The Sevens card game is a Shedding and Matching game based on the popular Chinese version of Dominoes. It is also known as Fan Tan in the United States and Parliament in the United Kingdom.
Although the name Fan Tan is used in the United States, Fan Tan in China is a different gambling game, largely unrelated to the game described in this article. So, “Sevens” is going to be used primarily.
How to Play Sevens?
Sevens is played using the Standard Anglo-American 52-card deck. It is possible also to play with the German 32-card deck, which removes all of the 2s-6s from the standard assortment of 52 cards. The game is playable by 2-8 players.
The entire stock is dealt out to all of the Players at the table. Cards are dealt one at a time, starting clockwise around the Dealer.
Depending on the number of Players in a game, this may result in some Players being dealt more cards than others. This generally will not alter the Play of the game.
As the Deal occurs clockwise, and the turn order follows the same direction from the Dealer, the players with more cards will take their turn first.
Once the entire stock has been depleted by the Deal, Players then take turns in the manner described above, playing legal cards into the central layout.
Players that can play a legal move are compelled to do so. If one cannot play, they can pass their turn by knocking on the table or simply declaring “Pass.”
In order to play a card into the layout legally, it must follow certain rules. There are four layouts possible, one for each Suit.
- In order to begin a Layout, players must have a 7 in their hand of the appropriate suit.
- The card is placed into the center of the table.
- In subsequent turns following the creation of a layout, Players with cards of a matching suit that ascend or descend in order may play them onto that layout.
- Player 1 places a 7♠ into the center of the Play Table.
- Player 2 has an 8♠ in their hand.
- Player 2 then places their 8♠ onto the Spades layout begun by the 7♠.
Players can place either cards in ascending or descending order in the same layout.
Continuing the example above:
- Suppose Player 3 has a 6♠.
- Player 3 must play that card on their turn, and add the 6 to the ♠ layout making 6♠ 7♠ 8♠ on the table.
Suppose that Player 4 has a 5♠, but passes on their turn instead of playing it into the Layout.
Once the other Players inevitably discover this Player’s blunder, there will be some kind of penalty associated with this illegal move.
In gambling versions of the game, each Player pays an equal stake at the beginning of the game before cards are dealt. In such a variation, the Illegal Player would therefore have to increase their stake as a penalty.
Continuation and Ending
Players continue, placing one card into the appropriate layouts at a time.
Players continue until one of them completely empties their hand of cards. When this happens, that Player is declared the winner, and they collect the total pot if there is one.
All other Players are losers, and so cards are collected and reshuffled into a new deck. If they wish, Players place a new stake into the pot, and a new game begins.
In short, the Sevens card game rules are as follows:
- Players can play cards Up or Down in a layout, but all cards in the same layout must be the same suit.
- A new layout cannot be started until a Player in possession of the appropriate 7 plays it into the center of the table.
- If a Player can take their turn, they must do so. Players can choose which card they wish to play, if they have multiple legal moves available, but they must play one of those moves.
- Players can wager money on this game if they so wish, by placing equal wagers into a pot and playing by Winner-Take-All rules. In some games, each Pass taken by a player must be accompanied by an additional equal wager into the pot.
The game of Sevens is scored using the number of cards in a Player’s hand. The game is generally played Winner-Take-All, though the number of remaining cards in a Player’s hand could be used to score the game.
The winner could take ¾ of the pot, with the remaining quarter going to the Player with the least cards in their hand, following the winner.
There are some variations where after a Player has emptied their hand of cards, all other Players are given one more turn in a full rotation before it returns back to the Player.
In such a game, if more than one Player manages to empty their hand on this final turn, the pot could be split.
Suppose that there are two layouts on the table, the ♣ and ♦:
- 4♣ 5♣ 6♣ 7♣ 8♣
- 5♦ 6♦ 7♦ 8♦
If you have a 4♦, 9♦ or a 3♣ or 9♣, you could Play those cards onto the extant layouts.
You could also create a new layout if you have the 7♥ or 7♠.
Tips and Strategy
Making thoughtful decisions can help you win at Sevens. Below we explain a couple of basic strategies.
Play into existing layouts first
Since your moves give your opponents the chance to move, it is always best to do what will allow you to empty your hand of cards the fastest, while limiting your opponents.
If you have a 7 in your hand, and there is already a legal move that you can make without generating a new layout, you should do so.
Creating a new layout unnecessarily will give your opponents the chance to play cards into the layout.
Play cards into existing layouts first if you can before creating a new layout
When to create a new layout
The sole exception to the above rule is when you control the majority of the cards that will go into a particular layout.
For example, if you have the 7♦, as well as 8 or more of the cards in the ♦ suit, then creating a new layout is less risky.
This is because you practically monopolize that layout, and even if other players do have a few diamonds, you have the majority.
You will be assured that you will discard more into the layout than any other Player before the end of the game