6 Alternative Games To Play With That Old Deck of Cards

Two colors, four suits and 52 cards can generate endless hours of entertainment. The versatile appeal of a deck of cards is equally useful for a family vacation or a Friday afternoon with a round of drinks. In college, the most common time to reach for a deck of cards is when playing a drinking game like Ring of Fire, also known as King’s Cup. After this article, though, you may remember the simple joys of playing cards without the end goal of intoxication in mind.

1. Nerts

Good if you: have an even number of players

Nerts is a partnered card game that can move very, very quickly once you have more than a couple of teams. Each duo needs their own deck and deals a row of four cards, a stack of 13, and then a pile with the rest of the deck. The goal of the game is to get rid of the 13 cards as quickly as possible, but it can get very competitive. Learn how to play here.

2. Rummy “500”

Good if you: have any number of players

This card game is old-school, but a classic for a reason. This is the kind of card game your parents or grandparents grew up playing. Each player is dealt seven cards, and then it’s a simple draw one, discard one method of gameplay. Players try to earn points by building sets and books of cards, with a few twists. Learn the rules here.

3. ERS

Good if you: have any number of players

If you’ve been to summer camp, there’s a good chance you’ve played ERS. Whether you think the acronym stands for Egyptian Rat Slap, Egyptian Rat Screw, or simply ERS, this is a fast-paced card game that may end up leaving your hands a little bruised. Gameplay moves in a circle, as each player lays down a card. If someone lays down a face card, the next player has a few chances to find another one or else the previous player wins the whole stack. The object of the game is to win all the cards—but you can also win them from “slapping” various sequences. To be good at this game, you need to have a little luck and a lot of fast reflexes. Find the full rules here.

4. Gin

Good if you: have two people

Gin is a two person variation of rummy. It can be played slowly and casually, with room for conversation. This is a great game for catching up with someone one-on-one. Each player is dealt ten cards, and the object of the game is to build sets and runs within that ten cards before the other player. You can choose to end the round before you’ve grouped all ten cards, but it comes as a risk—if the other player has fewer points, they can undercut you and win the round. Find out how to play here.

5. Canadian Fish

Good if you: have exactly six players

If you’re ready to take Go Fish to the next level, Canadian Fish is for you. This game is a complex but fun version of team Go Fish, where two teams compete to get as many “books” of cards as possible by asking the other team members for each card. It’s a challenging competition of memory and strategy, but it can also be hilarious and exciting. Learn the rules to the game (also called Literature) here.

6. Spoons

Good if you: are playing with a big group

If you have a whole room of people, a deck of cards, and a set of random objects, you have all the equipment you need to play Spoons. Players should sit in a circle with a circle of objects in the middle—the eponymous spoons, pens, sticks or anything you’d like. You need one less object than the number of players. Each player is dealt four cards, and then the deck is passed around the circle, card by card. Each player is trying to acquire four of a kind. When they get it, they grab one of the objects from the center of the circle. The catch is that you also need to be watching to see if anyone else grabs something, because once one spoon is down, it’s game over. Everyone needs to hustle to grab one as quickly as possible, and the slowest player is eliminated. Find the rules here.

So grab a deck of cards, some friends and get playing!