• Angela Cumming

How to Play Shithead

I first learned this game from my friend Nick during one of our staff socials. I think this is such a great group game and the name is pretty fun too! It's fairly easy to learn and a popular game among backpackers.

Number of Players:

2-6 (although at least 3 is best)


-one deck of cards, Jokers excluded (Aces are high)

Objective of the Game:

The aim of the game is to be the first player to get rid of all your cards.


Deal 3 cards face down to each player, with 3 cards face up on top of those cards. 3 additional cards are dealt as a hand to each player, for a total of 9 cards (see picture above). The remaining cards are put to the side as a draw pile. Players can now switch cards from their hand with their face up cards to make the best possible spread of face up cards (2s, 10s, and face cards are great here).


The first player to lay down a 3 (or multiple 3s if they have them) from their hand goes first. If no one has a 3, then the player with the next highest card goes first. Player 1 picks up from the draw pile to replenish their hand to 3 cards. The player to their left goes next, playing a card (or multiple) equal to or higher than the card shown.

Play continues clockwise with each player laying cards equal to or higher than the top card from their hand only (not touching the face down and face up cards in front of them). The number of cards does not matter - if you have multiplies then you can lay them dwn. Players replenish their hand to 3 cards from the draw pile until it runs out. Once a player cannot go, they pick up the entire pile and add it to their hand. The player to their left can now begin a new pile by laying down any card(s) from their hand.

There are some special cards to keep in mind:

-2: resets the deck back to a 2 and can be played on anything. The next player must just play higher than a 2!

-7: Can only be played in numerical order and the next card(s) must be lower than a 7. Play resumes after that.

-9: A mirror/window - whoever lays this card can play it at any time and it is like a free card. The next player plays according to whatever is under the 9.

-10: clears the deck and can be played on anything. The pile is removed to the side and the player that played the 10 can start a new pile by playing whatever they want.

-Four cards of the same number: when the fourth card of a number is laid in a row, the deck is cleared and a new pile is started, just like when a 10 is laid.

Players can only play face up cards once the draw pile is finished and they have played everything in their hand. Face down cards can only be played once face up cards have been cleared. You cannot look at the face down cards until you flip them over in play. It is a big gamble what is under there!

If you have to pick up the pile at any time while playing the face up or down cards, then you must finish the cards in your hand before resuming playing the cards on the table.


You are the winner if finish all your cards first - this includes your hand, the face up, and the face down cards! Keep playing until all players are out. You're the shithead if you are the last one to finish all your cards!


-Save your special cards until closer to the end, especially when the pile is big! They will help you a ton.

-Stack your face up cards with as many strong cards as possible at the beginning.

-There are variations on special cards - decide as a group at the beginning.

What special cards do you play with for Shithead? Let me know in the comments!


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

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