Playing Cards - Excellent Minimalist Entertainment

Old-school fun doesn't run on batteries.

On my last stretch of hiking the Appalachian Trail my friend group started playing card games pretty frequently. There are a lot of hours in the day, and many of them are spent at camp in the evenings. Sometimes we would get stuck at a shelter in the woods while we were waiting out bad weather.

When you are hiking, a deck of cards is worth its weight in chocolate candy bars! Even with a battery backup power brick your cellphone isn't going to last for long if you are watching downloaded movies or playing games on it. In the hiking world, no-power entertainment is king.

Coming back from being on trail for a couple of months, I found myself missing having a deck of cards around. I found a two pack for a couple of bucks at the grocery store. One of the decks sits at home near the kitchen table and the other one rides in my pocket or in my backpack.

Think about it though. A deck of cards is a pretty small thing to carry around. People used to compare small, convenient things to the size of a deck of cards all the time, right? The fiddle factor is great, and I have started to learn a number of card tricks as a small hobby. Here's an example of what I want to learn.

I only know a couple of games so far, but it's easy to pull up rules and learn new games on the internet. I have probably made up at least half of the traffic on this card company's rules webpage in the last couple of weeks. Next, I am going to learn a couple more single-player games to play when I get stuck somewhere alone with nothing to do.

It isn't only the entertainment value of the light and portable, battery and computer screen-free, old-school fun of cards that makes me like them so much. To a great extent I've enjoyed the cards so much because they have let me actually spend time with people. We look at each other, we talk to each other, and we challenge each other. That's pretty cool for something made out of paper.

Single Player

Nothing going on? Maybe play some Klondike Solitaire. Solitaire is a classic single-player game that is also popular to play on computers. You work to build up four piles, one for each suit, from the Aces that act as the foundations. It can be easy to get stuck and have to start over. There are a number of interesting games you can play by yourself.

Multiple Players


Spending some time with friends or family? Whip out the cards and lets play a Poker game. In Poker, certain combinations of cards are made. Players bet that their combinations of cards are stronger than that of their competitors. The greatest thing about Poker is that you can win with terrible cards if you are able to make your friends think they are great.

You don't need a set of chips to play poker. You can use anything in place of chips. One of the things I like to do when playing poker is play for quarters. Everyone has $5 in quarters at the start. Poker also makes a good drinking game. You can bet sips of drinks. The winner of each hand gets to deal out the sips to other players that participated in betting. We play with the rule that there is a 1 sip "blind" for each hand to play. We cap the number of sips you have to take at where the sip bet was when someone folded. Texas Hold-Em, Five-Card Stud, and Seven Card Stud are popular ways to play. You can even mix it up by letting the dealer choose what variation of Poker is played each round.


Want something a little more fast paced and fun? Does anyone want to get their butt kicked in Hearts? Hearts is what you call a "trick" taking game. You will try to avoid getting points in the form of single-point heart suited cards and the dreaded 13-point Queen of Spades. I add the Jack of Diamonds in for a 10 point deduction. This gives us another card to fight over and makes the rounds more exciting. The first player to 50 or 100 points loses, the player with the lowest score when the game ends is the winner. Hearts is easy to play, but you can really put some thought into your strategy to be more competitive.


If you want an easy game to get people interested, Six Card Golf is one of my favorites. Players have two rows three cards in front of them and spend one action per turn trying to make good card matches in the columns. You play nine hands, or holes, of Golf until that game is over. If I had to pick a first game to teach someone to get them to play cards with me it would be Golf.

Alternate Decks?

I am sticking with a normal, 52 card deck for now. I think you get a lot more use out of a standard 52 card deck than you can with a specialized deck. There are, however, decks that are specialized for certain games like Pinochle ( sounds like "Pea-Knuckle"), which is a really fun trick-taking game to play but may be harder to learn. I have only played Pinochle at my friend's house. She says that it is a very popular pastime in Michigan where her family is from.

I hope you have a great day and that you try playing some card games with your friends and family.

Please Note: You can find the rules to card games in a lot of different places online. I am not affiliated with Bicycle as of the writing of this post. I found the website for the playing card rules in the deck of cards I bought. I just think it is a good source for simple rulesets to a lot of games.