How to Play Slapjack

Slapjack involves physical agility rather than verbal dexterity and memory, so make sure the players involved are active and eager. Young children can play this game if they can tell the difference between a jack and a king or queen. Assemble the following items to play Slapjack:

  • Two or more players. A maximum of six is probably sensible or too many collisions may result at home plate.

  • A standard deck of 52 cards: Slapjack can totally wreck a deck of cards, so don’t break out the collector cards you bought in Las Vegas.

The dealer deals out the entire deck, face-down and one card at a time, to each player in a clockwise rotation. At the end of the deal, each player should have a neat stack of cards in front of him. Make sure you don’t look at your cards.

Beginning on the dealer’s left, each player takes a turn playing a card face-up onto a single stack in the center of the table.

Play continues peacefully until someone plays a jack. Whoever slaps the jack first wins all the cards in the middle of the table and adds them to the bottom of the pile in front of her. The player to the slapper’s left starts the next pile by placing a card face-up in the center of the table.

Spirits run high in Slapjack, so you may need to define some rules before the game starts:

  • You turn over a card by turning it away from you so that you can’t peek at it in advance. (This puts the turner at a slight disadvantage, but the luck evens out things eventually.)

  • Rest your slapping hand on the table. Make the player who puts out the card slap with her other hand, which must also rest on the table.

  • When you can’t decide who slapped first, the hand closest to the jack always wins the day.

If you slap the wrong card, you must give a card from your face-down pile to the person who played the card you slapped.

After all your cards are gone, you aren’t automatically out of the game; you stay in for one more chance, lying in ambush and waiting to slap the next jack that gets turned over. At that point, if you fail to slap the jack, you’re out. The first player to get all the cards wins.

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