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Recommended Games for Three Players

A selection of some the best 3-player card games and domino games, recommended by the editor. For a longer list of traditional games, see the full 3-player game index.

Revolution (Mitch)

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An original game in which players try to manage their cards, to play as many cards as possible of each suit in descending order - invented by Mitch Gunzler. See also the variation known as Mitch.

Ninety-Nine (trick-taking)

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A trick-taking card game for 3 players using a 36-card pack, invented by David Parlett. Players use three of their twelve cards to bid the number of tricks they will try to win with the other nine.

Tarok (Danish)

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The Danish version of Tarok is a 3-player game with 78 cards, closely related to the version formerly played in Germany and sometimes known as Grosstarok. The main aim is to win the last trick with the lowest trump (the Pagat) or a King.

Pineapple OFCP

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Open Face Chinese Poker (OFCP) is a rather new game based on poker hands, which became popular with poker players in 2012-2013. Players compete to build poker hands using cards that are seen by all players - there is no bluffing or escalating betting. The Pineapple variant works well for three players.

Alsós

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An elaborate Hungarian trick-taking card game for three players combining features of Klabberjass and Tarok, which was very popular in the early twentieth century. There are also versions for two or four players.

Dou Dizhu (斗地主)

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This Chinese climbing game has become very popular in the last 20 years. One player volunteers to play alone as the 'landlord' against the other players in partnership. Playable combinations include the bomb (four of a kind), the rocket (complete set of jokers) and the quadplex set (four of a kind plus two single cards or pairs).

Cego

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A special form of Tarock played in southern Baden, Germany featuring a large talon. Many of the contracts require the bidder to discard all or nearly all the cards they were dealt and play with the talon cards instead.

Go Stop

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A popular Korean game for 2 or 3 players using flower cards. Having collected enough scoring combinations to win, you have to decide whether to stop the game or try to improve your score at the risk of losing everything.

Tresillo

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Modern Spanish form of the classic 3-player game Hombre, the first card game that featured bidding to decide who would choose trumps and play alone. To win, the bidder must take more tricks than either opponent separately.

Skat

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National card game of Germany, a game of tricks and trumps for three players using 32 cards. Players bid to decide who will play alone against the other two, aiming to take the majority of the card points.

Casino (Swazi)

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In this unusual version of Casino played in Eswatini and Lesotho, players can steal cards from the top of their opponents' capture piles to help with building piles for later capture.

Krypkasino

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This Swedish game for 2-6 players is a reverse form of Casino. There are penalty points for playing a card that captures a matching card or set of cards from the table, and a large penalty for clearing the table.

Calabresella

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Italian three-player point-trick game with bidding. The main aim is to capture aces (the third highest cards of the suits) and take the last trick, which is difficult to guarantee since there are no trumps.

Handjass

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A Swiss game for up to 4 players. Also known as Sackjass, Butzer or Schläger Jass, this is generally considered the most basic form of the Swiss national game Jass.

Vira

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An elaborate Swedish trick-taking game for 3 players featuring a wide selection of possible contracts, in which players can improve their hands by drawing cards from the stock.

Coiffeur-Schieber Jass

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This compendium game consisting of a series of Jass variants in a sequence chosen by the players is best known in Switzerland as a four-player partnership game, but there is also an excellent 3-player version where in each deal one player chooses which game to play alone against the other two in partnership.

Jhyap (Yaniv)

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An unusual draw and discard game from Nepal, which has also become popular in Israel. Players get rid of their cards by discarding rummy-like combinations which they have collected.

1000

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This 3-player 24-card game is popular in Eastern Europe: Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Poland and the Baltic States. It is a point-trick game with extra points for marriages, which change the trump suit when declared.

Nos

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Dutch domino game for 3 to 5 players in which after the deal the loser of the previous hand chooses the rules from a large range of options: ordinary or matador matching, single line or cross, and various extra conditions can be selected.

Ulti

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The national card game of Hungary, a trick-taking game for 3 players using a 32-card pack: 10 cards each and 2 in the talon. Each bidder takes the two-card talon and discards two cards which can be used by the next bidder.

Skitgubbe

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A popular Swedish game for three players. In the first phase players collect cards by taking tricks; in the second phase they try to get rid of those cards by beating the opponents' cards, the last player with cards being the loser.

The above are the editor's recommendations, but tastes differ and you may find other games you like more in the full index of traditional 3-player games. Further 3-player games can be found among the collection of invented games and on the commercial games page.

Explanation of symbols

Difficulty. Subjective assessment of the editor combining two factors: how difficult or complex the rules are, and how difficult it is to learn to play the game well.

Popularity. Games are ranked in order of the average number of people (actually different IP addresses) per month who visited the game rules page in the last 6 months. Top 10% get 5 hearts, next 10% 4 hearts, next 20% 3 hearts, next 30% 2 hearts, bottom 30% 1 heart. (The top 6 games under this ranking are also listed on the home page as 'most popular games'.)

Trend. The number of visitors in the most recent month are compared with the average per month over the preceding five months, and the significance of the change is estimated using a statistical technique described here. The pages are then ranked in order from most significant increase down to most significant decrease. The top 10% are given 5 flames, the next 20% 4 flames, the middle 40% 3 flames, the next 20% 2 flames and the bottom 10% 1 flame. (The 6 games or pages with the most significant increase are also listed on the home page under 'recent interest'.)

The stats and popularity/trend ratings are updated at the beginning of each month, and the order in which the recommended games are listed on this page is shuffled randomly once a week so as not to give undue weight to any one recommendation.

Notes on three-player games

David Parlett has suggested that three is the best number of players for a game of cards. In most of the best card games, players gradually information during the play about the location of the cards. When the cards are dealt out to three players each has enough information to form an initial plan, and can fairly quickly make useful deductions about how the cards are distributed between the other two, leading to interesting tactics. It is notable that even some classic four-player games such as Bridge are played with one of the four hands as a face-up dummy, essentially reducing the play to the ideal three-player format.

The main limitation of a three-player format is that it does not allow for a contest between two equal teams. Instead, either each player plays for themselves, or in each deal one player plays against a temporary alliance of two, the lone player usually having been selected by an auction of some kind. In fact it was the need to select a solo player to play against the others in a 3-player game that inspired the invention of bidding in card games.

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This page is maintained by John McLeod, john@pagat.com   © John McLeod, 2021. Last updated: 26th January 2023

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