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This page is partly based on contributions from Kim Scarborough, Janet Levy, Scott Grengs and Rachel Hooley. The historical introduction draws on an article by Franco Pratesi: Casino from Nowhere to Vaguely Everywhere (originally published in The Playing-Card Vol XXIV No 1 July/Aug 1995 pages 6-11)


Casino is the only fishing game to have become popular in English speaking countries. Although it is traditionally supposed to have originated in Italy, there is no direct evidence of it having been played there, at least under that name, though many other Italian fishing games are known. Casino first appears in the card game literature at the end of the eighteenth century in London, and shortly afterwards in Germany. In the late nineteenth century it became fashionable in America and a number of new variations were developed. There is a dispute about the correct spelling of the name - the earliest sources use the spelling Casino, but a tradition has grown up among later writers to spell it with a double 's': Cassino.

The aim in Casino is to capture cards from a layout of face up cards on the table. A card is captured by playing a matching card from hand. It is also possible to capture several cards at once if their values add up to the value of the card played. Captured cards are stored face down in front of the player who captured them and scored at the end of the play. Cards from hand can also be combined with table cards into builds, which can only be captured as a unit.

This page describes the most usual Anglo-American version of Casino in which picture cards, not having a numerical value, can only capture an equal picture. There are many variants in which picture cards also have numerical values. In English-speaking countries this type of game is known as Royal Casino, and interesting versions of it are popular in various parts of the world. On other pages of this site there are descriptions of:

Players and Cards

The game works best with from 2 to 4 players, though in theory more could take part. It has the distinction of being one of the few games which will deal out evenly to two, three, or four players. Four players can play in partnerships, two against two, with partners sitting opposite each other.

A regular 52 card deck is used. Each numeral card (ace-ten) is counted as its numerical value (ace = 1, two = 2, etc). Picked up cards are accumulated in a pile to be counted at the end of the round.

The Deal

The dealer deals four cards to each player and four cards face up in the centre (these centre cards are laid out separately so that all are visible). Traditionally, the deal is in twos: two cards to each other player, two to the table, then two to the dealer, then repeat. However, some players prefer to deal the cards singly. The remainder of the deck is temporarily put aside. After everyone has played their four cards, another hand of four cards is dealt to each player from the remaining cards, but no more cards are dealt to the table after the first deal. After these cards have been played there is another deal, and this continues until all 52 cards have been dealt (this takes 6 deals for 2 players, 4 deals for three players, 3 deals for 4 players). The dealer must announce "last" when dealing the last cards. After the last cards have been played and the hand scored, the deal passes to the left for the next round.

The Play

Starting with the player to the left of the dealer and continuing clockwise, each player in turn must play one card out from hand face up on the table. This card may or may not capture one or more cards from the table.

  • In case of a capture, when the other players have had an opportunity to see the capturing card, the player picks up this card and the captured cards and stores them all face down in a pile.
  • If there is no capture the played card remains face up on the table.

Irrespective of whether a capture was made or not, the turn passes to the next player.

In detail, the possible types of play are as follows:

1. Capturing with a face card
If the card played is a face card (king, queen or jack) which matches the rank of a face card on the table, the face card on the table may be captured. This is the only possible capture with a face card. If the table contains more than one matching card only one may be captured.

Example:The clubQ and spadeQ are on the table, and the diamondQ is played. The player may capture one of the queens from the table but not both.

2. Capturing with a numeral card
A numeral card (Ace, 2, ..., 10) can capture any numeral cards on the table which are of the same rank as the card played, and any sets of numeral cards which add up to the rank of the card played, with the following restrictions:
  • cards which are part of a build (see below) can only be captured by a card of the rank announced for that build;
  • when sets are captured, each captured card can only be counted as belonging to one such set.

Example If an eight is played it could capture one, two or three eights from the table. It could also capture a five and a three, or a four and two twos. If the following cards are on the table: A 2 3 5 6 8, then an eight could capture 8 6 2 5 3 or 8 5 2 A, but not all six cards.

3. Building
A numeral card may be played and combined with other cards on the table, placing them together to form a build. A build can be made out of any collection of numeral cards which can be captured by a single numeral card according to rule 2 above. The player making the build must announce the capturing number (saying, for example, "building 5"), and must hold a numeral card which can later make the capture. There are two types of build: single builds and multiple builds.
  • A single build consists of two or more cards whose capture values add up to the capture value of the build - for example a 5-build made of a 2 and a 3, or a 10-build made of A-4-5.
  • A multiple build consists of two or more cards or sets of cards, each of which equates to the capture value of the build - for example a 5-build made of a 2 and a 3 plus a 4 and an ace, or a 5-build made of A-4 and 5, or a 9-build made of two nines, or a 9-build made of 6-3 plus 5-4 plus 9.
When you make a build, it must include the card you just played - you cannot create a build consisting entirely of cards that were already on the table. Cards which have been made into a build can subsequently only be captured as a unit, never separately.


