Glossary of card game terms

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A hand of cards during a game

The following is a glossary of terms used in card games. Besides the terms listed here, there are thousands of common and uncommon slang terms. Terms in this glossary should apply to a wide range of card games. For glossaries that are specific to one game, see Game-specific glossaries.


See rank, below
One of the four suits in a German pack of cards. Symbol: Bay eichel.png
Order of priority for leading, betting or bidding, starting from the player next to the dealer.[1] See eldest and youngest.
A temporary partnership that lasts only for the current deal or hand[1] (e.g. Prop and Cop in Solo Whist or the normal game in Schafkopf).
A mandatory stake made before the game begins - usually by all players, sometimes by the dealer only.[1]
around the corner
Phrase that describes sequences or runs that are built around the corner (i.e. the Ace) e.g. Q K A 2 3 4 [2]
The phase in some card games where players may bid to lead the game, or bid on a certain hand or privilege in that hand such as naming the trump suit. The player with the highest bid wins the auction and plays his chosen game or exercises his privilege. Often used in trick-taking games.[3]


Also called the house, the person responsible for distributing chips, keeping track of the buy-ins, and paying winners at the end of a banking game (see below)
banking game
A less-skilled card game of the gambling type in which one or more punters play against a banker, who controls the game.[4]
The last game of the rubber.[5]
One of the four suits in a German pack of cards. Symbol: Bay schelle.png
bettel or bettler
Bid or contract to win no tricks (also misère).[1]
Spoken declaration to win a specified number of tricks or points; to make such a declaration[6]
  1. In card-point games, a card that is worth no points.
  2. A hand with no court cards, i.e. only pip cards.[1]
When cards are visible to other players.
See widow.
Blocking a suit is keeping a high card back so that the player with a number of smaller cards cannot win tricks with them.[7]
To attempt to deceive one's opponent(s) about the value of cards in one's hand[8]
To add cards to those already on the table in order to extend a set or sequence[3]
An extra score added to a player's regular score for holding or winning certain cards[3] or for achieving certain goals, such as Schneider.
The Jack of the trump suit or the Jack of the same colour as the trump suit e.g. in Euchre or Reunion.
Left Bower: the Jack of the same colour as the trump suit.[9]
Right Bower: the Jack of the trump suit.[9]
bringing in a suit
Making tricks in a plain suit after the adverse trumps are exhausted.[7]
  1. To receive a card from the dealer, face down, in return for a stake e.g. in Twenty-One
  2. To receive the spare hand in return for one's own hand and a stake e.g. in Newmarket
  3. To receive or pick up a card or cards in return for a hand card or cards e.g. in Préférence when the 2 talon cards are picked up and 2 discarded.


In Bridge and certain other trick-taking games, the act of a player making his bid[3]
card points
In point-trick games, the score used to determine the winner of a hand, based on the value of individual cards won. Not to be confused with game points.
carte blanche
A hand with no court cards (see 'blank'), for example, in Piquet[1] or Bezique; or with either no court cards or no pip cards in Briscan[10]
A hand with no trumps.[1]
One of the four suits in a French pack of cards.[3] Symbol:
The best card of a suit, usually applied to suits which the adversary is trying to establish.[11]
commanding card
The highest card in the pack; the top trump; highest matador.
compendium game
A game in which a number of different contracts is played in succession e.g. Barbu, Quodlibet and Poch.[12]
an agreement to play a certain type of game, to win a certain number of points or tricks in a hand, round or game.[6]
  1. Object used to score.
  2. Card with a point value.[1]
court card
One of the picture cards i.e. a King, Queen or Jack in a French deck;[13] a King, Ober or Unter in a German deck, or a King, Queen, Cavalier and Valet in a tarot deck. Also face card or royal card.
Two partners alternately trumping a different suit.[14]
To divide the deck into two parts; usually after shuffling. Cards may also be cut to determine who deals or which suit is trumps.[13]


  1. Verb: To distribute cards to players in accordance with the rules of the game being played. In many games, this involves taking all cards, shuffling them, and redistributing them, but in other games (such as Patience games) it simply involves turning over the Waste to act as a new Stock.
  2. Noun: The play from the time the cards are dealt until they are redealt. Also referred to as a hand
The person whose turn and responsibility it is to deal the cards (even though this player may delegate the actual dealing to another).
May refer either to the pack or the stock
In a contract game, the highest bidder who then tries to achieve the announced contract.[15]
The opponents of the declarer(s) in games like Bridge or Skat.[3]
The rank of a card e.g. 2, 3, 4, etc.[16]
The Two of any suit. In German-suited packs, the Deuce is nowadays usually called the Ace despite having 2 suit symbols. In Austria and Bavaria usually called the Sow (Sau).
One of the four suits in a French pack of cards.[3] Symbol:
To get rid of plain suit cards when unable to follow suit and unwilling to trump.[14]
discard pile
The pile of cards already rejected by players.[13]
Only two cards of the same suit in the hand.[14]
A card that is dealt face down. Also facedown.
To take a card from the stock.[13] Also 'buy' e.g. in Rummy.[17]


