Though extremely simple in its rules, the game of 31 requires a bit of strategy to win. The object of the game is to reach 31 before all of the other players. The game of 31 can be played by up to nine people, and uses a standard deck of 52 playing cards.
Card Values in Thirty One
Their values are as follows:
- Ace = 11 points
- King, queen and jack = 10 points
- 10 through 2 = face value
The only way cards in a single hand have value, however, is if they are in the same suit. For instance, in a game of 31, a player with a jack of spades, seven of spades and four of hearts would have a hand worth 17. If a player has three different suits, the highest card prevails. The hand above would be worth ten points because the jack of spades was the highest card.
Each player receives three cards from the dealer, who then places the remainder of the deck in the center of the table and turns the top card over, face up, next to the pile. This face up card is the discard pile.
The game begins with the player to the left of the dealer chooses a card from the discard pile or the deck, and then discards one card on the discard pile. No one can take the top card of the discard pile and then return it in the same turn. It is obligatory to keep the card selected from the discard, but not from the deck.
The hand winds down to a close once one player knocks rather than drawing a card. This knock will end the player’s turns and also indicate that their hand is a high value. The other players get one more turn to improve their own hands, and then everyone reveals their cards.
Alternately, a player can declare 31 at almost any point in the game. If they receive 31 on the deal, they must declare this or if after drawing and discarding they reach 31, they must immediately make this known. This can happen in the final play after another player has knocked as well.
To tally scores, the players each get to select the suit they want to use for their hand. The player with the lowest hand value loses a life. Should a knocker lose the hand by having a score lower than another player, they forfeit two lives. Should a tie occur between the knocker and another player, the non-knocker loses a life. Should the tie be between other players, all lose a life. When a player declares 31, all the remaining players must forfeit a life.
What is a life? At the beginning of a 31 game, all players have three chips, pennies or other game pieces. These are called “lives” and when a life is lost or forfeited the pieces are placed into the “kitty” in the middle of the table. Once a player has lost all three pieces they will be able to remain in play until their next loss calls for a life. The game continues until all players are eliminated.