Looking for some fun, easy card games
July 25, 2009 8:27 PM   Subscribe

What fun (hopefully strategic) card games take five minutes or less to learn?

I want to teach my younger brothers and sisters how to play some fun card games. What games take five minutes or less to learn and preferably require some strategy?

Our current favorites are: Gin Rummy, Cheat (AKA B.S), and Egyptian Ratscrew. I realize that Egyptian Ratscrew doesn't really take any strategy, but they enjoy it.
posted by mtphoto to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (31 answers total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
My students like to play Uno. It's quick to learn, and the amount of strategy they try to apply to it is amazing.
posted by christinetheslp at 8:30 PM on July 25, 2009

Oh Hell is a fun and easy introduction to card games which involve bidding on how many tricks you'll take.
posted by Edward L at 8:37 PM on July 25, 2009

and if they're younger and you like to watch the swearing call it Oh Heck.
posted by Edward L at 8:40 PM on July 25, 2009

Texas Hold'em.
posted by nitsuj at 8:41 PM on July 25, 2009

High, Low, Jack (aka, pitch) is fun, relatively quick to learn and requires some strategy. We usually play with 4 people, which works out well.
posted by csimpkins at 8:41 PM on July 25, 2009

The game where you lie about what cards you're playing. Is that called "B.S."?
posted by grobstein at 8:43 PM on July 25, 2009

I agree with Justin; Texas Hold 'em. My kids learned at about 7 and love to play. We play for oreos, not coiun.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:44 PM on July 25, 2009

posted by whiskeyspider at 8:45 PM on July 25, 2009

Hearts is super fun. I'm also partial to shithead, the universal backpacker game. The latter is popular among backpackers because it's so easy to teach.
posted by lunasol at 8:46 PM on July 25, 2009 [3 favorites]

Asshole is a pretty easy game to learn (ultimately maybe too simple for long play).
posted by grobstein at 8:46 PM on July 25, 2009

BTW, you don't say how old the younger siblings are - you might want to give Shithead a less-objectionable name.
posted by lunasol at 8:47 PM on July 25, 2009

Chinese Poker is a slightly brainier variation of asshole (but builds on some background knowledge about poker; if your kids have that then you obviously should be playing poker!).
posted by grobstein at 8:47 PM on July 25, 2009

Commune, or Liar's Poker, is like a cross between B.S. and Chinese Poker. Wikipedia.
posted by grobstein at 8:48 PM on July 25, 2009

Response by poster: My brother is 15 and my sister is 8.
posted by mtphoto at 8:52 PM on July 25, 2009

Rummikub can be played with a double deck of cards. Given that you folks like Gin Rummy, it might work well.
posted by Johnny Assay at 9:11 PM on July 25, 2009

When my kids were young, we used to refer to "Oh Hell" as "Bull's Eye" since the goal is to make exactly what you bid - with penalties for over or under.

If you don't want to buy an Uno deck, "Crazy Eights" is about the same. (Eights are wild)
posted by metahawk at 9:14 PM on July 25, 2009

Uno is OK but with the interrupt rule (anyone can play a card that matches in number or word and play continues after the interrupter) it becomes hella-fun.

2nding Hearts. That's a great standby.
posted by @troy at 9:22 PM on July 25, 2009

Crazy Eights. But a 15-year-old will find it dull.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:22 PM on July 25, 2009

Some of the above games have a little strategy, but if you're looking for more depth, try Ninety-nine. The rules are much less complicated than they look, and can be explained in 5 minutes tersely, 10 minutes more relaxed. Basic play is easy, but as your siblings get familiar with the rules, they will have a lot of opportunity to strategize. This game also has the merit of being one of the few really good 3-player card games. Four can play if you rotate one person each round to deal and observe instead of playing an active hand.

Another excellent game with simple rules but good strategy is Solo Whist. Four players, easy to learn and fun for everyone. You're also encouraged to play for small change instead of points; that way, the winner can buy an ice cream cone or candy bar or something. Being a straightforward trick-taking game, this is also a good gateway to games like Whist, Bridge, 500, Pinochle, and others.

