Stop the Bus


Stop the Bus is a British draw and discard game in which players try to collect a good Brag hand. A player who is happy with their cards can 'stop the bus' instead of drawing a new card, signalling the end of the play. The name Stop the Bus is also sometimes used for two other games:

  • a version of the game Thirty-One, sometimes also known as Ride the Bus, with the same mechanism but where players try to collect high cards of one suit, the highest possible hand value being 31;
  • a game also known as 'Bastard Stop the Bus' or Bastard Brag in which the aim is to collect a good Brag hand, but this is done by exchanging cards with a 3-card hand on the table rather than by drawing and discarding.

The version of Stop the Bus described here was contributed by Nic Cleveland from Guernsey.

Players and Cards

A standard Anglo-American 52-card pack is used, the cards of each suit ranking from high to low A-K-Q-J-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2. From 2 to around 9 or more people can play, but the game is perhaps best for 3 to 5 players. The problem with a larger number is that players who are eliminated early will have nothing to do while the others finish the game.

Each player should also begin with three tokens - such as pennies or matches - representing their lives. Optionally a small model bus may also be used to signal the end of play.

Deal and play are clockwise.

Brag Hands

Since the aim of the play is to collect a good three-card Brag hand, it is necessary to know the ranking of these hands. From high to low they are as follows.

  1. Prial. Three cards of equal rank. The best prial is 3-3-3, then A-A-A, K-K-K and so on down to 2-2-2 which is the lowest.
  2. Running Flush. Three consecutive cards of the same suit. The best running flush is 3-2-A of a suit. Second best is A-K-Q, then K-Q-J and so on down to 4-3-2 which is lowest.
  3. Run. Three consecutive cards, not all of the same suit. The best running flush is 3-2-A of a suit. Second best is A-K-Q, then K-Q-J and so on down to 4-3-2 which is lowest.
  4. Flush. Three cards of the same suit which are not all consecutive. To compare two flushes compare the highest card first, then if these are equal compare the second highest and if these are also equal compare the third card. So for example J-9-2 beats J-8-7 because 9 is higher than 8. The highest flush is A-K-J of a suit and the lowest is 5-3-2 of a suit.
  5. Pair. Two equal ranked cards and a different card. To compare two pairs compare the equal cards first. If two players have the same pair compare the third card to decide which hand is better. So for example 5-5-3 is better than 4-4-K. The best pair hand is A-A-K and the worst is 2-2-3.
  6. High Card. A hand that does not fall into any of the categories above: three different ranks, not consecutive and not all the same suit. If two players have High Card hands compare the highest card first, if these are equal compare the second highest and if these are also equal compare the third card. So the best High Card hand is A-K-J and the worst is 5-3-2.


The first dealer is chosen by any convenient method. After each hand the turn to deal passes to the left. If the player who was due to deal next has just been eliminated (see lives and winning below) the same player should deal again, so that the next surviving player to the left does not miss their turn to start the play.

The dealer shuffles the cards, deals three cards to each player, one at a time face down, places the next card face up in the middle of the table to start the discard pile, and stacks the remainder of the pack face down beside it as a stock from which cards are drawn.


The player to dealer's left begins and the turn to play passes clockwise round the table. At their turn a player has three options.

  1. Draw the top card of the face down stock pile without showing it to the other players, add it to their hand, and then discard any one of their four cards face up on top of the discard pile.
  2. Draw the top card of the discard pile, add it to their hand, and discard a different card from their hand face up on top of the discard pile.
  3. Call 'stop the bus' (or take the model bus and place it in front of them), in which case the player does not draw or discard in that turn but keeps the three card hand they had at the beginning of the turn.

When a player calls 'stop the bus' the other players each have one more turn and then the play ends. In this final round, any players other than the one who called 'stop the bus' who are content with their hands can just pass without drawing or discarding.

Lives and Winning

All players show their hands, and the player who has the worst Brag hand loses a life, indicated by handing in one of their tokens. A player who has no tokens left is said to be 'on welfare' or 'floating'. If the loser has no tokens left they are eliminated from the game.

Ties, in which two players have the exact same hand, are rare, but if it happens they are broken by looking at the suit of the highest cards in the tied hands using the ranking spades > hearts > diamonds > clubs.

The game continues with further deals until all but one player have been eliminated, and the last surviving player is the winner.

This page is maintained by John McLeod,   © John McLeod, 2021. Last updated: 18th March 2021