The first player to play in the round. Called forehand in many games. This is the player to the left of the dealer in games that are played clockwise; or to the right of the dealer in those played anti-clockwise. Some family games will use eldest and youngest to refer to the players' actual ages.
established suit
A suit is established if when you or your partner can take every trick in it, regardless of who leads.[18]


face card
A face card depicts a person as opposed to pips (excluding jokers).
facedown (US)
A card placed face down on the table. Also downcard.
faceup (US)
A card positioned so that it reveals its suit and value.[13] Also upcard.[19]
face value
The marked value of a card, also called the pip value. Court cards are usually take to have a value of 10, the Ace 1 or 11.[3]
To discard counting cards to one's partner's tricks.[18] See also schmear.
An attempt to take a trick with a card that is not the best of the suit.[18]
Cards of the same suit[18] See flush.
To withdraw or surrender the current hand or game.[3]
follow suit
To play a card of the led suit.[6]
  1. To compel a player to trump a trick in order to win it.[18]
  2. A compulsory round or deal in which all players must play and none may drop out. Also known in German games as a 'muss'. See Schafkopf.


game points
In point-trick games, the score assigned to the various contracts which is awarded to the winning player. Game points are accumulated (or deducted) to decide the overall winner. Not to be confused with card points.
One or more cards that protect a high card.[20]


  1. The cards held by one player
  2. The player holding the cards, as in "Third hand bid 1."
  3. Synonymous with the noun usage of deal
hand game
A type of contract in certain games. See Hand game (cards).
head the trick
Playing a better card than any already played to the trick.
One of the four suits in a French pack or German pack of cards.[3] Symbols: or Bay herz.png
  1. A card with special privileges, usually a top trump. From the French honneur. See matador.


in turn
A player, or an action, is said to be in turn if that player is expected to act next under the rules. Jerry said "check" while he was in turn, so he's not allowed to raise.
To lead a small card of the long suit.[21]


One or more cards usually depicting a jester that are used as the highest trump or as wild card


Onlooker at a card game.[22]
See rank, below
king card
The best card remaining unplayed of the suit.[21] See master card.
Additional cards dealt face down in some card games.


lay off
To add cards to another player's melds or combinations.[3]
  1. To play the first card of the trick.[3]
  2. The card played first to the trick.[23]
One of the four suits in a German pack of cards. Symbol: Bay gras.png
long cards
The dregs of a suit which has been led several times and exhausted in the hands of other players.[21]
long suit
A suit containing more than four cards e.g. at Whist[21]
A player is 'lurched' or 'in the lurch' in games like Cribbage, Saunt or Cassino if they not only lose but fail to score a minimum number of points, typically half of a winning score. Being in the lurch typically costs double. Similar to schneider.


Euchre term, from the German Marsch or Durchmarsch. To win every trick in a deal. The same as slam.
master card
The best card left in a suit which has been played.[24] See king card.
a top trump, sometimes with special privileges.[25] However, in some games such as Skwitz, it is not a trump but a bonus-earning card
  1. A slam in certain Austrian games.
  2. Failing to win at least a quarter of the points available. Equivalent to a schneider.
Any scoring combination of cards announced, shown or played, e.g. three of a kind or a sequence of three or more cards.[16] A declaration of such a combination.[25]
A contract or undertaking to lose every trick.[25]
mixed deal
A hand dealt wrongly. Or to make a mistake while dealing cards.


natural card
A card that is not wild
negative game
A negative game or negative contract is one in which the aim is either:[25]
  1. to avoid taking tricks or
  2. to lose every trick (as in bettel or misère)
The suit of the same colour as the trump suit.
A card for which the rank is a number (Ace usually counts as 1 in this case)


A contract played with the player's hand of cards spread out face up on the table so it is visible to the other players[25]
To bid higher than an earlier bidder. May take the form of a suit overcall (bid a higher-value suit e.g. in Preference), majority overcall (bid to take a higher number of tricks e.g. in Fipsen) or value overcall (bid to win more card points e.g. in Binokel)[25]
To take more tricks than bid or contracted[25]


