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3 Player Card Games

by | Feb 15, 2019 | Interesting Facts |

Most card games are designed to be played by four players. It makes a lot of sense. Four people can be easily divided into two teams, most games use 52 or 32 cards, both numbers divisible by 4, and four people are just the right amount to share two beer six packs and a pizza.

But what do you do when the fourth person of your weekly Spades game gang is being held hostage by his new annoying soulmate, the one the whole group hates? You adapt, improvise, and overcome the situation by picking up a new fun game made for three players.

There are a lot of card games for 3 people out there and you just have to pick the one that your group will like the most. There are versions of your favorite 4-player card games configured for only 3 persons – like 3-player Hearts or 3-player Spades, but there are also games specifically made to be played by a party of three. A lot of different rules and game mechanics divide those games into different groups, but overall you can classify them by the following configurations:

  • Individual card games – in those game every player plays for himself and is in direct competition with the other two.
  • Alliance card games – in those types of card games the end goal is for a single person to be the winner, but in each deal, two players form a temporary alliance against the third one. Usually, players rotate being the one-man party in each round or it is decided by pre-game bidding (like in French Tarot).
  • Banker card games – those are mainly casino-type card games where one player acts as the bank and the others play against him. In home conditions, the role of the banker is passed around with each round, so everyone can play from both sides. Usually, the banker plays by predefined rules. A lot of 2-player card games can include a Banker role as well.

Those are the types, but what are the most famous three-person card games? After some research and drunk-testing, we have made a list of the 7 most popular card games for 3. We have deliberately left out all casino-type card games for another article since they usually require some form of gambling in order to be fun and we were between paychecks at the time.

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Top 10 most popular card games for 3 players

Rummy

  • Type of play: Individual
  • Cards used: Standard 52 card deck
  • Cards rank (lowest-to-highest): A 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 J Q K

Rummy is one of the most classical and popular types of pairing card games. It has a lot of different variations and it was used as a basis for developing other classical games, such as gin rummy, 500 rummy, and at least several other card games with ‘Rummy’ in their name. The game can be played by 2 to 4 players, but 3 players are just the perfect amount for this card game.

Each player is dealt 7 cards and the main goal is to be the first to get rid of all his cards. Cards can be laid off by grouping 3 or more cards of the same value or if they are in consecutive order and from the same suit.

The first player to give all his cards each deal collects his opponents’ remaining hands and score points in accordance with their value. The first one to reach a pre-defined amount of points is the winner. Rummy can also be played a specific number of rounds and the player with the highest score after the last round wins.

Read Rummy full rules on Pagat

Where to play Rummy online

Go Fish

  • Type of play: Individual
  • Cards used: Standard 52 card deck
  • Cards rank doesn’t matter

Go Fish is another exciting pairing game that can be played by three people with quite easy rules. Kids love it for that reason but it is entertaining enough for adults as well. Memorizing and stealing your opponents’ cards are the main mechanics and the losing side can quickly turn things over with a bit of luck in the end.

The object of the game is to collect more ‘books’ than your opponents. A book is made when a player has four cards of the same value in his hand.

Each player is dealt 6 cards (in some versions it may be 5 or 7) initially. The rest of the cards are left face down in a pile in the middle.

The 1st player is picked by a random chance and then the turn moves clockwise. The player who is at turn must pick an opponent and ask him if he has a card of specific rank, a 9 for example. If the opponent has cards from that rank he must give all of them to the asking player. The player at turn is free to ask the same opponent or a different one about another rank. This goes on until the opponent asked has no cards of the desired rank, in which case he says ‘Go Fish’ and the player at turn must take one card from the pile.

A player can ask only for ranks he already possesses in his hand. This gives away information about your hand and what cards you possess, so you must be careful letting others from knowing too many of your cards.

Games can be decided in one turn if the player’s memory is sharp. Having a lot of cards in the late game can actually be a plus, but beware, friendships can be ruined if you screw the other players from their books enough times.

Read Go Fish full rules on Pagat

Where to play Go Fish online

Crazy Eights

  • Type of play: Individual
  • Cards used: Standard 52 card deck
  • Cards rank doesn’t matter

Crazy Eights is a card game quite similar to Uno. Each player is dealt 5 cards and his goal is to get rid of all of them before his opponents. There are a lot of variations in terms of the number of cards used and special cards’ roles. We decided to stick with the most standard rules though.

