10 Popular Card Games to Play with Friends Anytime

published Oct 25, 2023
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Hands of someone playing cards at table. The cards are bright and colorful. Snacks and other games on table
Credit: Photo: Sidney Bensimon; Prop Styling: Carla Gonzalez-Hart

Tired of playing cards by yourself? For your next group gathering, grab a deck and some friends. Deal out the cards and try your hand at these popular card games that are so universally loved that they’re pretty much iconic.

1. Poker

In this one-card-pack game, your goal is to get the best hand out of everyone at the table. The lower cards are worth less, and the higher cards are worth more. In a couple rounds, you’ll try to compile a hand of cards that contains things like doubles, triples, a full house, or flushes. Usually the best possible hand is a royal flush, which is all one suit and every card from 10 to ace. You place bets every round, and the person with the highest hand wins all the money.

2. Canasta

For Canasta, you’ll use two decks of cards, jokers included. With more than three people, you’ll play with two teams. Everyone is dealt 11 cards at the start, and you want to outscore the opposing team. You’ll use the cards to make melds, or groups of cards with the same numerical value. Canasta can be a little confusing at the start, but don’t worry — you play until a team reaches 5,000 points, so there’s plenty of time to learn.

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3. Gin Rummy

To play gin rummy you need one deck of cards, with the jokers removed. You want to beat the other players to 100 points by forming groups of three or more cards. The groups should either be the same rank or a run of the same suit.

4. Hearts

You typically play this game with four people, using a single deck. The goal is to get the lowest score. Whoever is dealt the two of clubs starts the game — each person gets 13 cards to start in Hearts. The first person to go can play any card they want, but as you go around the table, each person must play a card of the same suit. You can only play a heart card or the queen of spades if you don’t have a card of the suit on the table. Ultimately you want to get rid of the heart cards (worth one point each) and the queen of spades (worth 13 points). Once all the cards are played, count how many points you have. The lowest number wins.

5. Spades

Like Hearts, Spades is typically played with four people. You’ll break into two teams (sitting across from your teammate), and try to guess how many times you’ll pick up the pile in the middle of the table in one round. From there, the starting player puts any card of any suit other than spades into the middle of the table. Play goes around the table, with everyone playing a card of the same suit. If you can’t, put down another card of a different suit. You can only play a spade if you don’t have any of the other suits in your hand. The person who plays the highest card of the starting suit wins the cards in the center of the table. After 13 trips around the table, a round is completed. If you and your partner matched your guess, you’ll get extra points. Play continues for four rounds and whoever has the highest score at the end wins.

6. Spoons

Head to the kitchen first for Spoons. You’ll need a spoon for each player, minus one. Put the spoons in the middle of the table. Depending on how many people are playing, you can use one or two decks. Everyone starts with four cards. On each turn, the dealer picks up a card from the unused portion of the deck and then chooses a card to discard by placing it facedown on the table and sliding it to the person on their left. The goal is to get four of a kind, with each person picking up the card and passing one to the player to their left. It’s a fast-paced game, so go as quick as you can, even if the cards you’re passing are starting to pile up! Once you have four of a kind, grab a spoon from the center of the table. Then everyone else should try to grab a spoon, and the person who doesn’t get one earns an “S.” Continue playing until someone spells out the word SPOON with their losses.

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7. Go Fish

This one’s for your inner child! Go Fish is super simple. You deal six cards to every person playing and put the rest of the cards face down in the middle of the table. Immediately put down any four-of-a-kind matches you have. Then, you’ll continue trying to make four-of-a-kind matches. On your turn, you can ask any player to give you a card you need. For example, if you have three twos, ask someone if they have any twos. If they do, they must give them all to you. If not, they tell you to “go fish” and you take any card from the center pile. Play continues to the left. Keep going until all the cards are gone from the center. Whoever has the most four-of-a-kind matches wins.

8. BS

To play BS, you’ll first deal out the entire deck to the players at the table. Then, start with twos. In the center of the table, place face down all the twos you have. If you don’t have any, bluff. Put down a couple cards and say they’re twos. Go around the table until everyone has discarded their twos, then move to threes, fours, fives, and so on. At any point, if you feel like someone is lying, you can call BS. They must show the cards they just laid down. If the cards are what they claim they are, you have to take the stack. If the person was lying, they have to take the stack. Play until someone runs out of cards; that’s the winner.

9. Blackjack

The goal of Blackjack is simple — get cards that add up to 21, or as close as possible. You want to beat out the dealer, who is also trying to get 21. The closest to 21 without going over wins.

10. Speed

The goal in Speed, as you may have guessed, is to get rid of your cards as quickly as possible. Start by dealing 20 cards to each player (it’s typically a two-player game). Then make four piles in the middle: five cards on the left, one to the right of that, another one to the right of that, and a final five cards on the far right. All piles should be face down. At the start of the game, pick up five cards from your pile. Each person flips one of the middle cards at the same time, and gameplay begins. As fast as you can, put down your cards on top of the center cards — the card you place must be one number higher or one number lower than the card on top of the center pile. The suit does not matter. If you can’t do that, flip over one of the cards from the side pile and play off that card. Try to keep five cards in your hand at all times. The first person to run out of cards wins.