Have fun!
posted by Maximian at 9:22 PM on July 25, 2009

War. Super simple, but it can be an absolute blast.
posted by Ugh at 9:25 PM on July 25, 2009

Seconding Oh Hell, which we call Oh Pshaw. In my experience it's the best trick taking game when you only have three people, which seems to be the case with you and your siblings. We play by drawing a card from a second deck to determine then number of tricks in the hand, 1-17 (A-K of one suit and A-4 of another). Tricks with 1-3 cards are played by not looking at your cards yourself but instead holding them up on your forehead so the other players can see them. Trumpet is a version with a board and more suits, suitable for up to 6 players or so. Also check out Set which takes only a minute to learn but is very fun. I was going to recommend Egyptian Ratscrew but you've found it already.
posted by lsemel at 9:35 PM on July 25, 2009

Spit is great and fast paced. We always played with the rule that you could only use one hand to move cards. Surprised to see it hasn't been mentioned yet, but perhaps it's known by other names.

I also loved to play casino with my grandmother. Short, well-defined game. It's designed for two players, but three can definitely play.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 10:19 PM on July 25, 2009

Poor man's Stratego. Use a blue-back deck and red-back deck and an imaginary board, 8x8 (instead of 10x10), with water pits of size 1x2 (instead of 2x2), where each card represents a Stratego piece. For example set A = the Flag, K = the Marshal, Q = the General etc. and adjust the number and count of the ranks and pieces so that each side is equal and playable with standard decks, e.g. 4 scouts (instead of 8), 4 bombs (instead of 6), etc. so that each side has 24 pieces in their starting configuration (3 rows of 8 face-down cards).

Once you figure out the setup, it is easy to explain the game even to children, and the gameplay is chess-like in its potential sophistication.
posted by renovatio1 at 10:29 PM on July 25, 2009

Tien Len is my favorite. The basic rules are pretty simple, and it is tremendously strategic. Learning all the special rules may take some time, though. You also need four people to play.
posted by Etaoin Shrdlu at 4:15 AM on July 26, 2009

Choi Dai Dee, or Chinese Poker, is what we called a modified game of Asshole that I played as a kid. Once the 8-year old can play Asshole, this is a fun variation. Basically it's Asshole, but you play with at least 2 decks of cards, and instead of laying down your pairs and etc, you can also play full poker hands. Twos are the highest card (so the cards, according to value, are it's 2-A-K-Q-J-10...-5-4-3)

So my first hand played could be, say, a full house made of two queens and three jacks. In order to beat my full house hand, you have to play a full house hand of your own where the pair beats my pair (so two kings or two aces) and the trio beats my trip (so three Q, K, or A in my example).

You also give the suits value for this game- Spades is highest, then hearts, then clubs, and diamonds is the lowest. And a two beats any single card or pair. And it takes a pair of twos to beat a trio.

Oh, and in my family, when we played with little kids, we called Asshole "Peon". It's a good translation because the lowest-ranked player would be the peon and have to give up their best cards for the next round. And when the parents left the room, we told the little kids the game got its name because if they lost, we would pee on them.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 4:35 AM on July 26, 2009

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Thirty-One (a Card Game)

The Rules

Thirty-one is best played by a small group of three or four players. Two players is fun as well, though it introduces some quirks in strategy.

Aces are worth 11, all face cards are worth 10, and all other cards are worth their face value. Each player is dealt a hand of three cards. The rest of the pack sits in the middle of the table, face down, except the top card, which is turned face up next to the main pile to begin the discard pile.


To begin, everyone receives a previously-chosen number of points, usually three or four. (These are not related to the card values in any way.)

Each player, starting with the player to the left of the dealer, takes the top card from either the main pile or the discard pile and then discards a card. The objective is to collect a hand value of 31 (or the closest to it) in the same suit. Play continues normally around the table until any player knocks or gets 31:
  • If, at any time, a player gets a total of 31 in the same suit, they immediately show it. The round ends, and all other players lose one of their points.
  • When a player thinks their hand is the highest, on their turn they knock on the table instead of drawing and discarding. All other players have one more turn to draw. After that, all players show their hands and total them up, only counting cards of the same suit. If the player who knocked doesn't have the highest hand (even if it's a tie), he loses a point. If he does have the highest hand, the player with the lowest hand loses a point (ties cost both players a point).

