Playing Beggar My Neighbor

Beggar My Neighbor, a card game suitable for small children that's also known as Beat Your Neighbor Out of Doors and Strip Jack Naked, is a very simple game, requiring no strategy or planning at all. The objective of the game is to win all the cards from the other players.

To play Beggar My Neighbor, you need the following:

  • Two to six players: You can play with more than six players in a pinch.
  • A standard deck of 52 cards: With four or more players, add a second deck of cards. This game has the great advantage that you don't really need a complete deck of cards — the fact that a card or two is missing is almost irrelevant. Don't forget to remove the jokers!

To begin, one player deals out the whole deck in a clockwise rotation, dealing the cards face-down and one card at a time so that each player gets about the same number of cards. The players don't look at their cards; they just form them into a neat pile, face-down in front of them.

The player to the left of the dealer turns over the top card from his pile and places it in the center of the table (or floor, if you happen to be playing there).

Different things can happen now, depending on what card has been turned over:

  • If the value of the card is between 2 and 10, the card has no special significance, and the play goes on to the next player.
  • If the card is a court card (an ace, king, queen, or jack), the game becomes a little more exciting. The next player then has to pay a forfeit, meaning that she has to turn over some of her cards onto the central pile. If the turned-over card is an ace, the second player must turn over four cards one by one onto the pile; if the card is a king, he has to pay three cards; if a queen, two cards; and if a jack, one card.

If all the forfeit cards the player turns over are between 2 and 10, then the player who turned over the court card takes up the whole pile and puts it under his own cards. But if the player turns over another court card during the course of the forfeit, then the debt is deemed paid off, and that player doesn't have to turn over any more cards. Instead, the next player must pay the forfeit dictated by the second court card and hope to turn over a court card in the process or concede the whole central pile to that player.

When a player has no more cards left, she is out, and the game continues without her. The last player in the game, who accumulates the whole deck, wins.

Your success at Beggar My Neighbor depends on the luck of the draw; if you get a good smattering of court cards, you will probably win. If someone feels bad because he lost, you may want to remind him of that. But that doesn't mean you can't congratulate him if he wins!

Because the game theoretically can go on for a long time — and is ideal for long car journeys, waiting for planes, or similar situations — you can also agree that the player with the most cards at a certain predefined time is the winner.

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