Shithead Variations

This collection of variations of Shithead contributed by readers is part of the Invented Games section of the Card Games web site


Contributed by Gaz and Elf , who write:

The game is played with one joker only in the pack. The joker acts as a sort of nuclear bomb, when it is played only once (discarded after first use), and has the effect of forcing the next player to pick up the pile, taking full damage if this is timed right. There are no arguments against a superjoker, except the lifesaving red jacks. You can play a red jack on top of a superjoker, which throws the effect of the superjoker onto the person whose turn to play is next after you. This person also has the option of playing another red jack, transferring the superjoker effect to the following player. Thus you have a tension to the game based on wondering about the location of the deadly joker, and a fight to get and hang onto the red jacks for defense. Try it for interesting results.

NB. We have always played with a see-thru jack, lower-than-a-nine, miss-a-go 8's and 10 clears-the-pile set-up. We have played people who have a special meaning to each card, but thats just ridiculous.


Contributed by Richard Garfield

The rules of the main description on the Shithead page are followed, with the following modifications:

  1. Players are dealt 6 cards to their hands, and simultaneously choose which cards are going to be their face up cards (as opposed to the procedure of having three cards in hand and three face up initially and being allowed to swap these for hand cards)
  2. Tens kill the pile and the player gets a free play, but they are not playable on anything but 2-9 (their regular rank).
  3. A player who holds four of a kind in hand can play them together on any card, killing the pile and getting a free play.
  4. Just one Joker is used, as a transparent card that reverses the direction of play.
  5. New rule: Jacks are now Unbeatable, except by more jacks, a 4 of a kind, or the joker. Note that while Jacks have this limited unbeatability, they are not high in any other regard: they cannot be played on a Q, K or A.

Jacks are very interesting now, and make people's positions much less certain. Players getting low on cards have to choose between keeping their jacks, and being able to play on jacks, or keeping their A/2 and being able to play on anything else. Many people in formerly 'secure' positions have some worries with jacks floating around.


In this Shithead variation, invented by Sean Burns, Chris Johnson, Nirmal Shaw and Dylan Riddle, cards are played face down and players can lie about what they are, as in BS / cheat. This coincidentally makes it similar to the Finnish game Valepaska. Sean Burns contributed this description.

You can play with as many people as you have cards for (multiple decks are encouraged for hardcore players). 2 player minimum - 4 recommended.

The Process:
The object is to, after exhausting the draw pile, to get rid of your own cards before anyone else. You achieve this by placing a higher card (3-Ace) or equal card to the card that the player to your right put down. When you play a card down you have to draw from the draw pile. Once the draw pile is exhausted you no longer have to draw cards. When your hand is empty you move on to your first and second hidden hand. Whoever gets rid of their second hidden hand first wins.
The Deal:
The dealer deals 3 cards face down in a horizontal row to one player at a time in normal dealing order; this includes himself. These cards may NOT be looked at - looking at them qualifies as cheating. The dealer then deals 3 cards face down in a hand to one player at a time; the players look at these cards and place them face down on top of the first 3 face down cards. This second set of cards may be looked at again. Finally, the dealer deals out cards one at a time to each player until they have a hand of 3 or 5. 3 is harder to play with, 5 is better for beginners. The rest of the deck is stacked face down in the center of the table.
The player on the dealers left picks a card from their hand and places it face down next to the draw pile, claiming that is a certain numerical value. This is the BS element; you can say what your card actually is or you can completely lie about it. The player then draws a card (you must always have at least 3 or 5 cards in your hand). The next player has 3 options:
  1. he can play (face down) a card that matches numerically or beats the card, announcing the value of the card,
  2. he can lie about doing the first option - i.e. play a card that is different from what he announced,
  3. or he can call BS.
When BS is called the player who placed the card(s) down turns them over. If the card(s) are what he claimed them to be, then the player who called BS must take them and any cards under them (there won't be any cards under on the first turn, but it's the same process for all turns). But, if the card(s) aren't what he claimed them to be, then the player must take his card(s) and anything under them. If you call BS and are wrong, you don't get to play any cards.
If you already have at least 3 or 5 cards in your hand after playing, as a result of having lost an earlier BS challenge, you don't draw when it's your turn to draw. This process repeats until the entire draw pile is gone. As soon as the next player plays (option i or ii), whatever the previous player claimed to put down is legit - play continues as though the previous card is really what the player called.
When the draw pile is empty, the play continues until someone runs out of cards in their hand. When a player runs out of cards, they go to the top row of face down cards in front of them. They then play these one at a time as normal. If they lose a BS challenge, they can no longer play from their top pile of face down cards while they have cards in their hand. They must finish their hand first. Everyone else does this when their hand is empty.
When your top row of cards is gone, you move to the bottom row of cards. You still CANNOT look at these. When it's your turn, for option (i) or (ii) you must pick a single card, look at it and play it, saying what you claim it is. This must be the first time you've seen the card. If you get BS'd when playing these and have to pick up, you must empty your hand before you can use them again. Whoever runs out of bottom cards first wins.
Playing Rules:
The value order for cards is as follows 3-4-5-6-7-8-9-J-Q-K-A-2-10. 2's reset the pile. They can be played onto anything and set the pile down to a value of 0. 10s destroy the pile. They can be played onto anything and remove ALL of the cards in the pile for the rest of the game. When the pile has a value of 0 (after a BS, a 2, a 10, or the very first cards played) you may play doubles or triples - i.e. two or three cards of the same rank, and then draw two or three cards to bring you hand back to 3 or 5 cards. When doubles or triples are played, the next player must play doubles or triples (respectively) of a higher value. Exception - if you can match the double with an equal double, or play the 4th card matching the triple, this creates a quadruple. Quadruples act exactly the same way as 10's. You can play them on anything and destroy the pile. You can get a quadruple from laying 4 of the same card down, two of the same doubles, a triple and a single, or from 4 people playing the same value consecutively.
If you have cards that follow numerically and are the same suit, these may be played as long as they are one higher than the previous card. These are called 'Runs' or 'Straights'. I could play a 6, and the person to my right could play 7-8-9-10-J spades. Everything under the 10 (including the 10) is destroyed and only the J remains. Runs can have any values as long as they're consecutive.
Keep in mind that you can BS EVERYTHING, and that EVERYTHING played can be BS.
You may lie about everything, not just values. Have a run of 5 you want to put down? Maybe a triple? Throw some more cards under them. As long as no one catches it it's fair. However, if they call it out or call BS and notice, then you have to take the pile (even if your run or double/triple is legit). However, if the next player puts something down before anyone calls it then its fair. But if you look at your bottom line of cards, that is grounds for disqualification/severe beatings.


