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Five Card Games to Play with Friends and Family

Spend the holiday season in healthy competition with family and friends.

The ins and outs of beloved card games that you can try this Christmas break.
Five Card Games to Play with Friends and Family
Although this year’s Thanksgiving has passed, I must still rejoice and be thankful for this: The end of the semester is upon us! How will you spend your precious free time over the Christmas break? One of my favorite things to do is play card games with friends and family—preferably indoors, near the warmth of the crackling fire, appreciating the sight of the blizzard from within our home. I like classic, well-known card games as well as some lesser-known ones. Playing card games with family offers time to reconnect after a long time spent away at school, and playing card games with friends allows bonding time that spending time on electronics is not able to offer. Here is a list of my recommended card games!
  1. Uno & Uno Flip Everyone knows the Uno card game, and everyone loves and hates it simultaneously. It’s rightly considered a classic. Each game is usually quick and rapid. You can play many games in one sitting without getting bored, and it can get intense. If you have not tried it before, try playing with some non-standard rules, such as “stacking” and giving special functions to 0’s and 7’s. An official variation of Uno that can be bought in a store is Uno Flip. In Uno Flip, each card is double sided. Each card has a light side and a dark side. The Uno enthusiast will be familiar with the light side: Its four colors are red, yellow, green, and blue; it features reverse and skip cards; and, in a slight twist, it features “draw one” and “draw two” cards but not “draw four.”
    However, even the most traumatized Uno veteran will find himself in uncharted lands when a “flip the deck” card is played, forcing all players to switch to the dark side. The dark side features magenta, teal, violet, and orange as its colors. I t offers reverse and “skip all” cards instead of regular skip (one) cards; and finally, it only has one magnitude of “draw” card: draw five. My siblings and I like Uno Flip. If you decide to play it, you will be in for a good time.
  2. Phase 10 I personally prefer Phase 10 to Uno. It involves a bit more thought and is less up to chance, although the luck of the draw still factors into who wins. One round of Phase 10 is about as long as a game of Uno, but completing a whole game of at least 10 rounds requires a lot more time.
    In each round every player is dealt ten cards. There are draw and discard piles as in Uno. Everyone begins on Phase 1: “two sets of three.” Every player draws and discards until they have two three-of-a-kind's, three cards featuring the same number for two numbers. Once a player achieves this, they put those six cards on the table face-up. The group of players who have put their sets down, after drawing a card to start their turn, are then allowed to discard additional cards onto other people’s sets if they have the number that corresponds to that set. Then, they discard one card on the discard pile. When a player discards all their cards, the round is over. Whoever successfully completed the phase by putting down cards gets to move on to the next phase, while those who did not must remain on the phase on which they currently are for the next round. The first player to complete the tenth phase wins! Once every player gets the hang of it, this game becomes very fun and as intense and frustrating as Uno can be. I recommend it.
  3. Apples to Apples This is another classic and is especially fun for larger groups. Every player is dealt seven red cards, each featuring a noun. One player begins as “the judge” and reads aloud an adjective displayed on a green card. Each player picks from their red cards the noun that is best described by that adjective. The red cards are handed to the judge, who chooses which red card is “best described” by the green card—the judge’s criteria may range from most amusing, most creative, most obscure, or whatever criteria by which the judge may be inclined to evaluate. The player who submitted the winning red card receives the green card. This process repeats with the role of the judge being transferred in the clockwise direction and with each player being restocked to seven red cards each round. The first player to receive a certain number (depending on the number of players—see the rules) of green cards wins the game. I recommend this game to be played with friends, and the more, the merrier!
  4. Coup This is an interesting game involving bluffing, another great game to play with friends. Each player is dealt two “character cards” face-down. Each player can only look at the cards which were dealt to them. Each “character card” lists which other characters that character influences as well as the abilities that character has. Each player is dealt two coins, with the remaining coins going to the treasury. During a player’s turn, that player can choose from a certain number of actions whose results range in how many coins that player will receive. A player can be challenged, in which case they must reveal one of their character cards. If the player is caught claiming to be able to take an action which their characters do not have the ability to do, their card must remain face-up. That card becomes useless and loses its “influence.” If a player loses all their influence, they are out of the game. Once a player reaches seven coins, they can “coup” another player on their turn, causing them to immediately lose influence. The last player with influence remaining wins the game. If you are confused, don’t worry. I was confused when I first played this game—it may be worthwhile to try.
  5. Poker I love playing poker with family and friends. It fascinates me how we can invent many different, fun games using the same deck of 52 cards. I’ve never gambled and would not advocate for it. I’ve always played poker either purely for fun—but still with poker chips. Here is a list of a few of the poker games that are among my favorites—using the names as they were taught to me, although you may know them under another name—and a brief overview of their instructions: • Texas Hold ‘Em: A classic. Every player is dealt two cards. A round of betting. Three cards are dealt face-up on the table that everyone can use. A round of betting. Two more cards dealt face-up on the table, separated by and then followed by another round of betting. Everyone shows. • Baseball: A variation of seven-card poker. Three’s and nine’s are wild. Every player is dealt two cards face-down. A round of betting. Four cards are then dealt face-up to each player, with each circle of dealing being separated by a round of betting. The final card is dealt face-down. A round of betting. Everyone shows. • Nightball (a.k.a, No Peek Baseball): A variation of baseball. Every player is immediately dealt seven cards face-down. No peeking. Three’s and nine’s are still wild. The player to the left of the dealer flips one card. A round of betting. The next player flips cards until he can beat the card of the previous player. A round of betting. The next player flips as many cards as needed until he can beat the highest hand currently showing on the table. A round of betting. This repeats until every player folds except for one, or until most or all the cards are showing and there is a definite winner. • Chase the Cowboy: Another variation of seven-card poker. Each player is dealt two cards face-down. A round of betting. This is followed by four cards dealt to each player face-up with their corresponding betting rounds. If ever a king is dealt face-up, the number of the card that is dealt immediately after that becomes the wild card. If another king is dealt face-up, the card immediately after that becomes wild, and the card that was previously wild no longer is. Each player has the option to take their final card face-up or face-down (theoretically decided by whether they want the wild card to change or not, for if a king is dealt face-down, it does not produce or change the wild card). Everyone shows.
I hope this rather lengthy article was able to inspire you to play some card games (especially poker!) with your friends and family during your time away from school. For more games to play, see this list. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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