I remember playing “Eights” when I was a very young child. The rules are simple, although the gameplay is varied enough that it will keep you entertained for an hour or more.

Eights is a great “intro” card game for young people or people who haven’t had much experience playing cards. Eights is not a difficult game, although many rule variations exist to up the ante a bit.

Eights Players

To play Eights, you need only two players (though you can play with more), a standard deck of 52 cards with the Jokers removed, and a scorekeeper.

Eights – The Object of the Game

The object of the game of Eights is to be the first player to get rid of all of the cards in your hand.

Unlike many other card games, every player in Eights plays on their own, no matter how many players are involved in the game.

The first player to “go out” (get rid of their cards) scores a certain number of points according to the cards left in the opponent’s hand. Traditionally, the first player to score 250 points wins a game of Eights.

Playing Eights

To start a game, the players cut the deck to determine a dealer. The player who draws the lowest card is considered the “dealer”, and deals a certain number of cards (determined by the number of players) one at a time. After the first game, the position of dealer moves clockwise.

When two to four players are playing, each player gets seven cards.

When more than four players are playing Eights, each player gets five cards.

Once all the neccessary cards are dealt, the dealer puts the remainder of the stock face-down in the middle of the table (this is the “stock pile”) and turns over the top card to start a “discard pile”.

The player to the dealer’s left has the first chance to get rid of a card. This player has three different choices for play —

1. He may play a card that matches the suit of the first card on the discard pile (clubs, spades, diamonds, or hearts) or a card that matches the rank of the discard pile. This is the most basic play in Eights.

2. He may play an Eight. In the game of Eights, all Eights are wild. This means that you can play an 8 at any time during the game, no matter what the previous card was.

The best part of playing an Eight — you get to choose any suit and force the next player to play a card of that suit or lay an Eight of their own to change the suit, etc. If the play can neither match the suit you declare or play an Eight, he must pick up a card from the stock pile.

3. He may pick up the top card from the stock and add it to his hand if he is unable or unwilling to play a card.

Okay — so the first player makes a play and lays the card on top of the discard pile. The card he played indicates to the next player what card that player must lay down. That player has the same three choices as the first player — to follow suit or rank, to play an Eight, or to pick up a card from the stock pile.

The game continues this way until someone “goes out”.

Eights Strategy

In the game of Eights, there is a bit of strategy. Just because a card is eligible for play doesn’t mean that you SHOULD play it. Think about it this way — if you have an Eight in your hand, it may not be in your best interest to play it early in the game. An eight in your hand can be an ‘easy out’ at the end of the game (when it is time to go out) or a useful tool for keeping another player from going out by dictating what suit they have to play. Conversely, keeping an Eight in your hand can be a good shield from that kind of play — your Eight will always be valid for play, so keep it around for a rainy day.

Scoring Eights

The game of Eights is over when one player gets rid of all his cards. At that point, the score is added up based on what cards the non winning players still have in their hands. The player who went out collects all the points. Here’s how the game is scored —

Each high card (Aces, Kings, Queens, and Jacks) is worth ten points.

All other cards, except Eights, are awarded their face value. For example, a Five counts for five points.

Any Eights left in your hand will earn the player that “went out” a hefty fifty points each.

Traditionally, the first player to earn 250 points wins, although you can go as high or as low as you want.

Eights Variants

To make the game a bit more challenging or to allow for varied gameplay, here are some suggested additional “house rules”.

Matching Eights — this rule variation restricts a player’s ability to play those wild Eights. In Matching Eights, you can only play an Eight that matches the suit of the card played before it. Another similar variation is that the player who lays down an Eight doesn’t pick the suit, but that the natural suit of the Eight that gets played is the new suit to be played. .

Skip — In Skip, when a Queen (or a card of whatever rank you determine beforehand) is played, the next player in the natural rotation of the game misses a turn, and the turn passes to the next player. This is a particularly cutthroat version of the game when combined with the Matching Eights rule.

Reverse — Similar to Skip, Reverse rules state that when an Ace (or whatever card you pick beforehand) is played, the direction of play reverses. If the gameplay was clockwise before, it is now counter-clockwise, etc. This rule is usually only found in games involving multiple players.

Draw — The Draw rule states that when any Two is played, the next player must either draw two cards or play another Two of any suit to avoid drawing cards.

All of these variations exist to make the game more challenging and engaging for older players. Add as many house rules as you want to turn the game of Eights into a fierce brawl between competitors.