Beggar My Neighbour

This popular children's game is also sometimes known as Strip Jack Naked, Beat Your Neighbour Out Of Doors or Taxes. In Trinidad, Barbados and maybe other Caribbean islands it is known as Suck the Well, and in French it is sometimes called Bataille Corse (Corsican battle). Other names for it are Egyptian War or Egyptian Rat Killer and so on, but these names are more commonly used for a more elaborate version version of the game where the pile can also be won by slapping pairs of equal cards - see the Egyptian Ratscrew page for details.

Divide a standard pack of 52 cards roughly in half. Each of the two players holds their half face down. The players take turns to turn over their top card and play it face up in the centre of the table, thus forming a pile. There are two kinds of card - the ace, king, queen and jack are pay cards and the 2-10 are ordinary cards.

Play continues alternately until a pay card appears. The opponent of the person who played the pay card must pay for it by playing several times in succession. The payment rates are:

  • 4 ordinary cards for an ace
  • 3 ordinary cards for a king
  • 2 ordinary cards for a queen
  • 1 ordinary card for a jack

When the payment is complete (e.g. A has played a queen and B has played two ordinary cards on it), the person who played the pay card (A in this case) takes the whole face up pile and puts it face down underneath their own cards.

It often happens that while paying for a card, you turn over a pay card yourself. When this happens the previous pay card is cancelled and your opponent now has to pay for your new pay card.
Example: A plays a queen; B plays a six and then a jack; A plays an ace; B plays 3,7,king; A plays 10,4,6. The king has been paid for so B takes the centre pile.

The player who first runs out of cards loses.

There is no skill in this game (you just turn your top card when it is your turn) and the game can go on for a long time - possibly indefinitely.

It is possible for more than two people to play. The cards are dealt as equally as possible (with three players one player will have an extra card) and players take turns to play. When a pay card is played, the following player plays the required number of cards, stopping if another pay card is played, which the next person must pay for. The direction of play in the Caribbean version "Suck the Well" is counter-clockwise, while in Britain and North America the game is played clockwise.