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I originally called it property, but then decided to change its name. Possession is a game where players pick up and discard cards to meld combinations to score points. The cards have no rank value or priority, and the combinations made have no values or ranks over each other. This game was invented by me, Guy Quang Tran in 1998 from scratch and played at Melbourne High School, and modified and improved to the best of its ability to date. I originally came up with this idea due to the lack of card games being played in Melbourne, Australia high schools. Everyone was playing Big 2 the Vietnamese version (also called tien len).

Players and Cards

The game is best for two players using a standard deck of 52 cards, with no jokers and no wilds. Three players with one deck of cards also works, but it is not as effective. If there are four players, two standard decks must be used. Unless it is implied, the directions will assume a two player game using one deck.

The Deal

Dealing will provide each player with 9 cards, but the method of deal I suggested should be followed since the shuffle and deal may be biased and affected after subsequent cards (due to the melds not being thoroughly separated).

The cards are shuffled and cut in a random manner. Then three cards are dealt to each player first. Next, the cards are shuffled and cut again with another set of three cards dealt to each. Finally after shuffling and cutting for the last time, the final three cards are dealt out. All cards should be dealt faced down.

The Play

Determining who starts first

After the deal, the remaining cards will form the stock pile. The first top card of the stock pile will be turned over and placed adjacent to the stock pile. This faced up card will now form the discard pile. Thus there is now a large stock pile, and a discard pile which at present is only one card.

To determine which player begins, the first discard card is used. The player who possesses the nearest cards to that discard card begins. Comparisons are used based on what the players have in their hands:

  • A card of the same rank as the discard card. Two or more cards of the same rank has precedence over a single card of the same rank.
  • The nearest rank of the same suit of the discard card
It may be necessary to use more than one card to determine who starts.

For example, suppose the discard is the club9. If Player A has more 9’s than Player B than Player A will start. If neither of them have any 9’s, then a suit comparison occurs. Say Player A has the club4 while Player B has the club8, Player B will start based on club8 being nearer. If there is a tie, such as Player A having the clubJ and Player B having the club7, then the next nearest card is compared and so forth. It is usually sufficient for players to declare without showing their nearest cards, however the other player can demand it shown if need be.

Playing the game

On a Player's turn, he or she can elect to take-up into their hand either the top faced up discard card or the top unknown stock card. They must discard something after having taken up a card. The set of actions is simply referred to as "Pick Up/Put Down". What the Player can put down includes:

  • A single discard card which must be faced up and put on top of the discard pile
  • A new property (or possession), which is a melded combination - three or four of a kind or a sequence in suit - put immediately in front of their space on the table. That space or area is called the Player's estate. Combinations in a player's possession at the end of the play will add to their point tally.
  • An addition to the player's possession/property - the fourth card to three of a kind or an extension of a sequence. Only one posession can be added to and if more than one card is added to a sequence they must be consecutive - a player cannot extend a sequence at both ends in the same turn.
  • A stealing card or cards which can extend an opponent’s already melded combination. The Player whose turn it is to discard simply puts down the additional card or cards. The combination now belongs to the Player who added the stealing card(s), and hence the property or possession is moved to the immediate space in front of the stealing Player, or to the stealing Player’s estate. When using more than one card to steal a sequence, the cards must be consecutive - for example the opponent's property of 4-5-6 of diamonds can be stolen by playing the 7-8 diamonds, but not the 3 and 7 of diamonds. Playing those cards would require TWO turns.

Once a card has formed or been added to a possession, it can not be re-taken-up into the hand.

Once the Player has "put down" play then goes clockwise to the next Player, who must first "pick up" either the top discard card or the top stock pile card, and then "put down". It must be noted that only ONE property may be put down, added to or stolen at a time, on the Player's turn.

Rummy players should note that in this game, if a combination (possession) is put down or extended or a stealing card is played, no card is discarded by that player to the discard pile.

