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Six Stacks

Contributed by Jacob Kroll at:

One version of this game is available: 3 Card n' Strikes.

3 Card n' Strikes

Players play cards to a solitaire-like layout. A player who is unable to play gets a "strike", and a player with three strikes is out of the game.

Initial deal

Deal a row of six face-up cards on the table. These begin the stacks, which are built up to form columns of overlapping cards, as in some forms of solitaire. Stacks are built downward in color (red on red, black on black), and the cards can turn the corner. So a red ace can be played on a red two, a red king on a red ace, a red queen on a red king and so on. Suits are irrelevant: only the color matters. For example you can play a heart on either a diamond or another heart.

Whenever two stacks fit together according to this rule, they are immediately combined to form a single stack. For example black 8-7 is placed on black J-10-9 to make a 5-card stack J-10-9-8-7.

If any cards in the initial deal can be moved onto other cards according to these rules, this is done before play begins and extra cards are dealt to fill the spaces. Note: this is during the initial deal only. You do not fill the spaces when you are playing the game.

In the initial deal, all cards in the layout are "active". If any card is dealt which is the same color and rank as any active card, this card is placed in a face up "reserve pile" on the table, and a new card is dealt to replace it. During the play, only the bottom card in every stack is active. Reserves can only be played if they are the same color and rank as an active card.

When the six stacks are established and no more moves are possible, three cards are dealt to each player and play begins.


The player to dealer's left plays first, and players take turns clockwise around the table.

At your turn, you play one of your cards on a stack where it fits. There are two possibilities:

  1. Extend a stack by playing the next rank down of the same color as the exposed card - for example play a red 2 on the red 5-4-3.
  2. If a stack consists of a queen only, play a king of the same color under the queen to make a K-Q two-card stack. Note that the king is the only card that can be played under a stack rather than on top, and only if the stack contains the queen alone without other cards.
  3. If you have a card that is the same rank and color as the active card of a stack, you can play that card into the reserve. The active card of stack is the fully exposed card - for example the Jack on a stack of 3-2-A-K-Q-J.

As soon as you have played, all players check whether any stacks can be combined. No new cards are dealt from the stock to replace combined stacks, so this reduces the number of stacks and the number of playable cards.

Players must also check whether any cards in the reserve pile can be played as the next card of a stack, and if they can they must immediately be added to the appropriate stack. For example if there is a red Q-J-10 stack and a red 9 in the reserve, the reserve card is immediately added to the stack. If more than one reserve card is playable, they must all be played.

Any and all reserve cards must be played when they have the opportunity, unless the top of a stack is the same as a reserve that can be played. For example, if there is a red 9 in reserve, and one stack is A-K-Q-J, and another stack is 9-8-7-6, if a 10 is played on top of the Jack, then the 9 from the reserve is not played. Instead, the A-K-Q-J-10 is merged with the 9-8-7-6 to make A-K-Q-J-10-9-8-7-6 and the 9 remains in reserve.

After playing a card, if you have fewer than 3 cards, you draw one card from the top of the stock of undealt cards. If you already have 3 or more cards, you don't draw.

If at your turn you cannot play any of your cards to a stack or to the reserve, you get one strike. You must draw a card (even if you already have three or more). In this way you can get a hand of more than three cards.

Drawing a card ends your turn; the player to your left now plays.

If the deck runs out of cards, you take all the un-active cards and shuffle them. These cards are form the new deck. Having done this the initial dealing process is repeated. In other words, deal additional cards to create six stacks if you don’t still have six stacks.


If you get your third strike, and there are still at least three players in the game (so you are not the winner or runner up), you are out of the game. All your cards are added to the reserve, so that they will be played automatically as soon as they fit on any stack. This is to minimize the effect on the remaining players of a player going out.

When there are only two players in the game (say A and B), and one of them (A) gets their third strike, that player is not eliminated immediately. However, A's cards are all placed in the reserve. Now the other player (B) must take another turn. If B is able to play, B wins. If B is unable to play, the game is not over. B must draw two cards and A is dealt a new hand of three cards. No matter how many strikes B had, both players now have 2 strikes.and the game continues. This is called "The Final Match". If a player is unable to play, the above same process is repeated.

So in order to win, your opponent has to get a strike and then you must be able to play a move immediately after the strike.

A tutorial on Six Stacks in the form of a PowerPoint presentation can be downloaded here. (Zipped PowerPoint file - requires Office XP or higher).

Please email Jacob Kroll at if you have any questions.

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Last updated: 25th September 2006