If you ever heard about the president card game but you are not sure about the rules, you have visited the right site.
They may just contain 52 cards (plus a couple Jokers), four suits, and 13 ranks of cards, but a pack of playing cards can be combined to form all manner of different games, transcend cultural barriers and make their way into culture.
“The Ace of Spades” is a Motorhead song, while Pushkin’s short story “The Queen of Spades” was made into a Tchaikovsky opera. Switching suits, the mad Queen of Hearts oversees playing cards come to life Alice in Wonderland, from the Lewis Carroll novel to the Disney film and beyond. The Queen of Diamonds is a psychological trigger and code in The Manchurian Candidate, about a Soviet-manipulated Presidential candidate.
Which brings us to the President Card Game itself. Called “Durak” (or “Fool”) in Russia, “Daifugō” in its Japanese incarnation, and less polite names across the West like “Shithead,” “the Scum Card Game,” and “the Asshole Card Game,” it’s the perfect game with which to pass the time (and quarantine) with a bit of luck, strategy, and a sense of humor.
So what is the President Card Game, how do you play it, what’s with all those names and various variants, and what’s behind this global card game?
As you can tell from a game starting with “President,” titles are a thing in this game – and as you can tell from it being called “the Scum Card Game” or “Asshole Card Game,” or even just “Durak” or “Fool,” this isn’t the most serious of games. Nevertheless, you and those with whom you’re playing will alternately hold different titles, which impact the gameplay.
You can play with up to six players, each of whom have a title:
- President, the first place player from the last round
- Vice-President, the second place player from the last round
- High Scum/Asshole, the player in next-to-last place from the last round (for example, fifth of six players)
- Scum/Asshole, the player in last place (and shockingly not “the President,” right?)
- Person, anyone else playing (for example, third and fourth of six players, so not first, second, next to last, or last place)
Other variants allow for even more players than six, in which case other often off-color titles are added.
In addition to all of those titles, there are a lot of different terms:
- Single: A card that is played on its own.
- Double: Two cards that are played together that feature equal values (for example, two 4’s).
- Triple: Three cards that are played together that feature equal values (for example, three 4’s).
- Quads: Four cards that are played together that feature equal values (for example, four 4’s).
- Bomb: A single card which, when played, clears an entire hand.
- Kicker: Playing a card to complete a four of a kind scenario.
- Laser: A hand of all 2’s.
- Clear and Quick Clear: Playing a whole hand or a single card, respectively, which results in the entire table being cleared.
How to Play
Once you’ve sorted out the titles, it’s time to get started.
Whatever you call it, the object of the game is to get rid of all of your cards.
The President or Scum (depending on the variation) deals the cards. If the Scum is the dealer, it means the President will start out with the fewest amount of cards if the amount of players is uneven.
Cards are dealt out clockwise until they are all distributed. You keep your cards secret in your hand at all times.
You begin play with whoever has the 3 of Clubs placing it in the middle, and then it’s the job of the next player clockwise to match or beat it. Ace is the highest and 3 the lowest, with 2 being the “clear” card, meaning that the pile is cleared and begun again. If the card is matched (for example, a 5 of Clubs being matched with a 5 of Hearts) the next player clockwise is skipped.
If you cannot beat the last card played and cannot clear the pile with a Bomb (a 2), you must pass, and the next player clockwise from you takes over. Naturally, since you are trying to get rid of all of your cards, this is a pretty big disadvantage.
Any two cards you can play can beat a single card. For example, let’s say that the last card played was the Queen of Spades. If you play two 7s or three 8s, this will beat the Queen. This is also preferable for you as it allows you to shed cards faster.
You continue in this fashion until everyone has shed their cards. The President Card Game works on a points system, with the President (the first to clear their cards) getting two points for the round and the Vice-President one point. Play continues until someone reaches 11 points.
Once the next round is dealt out, the unfortunate “asshole” in the Asshole Card Game must give their highest card to the President, who then picks a card to give to them. For example, let’s say that the next round has been dealt and you’re ready to make Pushkin proud with the Queen of Spades. That’s two bad, because before play even begins you must give the card to the President, who can give you a middling 4 or 5 in return.
(Now do you start to see why this can be called the Asshole or Scum Card Game?)
The President of each round begins play the next round.
You can technically choose to pass even if you can beat the card played. Since you are trying to clear your cards, you probably don’t want to do this very often. That said, it can work as part of a strategy, as if everyone passes, either voluntarily or because they must, the pile is cleared and a new pile is started, which may work to your advantage depending on the cards in your hand.
As mentioned above, a 2 is Bomb, which automatically clears the pile and begins a new round.
Each new round must begin with the 3 of Clubs.
If at any point you can complete a four of a kind, you can play it, even if it means playing out of turn.
For example, let’s say that you have a 5 of Diamonds sitting in your hand, and the play in front of you has seen the 5 of Clubs, Spades, and Hearts all played in a row. Even if there are two or three players before your next turn, you can automatically play your 5 of Diamonds to clear the pile and begin a new one.
You can do this no matter how many cards you play to complete the four of a kind. For example, if someone plays a 6 of Clubs and the next player the 6 of Hearts, if you have the two remaining 6’s, you can automatically play them, even if it’s out of turn.
You then start the next round with whatever card you choose.
One last thing – you cannot play a 2 as your last card in a round, so make sure to avoid that situation.
Variations on the President Card Game
As you’d expect from something alternately called the President, Scum, or Asshole Card Game, the tone of a game is typically light. In fact, it makes for a great drinking game! You can set your own rules as to when people have to take a shot, or if it’s the person losing more cards or the person with the most who has to take a shot.
In addition, as mentioned, some versions use more players than the six which are ideally suited for the game. If this is the case, you should be aware that players will naturally start with fewer cards, affecting gameplay.
The Japanese variant to this game has a lot more rules and potential hand variations, so if you’re looking to spice things up after a few rounds, try that. Meanwhile, rather than starting with a full hand, the Russian variant Durak starts with each player holding six cards and gaining them throughout the game.
“You Say You Wanna Revolution?”
What do you do if you’re behind in a game with Kings, Queens, and “Presidents” and can’t get ahead? Hope for a revolution, of course! There are indeed revolutions in this game, though you won’t need to sign any Declaration of Independence or execute any Queens and Kings (or Tsars) to have one.
Instead, some variations of this game allow “revolutions” that switch the power order of the cards, so the 2, Ace, King, and Queen – normally the most powerful cards – can suddenly become the weakest, while the 3, 4, 5, and 6, weaker cards, become the strongest.
Under variants that allow for “revolutions,” this occurs when four of a kind is played. For example, if you played 5, 6, 7, and 8 of Hearts, this would result in the peasantry storming the Bastille – or at least a “revolution” in the game, and a switch of the most and least powerful cards. On the other hand, if someone else plays four of a kind, this would also be a “revolution,” and the order of the cards would switch back.
Following these rules for the President Card Game, you and your best friends can enjoy a fun night of showing what “scum” you’re capable of being – thus making you truly fit to become “President!”
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