It is possible for the discard pile to become empty - for example at the beginning of the game if the first player takes the discard and puts down a possession. When the discard pile is empty, the next player is forced to take a card from the stock pile.

The Combinations or Property

The value of the melded combination depends entirely on the number of cards used to form it. There are three main types of combinations or properties:

  • The Three-of-a-kind. This can be stolen with the addition of the remaining card to make a four-of-a-kind. Because of the very high risk of it being stolen, this property is rarely seen, unless of course that Player also possesses the fourth card in their hand or the fourth card can no longer be used - such as it being dead (put into the discard pile and covered on top by later discard cards) or being used in another property.
  • The Four-of-a-kind. This is a solid permanent possession, as it can not be stolen any further and is a guaranteed four points to the holder. The term used for such properties that cannot be stolen is secured.
  • Sequences, a sequence of at least three cards in the same suit. Ace is considered at the starting end of a sequence and King is considered at the ending end of a sequence. Thus the diamondA cannot be added to the end of a sequence Jack, Queen, King of Diamonds. Similarly, diamondK cannot be added to the start of a sequence of Ace, Two and Three of Diamonds. Sequences have the most risk and most potential for scoring. The longest possible sequence is A2345678910JQK which of course is a secured 13 points.

Note: a player who has two consecutive sequences in the same suit - such as A-2-3 of hearts and 4-5-6 of hearts - can choose whether to keep them separate (in which case the A-2-3 is secured) or join them into one long sequence, which could be stolen all at once. This situation rarely arises - more often the player with A-2-3 would add the 4, 5 and 6 one at a time on succeeive turns, after which the single sequence cannot be separated into two.

Discard Pile Opportunity

During Play it is possible to see the top discard card and the card or cards IMMEDIATELY underneath the top discard card. Upon "putting down", a player can simply put down the required card/s needed to join with the discard cards to create a property. For example, after picking up a card, the discard card is the spadeA, the Player can "put down" either 2 aces from their hand to form a triple Ace property, or they could "put down" the 2 and 3 of spades to form an A-2-3 spade sequence. Thus that property is moved to the Players estate area.

As long as a valid property can be made, there is no actual limit to the number of discards that can be used using this procedure. The order of which discards are on-top is not important as long as the top discards are used in the formed property. For example, if spade5 (top), spade4, spade2 were the top 3 cards of the discard pile, than a spade3 Spade "put down" by the Player will form a 4-card property. Similarly, if the discard pile was ordered spade4 (top), spade2 and spade5, the same move would also be valid.

Usually, the discard pile is stacked one on top of the other, but due to this rule the few top cards can be slightly ajar. This is really easy to tell, if the top discard cards have a relation such as being the same rank, or a near rank in the same suit. For example, diamond5 (top), heart5 or heart10 (top) and heartJ will need to have its discard pile slightly ajar at the top. Looking through all the discard pile is normally not allowed.

The End Game

The game can end in two ways:

  • If a Player can discard or "put down" all of his or her cards
  • At the completion of the Showdown round

Discarding all of one’s cards

A Player discarding or putting down all of his or her cards ends the game. This can happen either before the stock pile is depleted or during the showdown round. If it occurs before the stock pile is depleted, than the action is termed a sudden finish. A good example of a sudden finish would be a player collecting four-of-a-kinds. He or she already has two properties or possessions in his or her estate (space in front) which are both four-of-a-kinds. The Player holds a three-of-a-kind in 7s and then picks up the last 7 from the stock pile and forms their third and final property of a four-of-a-kind in 7s, thereby discarding all cards. It should be noted that discarding all cards does not necessarily mean a win for that player. It just indicates that the game has finished. In some situations it is not favorable to end the game this early.

Exhausting of the stock pile

As play continues, the stock pile becomes smaller and smaller until there is only one card left in the stock pile. The Player who picks up the last card of the stock pile has what is known as the last card advantage. He or she is entitled to discard one single card on-top of the discard pile in the usual manner. Of course that choice to discard into the discard pile is optional, and he or she may choose to form, increase or steal property as per usual. In which case, that last stock card will be retained in the hand or used up in the property.