  • If there is a 5 on the table, a player holding a 3 and an 8 may put the 3 on the 5 and announce "building 8"; this single build can now only be captured by an 8.
  • If there is an ace and a two on the table, a player holding two threes and a six could play one of the threes and either:
    1. capture the two and the ace;
    2. combine the played three with the ace and the two and make a single build, announcing "building 6";
    3. combine the played three with the ace and the two and make a multiple build, announcing "building 3";
    It would not be legal to play the three on the ace, building four, or on the two, building five, as the player does not hold a four or a five.
4. Capturing a build
A build can be captured by playing a numeral card of the rank which was announced when the build was made. It is thus possible to "steal" a build created by another player, if you have the right numeral card.
If on your turn, the table contains a build which you created or added to yourself, and no other player has added to it since your last turn, you are not allowed simply to trail a card (as in rule 6) on your next turn. You must either make a capture of some kind, create another build, or add to a build (i.e. follow rule 3, 4 or 5). It is always possible to capture in this situation - if nothing else, you must hold the capturing card for the build you just made, otherwise your build was illegal.
If there is a build on the table, and you were the last player to add a card to this build, you are not allowed to play so as to leave yourself with no card equal to the value of this build.
While capturing a build, you can also capture any loose cards on the table that add up to the same number. For example you have made a build of 9 and there is a 5 on the table. If the player before you plays a 4, you can capture the 4 and the 5 at the same time that you take in your build.
It is not possible to capture a build with a card of any other rank than that announced for the build. For example the table contains a 4 and a 3 combined into a build of 7, plus a separate 2. You cannot play a 9 to take the build of 7 plus the 2 - the build can only be captured with a 7.
5. Adding to a build
There are two ways of adding to a build:
  1. You may add a card from your hand to a single build, increasing the capturing number, provided that you also hold a card which will capture the new build. At the same time you may incorporate additional cards from the table into the build, if they are equal to the new capturing number. In this case the build will become multiple. You can never use a card from the table to change the value of a single build.

    Example A The table contains a build consisting of two threes, announced as a build of six. If you hold a two and an eight, you can add the two to the build announcing "building 8". The next player, holding an ace and a nine, could then add the ace and say "building 9".

    The capturing number of a multiple build can never be changed. If the original build of two threes in the above example had been announced as building three (rather than building six), it would not be possible for a player holding a two and a five to add the two to the build, making five, not for a player holding a two and an eight to add the two making eight.

    Example B The table contains an ace, a two and a four; the ace and the four have been combined by a previous player into a build of five. You hold a three, an eight and a ten. You can play your three onto the single five-build and announce "building eight", but you are not allowed to incorporate the two from the table into this build to make it a build of ten.

    Example C The table contains a three and a four, built into a seven, and a separate nine. You hold a two and a nine. You can play your two, combining it with the seven-build to make nine, and at the same time incorporate the nine on the table into the build, converting it to a multiple build and saying "building nine".

  2. You may add to any build, single or multiple, by playing a card from your hand which, either alone or combined with other cards on the table which are not yet in builds, matches the existing capture number of the build, provided that you hold a card which can capture the combined build.

    Example The table contains a 9-build consisting of a 5 and a 4, and there is also a 3 on the table. You hold a six and two nines. You can play your 6, combining it with the 3 and the existing build to make a new multiple build of 9. Then on your next turn (provided that no one else captured) you could add one of the nines from your hand to the build. Finally, on the following turn, you could capture the whole build with your second nine.

Note that when making or adding to a build, you must contribute a card to it from your hand. You cannot just combine various cards which are already on the table to form a build. Note also that once a build contains more than one card or sets of cards which add to the capturing number, it is a multiple build and the capturing number can no longer be changed.

Example. There is a multiple 8-build of 3-5-8 on the table, and there is also a loose 6 on the table. In your hand you have 2, 8, 8, 10. You may add one of your 8s to the build, making 3-5-8-8, or to add your 2 together with the 6 on the table, making 3-5-8-2-6, still with capture value 8. You cannot use your 2 to change the capture value to 10.

