by Craig Blake
Keeping a deck of playing cards on hand will ensure you are ready to entertain within moments. Whether you are entertaining visitors, taking a long road trip or holing up in a mountain cabin, playing cards are worth their weight in gold. However, a deck of plastic playing cards is only as good as the games you play with it. Here are a few games to turn your deck of playing cards into hours of fun.
Texas Hold 'Em: Before getting dealt any playing cards, players will place blinds and antes to get the game going. The dealer deals all players two face-down playing cards. Before any new playing cards are turned over, there is a round of betting. Players can match or up the ante, or fold if they don't think their playing cards are up to snuff. No cards will be turned over until all players who haven't folded match the highest bet. The dealer then discards the highest card in the deck, or "burns" it in poker speech, and lays out the next three playing cards face up. This is called the flop. These cards can be used by all players in combination with their two poker cards. This ushers in another round of betting. After betting concludes, the dealer burns the top card on the deck and flips another playing card face up on the table. This is called the turn. Another round of betting ensues, after which the dealer burns one and flips over another playing card. This is called the river. There is another round of betting or folding, depending on cards. After the betting and folding, all remaining players reveal their hands. The best combination of five poker cards wins. Players with equal hands split the pot.
Go Fish: Seven plastic cards are dealt to each player; nine cards are dealt if there are fewer than five people playing. The goal is to collect a book of cards, which is to have a number or face card in every suit. For example, to have the king of hearts, spades, clubs and diamonds is to collect a book. You obtain books by asking players if they have a card that matches a card in your hand. If they do, they must hand it over. If not, they tell you to "go fish," and you draw from the pile in the middle. You can only ask for cards you have in your hand. Once a player collects a book of playing cards, they lay it face up on the floor. If a player runs out of cards, they must draw from the center pile. Once a player's turn is over, it is the turn of the player on their left. The game continues until all playing cards have been used and all books have been collected. The player with the most books wins.
Mafia: When you play Mafia, playing cards only play a role at the beginning of the game. For a good game, at least 10 people should play, but you can play with even 20 or 30 people. Choose out playing cards to match the number of people playing. The dealer, or narrator, deals one playing card to every player. No one reveals what playing card they received. Certain cards dictate specific roles. If a player receives a queen, it means they are mafia. If they receive an ace, they are a detective. If they receive any other playing card, usually the numbered cards, they are citizens. You can tweak the number of each role depending on how many people are playing. However, a good rule of thumb is to have slightly more mafia than detectives. If you have 10 people, play with three mafia and two detectives. If you have 15 or 20, try four mafia and three detectives. Tweak it until it works for you. After the playing cards have been dealt, the narrator instructs everyone to close their eyes and then has the mafia open their eyes. They choose who they would like to "whack." The mafia closes their eyes again, and the narrator has the detectives open their eyes. They point at someone they suspect is mafia. If so, the narrator nods yes. If no, the narrator indicates they are not. Everyone is then directed to open their eyes, and the narrator reveals who was whacked. All players try to find out who the mafia is, concluding with a vote on who to get rid of. Without revealing their identities, detectives try to persuade citizens to vote for mafia members while the mafia tries to get rid of everyone else, especially detectives. The game concludes when either all the detectives or all the mafia are voted off.