The 31 Card Game, also known by some as “Cadillac” or “Scat” is a Four-Player comparing card game in which players attempt to achieve the highest total of cards in a single suit. Thirty-One, as the name of the game suggests, is the upper limit and ultimate goal of these same-suited cards in the hand.
If a Player does not achieve 31, the player with the highest value cards all from the same suit will win.
Unlike in Blackjack or “21” there is no “busting” in Thirty-One, or having card totals that are greater than 31.
How to Play 31?
The 31 card game is played utilizing the standard Anglo-American 52-card deck. If using the 54-card Joker variant, the Jokers should be removed from the deck.
Once the 52-card deck is achieved, the first Dealer should be chosen randomly by whatever method the Players choose. In subsequent hands after the first, the Dealing position will merely move clockwise to each Player around the table.
Before the initial cards are dealt, each Player including the Dealer must pay an equal amount of money into the “pot” or the total of money bet by each Player. This pot is the “scoring” system of Thirty-One, as it is a gambling-type card game.
The Deal and Card Transfer
The Dealer, however, they are determined, will then shuffle the deck and deal out 3 cards to each Player, in packets of 3 and face-down. Once each Player, including the Dealer, has been dealt their 3 face-down cards, they may take them and hold them in their hand for inspection. The Dealer will then deal each Player 3 more cards. These will be face up, and placed in front of each Player. These three face-ups are known as the “widow.”
Once the widow has been dealt, the remaining gameplay is actually quite simple. The Player immediately clockwise to the Dealer (the next Player to be Dealer in the next hand) will take their first turn.
Players will take their turns by moving a single card from their widow into their hand, if they so desire. If a Player takes a card from the widow, they must then place of their other cards into the widow. A Player cannot take a card from the widow, and then immediately put it back.
If a Player does not wish to transfer cards between their hand and their widow, they may instead “knock.” When a Player knocks, they are signaling the end of the round. Each Player after the knocker’s turn will be given one more turn. Once a knock has been made and the turn order returns to the original Player to knock, the game will end and the “showdown” begins.
Once a Player knocks after exchanges have been made, the showdown begins. However, if a Player has a 31 in their hand naturally before the widows have been dealt, they may immediately knock. This skips the Showdown phase, and that knocking Player shows their cards to the other players to prove they have 31. That Player is then granted the pot immediately.
If two or more Players both have natural 31s, and both knock before the widows have been dealt, those Players will then split the pot evenly without a showdown.
If no Players have any naturals, and the widows are dealt, any knocks from this point on will initiate the process explained above, with each Player being allowed to take one more turn before the showdown begins, and then the showdown itself.
In the showdown, each Player must show the hidden cards that are in their hand. Players will then tally the totals of their cards, with the Player closest to or achieving 31 being declared the winner. Winners take the pot in its entirety, or split it in the case of a tie.
31 Card Game Rules
A summary of the most common rules can be found below:
- Aces can be valued as 11s, or as 1s. If a Player has 2 Aces in their hand, and their 3rd card would make them go over 31, one of those Aces instead becomes valued as a 1 automatically. For example, Ace, Ace, 10 would be worth 22 points, not 32.
- Players must replace the card taken from their widow with another card in their hand. Players can only ever have 3 cards in their hand at the end of their turn. They cannot have more or less.
- Players may NOT exchange cards from their widow with the deck, or with other Players. The widow is the only pool of cards from which a Player may draw.
- Face-cards are worth 10, and Numbered cards are worth their rank.
- Cards must be the same suit in order to be counted together. Q♦, K♦, A♥ is only 20 Points or 11 Points depending on the chosen suit, but not 31 Points.
Scoring & Points
Like most comparing games, such as Poker, Cadillac is played most frequently as a gambling game. Players must pay a certain amount of money or tokens into the center of the play area at the start of each hand.
The winners of these hands take the pot and add it to their own personal pile of money or tokens. When players run out of money, they are “out” and can no longer participate in the game.
Generally, when a Player goes out, it is a rule to increase the equal share each Player must pay into the pot. For example, Player 3 goes out and must wait for the game to finish before rejoining. As there are only 3 Players, instead of 4, the bet will double from 2 tokens to 4.
This helps to speed up the game as Players decrease, so that a new game can be started more quickly, and to prevent these last few hands with fewer players from lasting too long and going back and forth.
Cards are worth the traditional amount of points when they are being tallied:
- Aces are worth 11 Points
- 10s and Face-cards are worth 10 Points
- 9- 9 Points
- 8- 8 Points
Imagine that you are playing a game of Thirty-One, and the following are your cards in the hand and widow.
- 8♦ K♣ 6♥
- A♥ Q♥ 10♠
Assume that the top cards are your widow, the bottom cards are your hand, and that it is your turn.
If the King were a ♥ card, then this would be a 31. However, remember, cards are only counted together if they are all the same suit. This means the only optimal choice is to take the 6 of hearts, replacing the 10 of spades, and then knocking at the end of your turn.
How many cards do you get in 31?
There are 2 sets of 3 cards each Player is given, for a total of 6. The 3 initial cards in the hand, followed by the 3 cards of the widow. Remember, for the purposes of the showdown, only cards in the hand may be used, not cards in the widow.
Are Jokers used in the Thirty-One card game?
No, there are no Jokers in Thirty-One. If Playing using a deck with Jokers in it, they should be removed from the deck.
What happens when you run out of cards?
There is actually no way to “run out” of cards in Thirty-One. Cards that are taken from the widow must be replaced by cards from the hand, and as such both the widow and the hand will always have 3 cards in it at the end of a Player’s turn.
If the deck is depleted because Dealers have not been shuffling the deck, and instead using cards from the stock, simply reshuffle the deck at the start of the next turn.
Do you get one last card if you hit 31?
This depends. If one Player knocks before the widows have been dealt, you do not get the chance to make any card exchanges. That Player, or Players, merely win that hand from sheer luck.
However, if the widows have been dealt, and a Player knocks or declares that they have 31, you are allowed one more turn to exchange one more card between the widow and your hand.
Where can you play 31 online?
The classic school-safe flash-game website of American Youth, Coolmathgames.com (Returned from the Dead!) offers a free version of 31. Although Players do not play against real players, this version is visually well-designed, and offers challenging AI opponents to compete against.