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.


Pay Me

Pay Me is a form of Contract Rummy for two to eight players. Much like in Three Thirteen Rummy, the number of cards dealt changes on every hand, and so do the wild cards!

Object of Pay Me

The object of Pay Me is to be the first player to form their entire hand into melds.


To play Pay Me, you’ll need a few decks of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards with jokers included. The number of decks you’ll need depends on the number of players you have. One deck is just fine for two players; to play with three or four you’ll have to shuffle two decks with the same back design and color together. For five to eight players, add a third deck. You’ll also want something to keep score with, like pencil and paper.

The number of cards dealt changes on each hand. Deal each player three cards for the first hand of the game. Deal four cards on the second hand. Continue on in this fashion, with the hand size increasing by one on each hand. For the eleventh and final hand, each player will receive thirteen cards.

After the cards have been dealt, place the deck stub in the center of the table. This stack of cards becomes the stock. Turn the top card of the stock face up. This card, the upcard, will be the first card of the discard pile.

Game play

Play of the hand

Play starts with the player to the dealer’s left. Game play follows the usual Rummy pattern. A player starts their turn by drawing one card, either the top card of the discard pile (which is face up and known to the player) or the top card of the stock (which is unknown). The player then discards a card, ending their turn.

Pay Me, like all other rummy games, revolves around forming one’s hand into special combinations called melds. There are two types of melds: sets and runs (also known as sequences). A set is three or four cards of the same rank and different suits. Suits cannot be duplicated in a meld; a player can, however, have two separate melds of the same rank. A run consists of three or more consecutively-ranked cards of the same suit. When a player forms a meld, they keep it in their hand, rather than laying it on the table as in some other rummy games.

Wild cards

One unique feature of Pay Me is its use of wild cards. Jokers and 2s are always wild. In addition, the rank that corresponds to the number of cards dealt is wild, too. For example, on the first hand, when three cards are dealt, 3s are wild. On the next hand 4s are wild, and so on. On the ninth hand (consisting of eleven cards) jacks are wild, followed by queens on the tenth hand, and kings on the eleventh and final hand.

Wild cards can substitute for a card of any rank, or can be used as a card of its natural rank (except for jokers, of course). However, there are some restrictions on the use of wild cards in melds. No more than half of a meld can be wild cards. Additionally, in runs, two consecutive cards cannot be wild cards.

Going out

When a player has formed their entire hand into melds, they may go out by declaring “Pay me!” If they have a discard they would like to make, they can do so, but are not required to discard if the card can be melded. Each player then gets one final turn, during which they cannot draw from the discard; they must draw from the stock only. When the turn reaches the player who called “Pay me”, the hand ends.

Each player lays their hand face-up on the table, separated into melds. If a player has cards in their deadwood (unmatched cards) that can be used to extend melds held by the player that went out, they may lay off those cards on those melds. A player cannot lay off on melds belonging to any players other than the one that went out. A player also may not substitute cards they hold for wild cards in other players’ hands.

After laying off any cards they can, each player adds up the value of their deadwood as follows:

  • Wild cards—15 points each
  • Kings through 8s—10 points each
  • 7s through aces—5 points each

Each player’s deadwood total is then added to their score.

Game play continues until eleven hands have been played. The player with the lowest score at that point wins the game.



Ace-Deuce-Jack is an extremely simple gambling game that was popular during World War II. In Ace-Deuce-Jack, the players are simply betting whether three randomly-selected cards will be an ace, a 2, or a jack. That’s it; it’s all blind luck. There’s no skill involved at all.

It should be noted that the house edge on Ace-Deuce-Jack is just a shade over 10%. As a result, the players are at a significant disadvantage to the banker. If you’re going to play Ace-Deuce-Jack with your friends, we recommend not playing with real money.

Object of Ace-Deuce-Jack

The object of Ace-Deuce-Jack is to win money on bets that three randomly-selected cards will not be an ace, a 2, or a jack.


You will need one standard 52-card deck of playing cards. As always, we heartily recommend Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards for any card game you want to play. You’ll also need something to bet with, such as poker chips, buttons, beans, or some other similar counters.

Any player may shuffle and deal one card, face up, to each player. Whoever gets the highest card becomes the first banker. The banker declares the acceptable maximum and minimum bets that they will allow for the following hand.

