Our Favorite Card Games

Card games are a vital part of the lengthy history of playing cards. For centuries, people around the world have used playing cards to entertain friends and family. Even in the modern age of TikTok and Video Games, families still get together for card game night.

It’s not hard to see why card games are so popular. A huge variety of different card games can be played with just an ordinary deck of cards. These card games are a great screen-free activity for kids on family game night. Many adults can also benefit from this type of mindful play which can help train your brain or even increase productivity.

family card game night

Unlike board games, you can easily carry a deck of cards with you anywhere. You can also grab an inexpensive, high-quality deck of cards like Bicycle Playing Cards in almost any store. No fancy rare playing cards or stylish custom decks of playing cards are needed to play most card games.

As Vanishing Inc. is the world’s largest magic store, it’s probably not surprising to hear that we love playing cards. Sure, we are best known for our amazing magic tricks, card magic tricks, coin magic, mind reading tricks, magic props such as flash paper and invisible thread, or even virtual magic on Zoom. But, we also love card games. (And, contrary to popular belief, we don’t use sleight of hand to cheat at cards).

Here are some of our favorite card games.


Poker

It would be impossible to talk about the best card games without mentioning Poker. There are multiple variations of poker from 5 Card Stud to Omaha and, of course, Texas Hold ‘Em—which has been the most popular poker game in the world since it was first featured on the World Series of Poker.

What we like most about Poker is that it’s pretty easy to learn. You can play it casually or dedicate a lifetime building new poker skills (just like you would with learning magic tricks or learning card tricks.) Either way, the basic goal remains the same.

To win a poker game, you have to gain everyone else’s money or chips. To do this, you must make bets into the collective pot. You then try to win each hand by either having the highest-rated poker hand or using mind games like a mentalist to trick your opponent into thinking you do.

Did You Know?

Your chances of getting a royal flush—the best hand in poker—in a game of draw poker are 1 in 649,740. If you want a specific royal flush, like the cherished royal flush in spades, your odds are 1 in 2,598,960.

There’s also more drama in an average poker game than most Hollywood blockbuster movies. It’s so fun to watch a math geek, who has calculated their odds of winning a hand, go all in against a mentalist who using cold reading and mentalism tricks like Patrick Jane from the tv show The Mentalist to successfully bluff their way into a huge win.

If you’re new to poker, check out this quick video on how to play.


Go Fish

Go Fish is a great classic card game for kids and adults to play together. It’s easy to learn and can be played with just a regular deck of cards. As it’s the perfect card game for two people, but can also be played with up to four or five people, Go Fish is a card game night staple.

To play Go Fish, players attempt to collect pairs of cards by “fishing” them from their opponents. Essentially, they look at the cards in their hand and then ask a player if they also have one of their cards.

For example, you have a “King” and ask someone if they have a “King” (the suit doesn’t matter in Go Fish). If they do, they hand you the card and you place the pair down in front of you. If they don’t, then they get to do what everyone will agree is the most fun part of the game—tell you to “Go Fish”. Any player who is told this draws a card. If they make a match with any card in their hand, their turn continues. If they don’t, their turn ends.

“Go Fish” is a super fun card game you can learn how to play right now.


Rummy 500

Rummy 500, which is sometimes called pinochle rummy, persian rummy, or 500 rummy, is a fast-paced variant of the Rummy. Just like other Rummy card games, Rummy 500 is played by collecting points through grouping (or melding) sets of playing cards of the same value (such as three Aces) or a “run” of consecutive cards in the same suit (like the 10 of Hearts, Jack of Hearts and Queen of Hearts).

Rummy 500 is played in rounds with players melding sets and runs until one player is out of cards. The scores are then tallied. If you have any cards leftover, those points are deducted from your total score. While there are different types of scoring systems, most players use the same values that cards have in a game of Blackjack. Number cards are equal to their value (i.e. 2 = 2), court cards are worth 10 points and Aces are worth 1 point.

What makes Rummy so fun is that there are a variety of different strategies you can play that ensure you always have a chance to win. You can try to end a round quickly so other players are still holding a lot of cards or you can attempt to drag out the round for as long as you can to rack up more points. There are also a ton of fun variations, like Gin Rummy, where sets and runs are not laid down until the very end of the round.

Learn how to play Rummy 500.


Hearts

Hearts is a super fun trick-taking game that is perfect for all ages. This is a great card game for groups and family card game nights because it’s best played with four people.

Most trick-taking games reward players who “take” the most number of “tricks” (rounds or hands). However, in Hearts, you want to lose as many tricks,and score as few points, as possible. The person with the lowest score at the end of the game wins.

To play Hearts, you’ll need a standard 52-card deck of cards. The deck is shuffled and the cards are dealt out evenly to each player.

One player starts a “trick” by dealing one card. This is usually either the person to the left of the dealer or the person with the 2 of Clubs. Everyone must follow the suit of the first card played in each “trick.” If you can’t follow suit, you can discard a card of any other suit.

After all four players place a card down, the person with the highest dealt card in the original suit wins all the cards played in the “trick”. They earn a point for any “Heart” card they gained. Or, if they gained the dreaded Queen of Spades, they get a massive 13 points.

Hearts is played until a predetermined threshold is met by one of the players (usually 50 or 100 points). Whoever has the lowest score at this time wins.

Here’s a helpful video teaching you how to play Hearts.


Spite and Malice

Spite and Malice is one of the most unique card games on this list and also a lot of fun. The rules of Spite and Malice are simple. You’re trying to get rid of all your cards into a payoff discard pile. As the card on top of this pile is face-up, you know what cards your opponents are looking to discard and must find ways to block their attempts.

Spite and Malice is a great card game for two players or four players, so it’s perfect for date night or card game night with friends. But, be warned, some of the strategies needed to win at Spite and Malice may cause you to test your friendships like when you have a Blue Shell in Mario Kart.

Learn how to play the Spite and Malice card game.


Slapjack

Slapjack is an easy, fun and simple card game for kids and adults. It’s unique physical element makes it stand out from any other card game on this list. You also technically don’t need a full deck of cards.

To play Slapjack, deal out the entire deck of cards to all of the players face down. The player to the left of the dealer takes their top card and turns it face up in the middle of the table. Play moves clockwise with face up cards being placed quickly into the middle of the table until a Jack appears.

When a Jack is played, everyone must attempt to slap their hand down on it as fast as they can. The player who gets their first, or who has the most amount of hand on the Jack, wins all the cards. These cards are shuffled in with any other cards the winning player has before the next round begins.

We like Slapjack because it’s fast-paced and keeps everyone on their toes. However, don’t get too eager. If you accidentally slap someone else’s card that isn’t a Jack, you have to give that player one of your cards at random.

You’re also not immediately out of the game if you lose all your cards in Slapjack. You can play one more round and attempt to slap a Jack to earn cards back. If you miss the next slap though, you’re out for good.

The player who has all the cards collected at the end of the game wins.