• Angela Cumming

How to Play 31

I have fond memories of playing 31 with my aunts and uncles at family gatherings after we just stuffed our faces full of turkey and pie. We often would use coins or crackers to "gamble" during the game and see who took home the pot.

Number of Players:

2-8 (although I recommend 6 as a maximum)


-deck of 52 playing cards (no jokers needed)

-coins/tokens for betting

Objective of the Game:

This game can be played per hand or per game. The aim of the hand is to have the highest score at the end. The aim of the game is to be the last player with tokens/coins. If you are, you win the entire pot!


Dealer deals 3 cards to each player, one card at a time. The remaining cards are placed face-down in the draw pile with one card flipped up on the side. This is the discard pile. Each player has 3 tokens in front of them representing their lives. When another player gets a total score of 31 or a player loses, they forfeit one token in the pot.


The highest score of the game is 31. This is achieved by collecting 3 cards of the same suit totaling 31 points. Aces are high thus a hand of two face cards (or a face card and a ten) and an ace of the same suit would be a winning hand. 3 of a kind is worth 30.5 points, which is three cards of the same number. Otherwise, cards hold their face-value and cards of the same suit can be added together to get a higher score.


The player to the left of the dealer begins the game by picking a card from the draw pile or the top card of the discard pile. They can replace a card in their hand with the new card if they choose, but they can only have 3 cards in their hand total so one card must be discarded. The card they get rid of is now the top card of the discard pile. The next player to the left draws a new card or picks the top card of the discard pile and discards one card from their hand, attempting to score as close to 31 as possible. Play continue clockwise until:

-Any player gets 31 (remember the cards need to be the same suit!). They must lay down their hand immediately and every other player forfeits one token to the pot.

-A player knocks. This can only be done on the player's turn and is done instead of picking up a card. When a player knocks, they believe they have the highest hand and are ready to challenge the other players. Each player has one more turn to improve their hand, but can only draw from the draw pile - the discard pile is off limits after a player knocks. Once each player has taken their final turn, all hands are revealed. The player with the lowest score forfeits a token to the pot, unless the player with the lowest hand is the knocker then they forfeit two tokens!


Once a hand is complete and the loser has forfeited tokens to the pot, a new hand can be dealt. When a player runs out of tokens, they can play again until they lose another hand. This is referred to as their "grace". The winner is the last player standing with a token!


-Try to keep an eye on what suit your opponents are collecting and avoid discarding that suit to them. This will also help you know what suits are in demand!

-Going for 3 of a kind is tricky! It can also be very low-scoring if you don't end up getting it before someone else knocks.

And that's it! 31 is fairly simple to catch on to and very quick to set-up making it the perfect game for after dinner or just hanging out with friends.

Good luck!

Did you play this game and do you have any questions? Let me know in the comments!


© 2020 by Cambio & Co. Created by Angela Cumming. 

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