A complete set of cards. A double deck may be used (i.e. 104/108 instead of 52/54)
pair royal
Three cards of the same denomination (rank).[26] Also called a 'prial' or 'triplet'. See set.
A game which requires a number of deals to decide it[26], especially at Piquet[25]
  1. In bidding games, to make no bid
  2. In vying games to pass the privilege of betting first
A score awarded for common violations of the rules of the game. It can be awarded either negatively to the violating player/partnership, or positively to their opponent(s)
picture card
A court card.[27]
A set of cards placed on a surface so that they partially or completely overlap.
  1. See numeral, above
  2. A suit symbol (, , , ) on a card.
plain card
a card other than a court card.[27]
plain suit
Any suit that is not a trump suit.[26]
  1. Verb: Move a card to a place on the table (either from the players hand, or from elsewhere on the table).
  2. Noun: The stage of the game in which player(s) play cards.
US term for non-dealer in some two-player games e.g. Colonel[17] or the player on the dealer's right, who cuts the cards.[a][28]
See pot below.
  1. A container into which money or chips are paid initially and during a game and from which the winnings are paid out.[29]
  2. The contents of the pot.
A 'pair royal'. A set of three cards of the same rank.[3]
Person who lays bets in a banking game q.v.


A sequence of four cards of the same suit.[30]
quart major
The Ace, King, Queen and Jack of one suit.[30]
quinte or quint
A sequence of five cards of the same suit.[30]
quinte major or quint major
The Ace, King, Queen, Jack and Ten of one suit.


The position of a card relative to others in the same suit. The order of the ranks depends on the game being played.
To deal again.
To legally play a card of a suit other than the led suit.[29]
To play a card of a different suit from the led suit. May be legal or not, depending on the rules.[29]
To fail to follow suit when able to do so and the rules require it. Normally incurs a penalty.[29]
R.F.G. pile
"Remove From Game" pile; a discard pile for cards which will not be used in subsequent rounds.
  1. To exchange a hand card for the trump turn-up.[30]
  2. To discard several cards in exchange for the remaining trumps in the pack.[30]
The direction of dealing, bidding and playing e.g. clockwise (to the left) or anticlockwise (to the right).
The events between the eldest player's action, and the youngest player's action of the same type (i.e. deal, bid, play), inclusive. A phase of play in which everyone has the same opportunity to perform such an action.[29]
round game
A game in which there are no partnerships and everyone plays for himself or herself.[30]
A match consisting of a number of games, typically three.[29]
To trump a suit.[31]
A combination of playing cards where cards have consecutive rank values. Also called a sequence.


schmear or smear
To play a high-scoring card to a trick if it is likely to be won by one's partner, especially in Schafkopf or Sheepshead. See also fatten.
When a player or team wins over 3/4 of the available card points in point-trick games, thus scoring a bonus. Typical of the Skat and Schafkopf families. The team scoring less than 1/4 of the points is said to be schneidered or 'in schneider'. See also lurch.
When a player or team wins every trick of the hand, thus scoring a bonus. Common in games of the Skat and Schafkopf family.
Position relative to the dealer: for example, in bridge, the dealer's left-hand opponent is said to be in second seat.
see saw
See cross-ruff.
Two or more cards adjacent in rank. The adjectives ascending and descending may be applied (i.e. "building in ascending sequence" means "laying cards out so that each has the next highest rank to the previous one"). A sequence need not all be of the same suit. Also called a run.
short suit
A suit with less than four cards.[31]
Rearrange (a deck of cards) by sliding the cards over each other quickly.(verb)
An act of shuffling a deck of cards. (noun)
Only one card of a suit.[6]
Winning every trick. Sometimes called a 'grand slam', with a 'little slam' being every trick bar one.[29] Also called a 'march' (e.g. Euchre), 'mord' (e.g. Brandle and Grasobern), 'durch' or 'durchmarsch' (e.g. Skat and Schafkopf) or vole.
Lead a singleton in order to be able to trump (ruff) the second round of the suit.[31]
  1. A hand contract.
  2. A contract played alone against the combined efforts of all other players.[29]
Player who plays a solo.
See underforce.
One of the four suits in a French pack of cards.[3] Symbol:
spot card
See numeral
In trick-taking games, a player is 'squeezed' if he has to weaken himself in either of 2 suits, but has no way of deciding which.[32]
Cards are placed directly on top of each other, disallowing the player to see any card other than the top. In most cases, these cards are and should be kept hidden. Viewing these cards during a deal is often considered illegal, so they should be dealt face down.
A pile of cards, face down, which are left over after setting up the rest of the game (i.e. dealing hands, setting up other layout areas) and will be used in the rest of the game.[33]
A card which, when played, ends a sequence of cards on the table or a card that is undealt whose absence prevents the completion of a sequence. Gives its name to the Stops family of card games.
All cards that share the same pips


