As a family we love card games. You’re never bored if you have a pack of cards with you so it’s a great investment to teach children a few games (or even learn new ones with them).
Card games are great for wet weather days, during the holidays, down on the beach or for playing with extended family. Here are some of our favourites…
Aim: To be the first player to use all their cards.
Number of players: 2-6 Age: 5+
Preparation: Remove jokers and deal each player five cards. Place remaining cards face down on the table turning over the top one.
Gameplay: The youngest person goes first, looks at their cards, and tries to match either the number/picture of the revealed card or its suit. If they can match, they play that card and the next player does the same. Anyone who can’t match either suit or number/face must pick up a card from the table pile. If this matches they can play it and it’s the next player’s go, if it doesn’t they must pick up another card. If, after picking up three cards, they still can’t go, play moves on.
Some cards have special features. An eight makes the next person miss their go, Aces change direction of play and twos mean the next person picks up two cards unless they have a two. In this case the following person has to pick up four cards and so on.
Once a player has one card left they must shout KNOCK. Failing to do this during their turn results in the penalty of having to pick up three cards. Play continues until one person finishes all their cards. Remaining players tally up the score of the cards in their hands; Ace is one, all other cards are face value; picture cards are 10.
We play a number of hands and people remain in the game until they hit 101 points (we also have a dog’s life). The winner’s the last person left in the game.
You’ll probably use up the table cards in the course of the game. Simply shuffle all discarded cards and place back in a pile face down.
Beat your Neighbour (aka Beggar my Neighbour)
Aim: To be the last player standing holding all the cards.
Number of players: 2-6 Age: 6+
Preparation: Deal out all the cards (minus jokers) evenly between players.
Gameplay: Everyone holds their cards in a pile, facedown and doesn’t look at them for the duration of the game. The youngest person goes first and plays the top card from their pile discarding it into the middle of the table.
Cards two through to 10 have no significance, so if any of these are played the game moves to the next player and they play their top card. If an Ace is played then the subsequent player has four attempts to play a picture card or another Ace. If a King’s played, the next player has three attempts to play another picture card or Ace; a Queen played means the following player has two attempts to play a picture card or Ace, and if a Jack is played the next player has just one attempt (ie Jack’s are the best card to have).
If that player fails – that is they can’t play a picture card or Ace – the previous player wins all the cards on the table, which they put at the bottom of their pile. They then lay down their top card and play resumes. If they succeed, play moves to the next person who has four, three, two or one attempt/s to play a picture card or Ace dependent on what was played.
If you use up all your cards, you’re out. The person that ends up with all the cards is the winner.
There are many variations on this card game, here’s ours…
Aim: To get four cards that are the same denomination (eg four Queens).
Number of players: 3-13 (4-7 is optimum) Age: 5-13 years
Preparation: From a deck of cards, separate out as many quartets/sets of denominations as there are players. For example, if three people are playing sort out three quartets as shown below. After separating these out, shuffle and deal four cards to each player.
Gameplay: Everyone looks at their cards and then simultaneously passes a card they don’t need to the player on their left. Play continues until someone completes their set of four matching cards. At this point, the player puts their finger on their nose. All other players must copy this action. The last person to do this is the loser. We continue until someone has three strikes, at which point the person with the least strikes is the winner.
Poker – Texas Hold’em
It might not sound too child-friendly but this version is a fairly easy game to pick up (harder to get very good at though). It’s really great for getting children to work out permutations and calculate probability. There’s also a strong bluffing element!
Aim: To make the best five card poker hand every round and win all the chips.
Number of players: 2-23 Age: 8+
Preparation: Remove the jokers from the pack. Choose a banker for the first round and allocate an equal number of poker chips to each player (in different denominations). The banker deals two cards to each player.
Gameplay: Everyone looks at their cards. The person immediately to the banker’s left has to put in the ‘small blind’ (a predetermined amount, say a chip with the face value of 10). The person to their left is the ‘big blind;’ they have to put in double the small blind. The blinds kick off the betting and have to be played at every hand regardless of whether cards are good or bad.
The person after the big blind then decides if they want to play their hand, fold or raise the stakes. If they want to play, they have to match the big blind. If they feel they’ve got a particularly strong hand they can even add more chips (or perhaps bluff). The next player then has to make the same decision based on their hand. This carries on until it’s back to the person who’s the big blind. If the stakes have been raised since they posted the blind, they must match ‘call’ if they want to stay in. They can also opt to raise. If they do this then there is another round of betting where, once again, people must decide it they want to call, fold or raise. Once the betting has finished, all the chips bet up until this point are put into the middle (the pot).
The dealer then deals three cards face up. This is known as ‘the flop’. The person on the dealer’s left then decides what to do based on the five cards they have at their disposal (two in their hand and the three ‘community cards’ on the table).
They can choose to bet or ‘check’ ie not bet. If they check, the next person can also do this. In fact everyone playing can do this. However, if someone decides to bet then the subsequent player has to call the bet if they want to continue playing. They can also raise; again the next player has to match/call if they want to remain in. This carries on until it’s back to the person who initiated the round. If the stakes have been raised since their go, they must call or otherwise fold. The game then continues to the next phase (turn card). Similarly, if everyone has checked play moves on. All chips bet that round are put into the pot.
The turn card and the river card
The dealer then turns over a fourth card. A further betting round continues as above. Now there are six cards in play there’s a higher chance that people have completed flushes, straights, three-of-a-kinds etc (or could be bluffing) so betting could change; watch out for this. Finally the fifth card – the river card – is dealt and the last betting round takes place. When there are no more raises, the players left in reveal their cards to everyone. The person with the highest hand (as shown in the graphic above) takes all the chips that have been played.
If someone has bet all their chips and lost, they are out of the game.
Next hand and finishing the game
For the next hand, the person to the left of the previous dealer now becomes the new dealer and the subsequent players to their left post the small and big blinds respectively. You keep playing hands until one person has won all the chips. You can also play until someone has won a certain amount if you want a shorter game!
Chase the Ace
After the poker masterclass, here’s one of those card games that requires little explanation and is based completely on luck. Again there are several versions, here’s one.
Aim: To not be left holding the Ace. There’s no overall winner, just one person that loses.
Number of players: Four or more Age: 6+ years
Preparation: From a deck of cards remove the jokers and one Ace. Deal out the remaining cards.
Gameplay: Everyone looks at their hand and discards any matching pairs they have of the same denomination; for example two Jacks or two fours. They place them face up in the middle of the table so everyone can see.
Following this action, the person who has the most cards in their hand goes first. They hold up their cards to the player on their left making sure they can’t see them. This player selects one at random. If they can make a pair now this card has been added to their hand they place it in the centre. If they can’t they’re just left holding more cards. Play continues clockwise in the same way with the next player offering their cards to their neighbour.
If you pair up all of your cards, you’re ‘safe’ and have finished your game. The other players carry on until one player is left holding the single Ace (remember you removed one before the game started). They are the loser.
A few other card games to try
Crib/cribbage is one of the classic card games, but a bit more challenging. It can be played as a pair, as a three and as partner crib (two players on each team). My eldest learnt it when she was eight and really enjoys it. Here are the rules.
Kraker Laken Poker (Cockroach poker) a family favourite where bluffing is key and the aim of the game is not to lose. There’s one loser and everyone else shares in the victory. It bears no resemblance to poker other than the bluffing. Find out how to play here.
Solo card games such as patience are also good to learn as are any of the huge variants of rummy.
What are your favourite card games?