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.
Stop the Bus, also known as Bastard, is a simple English card game for two to six players. It is part of the Commerce family of games, where players gradually build up a good hand by exchanging cards from their hand with better ones. It plays somewhat similar to Knock Poker, but using Brag hands rather than poker hands.
Object of Stop the Bus
The object of Stop the Bus is to form the best three-card Brag hand.
Stop the Bus is played with a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. If you want to treat your players to the best game of Stop the Bus possible, make sure you play with a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. You’ll also need some sort of counter or token, such as poker chips.
Give each player an equal number of tokens (higher numbers of tokens will produce a longer game). Shuffle and deal three cards to each player. Then, deal three face-up cards to the center of the table. Set the remaining deck stub aside; it has no further part in game play.
The player to the dealer’s left goes first. They draw one card from the three face up on the table. They then choose one card to discard, face up, replacing the card they drew. The turn then passes to the next player.
Game play continues in this way, with players seeking to improve their hands through successive draws and discards. When a player is satisfied with their hand, they may call out “Stop the bus!” Each of their opponents then takes one more turn. When the turn reaches the player who called “Stop the bus”, the hand ends. All players then turn their hand face up and compare their hands. Whichever player has the worst Brag hand surrenders one token.
The cards are collected and the deal passes to the left. Another hand is played. Game play continues in this fashion, with players dropping out whenever they run out of tokens. The last player with at least one remaining token wins the game.
James Bond is a card game from the Commerce group of games. It can be played by either two or three players. It plays very similarly to a smaller, non-partnership version of Cash (Kemps), with each player holding multiple hands. In James Bond, players manage several four-card piles of cards, swapping cards with those on the table to make four-of-a-kinds.
Object of James Bond
The object of James Bond is to be the first player to collect four of a kind in each of their four-card piles.
James Bond is played using one standard 52-card pack of playing cards. Believe us, if you use Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, you’ll definitely be as cool as James Bond.
Shuffle and deal the entire deck out into piles of four. With two players, give each player six of the piles; with three, give each player four piles. Players should keep the piles in front of them, clearly separated, and not look at them until the game begins. You’ll be left with one extra pile; turn it face up and spread it in the center of the play area, easily accessible to all players.
Players do not take turns in James Bond. Instead, every player acts simultaneously, playing as quickly as they can. Claiming cards is very much a first-come, first-served sort of ordeal!
Upon a signal from the dealer, all players begin play at once. They may pick up any one of their piles and look at it. If they wish to look at a different pile, they must place the first one face down on the table before picking up another one. A player cannot hold one or more piles in their hand at the same time. Piles cannot be combined, and cards may not be switched directly between piles.
When a player is holding one of their piles in their hand, they may switch any one card from that pile with one of the cards on the table. A player cannot switch more than one card at a time. If a player wishes to take multiple cards from the table, they must switch one card, then the other. Players may move cards between piles by swapping them with cards on the table, then switching piles and swapping again. Of course, this runs the risk of an opponent claiming the cards during the time that they’re on the table.
Game play continues until one player has collected four of a kind in every one of their piles. They call out “James Bond!” and turn their cards face up to allow the opponents to verify that they do, in fact, have four of a kind in each pile. If so, the player wins the game.
A decent amount of skill in this game is simply being fast. A player swapping cards quickly is more likely to establish a four-of-a-kind before their opponent. Part of this is inherent reflexes, and part is just practice.
Other than that, the best strategy in this game is to simply be aware of what’s going on. It’s easy to get lost in the frenzy of card swapping and get tunnel vision for what you need to complete your piles. Try to pay attention to what your opponent is doing, though. If you can remember what your opponent has been taking, you can retain cards of that rank in your piles until you are ready to complete a four-of-a-kind. If you have multiple cards of that rank split across piles, you can seriously delay them in completing their piles.
Schwimmen, also known as Thirty-One (no relation to the other game called Thirty-One that we’ve covered), is a member of the Commerce family of card games. It can be played with two to eight players. As with other games in that group, the game revolves around exchanging cards from your hand with cards on the table. Though known worldwide, it is most popular in Germany and western Austria.
Object of Schwimmen
The object of Schwimmen is to form the hand with the highest point value by exchanging cards from the table with those from your hand.