6. Trailing
If you simply play a card without building or capturing, the card is placed face up on the table alongside any other layout cards and remains there to be captured or built on in future. It is then the next player's turn. Playing a card without building or capturing is sometimes called trailing. You are allowed to trail a card even if that card could have made a capture.
Example Suppose that in a four player partnership game your partner has two tens and you have one. Your partner plays a 10 and the next player does not take it. On your turn, if you suspect that your partner has a second 10, you can play your 10 and not capture, leaving both tens on the table for your partner.
The only case in which trailing is not allowed is when there is a build on the table which you were the last player to add to.

When all the cards have been played in the final deal, the last player who made a capture also wins any cards which are left on the table (these cards are sometimes known as the residue). That is why it is important that the dealer should announce "last" when dealing the last cards.

Hint on tactics: it is often good for the dealer to hold back a face card to play last if possible; this will capture a matching face card on the table and thereby also win any other table cards that remain.


Each player (or team) counts their score based on the pile of cards they have won. There are eleven possible points in each hand:

  • whoever has the Most Cards gets three points;
  • whoever has Most Spades is one point;
  • each Ace is worth one point (capturing an ace with another ace is called "cash" by some players)
  • the ten of diamonds, called Big Casino or the Good Ten, is worth two points;
  • the two of spades, called Little Casino or the Good Two, is worth one point.

If there is a tie for most cards or most spades, no one gets those points.

Whoever first reaches a total of 21 or more points, over however many rounds it takes, wins the game. If two people reach the target on the same round, whoever has the higher score wins. If there is a tie, another round is played.


Building Rules

Building is the most intricate part of the game, and there are several variations in exactly what is allowed when creating or capturing builds, and many of the card game books are ambiguous on this point. Some people play by more permissive rules, for example:

  • Some players allow a player to trail a card and simultaneously make a build by combining other cards on the table, not including the card played.
  • Some players allow a player who has a build on the table simply to trail a card on subsequent turns, leaving the build in place.
  • Some players allow cards from the table to be used to help increase the value of a single build, provided that a card from your hand is also used to increase the value. In this variation, in Example B under rule 5 above, it would be legal when playing your 3 on the 5-build to incorporate the 2 from the table as well, making a single build of 10. On the other hand, if there was a 6-build and a 3 on the table and you had two nines in your hand, it would not be legal to combine one of your nines with the six-build and the three to make a multiple build of nines, because when changing the value of a build, the card you play from your hand has to contribute to the change of value.
  • Some players treat a single build exactly like a single card of the same value, for the purpose of capturing it or extending the build. For example, if there is a build of 6 (5+A) on the table and a loose 4, a player who holds a 10 can capture the 6-build and the 4, and a player who holds two 10's can combine one 10 from hand with the 6-build and the 4 to make a multiple 10-build.


Many people play that a Sweep is worth one point. A sweep occurs when a player takes all the cards from the table, leaving it empty and forcing the next player to trail. Some players call this a clear. When making a sweep, the capturing card is stored face-up in the pile of won cards, so that the number of sweeps can be checked when scoring. It is possible to make a sweep with the last card of the final deal if it captures all the cards on the table, but if it does not, taking the remaining cards from the table because you made the last capture does not count as a sweep.


Other targets for winning the game are possible:

  • Some play to 11 points. In a two player game (or a 4-player game with partners), in each round the player with more points scores the difference between the points made by the two players or sides.
  • Some play to 50 points.

Some people, instead of scoring three points for cards, award two points to the player with most cards and one point to the player who made the last capture during the game.

Some play that when deciding the overall winner, if more than one player or team reaches the target score in the same round, the points are counted in order: cards, spades, big casino, little casino, aces (in the order spades, clubs, hearts, diamonds), sweeps. If the aces are not sufficient to reach the target score then the player or team with more sweeps wins; if they have the same number of sweeps another hand is played to decide the winner.

Some players, when approaching the target score, count the points as they are earned - each sweep as it happens, aces, big and little casino as they are captured, and spades or cards as soon as one player has captured 7 or 27 of them respectively. In this case the play ends soon as a player correctly claims to have won by reaching the target score (even if the opponent has in fact scored more but failed to claim it). Some score sweeps as they happen, but the remaining points in a specific order, with an agreed order of suits for the aces.

Some books describe Spade Casino, a variant in which instead of counting a point for most spades, each spade counts 1 point and the jack of spades counts an extra point. The ace and two of spades still count an extra point as well, so that the total points available (excluding sweeps) are 24: cards (3) + ten of diamonds (2) + the four aces and the two and jack of spades (6) + the spades (13).

Other Variations

See also the pages on Royal Casino, African Casino, Scandinavian Casino and Krypkasino.


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