Top 3 Traveller Card Games

While travelling it is inevitable that you’ll find yourself in situations where a game of cards is required. Whether it’s passing time while on a train or plane or unwinding at happy hour after a long day of sightseeing, having these popular traveller card games in your arsenal will reduce explanation time or allow you impress your new travel buddies.

All these games are played with a standard 52 card deck.

Threesies (also known as Sh*thead, Palace, Three Up Three Down)

Sh*thead is played bloody everywhere. I spent many nights playing this game in India whilst enjoying a Kingfisher (or some 8pm Whiskey) and good conversation. It’s good for 2-5 players.

Everyone is dealt 3 cards face down, 3 cards face up on top of the 3 face down cards and then a further 3 cards as a hand. The idea is to be the first to clear your hand, followed by the 3 face up cards and finally the 3 face down cards. Before play begins, you may swap any of the face up cards with cards in your hand.

Whoever has the worst hand begins the game (i.e. whoever has a 4, or two 4’s, or a 4 and a 5 etc.). They open proceedings by playing their lowest card or cards – doubles, triples, quads of cards of equal value can be played. You then replace what you’ve put down by picking up from the deck (you must always have at least 3 cards in your hand, unless the deck has run out). The next player must then play a card or cards of an equal or higher value. If you can’t play, you pick up the discard pile into your hand (and in subsequent turns, you don’t need to pick up once you have played if you have more than 3 cards).

Now, some cards have special powers. This part of the game often varies slightly from person to person, but this is how I play it. 2’s reset the discard pile count and can be played at any time (meaning the next person can play anything). 3’s are a “window” or “mirror” and simply represent the value of the card that they are played on top of, again they may be played at any time. 7’s mean that the next person must play equal to or below the 7 card – 7’s must be played in sequence. And 10’s, the best cards, bomb the discard pile (meaning it is put aside, no longer a part of the game), reset the count and give the player another turn. The discard pile is also bombed if 4 cards of the same value are played on top of each other – this maybe by one person who has all 4 of a particular card or over a few turns by different players.

When the deck has ended and you have played all the cards out of your hand, you move to the face up cards on the table. Even if you can’t go with any of your face up cards, you are forced to play and pick of the discard pile into your hand, which must then again be cleared. Once the face up cards are done, you move to the face down cards. You play these blind and rely on luck – again, if you turn over a card lower than the value on the pile, you pick up the cards. The player who plays their face down cards first is the winner.

Kerala 9’s

This game most likely goes by another title, but I was taught to play by somebody who wasn’t sure what is was called. As a tribute to the Indian state that we were travelling in at the time, we gave it our own name – “Kerala 9’s”.

Each player gets dealt 5 cards. Cards have values equal to their face value – except that aces are worth 1 and all picture cards are worth 10. Each round you must throw out a card – or more if you have exact pairs, triples or quads (i.e. two 7’s, two Jacks). You then pick up 1 card (even if you threw out multiple).

Once the total value of your cards is 9 or less you are able to call “Kerala” (this counts as your go – you cannot call it straight after drawing a card nor can you discard after you have called it). When Kerala has been called, play goes around everybody else once more. This is the only round that players can elect to pass and not take the risk of discarding and picking up. It’s also important to note that you don’t have to call Kerala once you reach 9 or lower.

Once the final round is done everybody reveals their cards and the person with the lowest score is the winner. They score 0 points while everybody else scores what their hand is worth. If you were the player who called Kerala and didn’t end up winning the hand, you are penalised an additional 20 points. If your total score passes 100, you’re out (you can change these limits though). But if your score lands on 50 or 100 exactly, it is halved. The last player remaining is the winner!

Update: I found the game’s actual name, appears as though it is called Yaniv. Here it is (with slightly varied rules): https://www.pagat.com/draw/yaniv.html

Asshole (also known as President, Scum)

Entire deck is dealt out amongst players (meaning some may have more than others). Player to the dealers left leads with a card or set of cards of equal value. Players may beat the led card or cards with a higher card or cards – but you must play the same amount of cards as was led. You may also choose to pass, even if you are able to play. Once you have passed you are finished for that hand and may not play again until the next lead. Whoever has played the highest card/s when everyone else has passed takes the lead and starts another round, playing whatever card/s they like. Note that 2’s are the highest cards, followed by Ace’s and the remainder are ranked as usual.

The first player to shed all their cards is the winner and is dubbed the President or King or whatever you like. Depending on the amount of players you have you may also dub the player who comes second as the Queen or Vice President. Last is dubbed the Asshole or Scum and second last is dubbed the Dunce, vice Asshole or something along those lines. From here the players of a higher status may boss around those of a lower status (perfect for when your drink is empty and a trip to the fridge is required!). It is the asshole’s job to shuffle and deal for the next turn. Prior to starting the next turn, the asshole must give the King their two best cards, while the King returns 2 cards of his choosing to the Asshole. The same is done between the Queen and the Dunce but with 1 card. Play then continues as usual.

What other card games have you found to be popular while travelling? Let us know in the comments section!

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