The Showdown round

Once all the cards of the stock pile are used up, usually after a last card advantage there will only be a discard pile, with one faced up card on-top. Play then goes to the next person as usual, who begins the showdown round. Because there is no more stock pile, there is no more of the "pick up/put down" phase - thus Players do not pick up a card. Instead that Player must make, steal or add to property on their turn. One discarded card or cards to make one addition or one steal per turn. Cards which can do this are termed fluid. Play will then continue to the next person. For example, a Player can steal the opponents 3-4-5 of spades by adding A-2 spades but not adding 2 and 6 of spades to both ends. This is because 2 and 6 are considered separate and cannot be both played in one turn. The top cards of the discard pile can only be used for an addition, a steal, or the making of a new property IMMEDIATELY on turn. Otherwise no player can have the right to pick up that card.

If a Player discards all his or her cards, then the game is over. If however on turn, the Player cannot discard any cards to either make/add or steal property, than he or she is forced to fold, a term used to mean stop play or to throw in the hand and be excluded from the remainder of the game. It does not mean that the folded player has lost the game. Play than continues to the next player and that folded player along with his or her hand is excluded from the rest of the game. The folded player must not reveal their hand and can never return to the game. Play then goes to the next person.

At this point, the folded player’s estate, or all of that player’s property is open. The remaining players that are in the game can continue to steal from the folded player if it is possible. Folding can also occur voluntarily and is often a good idea, if making a move puts that own player in an unfavorable position. For example, the Player has the property A-2-3-4-5-6-7-8 of clubs and has in their hand a club9 and a heartK, a useless non-turn over card. Also the Player knows that the opponent has a club10. Thus it would be unwise to add the club9 to the property, since it would only be stolen on the next turn. So in this situation, folding is the better alternative.

If all players have folded except for one. Then that solo remaining player has access to all of the other players’ properties and can add, make or steal them without any interference from the folded players. It should be noted that the last person remaining may not necessarily be the winner. When this happens it is termed an open season.

The showdown round ends once one player has discarded all of their cards, or the very last person has folded, whereby there are no more legal moves.


At the very point when the game ends, the score is very much the amount of cards a player has in possession in their estate. For each card that forms a property in the Player’s estate, that Player scores one point. In the event that the numbers of cards are equal the game is a tie. Thus, being the first person to discard all of the cards from their hand does not immediately make them the winner. In fact it is unwise to discard all cards when you are behind. When a player discards their last card, the property stolen by that card will count towards that player’s score. When the game ends, all the cards and any property held directly in the other players’ hands can not be counted. For example, if Player A finished his hand and Player B has a four 8’s in his hand. Those four 8’s will not be added to the score. It is only what is available in the estates that can score points.

