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5 card games to play when stuck inside

Cards and a cribbage game rest on a homemade table at Edith Lucille's Bait Shack on Mount Vernon Road in Cedar Rapids on
Cards and a cribbage game rest on a homemade table at Edith Lucille's Bait Shack on Mount Vernon Road in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, April 5, 2017. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

I recently wrote about five board games my family enjoys. Now I’ll take a look at our favorite card games.

Cribbage (2 to 3 players, ages 10 and older)

Background: According to Bicyclecards.com, cribbage dates back to as early as the 17th century. The game stemmed from the English game, “Noddy.” English poet Sir John Suckling is credited with creating it.

How to play: Cribbage can be played two- or three-handed, using pegs and a game board with 120 holes for scoring. Players accumulate points through card play, advancing one space per point and leapfrogging their own markers.

Face cards (kings, queens, jacks) are all worth 10, while aces are worth one. All other cards are assigned face value for counting.

The first deal is determined by each player cutting the deck of cards. The player with the highest card earns the deal. In the two-handed game, each player is dealt six cards (five in three-handed) face down.

Both keep four and discard two into the crib, which is a secondary hand for the dealer. After the crib is complete, the player who did not deal cuts the deck. The dealer turns the card face up on top of the deck. This card is a community card for players to use in their hands and the crib.

Next comes “The Play,” where players alternate laying cards, counting up to 31. The non-dealer starts and calls out the value of the card. The next player lays a card and notes the sum of the cards. If the first card is a 7 and following card is a queen, the total is 17. Players total cards until one cannot play without going over 31.

This repeats and deal alternates between players. The non-dealer always counts first, which could come into play as players approach the finish.


Scoring: Scoring is done by different card variations. One of the common ways to score is by combinations of 15. Any cards that add exactly to 15 nets two points. For example, a K-5 is 15. An 8-7 or A-4-Q is another possibility.

Runs of three or more are worth one point per card. A hand with K-Q-J or 3-4-5-6 are considered runs. The more cards in consecutive order the more points. Flushes count when all four cards in your hand are of the same suit and are worth one point per card in the flush.

Pairs are worth two points. Three of a kind will get you six, while four of a kind earns 12. Jacks can produce extra points. If a dealer flips a jack on the community card, it’s worth two points. If a player has a jack and it matches the suit of the community card, it’s worth one point.

“The Play” yields additional chances to score as well. If a player is unable to play without going over 31, it’s a “Go” and the other player receives a point. The count starts over. If a play adds up to 31 exactly, the player receives two points.

The largest point total possible is 29, consisting of three 5s and a jack in hand and a 5 as the community card. Interestingly, none of the possible scoring combinations add up to 19.

Winning the game: The first player to reach 121 and moves their peg beyond the finish line wins. The game can be won during “The Play” or while counting their hands.

Euchre (2 to 4 players, ages 10 and older)

Background: Euchre was created in Europe during the 1800s and based on the game Juckerspiel. Contrary to popular belief, the trick-taking game did not originate in Dubuque County. It is traditionally played by two teams of two, but can be played one-on-one.

How to play: Euchre is a trump game, using a partial deck of cards. The rules I grew up playing used ace, king, queen, jack, 10 and 9, while other versions include the 8 and 7.

Deal is usually determined by flipping cards face up. The person with the first jack starts.

Dealing is quirkier than most games. Five cards are distributed clockwise to each player. Dealers have the option to deal three cards to each player and then two to each or vice versa.


The remainder of the cards are set next to the deal with the top card turned face up. Starting to the dealer’s left, players have a choice to name the suit of the turn card as trump or pass. If a player names that suit trump, the dealer exchanges that card for one in his hand.

If all players pass, including the dealer, the card is turned face down. Players have the option to name one of the other three suits trump or pass. If a suit is not named, the cards are tossed in and the deal moves to the next player.

Euchre uses “bowers,” which are the jacks of the same color as designated trump. The right bower is the highest-ranking card and the left is the second-highest, followed by A-K-Q-10-9. For instances, if clubs are named trump the highest card would be the jack of clubs with the jack of spades next.

Trump beats cards of all other suits, so a 9 of diamonds can take a trick over the ace of hearts.

Play begins with the player left of the dealer, who sets down the lead card. Players must play of the card of the same suit. If they do not have that suit, they can play any other card from their hand, including trump.

The person who plays the highest-ranking card takes the trick and leads the play. This continues until all five cards are played. The team that takes the most tricks earns points.

Scoring: There are a number of ways to score in euchre, but it all depends on which team names trump for the hand.