Game play

The banker begins the hand by shuffling the deck and placing it face down. They then cut the deck twice, forming three piles of cards. Each player then decides how much they would like to bet and places that amount in front of them.

After all players have fixed their bet, the banker turns over each pile of cards. If any of the three exposed cards on the bottom of the piles are an ace, a jack, or a 2, the banker wins and collects all bets. If all three cards are of other ranks, the banker pays each player out at even money.

Rotate the bank after a predetermined number of hands. To maximize the fairness of the game, each player should have an equal opportunity to bank.Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail


Pitch (also known as Setback) is a trick-taking game played in the United States. In the Midwest and central parts of the United States, it is most commonly played as a partnership game. On the coasts, Pitch is more frequently played as a cutthroat, every-player-for-themselves game, often for money. The four-player partnership game is described here.

Pitch is essentially an American adaptation of the old English pub game All Fours. Pitch uses a more conventional bidding system to fix the trump suit, rather than the more complicated procedure found in All Fours.

Object of Pitch

The object of Pitch is to be the first team to score 21 or more points by successfully fulfilling bids.


Pitch is played with a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. Because you need a deck of cards that can stand up to whatever you throw at it, make sure you always use Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards.

Partnerships may be determined by any agreed-upon method, including mutual agreement or any sort of random process. Partners should sit across from each other, so as play proceeds clockwise, each player’s turn is followed by one of their opponents’ turns.

Shuffle and deal six cards to each player, in two batches of three. The stub is set aside and is not used for the rest of the hand.

Game play

Game play in Pitch revolves around scoring points for the following achievements:

  1. High—playing the highest trump in play during the hand,
  2. Low—capturing the lowest trump in play during the hand,
  3. Jack—capturing the jack of trumps,
  4. Game—accruing the highest total of cards captured during the hand, scoring as follows: ten for each 10, four for each ace, three for each king, two for each queen, and one for each jack. 9s and below do not count toward the game score. If the teams tie for game, the point is not scored.

Because not all of the cards are dealt on each hand, the trump scoring for High is not necessarily the ace, and the trump scoring for Low is not necessarily the two. Likewise, the point for Jack sometimes goes unscored, since the jack of trumps is not always in play.


The right to choose the trump suit is given to the player who makes the highest bid. Available bids in Pitch are two, three, four, and smudge. The first three of these bids represents a commitment to score at least that many points on the following hand. A bid of smudge, the highest bid, is a bid to score four points plus all the tricks. However, by bidding four or smudge, you may unknowingly get yourself into a situation where it is impossible to make your bid. The jack of trumps is not always dealt, and in hands where this is the case, the point for Jack is not scored, meaning the most you can score is three. Even if you take all six tricks, you will not make your contract.

Bidding begins with the player to the dealer’s left. They may either bid or pass. Bidding continues clockwise, with each player passing or making a higher bid than the players before them. The dealer makes the last bid, and has the right to bid the same as the player before them, called stealing the bid. If every player passes, the dealer is compelled to make a bid of two, called a force bid. There is only one round of bidding; the high bid stands after the dealer makes their bid. The player making the high bid is called the pitcher.

Play of the hand

The pitcher leads to the first trick. The suit of the card they lead off with becomes the trump suit. Each other player plays to the trick in turn, proceeding clockwise. Each player must follow suit, unless they are unable, in which case they may play any card. Additionally, playing a trump is always allowed, even if the player could follow suit. The player who plays the highest card of the suit led (aces rank high) collects the trick, unless a trump is played, in which case the highest trump played wins the trick. Collected tricks are not added to the player’s hand, but rather a score pile shared with their partner. The winner of each trick leads to the next one.

Ending the hand

When all six tricks have been played, the hands are scored. If the pitcher’s team makes at least as many points (as described above) as they bid, they score one point for each point made. When a bid of smudge is made, the pitcher’s team scores five points (the four points they scored, plus one for the smudge). If the pitcher’s team failed to make their bid, they are said to have been set. They are set back the amount of their bid instead, i.e., the value of their bid is deducted from their score. Regardless of if the pitcher’s team makes their bid or not, their opponents always score the number of points they made.

The deal passes to the left, the cards are shuffled, and new hands are dealt. Game play continues until a partnership reaches a score of 21 or more after having successfully made their bid. Note that it’s possible for a team to score above 21 while not being the high bidders. In this case, the team must remain above 21 points and successfully make a bid before they can win. (In some cases, the winning team may even have a lower score than their opponents, simply because they made a winning bid and crossed 21 before their opponents, already over 21, could.)