Schwimmen uses the 32-card deck common to many German games. Starting from a standard 52-card deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, remove the 2s through 6s, leaving 7s through aces in each of the four suits. Score is kept using tokens, such as chips. Give each player an equal number—three works well.
Shuffle and deal each player three cards. Then deal three cards, face down, to the center of the table. The remainder of the deck becomes the stock.
Aces are worth eleven points, face cards are worth ten, and all others their face value. Suits rank (high) clubs, spades, hearts, diamonds (low), the same order as in Skat.
Prior to the start of actual play, the dealer looks at their hand and decides whether they want to keep it. If they do, the cards on the table are simply flipped face-up. If not, the dealer discards their original hand, takes the three face-down table cards as their hand, then turns their old hand face up on the table.
Play of the hand
The player to the dealer’s left goes first. On their turn, a player may exchange one card from their hand with one on the table. If a player greatly dislikes their hand, they may elect to exchange all three cards. It is not allowed to keep one card and exchange the other two, however; it’s one or all. A player may also pass if they do not like any of the cards on the board.
The turn then passes to the left. This continues until one player is satisfied with the value of their hand. They then close the hand (equivalent to knocking in many other card games). Each of the closer’s opponents gets one last turn, and the hand ends when the turn to play again reaches the closer.
If an entire orbit around the table is made with every player passing, the dealer discards the three board cards. They then deal three new board cards from the stock.
There are two special combinations in Schwimmen:
- Feuer: Three aces. Such a hand is worth 32 points. (Feuer is German for fire.)
- Schnauz: A hand, all in the same suit, with a value of exactly 31 points. This can only be achieved by holding an ace and two of the ten-point cards (the face cards and the 10).
When a player finds themselves with a special combination, whether because it was dealt to them or because they exchanged to get it, they must reveal it immediately. The hand ends at that point. (Because the hand was not closed, the other players do not get another turn.)
After a hand ends, each player calculates their score. The hand score, in most cases, is the value of all of the cards of its highest-scoring suit. For example, a hand of A♠-K♦-7♥ would score eleven. This is because the player holds three one-card suits, and the spade is the highest-scoring. However, a hand composed of A♠-K♦-7♦ would score seventeen, because the diamonds combine to outscore the lone spade.
There are a few exceptions to this scoring method. Two of these are the special combinations described above. A third is that three-of-a-kind always scores 30½, no matter what rank it is.
If a player wins with a Feuer, then each of their opponents loses one chip. Otherwise, just the player holding the lowest point total loses one chip. If there is a tie for lowest, it is broken by the suit of the player’s scoring cards. Ranks of three-of-a-kinds are broken by the rank of the three-of-a-kind. If there is still an unresolved tie, then both players lose a chip.
Ending the game
The deal passes to the left, and another hand is played. Players will continue losing chips as further hands are played. When a player loses all of their chips, they are said to be schwimmen (German for swimming). A schwimmen player can continue playing, but if they lose again, they are eliminated.
Game play continues until all of the players but one are eliminated. The sole remaining player is the winner. (If the last two players are tied on a hand while they are both schwimmen, play another hand as a tiebreaker.)
Paiute is a card game for two to five players, originating in Hawaii. As in Knock Poker, players work to improve their hand by drawing cards from the stock and discarding unwanted cards until they are satisfied with their hand. However, Paiute allows for six-card hands, which makes some of the hand rankings notably different from those in poker.
Object of Paiute
The object of Paiute is to be the player with the best combination of cards at the end of the hand.
Paiute uses one standard 52-card deck of playing cards. We sure would appreciate it if you used a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards for your game.
Paiute can be played just for fun or as a low-stakes betting game. Players should come to a mutual agreement as to whether or not betting should take place, and if so how much the ante should be. All players then ante the agreed-upon amount.
Shuffle and deal five cards to each player. Then, deal one card, face up, to the center of the table. All cards of this rank are wild for the remainder of the hand. Place the deck stub, face down, so that it partially covers this card, thereby forming the stock. Turn one more card face-up and place it next to the stock; this card forms the discard pile.
Game play begins with the player to the dealer’s left. This player draws one card from either the stock or the discard pile, then discards one card to the discard pile. At the end of your turn, the discard pile must always have a different card on top of it than the one that was there at the start of it. You cannot draw a card from the discard pile and then discard it on the same turn.