A standard deck of 52 cards is used, no jokers. Each player is dealt 5 initial cards and the rest form the discard pile, with the top card placed face up and placed beside the pile. Each player can place a card over the pile if it matches the face-up card either by rank or suit. For example, if the face-up card is 5 of Hearts, the player at turn can place a 5, regardless of suit, or a Heart, regardless of rank. If the player doesn’t have a suitable card to drop he takes the top face-down card from the discard pile and ends his turn.

There are special cards in the game, that make it more entertaining and fun. Those cards, except the 8s, can only be played if they follow the rule of matching suit or rank.

  • 2s – the next player has to draw 2 cards from the pile. If the next player has a 2, he can place it without drawing and end his turn. The draw-penalty is then accumulated to 4 cards. The accumulation can go as long as the next in turn has a 2 to add.
  • 8s – the whole name of the game comes from the ‘crazy’ 8s. A player can play an 8 anytime he wants unless a 2 was played before that. The player who puts the 8 down can choose what suit should be followed next.
  • Qs – the next player skips his turn.
  • As – rotation is reversed.

When a player is about to put down his second to last card, he must announce it. If he forgets to say ‘Last Card’ before placing it he is penalized by drawing 2 cards. The first player to get rid of all his cards wins the round.

Contrary to popular belief, a player can play his last card even if it is a special card.

Whoever wins the round scores points based on the number and rank of the cards his opponents still have. The player that reaches a predefined score first wins the game.

Read Crazy Eights full rules on Pagat

Where to play Crazy Eights online

Skat

  • Type of play: Alliance
  • Cards used: Standard 52 card deck
  • Cards rank (lowest-to-highest): 7 8 9 Q K 10 A J♦ J♥ J♠ J♣ (may vary depending on declarations)

One of Germany’s most popular family reason to get angry, not to be mistaken with the game Scat, Skat is an entertaining 3 player card game where two people try to bring down the third one. Originally played with German suited cards, the game can easily be played with a classic French deck using 32 cards – 7s to As.

The game rules are quite complex and this is the biggest turn-off of the game – it takes a lot of concentration and practice to learn to play it properly. But if your group sacrifices enough time to master the game it will reward your efforts with really obsessive gameplay.

Each player is dealt 10 cards and the remaining two are left face-down as the Skat. Then the declaration phase begins. It’s an outbidding battle firstly between the two players excluding the dealer, then between the dealer and the winner of the first bidding. Whoever bids the most points becomes the declarator. The declarator then may decide whether to see the Skat or play without it.

The declarator then proceeds with picking up the trump suit. There are 7 options:

  • Diamonds – All Diamonds + the 4 Jacks are trumps
  • Hearts – All Hearts + the 4 Jacks are trumps
  • Spades – All Spades + the 4 Jacks are trumps
  • Clubs – All Clubs + the 4 Jacks are trumps
  • Grand – Only the 4 Jacks are trumps
  • Null – No trumps at all, but the declarator must lose every trick
  • Open Null – Like null but the declarator’s cards are open for everyone to see them

The declarator then must not only make more points than his two allied opponents, but he must also cover the declaration points he announced in the bidding phase. There are 120 points in a game, so winning 61 is necessary to win the round. After winning, depending on the contract and how many Matadors (the Skat’s equivalent of announcements) the declarator has, his declaration points are calculated.

Read Skat full rules on Pagat

Where to play Skat online

Let It Ride

  • Type of play: Individual
  • Cards used: Standard 52 card deck
  • Cards rank (lowest-to-highest): According to a hierarchy common to poker games

Part of the wave of new casino games during the late 1990s, Let It Ride is a casino poker-based game. While the game had become quite popular in the last two decades, its player base have shrank severely in the past few years.

Perhaps the rules are not the reason that new players might be turned off. Serious poker players are not impressed by the game’s relatively high house edge. In more simple terms, this translates to players not being able to influence their winning odds as much by employing their skills and experience.

The game begins with each player being dealt three cards, as well as two face down to the dealer. The player is paid according to the poker strength of his hand. The main difference between Let It Ride and other casino games is the chance for the player to withdraw his stakes.

