Top Three Classic Family Card Games

Old favorites for when relatives are in town.

Top Three Classic Family Card Games

Who’s got family coming in this holiday season? Or are you the one doing the visiting? Whatever your winter brings, bringing a deck of cards with you can lead to hours of entertainment for everybody. Teach your young cousins to play, or suggest a game with mom and dad. You know as well as we do that some of the best memories of quality time with relatives come from late nights playing cards. Throw one of Molly Wellmann’s drinks into the mix, along with a warm fireplace and some homemade goodies, and you’ve got a whole evening going.

Here are our favorite three games to play with cards when family comes into town.

Slapjack

Players: 4-10

Ages: Kids, Teens, and Adults

Why we play at home: The simple concept and race-to-slap interaction make it fun for kids and adults both, and the constant interaction means kids won’t get bored while they wait for their turn.

Objective: Collect all the cards.

Rules:

  • Have everyone sit in a circle around a table or on the floor. Deal clockwise until you run out of cards. Everyone holds their cards facedown without looking at them.
  • Going around the circle, each player draws a card from the top of their deck (face-out, so that the player cannot see the card before it is played) and places that card in the center of the circle. Each player continues to place their cards in the center this way.
  • When a Jack court card is turned face up, the goal is to be the first person to “slap” it, or cover it with your hand. If several people slap at once, the person whose hand is most in contact with the Jack adds all the cards to his or her pile.
  • If a player incorrectly slaps a card, he or she must give the top card in his or her pile to the player who placed the slapped card. That player adds the extra card to the bottom of his or her deck.
  • When a player runs out of cards, the player is out—unless he or she can slap a Jack laid by someone else. At that point, the previously “out” player is back in and can play with the cards collected from the pile.
  • Play continues until one person wins all of the cards. For a shorter version, stop play when the first person runs out of cards. Whoever has the most cards in his or her hand is the winner.

Crazy Eights

Players: 2-8

Ages: Kids, Teens, and Adults

Why we play at home: This is another game that gets the whole family involved and keeps everyone on their toes.

Objective: Be the first player to get rid of all your cards.

Rules:

  • Deal 5 cards one at a time, face down, starting with the player to the dealer’s left. Place the rest of the cards face down in the center of the table, then turn the first card up and place it beside the facedown pile. If an eight is turned, it is buried in the middle of the pack and the next card is turned. The face-up cards create a “starter” pile.
  • Starting to the dealer’s left, each player places one card face up on the starter pile. Each card played (other than an eight) must match the card showing at the top of the starter pile in suit or denomination. So if the king of Clubs is the starter, the card played must either be another king, or be any card from the clubs suit. If unable to play a card, the player draws cards from the top of the facedown cards until a play is possible.
  • If the facedown pile runs out, the player must pass his or her turn to the next player. At that point, save the card at the top of the starter pile, then shuffle the cards underneath, turn them face down, and make them the new stock pile.
  • All eights are wild. An eight may be played at any time in turn, and the player should only specify a suit for it, not a number.
  • The first player without cards wins the game!

Play or Pay

Players: 3-8

Ages: Kids, Teens, Adults

Why we play at home: Because this game involves some low-scale betting, it’s fun to use poker chips to play—or, if you don’t have poker chips, jelly beans or M&M’s® candies.

Objective: Complete the suits and be the first player to get rid of all your cards.

Rules:

  • Each player starts by putting one chip (or jelly bean) into the pot before each deal. Deal the cards one at a time clockwise, face down, beginning with the player on the left. If some players receive fewer cards than others, it is customary for each player to add one additional chip.
  • Starting with the player left of the dealer, the first person lays a card. All cards played remain face up on the table, arranged in four rows of the four suits. The first player may play any card. The sequence in the suit must be built up until all thirteen cards are played, and the sequence in the suit is continuous.
    • The player does not have to start with the first card in a suit (the Ace). He or she can start with any card, and then the rest of the players must add in that order to complete that suit before moving onto the next suit. For example, J, Q, K, A, 2, all the way to 10. Or, 7, 8, 9, 10, J, Q, K, A, 2 and so on all the way to 6.
  • The turn to play continues clockwise. If a person is unable to play in turn, he or she puts one chip in the pot. Whoever plays the thirteenth card of a suit may choose any card from his hand to begin the next series.
  • The first person to get rid of all his or her cards wins the pot.

If nothing else, make sure you play your games with our seasonally appropriate Leaf Back Decks, available in green and red. And for more game ideas, download our How to Play  app for the iPhone, iPad, and Android devices!

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