If the stock should run out before the end of the hand, set aside the top card of the discard pile, shuffle it, and turn it face down to form the new stock. (The top card of the discard pile remains face-up in the discards, keeping it available to be drawn.
When a player is satisfied with their hand, they say “Call” and place their hand face-up on the table. A calling player may discard their sixth card as usual if it is not part of the combination in their hand; if it is, they simply retain it without discarding. Each player then has one more turn to try to complete or improve their hand. If they have a combination that beats that of the previous player that called, they may call as well. This continues around the table to the dealer, with multiple players potentially calling with progressively better hands. The dealer is always the last player to play and get the opportunity to call. (If the dealer was the first to call, the dealer wins automatically, as no other players get a chance to call or improve their hands.)
Winning combinations in Paiute are:
- 1. Five of a kind
- Five of a kind consists of all four of a particular rank of card, plus a wild card (example: 9-9-9-9-2 if 2s are wild). Ties are broken by the rank of the cards (five nines beats five eights).
- 2. Royal flush
- A royal flush consists of A-K-Q-J-10 of the same suit. Competing royal flushes tie.
- 3. Straight flush
- A straight flush consists of five cards of the same suit in sequence (example: 4-5-6-7-8♠). Ties are broken by the highest card; competing straight flushes with the same top card tie.
- 4. Four/two
- A six-card hand containing four cards of one rank and two cards of another rank (example 8-8-8-8-4-4). Ties are broken by the rank of the four-of-a-kind.
- 5. Three/three
- Two three-of-a-kinds (example 7-7-7-3-3-3). Ties are broken by the rank of the higher three-of-a-kind.
- 6. Paiute (two/two/two)
- Three pairs (example Q-Q-10-10-6-6). Ties are broken by the rank of the highest pair, then the middle pair if there is a tie, then the lowest pair, if necessary. A paiute may only be called on the player’s first turn.
It bears mentioning that the traditional poker hands of flushes and straights are not considered winning combinations in Paiute.
The player or players who called with the highest winning combination win the game. If playing for money, the winner takes the pot (which is split if multiple players tie for highest hand).
Whiskey Poker (sometimes spelled Whisky Poker) is an older variant of poker, commonly played in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but fairly obscure today. Whiskey Poker was so named because it was often played for refreshments, and John Scarne asserts in Scarne on Cards that Whiskey Poker is, in fact, the ancestor from which modern Rummy games are descended. If you like Knock Poker, you’ll probably like Whiskey Poker too.
Object of Whiskey Poker
The object of Whiskey Poker is to end the hand with the highest possible five-card poker hand.
As with the majority of poker games, Whiskey Poker requires the use of one 52-card deck of poker cards, like Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. You will also need chips to keep track of betting; each chip can represent a nominal value, or a defined amount of money, as agreed upon by the players. Distribute chips as appropriate.
In place of betting, each player may also be supplied with an arbitrary number of chips (e.g., five) and whoever has the lowest hand at the showdown must surrender one chip to the bank. Whoever runs out of chips first pays for the next round of drinks. (If you decide to play this way, ignore instructions below regarding betting.)
Shuffle and deal five cards to each player. Between the dealer and the player to their right, deal an extra hand, called the widow. Move the widow to the center of the table, keeping it face down.
After players have looked at their hands, the first betting round occurs. Betting is conducted according to the typical norms for betting in poker. After the betting, the turn goes to the player on the dealer’s left. This player has the right to exchange their hand with the hand on the table, in its entirety, without being able to see it ahead of time. After this, the next player to their left may do the same, and so on. If you decide to keep your cards, you have two options: you may simply pass, or you may knock; knocking allows everyone one last opportunity to exchange hands, with this phase of the game ending when the turn gets back to you.
The second betting round happens now. After that wraps up, the widow is exposed. The player to the dealer’s left has the first chance to play. Each player may take one card from the widow, then discard one card from their hand, face up, to the widow. Players also have the option to exchange their entire hand for the widow, but they may not exchange, say, three cards at once; it must be one card or all of them. Players do not have the option to pass; they must knock if they wish to not exchange any cards. As before, play ends when the turn gets back to the first player to knock.
The third and final betting round now takes place. After this comes the showdown. The player with the highest-ranked poker hand takes the pot.
Cash (also called Kemps or Kent) is an interesting social card game for four to eight players. Players form two-player partnerships, competing to make four of a kind, then successfully send and receive a secret signal without it getting intercepted by their opponents.