Advanced Tactics

  • By observing which discard cards are taken up by the various players, a mental image of what each Player has can be formed. This information can be used to plan counter attacks later on. For example, if Player A picks up an diamond8 and then later picks up a diamond7, then it would be wise for Player B to retain the diamond6 in their hand.
  • Feeding the enemy, or simply feeding relies on discarding and in effect giving to the opponent the cards they need to form properties, while also retaining that one crucial card which will turn the tide.
  • The primary back up is holding in your hand the one card which can be placed immediately onto any property in the event that it is stolen. For example, Player A has the property 2-3-4-5-6 hearts, and also has in their hand the heart7, a primary back up. Thus, if the Ace of hearts was ever used to steal the possession, Player A can respond with heart7. In that example, heartA is also a primary back up.
  • The secondary back up is holding in your hand, a card one rank away from being able to add to a property. This is not as strong as the primary backup, but is indeed very powerful. In the previous example of 2-3-4-5-6 hearts, the heart8 would be the secondary back up. It becomes very useful since, if the heart7 was added to the property, the heart8 would immediately become the primary back up, and can be used to steal the property later on. However, the main weakness of the secondary back up can occur during the showdown round. For example, the property 2-3-4-5-6 appeared in the showdown round, if there are no fluid cards (cards used to remain in the showdown) on turn, than the 8 hearts would be useless and that player must fold.
  • Holding the ends occurs when a player puts down property that they have the terminal cards for. For example, a property of 9-10-J of Spades is made with that same Player holding in their hand the 8 and Q of Spades. Thus if the player intends to never bring out those two cards, and in effect fold with those two cards in hand, then that property will always be secured. Holding the ends can also occur in the following example, A-2-3-4 of Hearts and having the heart5 in hand. This can occur as no other card can be added in front of the ace.
  • Secured properties are properties that can never be stolen. These include a four-of-a-kind, any properties where the ends are used in other properties. For example, there are two properties, a four-of-a-kind in 5s and a four-of-a-kind in 9s. Thus a property of 6-7-8 would be secured. This is due to the rule that once a card becomes property it can never be taken up into the hand.
  • Apparently secured refers to properties that are relatively secured. This can occur via holding the ends or when the property’s end cards are buried deep in the discard pile, making that card highly unlikely to be retrieved. For example, a property of A-2-3-4-5-6-7-8 diamonds with the 9 diamonds being towards the bottom of the discard pile. Cards at the bottom of the discard pile are referred to as buried. However they may be able to resurface. For example, the discard pile contains spade3 (top), clubJ, spade7 and diamond9 with the following property A-2-3-4-5-6-7-8 of diamonds as apparently secured. Player A picks up the discard spade3 into the hand, which reveals the discard clubJ. Player A then makes a property by using the three J in the hand, to form a four-of-a-kind of Jacks. This act reveals the discard spade7. Player B then picks up the discard spade7, and decides to bring out a property of A-2-3 of hearts. Thus, the diamond9 resurfaces and the property A-2-3-4-5-6-7-8 diamonds is no longer secured. Though it is possible, it is very rare for the diamond9 to resurface in this kind of scenario.
  • Stalling is a process used to retain more cards in the hand when making a property. For example, Player A having a four-of-a-kind of Kings decides to make the property three-of-a-kind of Kings while retaining the last king in hand. This king is known as the stall card and is used in a situation where Player does not wish to discard any cards, after having "picked up" and thus simply adds the last King onto the property. If Player A made the property four-of-a-kind of Kings originally, than that stall card would not be available and Player A must discard from his or her hand. Stalling is not a useful method if a Player decides to use a sudden finish. This is because a sudden finish is usually 3 four-of-a-kinds, and stalling will just increase the amount of cards on hand, making the sudden finish more difficult.
  • Keeping more fluid cards is a tactic for the showdown round. The Player attempts to outlast his or her opponent, forcing them to fold and so enjoy the open season, where the Player can steal without interference. Keep in mind that trying to outlast in the showdown round may have negative consequences if the opponent finishes the game early.

Using two decks for four players

Four players will require two decks with all rules being the same. The starting hand is always 9 cards. The only difference is that the four-of-a-kind is no longer secured. Instead the eight-of-a-kind will be secured. If you don’t like this, you can change it back to four-of-a-kind being secured. Thus a proper four-of-a-kind possession must have one of each suit.

Using one deck for three players

This is possible and was the original game I played since I had two other mates. The only change to the game is that once the last stock card is used, the discard pile gets flipped over to become the new stock pile. This flipping of the stock pile only occurs once and then when the stock pile is exhausted for the second time, the showdown round begins.

Final Notes

I hope you enjoyed this card game, as much as I have enjoyed inventing it and writing this document. Feel free to play and spread this game amongst your friends. It is a very challenging mind game. If you have any questions, or wish to change the rules, or any suggestions email me at I just want more and more people playing this.

Thank you, Guy Tran

Home Page > Invented Games > Possession
Last updated: 3rd February 2006