Basic Strategy

Basic strategy entails discarding cards with low value and keeping those with a higher value. What can be tricky is deciding on a suit to collect and then discarding irrelevant high-value cards so that opponents collecting those suits cannot pick them up.

It is best to carefully watch the discard pile, as by process of elimination you can often deduce what suit your opponent is collecting. Therefore, you do not usually want to draw from the discard pile for fear of giving your plans away. (Unless, of course, drawing from the discard pile would get you 31 or very close to that.)

Advanced Strategy

You will often have change suits and/or delay your objective on the fly as a result of game circumstances. For example, in a two player game, if I know my opponent is collecting spades, and then I draw the ace of spades, I would not want to discard it. Better instead to sacrifice even a card of the suit I am collecting so that I do not discard the ace, effectively handing him the round. In a game with more players, however, you should discard the ace, but only if the spade-seeking opponent is not the one to your immediate left. This way, other players will bury it safely in the discard pile, forever out of his reach.

If you are dealt a decent hand (for example: the King, the eight, and the three of clubs), you may want to consider knocking on your very first turn, as the odds of an opponent having a competing hand immediately after the deal are low.

Finally, it is considered very, very bad form to draw from the discard pile and then immediately discard that same card (effectively "passing").

Other strategies will become apparent as the game is played out. Have fun!
posted by aheckler at 5:14 AM on July 26, 2009


1. Four people, two teams of two, one deck of cards. You sit across from your partner, like bridge.

2. Both teams hold separate conferences to establish a secret signal. You can use any kind of signal--verbal, non-verbal, whatever.

3. Deal four cards to each player from the top of the deck.

4. Deal four cards face up in the middle of the table.

5. Now any player *using one hand* can exchange any one of their cards for any card that's sitting face up on the table. The exchange works like this: First you put a card down, face up on the table, then you take any card that's already on the table and put it back in with your
cards. Players don't take turns--everybody exchanges cards at once. Players can exchange as many times as you like. This continues until nobody wants to make any more exchanges.

6. After all exchanges are complete, the four face-up cards on the table are turned over and set aside in a "discard" pile. Four new face-up cards are dealt off the top of the deck and a new round of exchanges begins.

7. The game continues until someone says "Kent" or "Cut."

8. There are two ways to win Kent. First, you can make four of a kind in your hand and then signal your partner who then says "Kent." Then you show your four of a kind and your team wins. If you or your partner mistakenly says "Kent" when the other doesn't have four of a
kind, your team loses.

9. The other way to win is to watch what the other team is picking up and laying down and/or intercept their secret signal. If you believe that one of the other team's players has four of a kind in their hand, you say "Cut" and force them to show their holdings. If either opposing player indeed has four of a kind, your team wins. If you don't, your team loses.

Rounds usually end in five minutes or less, so I usually play to a score of 5, 7, 11, or 21. Enjoy.
posted by thecolor12 at 8:59 AM on July 26, 2009

Was coming in here to suggest Spit, but Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell beat me to it. It's strategic, fast-paced, incredibly easy to learn, and fun to play. I taught my little sister to play when I was 15 and she was 9, so I have no doubt that your siblings could learn. And it's way fun.
posted by Night_owl at 10:40 AM on July 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

Ooh! Another game I learned at camp! It's called Stress and is another non turn based game that is fast-paced. This one has a little bit less interaction than Spit, and requires some short term memory work, but it's so much fun, and no slapping.
posted by Night_owl at 10:43 AM on July 26, 2009

Two player card game from my website: Soy. Bid with the same cards you're trying to collect.
posted by Paragon at 1:54 PM on July 26, 2009

Mao, which is easy to learn in the sense that they're not expected to know any of the rules before playing... :P

on a more helpful note: Speed, California Speed and Spoons. The second one can easily be made to accommodate a third player. The third might not be as good with only 3 people
posted by fizzzzzzzzzzzy at 6:36 PM on July 27, 2009

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