Card games are an excellent hobby and one of the most accessible multiplayer gaming experiences available. All one needs to play the vast majority of card games is a standard, Anglo-American deck of 52 cards.
The United States, as a former colony of Britain, adopted many cultural standards and conventions of their Anglo-Saxon roots. The English-American style of playing cards has become the standard the world over, with only regional or proprietary games utilizing alternative decks.
There are 52 cards, numbered Ace(1)-10, along with a Jack, Queen, and King. Each of these cards has 4 copies, all in a different “suit” or symbol (♥♦♣♠). Below is a list of card games that utilize this standard pattern of cards.
Most Popular Card Games with a Standard Deck
The world of card games is diverse, with many games even having regional variations that further differentiate the genre. However, there are some extremely popular card games that stand the test of time, played the whole world over.
The classic single-player card game, available on every single personal computer utilizing Microsoft software since 1990. Popular for a good reason, Solitaire can be played by anybody with a deck of cards and a flat surface.
Players attempt to form “tableaus”, completed sequences of cards in descending order of their “rank”, the number associated with the card. Not every game of Solitaire is winnable, mathematically speaking. However, as the game is only played solo, losing a game of Solitaire can hardly be considered a real loss. Simply shuffle up the deck, and play again endlessly!
A trick-taking game, primarily for four Players. Trick-taking games are popular because of their interesting game mechanics which allow for a depth of strategy. In a trick-taking game, players each play one card at a time, comparing their cards against each other trick by trick. This incentivizes saving your best cards until the end, if possible.
Hearts uses a lowest-score-wins system, with heart-suited cards and the Queen of Spades counting for 1 point each, and for 13 points respectively. Although two and three-player versions exist, Hearts is best played with a full table of four.
Crazy Eights is a shedding game beloved all over the world, even if people don’t know it. Crazy Eights is the game upon which the popular proprietary game, Uno, is based. Crazy Eights essentially contains the same “power cards” as Uno, changing the turn order, and forcing players to draw 2, or even draw 4 cards from the deck.
Regional variations include power cards with additional rules, though 8s are almost always considered the wildcards of the game. In shedding games such as Crazy Eights, a Player wins when they completely empty their hand of cards.
Pinochle is more popular amongst older people, but it is a fun game that can bridge the gap between generations! Pinochle uses two 52-card decks, removing all but the 9s, 10s, Jacks, Queens, Kings, and Aces from both decks. All four suits for both copies of these cards should be included, making a 48-card Pinochle deck.
Pinochle, like Hearts, is a game best suited for four Players. Pinochle is a melding-type game, similar to the Rummy genre of games. In a melding game, Players are usually attempting to shed their hand and make melds, or special combinations of cards considered to be worth certain numbers of points.
Easy Card Games to Play for Fun
One of the simplest games a person can learn, but still a fun experience with enough mechanical depth to provide some strategy. Suitable for children and the elderly alike, Go Fish is a fun game to play with one or more people.
Go Fish is a matching game, where players take turns questioning another player if they have any of the requested cards. If a Player does, they must surrender one of their copies of that card to the other Player. When a Player has a pair of matching cards, they are able to discard or “shed” them from their deck. Players must surrender cards when asked, and a Player that lies can suffer severe penalties.
Although technically not a game in the strictest sense, there is the ability to add additional rules to a game of War. In the base game of War, there is virtually no strategy to be employed by a particular Player. Instead, victory in a game of War is determined entirely by the draw of the cards at the start of the game.
However, War is still an extremely easy and fun game that can be used to introduce beginners to basic concepts in tabletop gaming (TTG), such as card suits, card ranks, comparing games, shuffling of the deck, and tiebreakers.
Egyptian Rat Screw is an interesting mix between Speed and trick-taking games. Each Player will take turns placing cards into the center of the play area, until a face card (J, Q, K, Ace) is played. The next player must then play an Ace in order to continue playing cards, or else the first Player to use a face card will win all of the cards in the pot, increasing their score.
However, under certain conditions, players may slap the pot with their hands. The first Player to slap the pot when the slap rule is in effect wins the whole pot, regardless if it is their turn. Egyptian Rat Screw is easy to play, but an extremely fun and exciting game, perfect for a weekend game with friends.
Spoons is the fun, card-game version of musical chairs! The game is very simple: Players are dealt four cards, and spoons are arranged in a circle at the center of the table. There should be one less spoon than there are Players at the start of the game.
The Dealer will then draw one card, and discard one card to the person on their left. That Player will then discard one card to the next Player on their left, and so on. This continues until a Player has a 4 of a kind in their hand. The first Player to achieve this is able to grab a spoon. Once that Player grabs their spoon, any Player may grab a spoon from the center. The last one without a spoon is out of the game, and a new round begins, with one spoon removed from the pile.
Classic and Old Card Games
Euchre is a trick-taking game using a modified version of the 52-card Anglo-American deck. Like in Pinochle, the Euchre deck is made from the cards ranked 9-Ace, with a trump card to be determined based on the first card drawn from the remaining deck after every Player has been dealt at least 3 cards. Euchre is over 200 years old, with the first written mention of the game dating back to 1810.
Cribbage is the traditional card game of England, with many different card games borrowing the mechanics and gameplay of Cribbage. Originally, Cribbage dates back to at least the 17th century, making it over 400 years old. Cribbage itself is actually based on another game available on the site, Noddy. Cribbage is a combination, or “meld-making” game, with many of the melds in cribbage likely being familiar to even casual card-game Players, such as the flush.
Blackjack is one of the most popular gambling games in the world, found in practically every single casino on the planet. Blackjack is popular due to its relatively fair gameplay, with advantage players (card-counters) able to actually gain an edge over the house’s odds. Relatively even odds in a gambling game are a good thing, as it gives players a higher chance of making money over the course of many games.
