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Card Game 31

"Poker" image by Arvind Balaraman /

"Poker" image by Arvind Balaraman /

The Card Game 31 - A How-to-Play Guide!

Friends and family have often stayed up some very late nights playing the card game 31.  The card game 31 can be played both for fun and for money!  Games can last quite a while sometimes but always end with a single winner, who wins the pot!

It's best to play this game at a large enough table for all players, preferably wood.

Start with a normal 52-card deck.

Each player should have 4 tokens (or quarters) per game.  There are no maximum amount of players, though you should try not having too many or you may have a very long, drawn out game!

The game is played in a series of hands.  At the end of each hand, the loser (or losers) will pay 1 of their remaining tokens to the pot (each).

Deal passes clockwise to the left after each hand.

When a player loses their 4 tokens, having placed them into the pot, they are eliminated from the remainder of that game.

When all opponents are eliminated, the remaining player wins the pot!

  • How to Score your cards -

The three cards in your hand won't always add up.  You can add up only cards within the same suit.  If you have a J of clubs, a 10 of clubs, and an A of diamonds as your 3 cards, only the 10 and J are added together, giving you 20 points in clubs - you always count your highest point total.  The objective is to have a combination of same suit cards totaling 31 (which means you win that entire hand and have all the losers pay a token!).  Here is how you score your cards:

Remember - Only cards of the same suit are added together.

Number cards from 2 to 10 are worth their face values.

J, Q, and K are each worth 10 points.

A is worth 11 points.

The famous 31 is only ever achieved with two 10 point cards and an ace, all of the same suit.

There is an exception to the same suit rule - if you like, you can try risking a 3-of-a-Kind hand.  This is the only other way to get a hand of 30 without your cards adding up by suit.  Any 3-of-a-Kind hand is always worth 30 points, even 3 deuces or 3 aces.  This is the most common reason for a player to "knock" the table (see below).  This is also a way to dupe the knocker in a bigger game, so be careful both knocking and going for a 3-of-a-Kind 30.

  • Starting The Game

The dealer shuffles (may offer to cut) then deals out 3 cards, one at a time, to each player, including themselves.  They next place the deck in the middle as the draw pile, and turns over the top card, setting it into the discard pile.

Play advances to the left, clockwise.  During each player's turn, they may choose to either:

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  • Take the card currently on top of the discard pile, swapping it with a card to discard.
  • Draw the top card from the deck, swapping that card with one they have or discarding it, and placing the discarded card into the discard pile.
  • Or they may "knock" the table, betting in on their hand and passing their turn (see below).

Each hand, play advances until a win condition is met.  If the last card in the draw pile is taken and that player discards their card, the player who's next turn it is places the last discarded card as the new discard pile and shuffles the rest of the deck, making a fresh draw pile.  They then have their turn as normal.

  • Win Conditions

At any time - if a player gets 31, they must throw down their hand immediately.  Everyone else pays a token to the pot and the hand has ended.

At the beginning of any player's turn, they may "knock" the table and pass their turn, giving one final turn to the rest of the players.  This signifies you are betting on your hand beating the lowest hand in the game, even after your opponent(s) get a final turn.

If a "knock" was done, after each other player has made their final turn and play returns to that player who "knocked", they are first to show their hand.  If everyone else has a hand that is equal to or higher than that player, then that player who "Knocked" must pay a token to the pot.  Otherwise, the player with the lowest hand pays - if there is a tie for the lowest hand, then all of the tied players pay a token and the hand ends.

  • Some Card Game 31 Strategy Tips!

Unless you are down to only 2 players left in the game, the person before you effects the cards you may have available on your turn, while you effect the cards available to the player who goes after you.  You will either be helping or hindering the opponent to your left, so pay attention to what cards they pick up and set down - it's easy to give the next player their 31!

Pay attention to what cards are being placed in the discard pile.  If your opponent sets down a high card, they my have a good hand.  If they set down a low card, they most likely just picked up a higher card of that very same suit and you now know what suit they are after!

Paying attention to the discarded cards is also useful for deciding which suit to go after - if someone already set down an A of hearts, then you would have to wait until a reshuffle before you could make a 31 with that suit.

A good strategy is to mix up which suit you are going after and possibly try to hold onto 2-of-a-Kind in case you need a last shot at duping a knock.  Holding onto an A and 10 point card of the same suit, or just two 10 point cards of the same suit, along with a card that makes a pair with one of them, can give you good odds of not having to be the next person to pay at the end of that hand.

Going for 3-of-a-kind in aces is tricky, somewhat tough, and is almost guaranteed to upset some of your opponents if you get it and knock on it!


Well, I hope I've explained all of the rules well enough!  Feel free to ask any questions concerning the rules and I'll be happy to help clarify!

Enjoy playing!

Image by Arvind Balaraman /


Allen Svihlik on November 08, 2019:

In the game of 31 you deal out 3 cards to each player, you deal a 31 to one player and then to the second player in the first round. does the first player with 31 win's and the second player pays with everybody else?

