Card Game Basics

Getting your cards in order

Card games are played with a deck of cards intended for that specific game, also known as a pack in the United Kingdom. These cards must all be the exact same shape and size and must have identical backs. The front and back of the cards must be immediately identifiable and distinguishable.

Eg. Folded/Battered cards are not allow in a serious game of cards. Of course when playing casually the state of the cards does not matter.

A single deck of cards has four subdivisions. Each one of these subgroups has 13 cards, however, standard decks in Germany and France may only contain eight cards per sub-group.

These four subgroups each have separate, distinguishable markings, two sets of black markings (spades and clubs) and two sets of red markings (hearts and diamonds). These sets are refered to as suits.

Card Rankings


Each suit in U.S and United Kingdom decks has 13 cards, and the ranking of the 13 do vary in different games. However, generally the order in most games today from highest to lowest is:

Ace, king, queen, jack and then 10 down to 2.

Throughout the site, the ranking of the cards may change depending on the game, such as in Pinochle.

Preparing to play

Before starting any card game you must first ration out the cards. In addition to this in the majority of card games you do not want other players to know what cards you have been dealt, this is where shuffling and dealing comes into play.

Shuffling and dealing

Before the dealer distributes the cards to players, a player must randomize the deck, also known as shuffling, in such a way that no one knows what anyone else has received. This is particularly important when the cards have all been played out in a previous hand or game.

In most games the cards are shuffled face down. The player on the right of the dealer then cuts the pack

(breaks it into two piles) when the dealer picks up the bottom part, places it on top of the top part of the deck, and then proceeds to deal.

The dealer distributes the cards according to the rules of the game being played. Normally cards are dealt singly, clockwise and face down, the first card should be dealt to the player on the dealer’s left (or the opponent in a two-player game) and the last card to the dealer. It is considered good etiquette for players to not look at their cards until the deal is completed. The deal passes to the left after each hand, except in a few games.


The order of play is normally clock-wise, starting with the player on the dealer’s left or the opponent in two-player games. In trick-taking games, the winner of a trick normally leads to the next trick.

What is the best way to keep track of score?

There are a number of different ways in which the score can be kept, but the game usually indicates which is the best method: for example, a pencil and paper are ideal for Canasta and Gin Rummy; marker boards for Cribbage and Bezique; counters, or possibly coins if the game is being played for stakes, for example in poker or Pontoon.


Rules covering irregularities vary from game to game and are often very complex. A common infringement is the mis-deal, where the distribution is irregular or a card is exposed. A re-deal is usual under these circumstances.

To take the plunge and encounter a bewildering range of card games click here to view our card games categorised by difficulty and number of players, and you too can learn how to play card games!