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Cheat Sheet

Card Games For Dummies

From Card Games For Dummies, 2nd Edition by Barry Rigal, Omar Sharif (Foreword by)

The variety of card games means that you can find one to suit most any situation — at the least, most card players are familiar with some type of Poker, though they may need to be reminded of how the hands are ranked. You can play some card games as long as all the players are happy to continue; others end at a proscribed score, and all are made more enjoyable when players adhere to card-game etiquette.

How to Choose the Best Card Games

Anyone who tells you that they know the best card games is either a fool or exceptionally arrogant. But, it is possible to offer a selection according to the needs of the players, so here goes!

Best cards games based on a specific number of players

  • For one player: Accordion and Poker Patience if you’re short on space; La Belle Lucie if you can spread out

  • For two players: Gin Rummy, Spite and Malice, and Cribbage

  • For three players: Pinochle and Ninety-nine

  • For four players: Bridge, Euchre, and Spades

  • For five to eight players: Hearts, Poker, and Oh, Hell!

  • For eight or more: Eights and President

Best cards games based on type of play

  • Best games for serious, competitive types: Whist and Bridge

  • Best games if you’re playing in a cramped space: Hearts and Eights

  • Best games for large groups: Poker and Blackjack

  • Best games that combine bidding and play: Pinochle and Spades

  • Best partnership games: Bridge, Whist, and Euchre

Best cards games based on experience

  • For beginners: Oh Hell! and Ninety-Nine

  • For children: Go Fish, Concentration, and Cheat

  • For groups with mixed experience levels: Knock-Out Whist, Fan Tan, and Rummy

  • For experienced card-players who want new thrills: Pinochle and Cribbage

How Card Games End

Beginning a card game is generally pretty straightforward — you deal the proscribed number of cards to the players. However, ending a card game can be a little different. Some games continue until a player reaches a certain score, others require a specific number of deals. The following list of popular card games tells you that you keep playing until . . .

  • Blackjack: The players run out of money (don’t worry about the casino) or decide they’ve had enough.

  • Bridge: One side wins a rubber of two games, then the side with the higher score wins. If playing Chicago Bridge, you change partners after four deals. If playing Duplicate Bridge, you play a session of between 20 and 26 deals — whatever the Tournament Director decrees.

  • Canasta: A player or team scores 1,500 points.

  • Cribbage: A player scores 121 points.

  • Eights: A player scores 250 points (or whatever number is agreed on by the players).

  • Euchre: One side scores 10 points.

  • Fan Tan: One player cleans out all the rest, or when everybody has had enough.

  • Gin Rummy: A player scores 250 points in one game or a series of games.

  • Hand and Foot: You finish four deals. Whoever has the most points wins.

  • Hearts: A player amasses 100 penalty points, at which point the player with the fewest penalty points wins.

  • Oh Hell!: You complete cycle of hands (starting with 7 cards to each player, and then reducing to 1, and going up again to 7 cards). The player with the highest score wins.

  • Pinochle: A player or partnership scores 1,000 points.

  • Poker: The players lose their money or lose interest.

  • President: Everybody gets bored of humiliating one another.

  • Rummy: A player scores 100 points – or whatever total is agreed by the contestants.

  • Setback: A player scores 11 (or 21) points.

  • Spades: One side scores 500 points.

  • Whist: One side wins a rubber of two games by getting to 7 points first on two occasions. At a Whist drive, a session typically ends after 24 deals.

How to Rank Poker Hands

Poker may be the best-known card game, and if you’re going to play, you need to know how the hands rank. The following details the various Poker hands from the highest-ranking to lowest, along with the odds of catching such a hand:

  • Royal straight flush: The top five cards (A-K-Q-J-10) in one of the four suits. Odds: 650,000 to 1.

  • Straight flush: Any sequence of five cards from the same suit (such as the 2-3-4-5-6 of clubs). If two players have straight flushes on the same hand, the higher sequence outranks the lower one. Odds: 75,000 to 1.

  • Four of a kind: Four of any one card; the fifth card in the hand can be anything. If two players have four of a kind at the same time, the rank of the four cards determines the better hand. If two players have equal ranked quads, the rank of the fifth card determines who wins. Odds: 4,150 to 1.

  • Full house: Three of a kind matched with a pair — for example, three 10s and two 9s. If two players both have a full house, the higher three of a kind determines the better hand. Odds: 700 to 1.

  • Flush: Five cards of the same suit, no sequence required. When two players have flushes, the highest card in each flush determines the better hand; if the top cards are the same, you look at the second card, and so on. Odds: 500 to 1.

  • Straight: Five cards of consecutive rank (in numerical sequence) in any suit. If two players have straights, the top card of the straight determines the winner. Odds: 250 to 1.

  • Three of a kind: Also knows as triplets, trips, or a set, this hand consists of three cards of the same numeric value, together with two unmatched cards. The higher-ranking three of a kind wins. Odds: 47 to 1.

  • Two pair: Four cards in two pairs with an unmatched fifth card. Ties are broken by the value of the top pair, followed by the value of the second pair, and finally by the spare card. Odds: 20 to 1.

  • One pair: One pair with three unmatched cards is the second-lowest hand. The rank of the pair, followed by the unmatched cards, splits the tie. Odds: 2 to 5.

  • High card: The weakest hand, high card means you have five unmatched cards. The top card in the hand determines the better collection. If two hands tie, such as two hands with ace-high, you move to the second card, and so on. Odds: 1 to 1.

Card Game Do’s and Don’ts

Card games are meant to be fun and entertaining and paying attention to the do’s and don’ts of card-playing can help you keep your enjoyment factor high and your frustration level low.

Card-playing do’s include:

  • Determine the rules of the game before play begins. Most games have several variations, and you need to iron out the rules before you start.

  • Shuffle the cards before each hand. Cut the cards, or arrange for someone else to do so, before dealing them.

  • Make sure that no one can see your cards, both during the deal and during play.

  • Avoid conversation that gives away information, or if the sole purpose of your remarks is to upset, irritate, or mislead your partner or opponents. (At Poker, though, you can get away with almost anything!)

  • Try to remember all the cards that you held at the start of play and recall the salient details of the cards played by the other players.

  • Listen to your partner’s bids and watch his plays. He wants to help you, so don’t ignore him.

  • Play each card in the same tempo. The speed of your play can emphasize how you feel about your cards.

  • Study your opponents’ actions at the table. If the game involves bluffing, try to read body language during bluffs. If you can, try to watch a group of players before joining them; you can read their behavior better when you’re not tied to one position at the table and you don’t have to worry about a hand.

  • Only try to bluff only one or two players at a time. If you’re bluffing against three or more players, the odds are that one of them can beat whatever bluff you’re pretending to hold.

Card-playing don’ts include:

  • Make any undue efforts to look at anyone else’s hand, both during the deal and during play.

  • Pick up your cards until the deal is finished.

  • Indicate whether you’re pleased or unhappy about the cards you’re dealt. In an individual game, you give your opponents unnecessary information about your hand. In a partnership game, you give your partner illegal information about your holdings.

  • Accidentally expose any cards while dealing, either by turning a card over or by distributing them in such a way that players can see them.

  • Accidentally drop a card on the table (as opposed to playing it). If you do so in an individual game, your opponent benefits from the sight of part of your hand, which is punishment enough for the error. In a partnership game, exposing a card gives your partner unauthorized information, which may lead to penalties.

  • Play or lead out of turn. Pay attention to the game so you don’t get caught in this embarrassing position.

  • Criticize your partner. It never accomplishes anything positive. Don’t dwell on what has passed; the cards have no memory.

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