 1 point for capturing the 2♣
Whichever player scores the most points wins the hand. The deal passes to the other player, and the next hand is played. Whoever won more hands at the end of a predetermined number of hands wins the overall game.