Blackjack is the traditional House game, and for good reason. Its fast pace and simple rules make it an exciting option if you know what you are doing.
The mainstay of the American Wild West, Poker is the classic card game, known for its incredible mix of strategic betting and luck-based draws. The meld-making game most people are familiar with, Poker utilizes the 52-card deck, with each Player trying to make a combination as outlined by the rules. Flushes, Straights, Full Houses, and so on.
Poker is another of the most popular gambling games, along with Blackjack. Five-Card Stud and Texas Hold’em are the two most popular variations of this classic card game.
Whist is a classic trick-taking card game, utilizing a partnership system. Descendants of Whist borrowed this system, making it prevalent in many modern trick-taking games. Whist also implements another rule popular in many trick-taking games, namely that trump cards may only be played after trumps have been “broken” so to speak. Whist is one of the classic examples of strategic card games. The rules may be simple, but the skill ceiling of the game is in actuality quite high.
Selection of our Favorites
One of the most popular card games of all time, spawning so many variations that there is an entire genre known as “Rummy Games.” Rummy is a shedding and melding type of game, in which players reduce the number of cards in their hand as much as possible. Remaining unmelded cards at the end of a round are then counted against the Player in possession of them as “deadwood”, or points counted toward a Player’s total. The lowest score wins in this game. In many Rummy games, it is possible to set individual cards on another Player’s meld, so long as it would be a valid component of that meld.
Canasta is a meld-making game, similar to Rummy. In fact, Canasta is a member of the Rummy family, a variation of the original Rummy. Canasta utilizes the partnership system found in many trick-taking games, with Players forming teams of two in four-player games.
Canasta differs from traditional Rummy in two ways. Firstly, it does not allow the setting of cards on melds that have already been laid on the table. Second, Canasta involves special melds that are different from the original Rummy melds though those remain within the game as well. Canastas, the game’s namesake, are 7-card melds.
No putters needed! Card Golf is an interesting game played by setting 6 cards, face-down, in front of each Player. These cards are numbered from left to right, top to bottom, 1-6. Once these cards are placed, Players will take turns drawing cards. If they receive a card that coincides with that card’s number, Players may replace the face-down card. If this card matches another of the Player’s numbered cards, they may replace that card. If they cannot, Players simply discard this card face-up on the discard pile.
A trick-taking game with very interesting rules, and considered by some to be the greatest game of its genre. Sixty-Six is a hard game to understand, partially because of its German-language game jargon, and partially because of its rather complex ruleset. However, if a Player is willing to learn how to play Sechsundsechzig, they stand to learn much by playing such an interesting game.
Another interesting aspect of Sixty-Six is that it is an Ace-Ten game. This means that Aces, as usual, are the highest-ranking card in the game. However, the King does not come second. Instead, tens are the second most valuable card in Sixty-Six.
One of the oldest recorded card games in England, Noddy is the progenitor of Cribbage. Noddy is the oldest known game utilizing a ruleset reminiscent of Cribbage, making it likely to be the common ancestor among all games similar to Cribbage. Rather than using a board to keep track of a Player’s crib, tokens were used instead.
Noddy can be played as a two-player game, as in Cribbage, or as a four-player game with two partnerships formed between the Players. Noddy is quite literally the cool old game, a piece of history relived every time it is played. A game of Noddy connects us with the people of the past, even if only during the duration of a game.
Good card games of all types are a thrill to play. Whether you’re playing a shedding game, a comparing game, or a banking game, it does not matter. Tabletop Gaming provides a tactile experience that is simply lacking in the digital landscape. There’s something special about feeling cards between your fingers. This guide only scratches the surface of the number of games available to learn for free on CoolOldGames.com. Browse the rule pages of these games, or seek out other games available on the site!
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the most common card game?
It depends on where one is at a given time. In a family setting at home, the most common card games might include Hearts, Spades, and Uno. However, if one is using their personal computer, Solitaire might be considered the most common card game, as everyone using Microsoft Windows as their operating system has access to Solitaire by default.
What is a simple card game to learn?
Go Fish, War, and Spoons are some of the easiest games for a person to pick up for the first time and simply play.
War is the simplest, but it also gives Players the least agency to actually achieve their own victory.
Go Fish and Spoons might be the best to teach someone already familiar with the concept of playing cards, as those games actually have proper mechanics to learn, whereas War is simply a comparison of the highest number.
What is the most fun card game to play?
Although this is a subjective question with no truly “correct” answer, in our opinion the most fun card games are those that involve lots of strategy. Games like Poker, Pinochle, and Sixty-Six, where there are many different mechanics and chances to gain the edge over your opponents, if you play in such a way that maximizes your odds of victory.
What is the most competitive card game?
Generally, the most competitive card games are those played for money. The famous American Cowboy Wild Bill Hickok was killed over a game of Poker. There is little that gets people more heated than a game with money on the line.
What are some cool card games with a 52-card deck?
The repertoire of games offered at Cool Old Games is largely played utilizing a 52-card deck. Browse through the site and find dozens of cool card games. Some fun examples to help you get started: Tonk, Rummy, Beggar My Neighbor, and President.
How many card games are there?
There are a nearly infinite number of ways to play cards, with new methods being discovered and popularized on a nearly weekly basis. With enough imagination, you could come up with your own rules as well.
When were card games invented?
The earliest cards were found in the Chinese Tang Dynasty, around the 9th century. Poker cards were first used in the 15th century in Europe.
Can I play card games online?
Yes, most card games have online simulators that allow players to play games anywhere, anytime, and against any player from across the globe. Many prefer this method thanks to the removal of complicated and messy setup processes.