Deborah Minter from U.S, California on July 25, 2017:

Fun game!

billlwtoo on August 19, 2015:

Do you have to have three cards of the same suit to win? What if two players have only two cards of the same suit? Say one person has a K and A and another has Q 8? And what if a third person has a 8, 5 and 3 of the same suit? Does that person's hand beat the other two hands with only 2 cards of the same suit? Thanx from sunny Californey, CA

Christopher Dapo (author) from Morehead City, NC on July 07, 2014:

"But I thought you could reshuffle." That is exactly it, Wanda! Of course, you can all go on playing until someone needs to draw and then set down the top card of the discard pile as the new discard pile and reshuffle, or you can just reshuffle as soon as the draw pile is gone, it's up to the players present, but either way, you get the idea - the game could last a while!

Great question, thank you Wanda Brien!

wanda brien on June 26, 2014:

What happens when someone draw the last card. Does the game end at that point or does the next player get to draw what he throws down. Played yesterday with 8 people and this happened. Many opinions on this. What is the actual rule. Some said the next person had the option to take rom discard pile some said last card drawn should be end od game. But I thought you could reshuffle.

Christopher Dapo (author) from Morehead City, NC on August 01, 2013:

Yes, TLeeCenters, since a player has the option of drawing from either the deck or the discard pile, this is absolutely legal. This is actually a common strategy - building up either a 3-of-a-kind and a particular suit, or working on two suits at once, and constantly trading out both to keep your opponent(s) guessing while trying to raise the point value of a hand. Remember - just because you might have a 3-of-a-kind point value of 30 doesn't mean you will be the victor, and if your opponent(s) have you matched when you knock, you are the odd one out. Hope this helps! - Chris

TLeeCenters on August 01, 2013:

Question. The game is down to two players. Player A discards an 8 of spades, then Player B knocks, then Player A picks back up the 8 of spades that he discarded. Is this legal?

Christopher Dapo (author) from Morehead City, NC on May 07, 2013:

Only cards of the same suit are added together, Mary. You can knock at the start of your next turn no matter what you have. Hope this helps. - Chris

mary on May 01, 2013:

do all cards have to be in the same suit when you knock

Christopher Dapo (author) from Morehead City, NC on January 10, 2013:

Honestly never heard of it but thanks for enlightening us with that, Richard. Sounds like it would be the "Spades" to 31's "Hearts" ;)

Richard on January 05, 2013:

Do you remember the 3 card game called "low"? It was similar to 31 but you wanted the lowest hand (ace-two-three of different suit). No pairs, no flushes.

Christopher Dapo (author) from Morehead City, NC on October 23, 2012:

Yes, like any other turn, you can choose the top card of the discard pile or draw a new card.

- Chris

audrey conrad on October 16, 2012:

after someone knocks, can you still pick from the discard file ?

Christopher Dapo (author) from Morehead City, NC on October 10, 2012:

Hello Matthew,

First, I have to question what you said here - "I knocked early after my draw." On your turn, you may either draw your card for your turn OR knock, not both. If you knock, you pass up your draw.

Next, we have - "He drew his next card and put it back down (giving me 31) he drew again and got 31." Again, if you've knocked, each opponent is only allowed to draw ONCE more on their LAST turn, not twice.

"I knocked early, he drew 2 cards." - Should never have drawn twice here...

"Should I have been able to pick up that first card that he drew?" - As soon as you knocked, that last draw of his was it, he couldn't have drawn another card, and since you knocked you couldn't draw any more cards yourself. Once you knocked and he drew and set down that first card, it was game over and you should have both decided who won off of what you both had - he shouldn't have drawn another card.

Hope this helps, but I will answer any more questions you have.

- Chris

Matthew on September 18, 2012:

I have an issue. Just got done with a game. I knocked early after my draw. He drew his next card and put it back down (giving me 31) he drew again and got 31. I knocked early, he drew 2 cards. Should I have been able to pick up that first card that he drew?

Christopher Dapo (author) from Morehead City, NC on July 02, 2012:

Exciting is great. I'll have to try using that house rule some time.

- Chris

Jim on June 30, 2012:

I'm late to this, but I learned it Marilyn's way, where if the first player knocks right away, no one draws. Sure, that makes it pure luck of the deal, but it can be exciting to take a chance.

Dan Bentley on June 07, 2012:

Great guide, found a lot of useful tips here, keep it up!

I think also provide a guide on this game, might be worth checking out too.

Christopher Dapo (author) from Morehead City, NC on May 19, 2012:

Thank you for posting, Adrian Bassett, I can happily answer your questions!

"Can 31 only be achieved by a Q, K and A of the same suit or can it be any combination of J, Q, K and A?"

31 is achieved with the same suits of the Ace (which equals 11, not 10) and two of either the K, Q, J, or 10 (which are all worth 10 each).