The player could withdraw their stakes on two occasions. The first chance occurs when the player looks at his hand. The first community card is not yet revealed at this point. The second chance occurs when the first community card is revealed. The second community card is not yet revealed.

At this point the player could have one, two or all three of his stakes in play when the dealer’s two cards are revealed. Then, the remaining stakes are collected by the dealer and the players are paid at the following fixed odds:

  • Royal Flush – 1000 to 1
  • Straight Flush – 200 to 1
  • 4 of a Kind – 50 to 1
  • Full House – 11 to 1
  • Flush – 8 to 1
  • Straight – 5 to 1
  • 3 of a Kind – 3 to 1
  • 2 Pairs – 2 to 1
  • 10s or Better – 1 to 1


The game is quite easy to get into and start playing right away. No particular skills are required, other than having your decision-making on point for when you need to decide whether to withdraw a particular bet.

Read Let It Ride full rules on Pagat

Where to play Let It Ride online

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Old Maid

  • Type of play: Individual
  • Cards used: Standard 52 card deck minus a Queen
  • Cards rank or value doesn’t matter

Old Maid, also known as Black Peter, is a really simple family card game that is great fun for kids and grown-ups alike. You just need a standard deck of 52 cards with one of the Queens removed from it. If you are against stereotypes you can change the discarded card to a Jack, a 2 or any other card, as the idea behind the game is that you need an odd number of cards.

The rules are quite simple. All the cards are dealt between the three players. Some may have more cards in their hand than others, but it is irrelevant. After all the cards are dealt each player must take out of his hand any pairs he can make. A pair is two cards from the same rank.

After that, every player should have only 1 card from any rank. The dealer is first and the turn goes clockwise. The player at turn must put his remaining cards face down in front of the player to his left in order to draw one. If the player to the left makes a pair with the drawn card he discards them.

As in life, there are no winners in this game, only a loser. If a player gets to discard/be drawn of his last card, he is out of the game. The last player who stays with the lonely queen is considered the loser.

Read Old Maid full rules on Pagat

Where to play Old Maid online

  • There is this site with a really cute version of the game

Golf

  • Type of play: Individual
  • Cards used: Standard 52 card deck
  • Cards rank (lowest-to-highest): K A 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 J Q

Golf is a nice 3 player card game where luck is considered more important than skills. Not to be mistaken with the solitaire with the same name, the aim of the game is to score the lowest points possible, just like real Golf.

There are several different versions of the card game, but the most common versions are 6-card Golf and 4-card Golf. Here we will discuss the 4-card Golf version of the game, as it is simpler to be played by people who haven’t played it (and simpler for us to describe it).

Each player is dealt 4 cards, which are arranged in a square, face down. The rest of the cards are left in stock, with the top card turned face up and left beside the stock, forming a discard pile.

After the dealing, each player may secretly see for himself only the two cards that are closer to him. When it is his turn a player may do one of three things:

  • Take a card from the stock. After he sees it he may change it with one of his cards or discard it. Regardless of the choice, the discarded card (the one from the stock or the one that was swapped) must be placed face up on top of the discard pile.
  • Take the top face-up card from the discard pile. If the player does this action he must swap it for one of his cards.
  • Knock on the table and draw no cards. This means he doesn’t want to swap any more of his cards and it is also a signal that the game will be over after everyone takes their turn.

The game finishes after a player knocks and the others take their last turn. The player with the lowest score is the winner.

Cards give points as following:

  • number cards give their numeric value
  • J and Q give 10 points
  • K give 0 points

Real Golf full rules on Pagat

Sergeant Major

  • Type of play: Individual
  • Cards used: Standard 52 card deck
  • Cards rank (lowest-to-highest): 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 J Q K A

Sergeant Major is a three-player trick-taking card game, known around the World also as 3-5-8. The goal each round is to win as many tricks as possible The first round the dealer is chosen at random and he deals all the cards except for 4, which are placed face-down on the side as a talon. This leaves all of the three players with 16 cards in their hand.

The dealer then must decide what the trump should be. He must pick one of the four suits, although a “no trump” announce is legal in some variations of the game, but not in the classic rules.