See also

Pitch is one of those games with lots of variations—tell us how you like to play in the comments!


Open-Face Chinese Poker

Dragon_Lantern_Festival_crop Open-Face Chinese Poker (OFCP) is a variant of Chinese Poker where, instead of the players getting all their cards at once, they receive them one at a time and choose which hand to put them in. Additionally, all the cards are played face up, so players can change their strategy based on what their opponents are doing! That means the game has a lot more action, because there’s more strategic play and more players fouling, increasing the amount of money being shuffled around. Because each player receives thirteen cards, it is limited to two to four players, unlike most poker games.

Open-Face Chinese Poker originated in Finland, spreading to Russia shortly thereafter. High-stakes Russian poker players introduced it to the mainstream poker community in 2012, and since then it has spread around the globe, quickly becoming an extremely popular side game for many poker elites.

Object of Open-Face Chinese Poker

The object of Open-Face Chinese Poker is to split the thirteen cards dealt to a player over the course of the game into three hands in such a way that, ideally, each of the hands is stronger than their opponents’ hands.


Like almost all poker games, Open-Face Chinese Poker is played with the standard 52-card deck. We naturally endorse the use of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards in your game. You’ll also need something to bet with, preferably poker chips.

As in Chinese Poker, hands are compared from player to player, not against all other players at once. Before play begins, the players should establish the value of one unit. All transactions will be conducted in multiples of this unit. Two players may mutually decide that one unit will be a different value for transactions between those two players in particular, while transactions with other opponents will be conducted at the usual rate.

Shuffle and deal five cards, face down, to each player. Place the remaining cards face down in the center of the table, forming the stock.

Game play

Over the course of a hand of Open-Face Chinese Poker, the player will be forming three hands: a three-card hand, called the front hand, a five-card hand stronger than the front hand, called the middle hand, and a five-card hand stronger than the middle and front hands, called the back hand. This act is called setting the hands. Straights and flushes are not counted as such in the three-card front hand. If the hands are not set with the strongest hand as the back hand and the weakest as the front hand (according to the standard rank of poker hands), this is considered a foul and none of the player’s three hands are eligible to win.

The player to the left of the dealer plays first. They turn their five cards face up and split them any way they wish between the three hands. They may place all five cards in either the back or the middle hands, place three in the front hand and one each in the other two hands, or so on. To distinguish which card goes with which hand, they place cards meant for the back hand in a row closest to them, cards for the middle hand above those, and cards for the front hand above those, furthest away from them. After the player has set their first five cards, the turn passes to the left, with that player setting their cards the same way, and so on.

After all players have set their initial five cards, the player to the dealer’s left draws one card from the stock, turns it face up, and adds it to any one of their three hands. They cannot cause any hand to exceed the maximum number of cards in that hand (five cards for the middle and back hands and three for the front hand). The player to their left does the same thing, continuing in turn around the table until each player has a total of thirteen cards, with three complete hands.

After all players have formed their complete hands, the hands are scored. Each player begins by calculating the score of all royalties in their hands, according to the table below:

Hand Front hand Middle hand Back hand
Royal flush 50 25
Straight flush 30 15
Four of a kind 20 10
Full house 12 6
Flush 8 4
Straight 4 2
3 of a kind 20
A-A-x 9
K-K-x 8
Q-Q-x 7
J-J-x 6
10-10-x 5
9-9-x 4
8-8-x 3
7-7-x 2
6-6-x 1

The players then compare hands, one at a time, with each opponent. The players each add one point to their royalty score for each hand that they beat (comparing front to front hand, middle to middle, and back to back) belonging to that opponent. If a player wins all three hands, this is considered a sweep and they score an additional three-point bonus. After the players calculate their scores, the player scoring lower pays one unit per point for the difference between their scores.

If a player fouled, they pay to each opponent a flat penalty of six units, plus one unit per point for all royalties that the opponent held.

After all payouts have been made, the deal passes to the left and the next hand is played.


If a player sets their hand with a pair of queens or better in the front hand without fouling, they are entitled to play the next hand in fantasyland. More than one player may be in fantasyland at once. The deal does not rotate on a fantasyland hand, instead being dealt by the same dealer as the last normal hand. After the initial five cards are dealt, eight more cards are dealt to each player in fantasyland, giving them all thirteen cards, which they immediately set, face-down. The other players play out the hand the normal way, with the fantasyland player turning their hands face up only when everyone else has set their hands.