"They stated three of a kind equalled 30.5 in order to beat combination of 10, J, Q of same suit for example."

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news but there is no .5 in this game. Three-of-a-kind is simply 30. No point total of 30 - be it 3-of-a-kind or a point total of same suit cards - beats any other 30, the difference comes in only when someone has knocked.

As an example, say there are four players playing. One player knocks, giving the other three their last turns as normal. The knocker presents a 3-of-a-kind 30. All three other players have same-suit point totals of 30. Nobody beats anyone, but the knocker fails, too, losing his "knock" bet that he would beat another player's hand, making him the one to pay.

"What score is achieved by 10, J, A?"

If those cards are the same suit, then 10(10) + J(10) + A(11) = 31!

I hope things didn't get too out of control, the rules are quite straighforward so I hope I've cleared up any questions for you and your friends.

Glad to help and... Happy playing!

- Christopher

Adrian Bassett on May 19, 2012:

I am based in the UK and was taughtthis game by a Canadian couple while on holiday in Dominican Republic. The husband and wife could not agree on the following, could you clarify please:

Can 31 only be achieved by a Q, K and A of the same suit or can it be any combination of J, Q, K and A?

They stated three of a kind equalled 30.5 in order to beat combination of 10, J, Q of same suit for example.

What score is achieved by 10, J, A?

Apologies for the plethora of questions but the debate got rather heated over a few beers!!

Christopher Dapo (author) from Morehead City, NC on February 16, 2012:


You only have 3 cards in your hand. If they are the same suit, add them up, that is your point total, up to a maximum of 31 points. 3-of-a-kind is the only exception, that only equals 30, the card value doesn't matter. Hope this cleared it up. - Chris

Judee Platt on February 16, 2012:

Do u have to have 3 cards of the same suit before u can knock pls ans soon

Christopher Dapo (author) from Morehead City, NC on December 31, 2011:

Hello Moses,

If you read the rules right, 3 of a kind is exactly that, 30. If you knocked, then you didn't beat their hand, and if there's no other player with a hand less than your 30, I'm afraid you lose your bet!

A good tip here is, if you go for a 3 of a kind win like this, it's much better to get it sooner than later on in the hand - gives your opponent(s) less time to foil your knock.

Hope I cleared this up for you!

- Chris

Moses on December 31, 2011:

What happens if you knock and have 3 of a kind and the next player has 30

bob wagner on November 26, 2011:

i hat the rules

Christopher Dapo (author) from Morehead City, NC on November 14, 2011:

Whichever of them knocked would lose - 30 (3 of a kind = 30) does not beat 30 so the knocker didn't win.

Hope this clears it up for ya.

- Christopher

Jeremy on November 02, 2011:

If 2 players achieve 3 of a kind does the higher set win?

Christopher Dapo (author) from Morehead City, NC on October 12, 2011:

Never heard of that rule, Marilyn, though it sounds like it could be a nice "house rule" that you have incorporated.

The knock usually only happens on that player's turn and they forfeit their turn when they knock as part of their bet and giving the rest a last ditch effort to foil the knock.

I'm guessing that your "under the gun" rule works on the draw of the game then?

Great question and thanks for posting!

Marilyn King on September 23, 2011:

I have a question. I haven't seen this rule in any of the explanations of what we call "31". Can the player to the left of the dealer "knock" and no one else gets to draw? We call it "under the gun". I just wondered if this is a fact or if it is just something was passed on from one player to another.

Thank you.

Christopher Dapo (author) from Morehead City, NC on July 12, 2011:

Unfortunately, Cindy, the first player who claims their 31 is the victor and the game is done. Keep an eye on your hand! Technically, up to 4 players at a time can have 31 on the deal, so the first person to jump on it wins.

Directly from the rules -

At any time - if a player gets 31, they must throw down their hand immediately. Everyone else pays a token to the pot and the hand has ended.

You can jump on your 31 even before all the cards are dealt!

Cindy on July 11, 2011:

If a player is dealt 31 and doesn't realize it until after the first player draws and gets 31, who is awarded the 31?

Christopher Dapo (author) from Morehead City, NC on March 23, 2011:

You are all welcome for the info, I'm glad to help!

@Tammy - Under 'win conditions' I've stated that the knocker would lose the tie. The knocker is "betting" that they have their opponent(s) beat - if it's a tie, then they lose their bet! ;-)

@Darren - This is 31, not scat, lol, thanks though!

Darren on March 18, 2011:

Darren on March 18, 2011:

If you look at this site for the rules on knocking it states different from this persons rules in regards to knocking.

This sites states if the person that knocks has equal to or better than the other person pays

Tammy on February 19, 2011:

If you are down to two players, and one player knocks....and there is a tie....who wins???

jen on July 13, 2010:

thanks...this was an old time fav card game of my familys and i can't wait to teach my kids.

june gray on January 04, 2010:

thank you . you haved saved a lot of stress for us to know the rules

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