A team that names trump and takes three of the five tricks receives a point. If that team sweeps all five, they receive two points. A player can call “Alone” and opt to play without their partner for that hand. If that player takes all five tricks, the team earns four points. Only one point is won if an “alone hand” claims three or four tricks.

If a team names trump and fails to get three tricks, the opposing team gets two points. This is referred to as a “set.”


Winning the game: The first team to reach 10 points wins. Versions of the game can be played to five or seven points.

Hearts (3 to 5 players, ages 13 and older)

Background: Hearts first appeared in the United States in the late 19th century, according to Brittanica.com. Parlettegames.uk states Hearts stemmed from the European game, Reversis, which was popular from the 17th to 19th centuries.

How to play: This is an ideal cutthroat game of strategy as players attempt to give points, instead of collect them. The most common is the four-player game.

All the cards should be dealt to players, so they have the same amount. This is 13 apiece for a four-player game. For a three-player game, the 2 of diamonds is removed and 17 given to each. The 2 of clubs and diamonds are set aside and 10 cards are dealt to each in a five-player contest.

After the deal, players select three cards to the left and replace them with three from the player to the right. The player with the 2 of clubs makes the first play. If it has been removed, the 3 of clubs starts.

Players must follow suit of the first card played. The person with the highest card (ace through 2) takes the trick and leads the next. If a player does not have the lead suit, they can play a heart or an off suit. Hearts cannot be led until they have been played on another lead or if it is the only option remaining.

The deal rotates to the left until the game is finished.

Scoring: The goal is to saddle opponents with the most points. Each heart is worth one point, while the queen of spades is worth 13.

After a hand is played, the number of hearts and the queen of spades are recorded and added to a running total.

“Shooting the moon” occurs when a player collects all 13 hearts and the queen of spades. They are rewarded for sweeping round and each opponent is assessed 26 to their score.


Winning the game: The player with the lowest score after an opponent surpasses a predetermined total wins the game. The normal threshold is 100, but can be adjusted.

Picture Frame Solitaire

(1 player)

Background: Even though the origin of the game isn’t really noted, it can be traced back centuries. There are many variations of the game.

How to play: Picture Frame Solitaire is fairly simple. Cards are turned face up, completing four rows of four cards each.

Kings must be placed in the four spots across the top, queens go in the spaces across the bottom and two jacks on both ends of the middle rows. Any number cards or aces can be used in the middle spots. If the middle spots are full, number cards and aces have to fill up the spaces in the face card frame.

Once the pattern is complete, players can begin to clear non-face cards off the board, adding them to 10. Players can remove a 10 by itself, but can’t combine more than two cards for the sum. For example, 9-A, 8-2, 3-7, 4-6 and a pair of 5s can be paired. Players cannot use 2-3-5 to clear spaces.

Players continue to turn cards to fill empty spaces until the deck is complete.

They must strategically place other cards so face cards can be played on the appropriate spaces. If a face card is flipped and its assigned spots are not available, the game is lost.

Winning the game: The game is won when the face card frame is formed with only four kings along the top, two jacks on each side and queens along the bottom.

Uno (2 to 10 players, ages 7 and older)

Background: The colorful card game was created in the 1970s by Merle Robbins in Ohio. Mattel obtained the rights to it in 1992.

How to play: Uno is another individual contest, even though a partner variation exists. The traditional game consists of a 112-card deck made up of numbered, wild or task cards in blue, green, red and yellow. Task cards include skip, reverse and draw two.


Skip cards pass the turn of the next player. Reverse cards changes direction of play. Draw two forces the next player to take two cards from the deck and skip their turn.

Players are dealt seven cards to open. The top card of the remaining deck is turned over face up to start the play pile. The player to the immediate left begins to play. Players must lay a card that matches the color, number or task of the previous card played or used a wild card to change color.

If a player does not have a card to play, they must draw one at a time until possessing a card to play. In the case a deck runs out, all cards in the play pile, except for the top card, will be reshuffled and used for the drawing deck.

Play remains clockwise until a reverse card is played.

The object is to be the first to discard your entire hand. The major caveat of the game is a player must audibly declare “UNO” when they play the second-to-last card in their hand. If an opposing player catches them with one card without calling “UNO” then a four-card penalty is enforced.

Winning the game: The first player to play all of their cards is the winner of a single game. In points play, the losers tally the cards in their hand — number cards are face value, task cards are worth 20 and wilds are 50. The game ends when the loser reaches a set level of points, similar to Hearts. The suggested limit is 500 points.

Comments: (319) 368-8679; kj.pilcher@thegazette.com

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