Object of Cash
The object of the game is for one player of the partnership to call out “Cash!” upon receiving a signal from their partner that they have obtained four of a kind. Alternately, notice that one of the opponents is attempting to signal their partner, and call out “Counter cash!” before their partner calls “Cash!”.
All players divide into pairs. The game is best with four players (two partnerships), but can be played with six (three partnerships) or eight (four partnerships). Players may mutually decide a method for determining partnerships, which may be as simple as merely selecting who they would like to be paired with, or by some random process. One such method for a four-player game is to remove two red and two black cards from the deck, shuffle them, and deal one to each player. The players receiving the red cards play against the two with the black cards. Seating arrangements must take care to allow all players to be clearly visible to one another, and partners should not sit directly next to one another.
Prior to the game, each partnership excuses themselves to a secluded place where they are unable to be seen or heard by any other player. They then agree upon a secret signal, which can be a hand signal, innocuous action such as taking a drink or tapping the table with your cards, or a verbal phrase. Signals that might be unintentionally sent, like scratching your head or rubbing your eye should be avoided!
Cash requires one 52-card deck of playing cards. Since players will be quickly grabbing for cards, you don’t want a flimsy deck of cards that will get easily beaten up. Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards are made to last and are sturdy enough for even the most rambunctious games.
Shuffle and deal four cards to each player. Then deal four cards face down to the center of the table, forming the board, and place the deck stub in front of the player to the left of the dealer, forming the stock.
The dealer calls, “3…2…1…GO!”, then turns the four board cards face up. Each player may then grab whatever board cards they find useful, take them into their hand, and discard back down to four (returning the board to four cards). There are no turns! If two players grab a card at the same time, whoever touched the card first (or whose hand is on the bottom!) is entitled to it.
Game play continues until this card-swapping stops because nobody wants any of the cards on the table. The player with the stock in front of them discards the board cards, then deals a new, face-down board, passes the stock to the left, and flips the cards over with a countdown, as before. (Passing the stock and the board-refreshing duties around the table ensures that the mental overhead of refreshing the board doesn’t burden any player greater than any other.)
Play continues, with players swapping cards out as they see fit, and refreshing the board as necessary.
Ending the hand
Whenever a player achieves four-of-a-kind, they send their secret signal to their partner. When the partner notices the signal, they call out “Cash!” (or “Kemps!”, or “Kent!”, or whatever the name of the game is). All players reveal their hands; if the player whose partner called “Cash!” does, in fact, have four-of-a-kind, that partnership wins. However, if there is no four-of-a-kind, they lose. If a player suspects at any time before “Cash!” is called that an opposing partnership is signaling, they can call “Counter cash!” The hands are revealed, and if a four-of-a-kind is present, the partnership that called “Counter cash!” wins (but, as with cash, if there is no four-of-a-kind, calling “Counter cash!” loses).
Some players play that the losing team receives a letter in the word “CASH” (or “KEMPS” or “KENT”, as appropriate), and that whichever partnership spells out the word first loses the match. Otherwise, play can continue indefinitely, with each hand standing alone as a separate game. Partnerships are given the opportunity to change their signal between hands, then all cards are shuffled and new hands and a board are dealt.
A real deal is when the stock runs out without “Cash!” or “Counter cash!” being called. In this case, the hand is a draw. If the game is being scored where partnerships receive letters for losses, no letters are received for a real deal.
Knock Poker is a variant of draw poker that doesn’t require gambling. Games are quick, often lasting no more than a few minutes. You can play with two to six players.
Object of Knock Poker
The object of Knock Poker is to form the best five-card poker hand.
Knock Poker requires one 52-card deck. If you really want to make your game night shine, you’ll need a great deck of cards. Get a deck of deluxe Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards and wow your friends.
The player sitting to the left of the dealer goes first. On each player’s turn, they have the option to draw the top card of the discard pile, adding it to their hand. If they don’t want it, they draw the top, unknown card of the stock. The player then discards one card face-up to the discard pile, returning their hand to five cards. Play continues on with the next player to the left.
Play continues until any player is satisfied with their hand. After discarding, they knock on the table, signaling this to the other players. Play continues, with each player taking one more turn to finalize their hands. When the turn of play returns to the player who knocked, hands are then revealed, with the highest-ranking poker hand winning.