This game, contributed by Adrian Murillo , is so called because it is played by the Nortenos of Northern California. He learned it in juvenile hall in Salinas, CA.

It is played by two people with a 52 card deck. Cards rank 2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-J-Q-K-A from lowest to highest. It can also be played by three or four people with two 52 card decks.

Nortenos' number is 14 so the deal is like this: deal four piles of four cards, and then onto two of the four piles, deal seven cards each one by one. When there are two players these last seven cards each are counted off 1, 2, 3... until you get to 14. So you end up with two piles of eleven cards and two piles of four cards. Each player gets an eleven card hand and four cards which are placed in a row face down in front of them. The rest of the deck is left as a stock in the middle of the table.

Each player then selects four cards from their hand and puts one face down on each of the four down cards. So at the start of play each player has a hand of seven cards. Whoever has a three in their hand plays it to start the waste pile. If nobody has a three then a four starts the wastepile, if not then a five and so on. The next person in turn plays either the same rank or any card of higher rank (suites do not matter). If you do not have or do not wish to play a card of the same or higher rank, you must pick up the waste pile and add it to your hand. It is then the next player's turn to start a new waste pile by playing any card.

Twos and tens have special properties. Twos can be played on any card and any card can be played on a two. Tens can be played on any card and clear the waste pile. The waste pile ia also cleared whenever there are four cards of the same rank is on top of the waste pile. When the waste pile is cleared it is turned face down and put out of play, and the person who cleared it (who put down a ten or the player who put down the last card of the four of a kind) plays any card to start a new waste pile, after which it is the next player's turn.

When your hand gets down to three or fewer cards, you must draw from the stock to replenish your hand to four cards. Note that although you begin the game with seven cards, during the first phase of the game before the stock has run out you must always have at least four cards in your hand.

When the stock runs out, the first phase is over and phase two begins. You must get rid of every card in your hand before picking up the four cards you put on top of your down cards. These cards are picked up without showing them to your opponent(s) and played in the same way as your original hand. Once you get rid of those cards you pick up your down cards one at a time. You pick one up, play it if you can, and then pick up your next one. The first person to get rid of their last down card wins.


The game can be played with threes and fours having special properties as well as the twos and tens. In this case the waste pile is started not with a three but with a five, the lowest ordinary card. You can slide threes under the waste pile and it does not count as a turn - you can even do it when it is your opponents turn, or in your own turn you can slide a three and then play a card. Fours are similar to twos: they can be played on any card and start the waste pile over from four. Jokers can also be added, which are simply extra cards that have the same function as twos. When threes and fours are special, if your last down card is a three you automatically lose the game, and if it is a four, you automatically win. If it is any other card you have to play it to win as usual.

Tauko Hogni (Nepalese Shithead)

Game invented in the teahouses of the Nepalese Himalayas and contributed by Miguel Garvie .

Tauko Hogni is a variation of the card game Shithead with the following wild cards:

Wild cards that can be played on top of any card:

  • 2 – as usual, a two can be played on an card and any card can be played on it.
  • 3 – transparent so the next player must play as if the card beneath the 3 was on top of the pile
  • 10 – as usual paying a 10 burns the pile and removes it from the game. The player who played the 10 then plays any card to the empty table to continue the play.
  • Joker – Playing a joker reverses card ranking. So if previously the cards ranked from high to low AKQ...543, after the joker the rank from high to low will be 345...QKA. Playing a second joker restores the original order.

Wild cards that follow normal card ranking rules

  • 7 – If a 7 is played, the next player must match or go lower than a 7 (or play one of the wild cards in the first group that can be played on anything). Subsequent play continues as usual: the next player must match or beat the card that was played on top of the 7. Note that in the case a joker has reversed card ordering, the next player after a 7 must play a 7, 8, 9, J, Q, K, A since these are now the cards below 7.
  • 8 – Playing an 8 allows the player to choose a card in their hand to swap with one from any other player’s hand.  The other players only display the back of their cards so the choice is blind.
  • 9 – Playing a 9 causes the next player to miss their turn. (Playing a 3 on an 9 also results in the next player missing their turn).
  • Two of a kind – Playing two cards of the same value allows the player to swap one card from their hand for one of their three cards face up on the table
  • Three of a kind – Playing three cards of the same value allows the player to swap one card from their hand for one of any other player’s face up cards
  • Four of a kind – Playing four cards of the same value burns the pack.  The player may then plays any card to the empty table to continue the play.
Last updated: 9th September 2016