If a player in fantasyland sets their hand with four of a kind or better in the back, or a full house or better in the middle, or three of a kind in the front, they may remain in fantasyland for another hand, and continue doing so as long as they continue to hold these hands.



Farmer is a gambling game for two to eight players that highly resembles Blackjack in terms of its core game play. The primary difference in game play is that, in Farmer, the goal score is 16 rather than 21. Betting is radically different in Farmer, however, and instead of all bets being paid out from the central bank, money is anted into a central pot which is taken by those who obtain a score of exactly sixteen.

Object of Farmer

The object of Farmer is to be the player who gets closest to a count of 16 without going over.


Farmer uses a special 45-card deck. Starting with a standard deck, like Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, remove all the 8s and all the 6s except for the 6♥. You will also need something to bet with, like poker chips. Players should agree to the amount of the ante (which also equals the amount of all other transactions in the game).

In order to determine the first dealer, any player may shuffle the deck and begin dealing cards face up, one at a time, to each player. The player that the 6♥ is dealt to is the first dealer, called the farmer.

All players ante to the pot, which is called the farm. The farmer shuffles and deals one card face down to each player, starting with the player to their left.

Game play

Players look at their cards, evaluating their scores. Aces are worth one, face cards are worth ten, and all other cards are worth their face value. After a player draws, scores for each card are added to obtain the score for the hand.

Starting with the player to the farmer’s left, each player is given the opportunity to draw cards. Each player is required to draw at least one card. Players do not actually draw the cards from the stock, they merely say “Hit”, and are dealt an additional card, face up, by the farmer. When they are satisfied with their hand, they say “I stay”. If a player should exceed a score of sixteen, called busting, they do not announce this publicly; they simply stay. After the player has stayed, the next player to the left is given an opportunity to draw, and so on, with the farmer drawing last.

After all players have drawn, the players’ face-down cards are revealed, and the hands are evaluated. If a single player has a score of exactly sixteen, they win the farm. If there’s a tie, with multiple players holding a score of sixteen, the following rules are checked, in this order, to determine who wins:

  1. The player with the 6♥ wins.
  2. If none of the players hold the 6♥, the player with the fewest cards wins.
  3. If there are players tied for the fewest number of cards, the farmer wins.
  4. If the farmer is not involved in the tie, the first player to the left of the farmer wins.

If there are no players with a score of exactly sixteen, the farm remains for the next deal. Each player with a lower score pays the amount of the ante to the player who is closest to sixteen without going over. If there are multiple players tied for closest to sixteen, these payoffs are aggregated into a side pot, which is then split as evenly as possible amongst the players (with any remainder going into the farm).

Regardless of whether the farm was won or not, all players that have busted pay the amount of the ante to the farmer (except for the farmer, who of course cannot pay himself).

If the farm was won, the player that won it becomes the farmer on the next deal. If not, the same farmer deals again. Either way, all players must ante again before the start of the next deal.Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail


Cucumber is a game for two to seven people, played throughout Northern Europe, with a heyday in the 1970s and 1980s. Cucumber works as kind of the inverse of Agram—the object is to lose the last trick, and nothing else matters.

Many regional variations of the game exist, most of them bearing the name “Cucumber” in the local language. The version described here is Agurk, the Danish variant of the game.

Object of Cucumber

The object of Cucumber is to win the last trick.


Cucumber uses the standard 52-card pack of playing cards. Using Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards would make you pretty cool. Some might say…cool as a cucumber. But not us. That’s not a thing we would say. We would just say you’re pretty cool.

You will also need a pencil and paper to keep score with.

Shuffle and deal seven cards to the player to the left of the dealer, then to the next player to the left, and so on through the dealer. The deck stub is set aside and takes no further part in game play.

Game play

The cards rank in their usual order in Cucumber, with aces high (A, K, Q, J, 10, … 2). Suits are irrelevant and play no part in the game.

The player to the left of the dealer leads to the first trick, leading any card. The next person to the left must play either a card higher than the lead, or, if they do not have one, the lowest card in their hand. This continues on to the left, with each player either laying down a card higher than the highest card in play, or the lowest card they can. This continues until everyone has played.

