This general type of game dates back some 500 years and is still seen in many forms in Europe. In the United States, the most popular games of this type are Cribbage and Blackjack.

How to play: Thirty-One

The Pack
The standard 52-card pack is used.

Object of the Game

The goal is to obtain a hand that totals 31 in cards of one suit; or to have a hand at the showdown whose count in one suit is higher than that of any other player.

Rank of Cards

A (high), K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 (low)

Card Values/Scoring

An Ace counts 11 points, face cards count 10 points, and all other cards count their face value.

The Deal

The players cut for deal and the lowest card deals, the turn to deal alternates to the left. Three cards are dealt face down to each player; then three cards are dealt face up for a "widow."

The Play

Before play begins, all players put an equal amount of chips into a pot. The player on the dealer's left has the first turn. On each turn, a player may take one card from the widow and replace it with one card from their hand (face up). (Variation: Players may exchange any number of cards with the widow in this manner.)

Players take turns, clockwise around the table, until one player is satisfied that the card values they hold will likely beat the other players. A player indicates this by "knocking" on the table. All other players then get one more turn to exchange cards. Then there is a showdown in which the players reveal their hands and compare values. The player with the highest total value of cards of the same suit wins the pot.

If there is a tie for the highest score, the player with the highest-ranking card wins. Example: K, Q, 6 (total 26) would beat Q, 9, 7 (also total 26). If there is a tie in the highest cards, the next highest cards are compared, and so on.

Any time a player holds exactly 31, they may "knock" immediately, and they win the pot. If a player knocks before the first round of exchanges have begun, the showdown occurs immediately with no exchange of cards.

After the pot has been won, all the players put in chips for the next hand.


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  • New to playing so bare with me. If I have three kings in different suits is that three of a kind or just ten?

  • Glenn Richards
    May 2, 2017 at 1:28 pm

    When playing 31 and the dealer knocks and ties low man does he only pay or do both low hands pay?

  • Glenn Richards
    May 2, 2017 at 1:24 pm

    If dealer knocks and ties what happens?

  • Same terms of game as Demon. One added option. Blind Knock. This means you let everyone know without turning over your dealt cards you are knocking. If you are lower than anyone, you pay double. If you are higher than everyone, all have to pay double. This is when your are on your honor and have nothing to lose.

  • Thanks so much Demon! I’ve played your rules for 30 years with my “dad”, great memories. He’s since passed away and now I’m showing my son. We looked up the rules and saw your comment. That’s the exact way, on your honor and all. 🙂

  • I agree with you Demon. We play the same way. I’m in NY.

  • This is not the way we play 31, I have been playing 31 much of my life and we have never played with the rules posted.
    The way played: you need 3 chips (we used nickles).
    dealer deals 3 cards, right to left, than deck goes face down as draw pile with one card facing up. everyone picks up their cards and person to the right of the dealer plays first. cards are face value 10-to king is 10 points ace is 11. NO chips will be used until you lose a round. start by trying to get 31 before someone knocks or throws down 31. each turn you try to get high or closer to 31 if you think you have higher hand than someone else you pick up your card from the deck or the draw pile that’s face up than you knock, that means everyone gets one last turn to play . when the round gets back to the player that knocked you all show your cards to see who has the lowest of 31. THAT player loses that round and pays a chip. If anyone at anytime get or is able to get 31 they just throw down their cards and yells 31 no knocking and EVERY ONE PAYS! 1 chip except the one that got 31 when you have used up all your chips you have one more chance we call on your honor when a player loses that they are out of the game and have to wait till a fresh games starts, last player at the table wins the pot….. we have played this way for 50 plus years with as many as 8-12 people and we had a great time….

    • This is the same way I’ve always played as well. Everyone agrees on the chip amount (usually 4 quarters) and last man standing takes the pot. One of my favorite card games.

    • We’ve played the same way as you Demon for atleast 3 generations in Cali, one variation, 3 of a kind is worth 30 and a half points.

      • I played like you and Demon for years with my grandfather. What I can’t remember is if your cards need to be the same suit or can be any suit when you add up your cards to see who’s closest to 31. One other rule we had was that an Ace, face card and 10 was called “Bust Up”. If you got that you immediately through down your cards and were the winner.

    • Thanks for sharing Demon! There are many different versions to card games and lots of different house rules. We love hearing about new versions – thanks again for sharing!

      – The Bicycle Team

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