# A favorite card-game from my youth.

As promised, I'm sharing the rules for the card game that my extended family played all through my youth. The idea here is that a set of rules for a bunch of favorite card games, a deck or two of cards, and a promise to play some of these games could make for an inexpensive -- and personalized -- holiday gift. So feel free to use this, or to share your own favorite card game (especially if it's one that hardly anyone outside your little circle seems to know about).

The name of the game is Shanghai (though I can't tell you why it's called that -- I don't know), and here's how you play it:

For 3 to 4 players, you need one deck of playing cards. For 5 to 10 players, you need two decks. Potentially, you could accommodate more players with a third deck, but shuffling all those cards together might be a challenge. You also want to find a whole mess of pennies (or other numerous ante-worthy items that players won't absent-mindedly nibble during the game). Divide up the pennies (or whatever) equally between the players, so that each player has at least 12.

Shuffle the cards and deal each player a hand of five cards, placing the rest of the deck face-down on the table. Each player antes one penny into the pot.

The player to the dealer's left looks at his/her hand and tries to find three (or more) cards that have the same rank (e.g., a set of three 7s) or that make up a run in the same suit (e.g., a 3-4-5 of hearts). As in most rummy games, you can play aces low (A-2-3) or high (Q-K-A), but they can't turn corners (so K-A-2 is right out). If the first player doesn't have a suited run or three of a kind to play, he or she must draw from the deck. The player draws until there is a play, or until he or she has drawn five cards. If, after drawing five cards, the player is unable to play a suited run or three of a kind, he or she puts a penny in the pot and the play passes to the person to his/her left.

Once someone has played a suited run or three of a kind on the table, other players, during their turns, have the option of playing their cards on these runs or groups, or even of rearranging the cards that have been played on the table provided that you don't end up with any groups or runs on the table with fewer than three cards in them. So, for example, during your turn:

• if there's a pile of 3s on the table, you can add 3s from your hand to it
• if there's a 5-6-7 of spades on the table, you can add 4 of spades or 8 of spades (or both) to it
• if there's a 4-5-6-7-8 of spades on the table and you have another 6 of spades (as might happen when two decks are being used), you can play is to make a 4-5-6 and a 6-7-8 of spades
• if there's a 4-5-6-7-8 of spades on the table and you have two 7s in your hand, you can use that 7 of spades on the table to make a set of 7s provided you can find a home on the table for the 8 of spades -- whether by shifting it to an existing pile of 8s, or breaking up some long runs to find 8s to create a pile of at least three 8s, or rearranging piles of 9s and 10s and Jacks to create runs one of which can accomodate that 8, or ...

During your turn, you lay down as many of your cards as you can on the table; they needn't all end up in the same set or run. If you haven't got a play, you draw up to five cards until you can make a play, and put a penny in the pot if there's still nothing you can play. Once the deck runs out, if you can't make a play during your turn, you just pay a penny and pass the turn to the next person.

The object of the game is play all your cards before anyone else does. To escalate tensions, you must announce when you are down to one card, prompting the other players to go through wild gyrations rearranging what's on the board during their turns in an effort to keep you from going out first.

When a player goes out, he or she wins the pot plus one penny per card still held from each of the other players.

If it's not already way past everyone's bedtime, the cards are then reshuffled, everyone antes up, and a new round is dealt.

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I recall playing a similar game, but I don't remember the penny pot.

Have you looked at the ambitious compendium of card game rules at pagat.com? I noticed two using the name Shanghai, but I'm not sure either matches entirely:

The site curator seems to welcome information about variations, so you might want to immortalize the game as you know it by sending him a note.

Cheers

Is a player who goes "broke" out of the game?

By David Harmon (not verified) on 04 Dec 2006 #permalink

Officially, running out of pennies might amount to being out of the game, but (1) we always seemed to start with enough pennies (and be close enough to playing all our cards at the same moment) that I don't think anyone ever ran out, and (2) since we were playing with extended family, if someone was short undoubtedly they would be offered a "loan" by a family member.

(Such a loan might well open up an additional kind of "learning experience", but that's the subject for another post!)

I believe the reason it was called Shanghai was that as each player is plotting her/his next elaborate play, the player to his right might "Shanghai" the most crucial card needed, by rearranging to board for his/her play.

Recall also the one addition to the standard rules by Grampete: the player to the right of the winner deals the next hand, so the winner has to go first in the subsequent round. This tends to even out the odds.

By Super Sally (not verified) on 05 Dec 2006 #permalink