After the dealer picks the trump, the talon is revealed to all the players and the trump announcer collects it. He then must pick 4 cards to discard, leaving him with 16 cards. After the discard pile is formed, the dealer starts with a card, followed by the person sitting on his left. Players are obliged to answer a suit if possible, but playing the trump if a player can’t follow suit is optional.

Each trick is set aside, where it can easily be counted. After the 16 rounds of play, everyone must count how many tricks he has won. The dealer who picks the trump has a target of 8 tricks, the one next to him has the target of 3, and the third player has a target of 5. If a player made more tricks than his target required, he scores bonus points. Winning fewer tricks than the player’s target leaves him with negative points.

In the next round, the three players’ targets rotate, and the player having a target of 8 choosing the trump. Whoever made tricks above his target in the last round can exchange as many unwanted cards as he made overtricks with the players who have gone under their trick target. Only non-trump suits can be exchanged.

The first player to reach a predefined number of points wins.

Read Sergeant Major full rules on Pagat

Where to play Sergeant Major online

Ninety-Nine

  • Type of play: Individual
  • Cards used: 36 cards
  • Cards rank (lowest-to-highest):6 7 8 9 10 J Q K A

Ninety-Nine is a trick-taking card game that was invented in 1967 by David Parlett in the United Kingdom. The game has certainly left a positive mark in the card game history with its unique feature – having to remove cards to make a bid.

Similar to Spades, players must bid a number of tricks that they expect to win. The original concept that comes into play in Ninety-Nine and changes the whole dynamic of the game is the fact that you declare your bid by removing three of your cards.The bids are placed in secret and are represented by the suits of the bid-cards as follows:

  • ♣ = 3 tricks
  • ♥ = 2 tricks
  • ♠ = 1 trick
  • ♦ = 0 tricks

Example:

  • ♥♥♥ (2 + 2 + 2 = 6)
  • ♥♠♦ (2 + 1 + 0 = 3)
  • ♦♦♦ (0 + 0 + 0 = 0)

During the play, normal trick-taking rules apply. Players must follow suit if they can, otherwise, any card may be played. The highest card of the suit led takes the trick. Whoever won the previous trick leads to the next.

When it comes to scoring, each trick won awards 1 point. If you successfully won the correct number of tricks you bid, a bonus is added to your score. The bonus depends on the number of players who also succeeded.

  • Three people succeeded – 10 bonus points
  • Two people succeeded – 20 bonus points
  • One player succeeded – 30 bonus points
  • Declaring – 30 additional bonus points
  • Revealing – 60 additional bonus points

The game is usually played until nine deals are completed, afterward, the winner is declared – the player who has the highest score.

Read Ninety-Nine full rules on Parlett Games

Baccarat

  • Type of play: Banker
  • Cards used: 36 cards
  • Cards rank (lowest-to-highest): 2 through 9 are worth face value (in points); 10 J Q K = 0 points; A = 1 point

Baccarat is a typical card game that is played at casinos and can be frequently seen in James Bond-type movies. While the game is present in modern day pop culture and places like Las Vegas, its origins are dated to either the 19th century or as early as the 15th century. In most big countries, the main version of the Baccarat game is called Punto banco.

If you are a beginner casino player, then the game is perfect for you, as it lacks any complexity and is based purely on guessing. Sure, you can try and count cards to gain an advantage but there is no guarantee that you would be successful in doing so.

In Baccarat, the number of players does not correspond to the number of cards that are dealt. No matter how many players are present, only two hands are dealt – two cards for each hand.

The objective of the game is to score as close as possible to 9. First, you must decide whether you are going to bet on the player or on the banker side. The player hand is completed first, followed by the banker one.

Important rules to help you understand Baccarat:

  • Whichever hand totals closest to nine wins
  • When two cards total greater than nine, e.g. 13, the first digit is dropped and the score becomes 3.
  • A total of 8 or 9 means that no more cards are drawn
  • If a player’s total is 5 or less, he must draw another card
  • A tie bet exists – a player can bet that the two hands will finish with an equal amount of points

If Baccarat were to be summed in a sentence, it would be close to “a game of luck combined with money management”. The game is based on pure guessing and if you happen to be lucky enough to win some earnings, you better know when to walk away with them.

Read Baccarat full rules on Pagat

Where to play Baccarat online

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