The person who played the highest card is the winner of the trick. If there are multiple cards of the same rank tied for high card, the most recently-played of these takes the trick. The winner of the trick leads to the next one. Unlike in most games, the cards of the last trick aren’t collected or turned face-down; they simply remain on the table and can be inspected by any player at any time (although it may be prudent to push them into a loose discard pile to prevent confusion as to whether a card was played on the current trick or a previous one).

On the seventh and final trick, the player with the highest card is charged a penalty according to the rank of the card they used to take the trick. Aces score fourteen, kings thirteen, queens twelve, jacks eleven, and all other cards their face value. Should there be a tie for high card, the last card of that rank wins the trick and thus takes the penalty, as per usual; the others who played a card of that rank score negative points equal to the value of that card (though their score cannot pass below zero).

Should a player’s score exceed 21, a cucumber is drawn next to the score to highlight this. Their score then resets to the score of the next-highest active player. If a player who already has a cucumber goes over 21, they are eliminated from the game.

Cards are collected and shuffled, the deal passes to the left, and the next hand begins. Game play continues until all players but one have been eliminated; that player is the winner.Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail


Brag is a gambling game for four to eight players that is popular in Britain. Although it is often compared to poker, which displaced it in the United States, there are several key differences between the two games. Most importantly, the betting is very different—in Brag, it is possible for betting to come down to a stalemate where players continue betting until someone finally gives up.

Object of Brag

The object of Brag is to be one of the players remaining at the showdown with the best Brag hand.


Brag uses one standard 52-card deck of playing cards. Since you’re playing Brag, you may as well play it with some cards you can brag about; that is, Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. You will also need something to bet with, such as poker chips.

Before play begins, there should be a mutual agreement as to the size of the ante and the bets. This should include both the minimum and maximum amount that the first player may bet, as well as the amount the bet can be increased by each subsequent player. This can either be a hard numerical limit, or the game can be played at pot limit.

All players ante. Shuffle and deal three cards face-down to each player. Players may look at their cards if they want to, or they may abstain from this and play blind (see below).

Game play

Rank of Brag hands

While Brag hands resemble poker hands, they have different names, and the ranking is slightly different. Notably, because of the different probabilities involved in three-card versus five-card hands, a run outranks a flush (whereas the opposite is true in poker). The rank of Brag hands, from highest to lowest, is:

1. Prial
(derived from pair royal) Three cards of the same rank. The highest-ranked prial is 3-3-3; the second-highest is A-A-A, then K-K-K, and so on down to 2-2-2.
2. Running flush
Three cards of the same suit in sequence, e.g. 9-10-Q♠. Ties are broken by the highest card. Equivalent to poker’s straight flush.
3. Run
Three cards of any suit in sequence (e.g. 6-7-8). If all cards are the same suit, it becomes a running flush. Ties are broken by the highest card. Equivalent to poker’s straight.
4. Flush
Three cards of the same suit, not in sequence (e.g. 4-7-J♦). Ties are broken by the rank of the highest card, then by the next highest if necessary, and so on until the tie is broken.
5. Pair
Two cards of the same rank, plus one unmatched card (e.g. 5-5-9). Ties are broken by the rank of the pair, then the rank of the unmatched card if necessary.
6. High card
Three cards unmatched in suit or sequence. Ties are broken by the highest card, then next-highest, and so on down.


Good Brag etiquette is to keep everything to yourself. Cards should never be shown to anyone but the player they were dealt to (except, of course, at the showdown). Similarly, players should never verbally state the supposed contents of their hand. Also, as in poker, it is very important that betting and folding be executed in turn, not early.

Play of the hand

Betting starts with the player to the left of the dealer. The first player, if they desire to bet, must do so according to the agreed-upon limits. Each subsequent player must bet at least as much as the last player to bet before them. If a player does not wish to bet, they must fold (also called stacking); they are out of the hand, and their cards are placed, unrevealed, at the bottom of the stock. Betting continues in this same manner around the table, even after it reaches the players who have already bet; players must continue betting if they wish to remain in the hand, and anyone can raise whenever they wish.

Players also have the option to play blind. So long as the player has not seen their hand, their money essentially counts as double. Blind players are only required to bet half the amount bet by the player before them, and the player after them must bet double the amount that they did. For example, if the player to the right of the blind player bets $10, the blind player is only required to bet $5, and the player to the right must still bet $10. However, should the blind player wish to bet $20, the player to their left must bet at least $40, or else fold. A person playing blind may choose, before betting, to look at their cards, although this, of course, requires them to return to the usual betting rules.

