- 52 plus any number of Jokers up to four. Deal them all round as far as they will go, face down and one at a time. It doesn't matter if some players have one more card than others, but those with more should play before those with fewer. DON'T look at the front of your cards, but hold them face down in a stack.
- To be the first to shed all the cards from your stack.
Dealer's left-hand neighbour starts by playing the top two cards from their stack face up to the
table and announcing their total face value. (For example, play 6 and announce "six",
then 8 and announce "fourteen".) Thereafter each in turn plays the top card of their stack to
the previously played card and announces the total they make so far. For this purpose
Ace counts 1 or 11, as explained below, and other numerals at
face value. In addition:
a Queen counts 0 (thus leaving the total unchanged),
a King raises the count to 20; and
a Joker resets the count to zero. a Jack counts exactly the same as the preceding card, if any; otherwise zero. (If it's a King, Queen or Joker, then so is the Jack. Finally, if you play a red card that would bring the count to 22 or more, you may subtract its value instead of adding it. This also applies to a Jack, if it's red. You may not subtract if you can add without busting. The series continues until one player either busts, chickens out, or brings the count to exactly 21.
- If you bring the count to 22 or more you bust. You must then pick up all the cards just played, add them to the bottom of your stack and end your turn. The next in turn to play starts a new series by playing two cards from the top of their stack.
- Chickening out
- If the count is 11 or more and you daren't play for fear of busting, you may chicken out by picking up the cards so far played and adding them face down to the bottom of your stack. You then start a new series yourself by playing as many cards as you like from the top of your stack until you either bust, stop, or make 21 again. Note:You may not chicken out if the count is less than 11.
- Making 21
- If you make exactly 21, you immediately sweep all the cards of the count off the table and put them to one side out of play. You then start a new count by playing as many cards as you like, until you either bust, stop, or make 21 again.
- Optional extra
- If you play a card of the same value as the preceding one (e.g. a 7 on a 7 or a Jack on Jack), you may, if you wish, play another card.
- A note about Aces and Jacks
- An Ace normally counts 11. It only counts 1 if 11 would cause a bust. A red Ace never needs to be subtracted. You can't change the value of an Ace retrospectively. For example, if the first two cards played are A-6 making 17, and you play a black 5, you can't claim that the total was "really" only 7 - you must accept the bust. A Jack following an Ace must repeat its face value. So if the first two cards played are an Ace and a black Jack the result is not 12 but 22 and a bust. However, if an Ace of either colour is followed by a red Jack, the redness of the Jack allows you subtract 11 to avoid busting. (You'll never need to subtract one.)
- The game ends as soon as someone plays their last card without busting. That player is normally the winner, but when two play you may prefer the following alternative: whenever you make exactly 21 you store its constituent cards face down in front of you and the winner is the one who captured most cards in this way, regardless of who went out first. Going out first may then be regarded as a tie-breaker in case you both win the same number of cards.
- Alternative version
- If five or more play the game may be over too quickly. One option is to double the pack. If the number of cards doesn't divide by the number of players, those with one card extra play first. Another, which might be preferred even with fewer players, is not to discard twenty-ones from the game. Instead, if you make exactly 21 you pick up the whole row and pass it to the player on your left, who must add it to the bottom of their stack. You then start a new series with as many cards as you like.