How to Play Cards

Feel like you can never get your family in the same room at the same time? Between work, school, and after-school activities (not to mention housework) putting together a schedule that meets everyone’s needs seems impossible.

It feels like the days of family and friends sitting around a table enjoying a game together are gone forever. Dad’s in front of his 900 inch television, little sister is texting until her fingers bleed, and mom is at another of her Pinot Grigio-fueled “book clubs”.

The benefits of playing cards with the family are almost limitless — time spent together is time spent getting to know one another. You’d be surprised the kinds of conflicts that are settled or discussions that can be had over a simple game of cards.

If your first complaint is that you can’t get anyone to play card games with you — cheer up. Gathering the family for a night of card gaming doesn’t have to be like pulling teeth. Old-fashioned entertainment isn’t hard to come by. Playing card games is cheap, easy, and fun for people of all ages. Here’s five ways to get your family back into the habit of playing card games:

1. Demonstrate a Card Game

Sometimes people don’t want to play card games simply because they’ve never seen one played before. A person’s idea of a card game could be old people sitting around drinking tea and talking about Whist. Maybe your family is more adventurous or boisterous, and need to be shown that some card games are loud and exciting. Whatever the reason — simply showing your family what a good card game looks like could be the answer to gathering the family for a game of cards.

Some good card games to use as “demonstration” are Speed (fast-paced, though usually limited to two or four players) Spades (lots of cut-throat gaming action and bragging rights) or good old American poker. Just ask your family to donate a few minutes of their precious time and watch a round of cards. If they’re still not into it after a demonstration, move on to another tactic.

2. Let Everyone Pick a Card Game

The problem with demonstrating a game to increase interest in card gaming is that you don’t know exactly what kinds of games your family members are interested in. If the demonstration method didn’t work, ask them what sorts of games they want to play, and play them. No matter how silly you feel playing something like Crazy 8s or some role-playing card game that your weird little brother brings home, let them choose. People want to get in on the spirit of gaming and everyone has their personal tastes.

Remember that you won’t have to only play that one game that your dad likes — just get him interested in card gaming and you can then decide as a group what to play later. The point here is to get the family excited about playing card games. Take baby steps now. It will be worth it later, on family card game night.

3. Have Card Game Tournaments and Award Prizes

Let’s say you’ve got your family pretty interested in card gaming and you’re ready to really amp up the excitement level. Card game tournaments are perfect — they add a competitive element to card gaming and you can reward prizes and really cement your family’s love for gaming.

First, pick a game that everyone likes and has some skill at. A basic poker game would be good, or if your family trends a bit younger, you could make it a Hearts tournament or some simpler game. Set up a big board, tournament-style, with “rounds” and prizes for winners at every level. The point here isn’t to give one big winner a huge prize, but to hand out little prizes to everyone for participating. Yeah — it is cheesy, but the value of playing games with your family can’t be overstated.

4. Serve a Fun Meal with a Card Game

If all else has failed, the way to your family’s gaming heart may be through their stomachs.

When I was a kid, having a fish fry in the backyard was a special treat. My parents would hardly ever agree to it, and I know that if they’d made the fish fry part of a card game experience, we would have been happy to play along. Heck — they could have pulled our teeth out as part of a fish fry and we would have been happy to do it.

Think of that special meal your family loves — maybe it is homemade pizza or “taco night” — and involve card gaming while you serve and eat the meal.

5. Make Card Games Mandatory

Okay, so this is going a little too far. Forcing your family to play card games won’t solve anything, and will in fact destroy any desire they may have to play games with you.

What you can do is require that your family do something together one night a week. Is one night a week of hanging out with family members too much to ask? And when you tell them that you won’t be cleaning the house, doing homework, or mowing the grass — that in fact you’ll be playing games together — they won’t think of it as punishment.

I am almost positive that you’ll only have to make this night mandatory once. Have fun with it — play fun games, eat snacks, and laugh your butts off. Your family will be gaming together before you can say “Go Fish”.

I’d like to change a famous adage about the family and say “The family that plays together stays together.” I know that when times were tough in my house, we cut the tension by playing games, making faces, doing silly voices, or anything at all to cut the tension. There is no bad situation that can’t be solved or at least eased by a little levity. Family game night doesn’t have to be a punishment — it should be a privilege.