Betting continues until all but two players have folded. These two players go on betting until either one of them folds, thus awarding the pot to the other player, or one of the players decides to see the other, by doubling the previous bet and stating “See you”; a doubled bet does not necessarily constitute a see unless it is specifically declared as such. When a player sees their opponent, the opponent must reveal their cards. If the first player has a higher hand, they reveal it and take the pot. If not, their opponent wins the pot; the losing seer may choose to simply fold their hand without revealing it. Should the hands tie, the seer loses the pot.

A special rule applies when one or both of the final two players are playing blind. That rule is stated as “you can’t see a blind man”; that is, should your opponent be playing blind, you do not have the option to see. You must either continue to bet or fold, or hope that they either look at their cards or fold. A blind player, can, however, see their non-blind opponent, if they wish to do so. If both players are playing blind, they may see each other.

Should a player run out of money, they may cover the pot by placing their cards face-down on top of it. The other players carry on without them, placing all further bets in a side pot. The winner of the side pot is determined first, then, the winning hand is compared with the hand covering the pot, and the winner of those two hands takes the main pot.

The next hand is customarily dealt immediately, with no shuffle. Shuffles only occur when a pot is won with an exposed prial.

See also


Spite and Malice

Spite and Malice game layoutSpite and Malice is a game that plays a lot like a two-player solitaire variant. Like many older card games, it has been reimagined as a commercially-available game with a custom deck; Spite and Malice was adapted to become Skip-Bo.

Object of Spite and Malice

The object of Spite and Malice is to be the first player to deplete their talon pile.


Spite and Malice needs two standard 52-card decks of playing cards, which are shuffled together to form a 104-card pack. If you have a set of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards handy, you’ve got everything covered on the card front, since it includes two decks.

Shuffle and deal 20 cards from the combined deck face down to each player. This forms the player’s talon pile and is placed at each player’s right. The top card of the talon is turned face-up and put on the top of the stack, but the remaining cards cannot be looked at. Each player is also dealt a hand of five cards, which they may look at (but their opponent may not). The deck stub becomes the stock and is placed to the side in the middle of the table.

The center of the table is partitioned out as follows: in the center of the table will be the three build piles, then, on the next row closest to each player, they have their own four discard piles. Initially, none of these piles will contain any cards, so the center of the table will be empty until play begins.

Game play

Unlike in some similar games like Speed, each player takes turns. The primary goal of each player will be to move cards, hopefully mostly from their talons, to the build piles in the center of the table. Kings are wild in Spite and Malice, with aces ranking low and the remainder of the cards following in the conventional order, with queen as the highest. Suits are immaterial to the game.

If a player begins their turn with fewer than five cards, the first thing they do is draw back up to five from the stock. On a player’s turn, they may play as many cards as they wish face-up to the build piles; these cards may be the top card of their talon (at which point a new top card is exposed) or one of the five cards from their hand. Each build pile begins with an ace, and is then built up in sequence to the queen. When a pile reaches the queen, it is removed and shuffled into the stock. There may only be three build piles at any time; new piles can only be formed by an ace when there is an empty pile to begin adding cards to. If a player depletes their hand on a single turn, they may draw five new cards and continue onward.

A player may also take one card from their hand (not the talon) and put it face-up in one of their discard piles. A player may only have four discard piles; if they wish to add more cards, they must put the new card on top of one of the existing discards, making it inaccessible until the card on top of it is moved. When a card in the discard pile is played, the player’s turn ends and they cannot make any further actions until it is their turn again. Cards in the discard piles may be played only to the build piles on subsequent turns; they may not be moved to the player’s hand or from one discard pile to another.

Game play continues until one player depletes their talon, winning the game. If the stock runs out of cards (presumably because a stalemate has been reached, preventing any of the build piles to be completed to replenish it), whoever has the fewest cards in their talon is the winner.Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

Celebrating one year of blogging

At the end of last April, we posted for the first time on our brand-spanking-new blog, sharing the rules to Thirteen. Over the past year, we’ve been pretty busy—we’ve posted the rules to 48 different card games! You can find a list of them on our new Game Rules Index page, which you can access at any time from the link on the blog’s right sidebar.

Here’s to another year of blogging!Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

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