Paskahousu

This page is based on contributions from several people, including Anthony Smith, Kuromiya Kimihiko and Markku Jaatinen.

Introduction

The name of the popular Finnish game means "Shit Pant": paska = shit and housu is the singlar form of housut which means trousers - more precisely it means a person with shitty pants, in other words a coward. The game is related to, but not the same as Shithead, a game which was carried around the world by backpackers in the last decades of the 20th century and thus became popular with young people worldwide.

Note: the game on this page is the version in which the cards are played face up. The version with face down cards, which previously apeared on pagat.com under the name Paskahousu, is properly known as Valepaska, and now has its own page.

Players and Cards

The game is probably most enjoyable for 3 to 5 players, but it is possible for two or for six or more to play. Deal and play are clockwise.

A standard 52-card pack is used, the cards ranking from high to low 2-A-K-Q-J-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3. Twos, Tens and Aces are special cards. Suits are irrelevant in this game.

Deal

The dealer deals everybody a batch of two cards, then two cards again, then one card, so that each player has five cards.

The remaining cards are stacked face down to form a drawing stock.

Play

The player who has most threes in his hand plays first. If several have equally many threes, then of those players the first in order counting clockwise from the dealer's left starts. If no one has a three then the player with most fours starts, with ties broken in the same way; if no one has any fours either, the player with the most fives starts and so on.

The object of the game is to get rid of one's cards by playing them to a face up play pile, which is in the centre of the table next to the stock pile.

The first player begins by playing the three(s) (or four(s), etc.) that determined the starting player. Then the players play in turn in clockwise order. At your turn there are three possibilities:

  1. Play a card or two or more cards of the same rank from your hand to the play pile, provided that the following restrictions are observed:
    1. If the play pile is not empty, the cards played must be equal to or higher than the top card of the pile.
    2. Picture cards can only be played if the top card of the pile is higher than six.
    3. Aces can only be played if the top card of the pile is a picture or another ace.
    4. Twos can be played on any card except an ace or ten, and since they are the highest card, nothing can be played on a two except another two.
    5. Nothing can be played on a ten except another ten, and nothing can be played on an ace except another ace.
    6. If the play pile is empty, any card (or set of equal cards) can be played.
  2. If you cannot or do not wish to play, pick up the whole of the play pile and add the cards to your hand, and it is then the next player's turn to play to the empty table.
  3. If the stock is not empty, draw the top card of the stock and try to play it. If the play is legal according to the above restrictions, the card is played. If not, the card you drew and the whole play pile is added to your hand and the turn passes to the next player.

If after playing you have fewer than five cards in your hand and the stock is not empty, you must draw cards from top of the stock until you have a hand of five cards again. Only when the stock is empty can players hold fewer than five cards.

In certain circumstances the play pile is cleared (or falls). All the cards of the play pile are set aside out of the game and the same player plays again to the empty table to start a new pile. There are three ways to clear the play pile:

  1. If one or more tens are played on a lower card, the pile is cleared.
  2. If one or more aces are played on a picture card, the pile is cleared.
  3. If there are four cards of the same rank on top of the pile, the pile is cleared.

A ten played to the empty table does not clear itself. It remains on the table and the only cards that can be played on it are more tens. This continues until a player picks up the tens, allowing the following player to start again with an empty table. In the same way an ace played to the empty table stays, and only aces can be played on it.

If the stock is empty, a player who has no cards is out of the game. (If it is that player's turn to play, because the last card cleared the pile, the turn to play passes to the left.) The other players continue until only one player has cards. This player is the loser, and is called paskahousu.

Tactics

While there are cards in the stock, players are trying to collect as strong a hand as possible for the endgame, when the stock has been exhausted. A player who already has good cards in the first phase, including a few deuces, may choose to pick up the play pile rather than let go strong cards before the endgame.

If the stock is not empty and you cannot play, it is often worthwhile to turn the top card of the stock and try to play that.

It can be worth picking up the play pile voluntarily if it contains a lot of picture cards and not too many different ranks of pip cards. Players should try to clear the pile rather than leaving an attractive pile for the next player to pick up.

It is good to hold onto deuces, if possible keeping at least as many as the player before you - otherwise this opponent can at some point force use a deuce to force you to pick up a pile containing many small cards.

Variations

Starting the game
Some play that the player to dealer's left starts by playing one or more threes if he can. If not the next player can start with one or more threes and so on around the table. If no one can play a three the player to dealer's left can start with any card.
Playing pictures
Some play that pictures may only be played if the previous card was higher than 7. Some play that they can only be played if the previous card is higher than 8 - i.e. only on nines and other pictures - unless all the nines are out of the game, in which case they can be played on eights.
Sets of pictures, aces and twos
Some play that more than one card can be played only if the cards are 10 or lower. Pictures, aces and twos can only be played singly. Some apply this rule only to twos.
Aces and tens
Some play that when an ace or ten is played to the empty table, the next player must pick it up (they cannot play another ace or ten). There is a problem that this can lead to a stalemate in which aces and tens circulate endlessly. Some solve this problem by ruling that when an ace or ten is played to the empty table, the next player picks it up and then the person who played the ace or ten plays again. Some play that an ace or ten played to an empty table clears itself: it is discarded from the game and the same player plays again.
Playing to the empty table
Some do not allow tens or aces to be played to the empty table. Some also disallow kings, queens and jacks. Some apply these restrictions can only while there are cards in the stock. Others apply them always, in which case if the table and the stock pile are empty and the player whose turn it is has no playable card, the player passes and it is the next player's turn.
More than one deck
When there are a lot of players - say six or more - some prefer to play with two decks shuffled together. In this case it may be agreed that four equal cards on top of the play pile do not clear the pile.
Only black twos, tens and aces are special
Some play that only black tens and aces clear the play pile and only black twos are high. Red twos are the lowest cards, below the threes, and red tens and aces are just ordinary cards with no special effect. Presumably a black ten can be played on a red ten and a black ace on a red ace but not vice versa.
Changed play after drawing
One correspondent reports that if, while replenishing your hand after playing, you draw another card that you could have played, you can substitute this for the card you previously played. For example: the last card played was a 4. You played a 7. Then you drew a card from the stock and found it a 6. In this case you can play it, putting the 7 back in your hand, because a 6 is higher than a 4 and playable. I suspect this variation is unusual, since no other source mentions it.
Pöytäpaska
This variation whose name means "table shit" is also known as Espanjalainen paskahousu (Spanish Shitpants). There are two or three players. In addition to a five-card hand, each player is dealt four cards face down and four cards face up on the table. The face-up cards are played after the stock and the cards in your hand have exhausted. After that the face down cards are played, but you are not allowed to look at a face down card before you try to play it. If is not playable you pick up the card and the play pile and this becomes your hand, which you must get rid of before you can continue playing from the table. There are variations of Pöytäpaska that are almost identical to Shithead: some play that an ace does not clear the play pile, that a ten can be played on anything, that aces and picture cards can be played on the top of all smaller or equal cards, and that anything can be played on a two. Some deal only three cards to each player and three face down and three face up table cards.
Ruotsalainen paskahousu
In this variant ("Swedish Shitpant") all the cards are dealt, and there is no stock.

Other Paskahousu web pages

The wikipedia page on Paskahousu has rules for Paskahousu and several variants.

The Paskahousu page on Cristian Seres' Korttipelit site has rules for paskahousu and its variants in Finnish.