A card game for two or (more often) more players.

The game 'Cheat' is played with an ordinary 52-card deck. If there are more than four players it often uses two matching decks shuffled together.

The whole deck is dealt to the players. My preference for this is to cut the deck into the correct number of pieces without counting the cards, and allow players to choose the one they think is smallest, starting clockwise of dealer and proceeding that way so that the dealer gets last choice. This is their incentive to cut well.

The first player, clockwise of dealer, plays an opening turn.

An opening turn is the first turn of a round, played with the cards face up.

A round is the series of turns until someone wins, or someone is made to pick up the central pile.

A turn consists of placing a number of cards onto a central pile. The cards must all be the same number. ie. One might play "Three kings". The play is always declared out loud, even when the cards are face up.

Play then proceeds clockwise, each player playing a turn with the cards face down. A turn other than the opening turn of a round must be playing a number up-one, down-one or the same as the previous play. So atop "Three kings", one could only play some number of queens, kings or aces. Aces count as both high and low, so atop aces one could play kings, aces or twos. It is acceptable to play only one card, ie. "One queen." If you can't play, or simply if you feel like it, you can play any cards you want, but you must always declare it as though it were a valid play. ie. you put down a five, and declare "One queen."

If a player declares a play and you think (or know) that the cards they put don't match the cards they declare (ie. you have all the queens and they declare "one queen"), you should call out "cheat!". Any player can do this regardless of whose turn it is. The cards are then checked - if your call is correct, the accused picks up all the cards in the central pile, and play passes to you. If your call is mistaken, you pick up all the cards in the central pile, and play continues starting with the player clockwise from the accused.

The winner is the player who empties their hand and doesn't in the same turn pick up the pile. (ie. Playing "two queens" and putting your entire hand down won't win, because someone will challenge it.) Obviously if someone looks to have won, it's worth saying "cheat" even if you don't think they have, because the game is over anyway, you have nothing to lose. Unless you play the variant where there isn't a winner, only a loser, which is the player left with cards at the end. In this case, obviously you should only declare "cheat" if you believe it, as otherwise you'll be disadvantaged amongst the remaining players.

There are several valid ways to 'cheat'. Playing five cards and declaring "four queens" is perfectly acceptable, though obviously risky if the other players have sharp eyes. This would be a good thing to do if you had only four queens, a jack and a seven. Obviously the seven would never be playable on your next turn (unless you have a lot of players), so playing four queens /and/ the seven leaves you with only a jack that may well be a valid play next turn. Alternatively, you might play two queens, a jack and a seven and declare it as four queens, in the hope that you can play the /real/ remaining queens next turn.

If there is a dispute about which player called "Cheat" first, the player nearest, clockwise from the accused, should be given priority. This is because it means less players miss their turn, if the call is correct.

Cheating outside the rules should be treated as with any other game. The offender should be ostracised and loathed for ever. Cheating outside the rules includes such offenses as:

  • Hiding an extra card amongst the face-up cards of an opening play.
  • Playing extra cards beneath your declared play, and not admitting it when called "Cheat". (ie. "Three queens" (played with a seven underneath), "Cheat!". The top three cards are turned over and the player who called "Cheat" picks up the cards. They shouldn't, because the accused did cheat. As the accused, you should own up to this.)
  • Hiding cards outside the game, so as to appear to be finished when you really aren't.

    This game is rarely played with only two players, because it appears that it wouldn't work. The other player always knows what cards you start a round with, because they have all the other cards. However, with skilled players this isn't a problem, and the game becomes one of psychology. "Four kings", "Two queens", "Four kings"... It's known that there are only four kings, but which play was the true one - if either?

    A variant of Cheat that I sometimes like is to make it more difficult by only allowing plays of two or more cards. This means that if you have only one of a number, you will be forced to cheat at some point. Another variant is where you can't play the /same/ number as the previous play, only up-one or down-one.

    [ Return to games | Two index ]

    Send me mail :