Girish Mahajan (Editor)

Shithead (card game)

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Type  Shedding-type
Cards  52
Skills required  Memory
Deck  French
Shithead (card game)
Alternative names  Palace, Shed, Karma, Threes
Players  2-4 (recommended); 5 maximum

Shithead (also known as Karma, Threes, Palace, Shed and by many other names) is a card game, the object of which is to lose all of one's cards, with the last player to do so being the "shithead". This player must deal the next game and may be subject to some minor forfeit of the group's choice, such as fetching the next round of drinks.


The game, and variations of it, is popular in many countries amongst backpackers, and as a result is widespread. Although the basic structure of the game generally remains constant there are often regional variations of the game's original rules. The game is similar to the Finnish game Paskahousu.


There are many variations of the rules, and there is no universally accepted set. A set of rules is listed here.


From a standard, shuffled deck of 52 cards, each player is dealt three face-down cards in a row. Players are not allowed to see or change these cards. On top of the face-down cards, they are dealt the same number of face-up cards. Three cards are again dealt to each player (face down), and this becomes the player's hand.

Players are then allowed to switch the cards in their 'hand' with their 'face up cards' in an attempt to produce a strong set of 'face up cards' for later in the game.


The starting player is the first person (counting clockwise from the dealer) to have a face-up 3. If no 3s are face-up, the first player to have a 3 in their hand begins. (If no player has a 3 in hand, the procedure is repeated for the first 4, and so on.) The starting player makes the first play to the pick up pile, and may choose any rank.

Each player must lay a card equal to or higher in value than the one at the top of the pick up pile, then draw cards from the deck so they have at least three cards in their hand (unless the deck has run out of cards or they already have three or more cards in their hand). If a player has no single card that is higher in value than the previous card they may play a pair of cards, in which case the next player must play a higher pair or a triple. If they cannot play a card (or cards), they must pick up the pick-up pile (put it in their hand) and end their turn. In some variants when two cards of the same value are played the next player is skipped.

Play continues sequentially in a clockwise direction unless certain wildcards are played, depending on rule set.

When a player has no more cards in their hand, and the deck is empty, they may proceed to play from their three face up cards onto the pick up pile. They may not play from this set of cards until they have finished with their hand. If the deck is empty and there are no cards in the player's hand, they may lay one or more (if they share the same rank) of the face up cards on the pile. The rank of the face up card must be higher than the rank of the card on the top of the pile, otherwise the player cannot play the face up card and must pick up the pile.

Picking up the pile can often put a player at a great disadvantage when many cards have been played as they will have more cards to lose than other players. Even so, it is still possible to quickly recover from this handicap.

Once all of the face up cards have been played, a player must then play their face down cards, which are known as "blind cards". These must be turned over so that all the group may see what has been played. If the card is less than the previous card played, they must pick up the pile and put it in their hand, forcing them to play their hand again before progressing to the rest of their face down cards.

If a player is able to complete a set in turn (e.g. complete four-of-a-kind 8 8 8 8) they can do so clearing (burning) and removing the entire pile from play. For example, if a player first plays 7 7 7 and the next player in turn has the 7 they can drop that card to complete the set thus clearing the pile. The player who clears may play another card after. Some alternate rule sets allow players to clear at any time in or out of turn. Other rules make the a four-of-a-wild a normal wild.

If a player has no cards left to play, they are out. The loser, known as "The Shithead" is the last player left in the game. Under most rules the shithead's only role is to deal the next set of cards. Players may adapt this so that the shithead is also required to fulfill a forfeit.

Wildcards and special attributes

Aside from the basic order of play, the core aspect of Shithead is the "wildcards". These vary greatly depending on regional variations, though the core of the rules remains the same. With certain exceptions, wildcards may be played on any other card.

Most variants have the 2 and 10 as wildcards, which may be played onto any card, and can be followed by any card. Playing a 10 or a 4-of-a-kind removes the discard pile from the game, and gives the active player another turn. There are two important distinctions between a 2 and a 10; whilst both may be laid on any card, the 2 does not "burn" the pile, and does not entitle the player to another turn: Following a 2 the player's turn is ended and the subsequent player is then free to play any card they wish. After a 10 is played, the same player may play any card, though without picking up a fresh card from the deck. Additionally, 4 of a kind can only be played in sequence, but does entitle the player to an additional turn to lay.

Many rulesets and house rules give special attributes to other card values, such as reversing the order of play, requiring the next play to be lower than the played card in the case of a number 7, with the next player playing as if that card were not on the discard pile.


Shithead (card game) Wikipedia

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