Layout of face-up table cards in games like Yellow Dwarf, Zwicker and games of the Patience family. See Glossary of patience terms.
The undealt portion of the pack which will be used in the rest of the game.[34] Same as stock.[32]
The Three of any suit. Also 'three-spot'.[6]
See Trick-taking game. A set of cards played by each player in turn, during the play of a hand.
  1. (Noun) A card in the suit whose trick-taking power is greater than any plain suit card.
  2. (Noun) A card in the special suit of trumps found in tarot decks such as the Tarot Nouveau
  3. (Verb) To play a trump after a plain suit has been led. See Ruff.
A card turned up at the start of a game to determine the trump suit.[32]


underforce or under-force
To answer a card with one of the same suit, but inferior value to those remaining in hand; e.g. putting the Nine of Clubs on the Ten, having the Ace in hand.[35] Also under-force, under-play or sous-forcer.[36]
See underforce.
  1. A card laid on the table face-up.
  2. The top card of a pile, turned face up.[27]


See rank
Having no card of a given suit.[32]
Winning all the tricks. Same as slam or durchmarsch.


A pile of discards or cards that a player is unable to play.
Losing without scoring a point.[37]
Also called a blind. Hand of cards dealt face down on the table at the start of play that may subsequently be used by players to exchange cards.[32]
wild card
A card that can able to substitute for any natural card (or even nonexistent ones)


The last player to play before the eldest player's second turn. Some family games will use eldest and youngest to refer to the players' actual ages.

Game-specific glossaries[edit]

A few games or families of games have enough of their own specific terminology to warrant their own glossaries:


  1. ^ Play being assumed to be left to right


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Parlett 2008, p. 642.
  2. ^ Moss 1995, p. 94.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Glossary of Card Game Terms at Retrieved 11 August 2018
  4. ^ Parlett 2008, p. 591.
  5. ^ Foster 1897, p. 674.
  6. ^ a b c d e Galt, David. Card Game Glossary at Retrieved 11 August 2018.
  7. ^ a b Foster 1897, p. 675.
  8. ^ Golick 1998, p. 120.
  9. ^ a b Arnold 2007, p. 386.
  10. ^ Le Briscan at Retrieved 11 Jan 2019.
  11. ^ Foster 1897, p. 676.
  12. ^ Parlett 2008.
  13. ^ a b c d e Golick 1998, p. 121.
  14. ^ a b c Foster 1897, p. 677.
  15. ^ Parlett 2008, p. 643.
  16. ^ a b Moss 1995, p. 95.
  17. ^ a b Rummy Glossary at Retrieved 29 Nov 2019.
  18. ^ a b c d e Foster 1897, p. 678.
  19. ^ Parlett 2008, p. 648.
  20. ^ Arnold 2007, p. 390.
  21. ^ a b c d Foster 1897, p. 680.
  22. ^ Parlett 2008, p. xxv.
  23. ^ Arnold 1988, p. vii.
  24. ^ Foster 1897, p. 681.
  25. ^ a b c d e f g h Parlett 2008, p. 644.
  26. ^ a b c Foster 1897, p. 682.
  27. ^ a b c Arnold 2011.
  28. ^ Foster 1897, p. 621.
  29. ^ a b c d e f g h Parlett 2008, p. 645.
  30. ^ a b c d e f Foster 1897, p. 683.
  31. ^ a b c Foster 1897, p. 684.
  32. ^ a b c d e Parlett 2008, p. 646.
  33. ^ Foster 897, p. 685.
  34. ^ Foster 1897, p. 685.
  35. ^ Crawley 1866, p. 103.
  36. ^ Walker 1838, p. 31.
  37. ^ Foster 1897, p. 686.


  • Arnold, Peter (1988). The Book of Card Games. [1995] New York: Barnes and Noble. ISBN 1-56619-950-6
  • Arnold, Peter (2011). Card Games for One. London: Chambers. ISBN 978-0550-10201-0.
  • Crawley, Captain Rawdon, pseud. of George Frederick Pardon (1866). Beeton's Handy Book of Games. Beeton, London.
  • Foster, Robert Frederick (1897). Foster’s Complete Hoyle. 3rd edn. Frederick.A. Stokes, New York and London.
  • Golick, Margie (1998). Card Games for Smart Kids. New York: Sterling. ISBN 978-0-8069-4887-4.
  • Moss, William A. (1995). 10-Minute Card Games, New York: Sterling. ISBN 978-0-8069-3847-9
  • Parlett, David (2008). The Penguin Book of Card Games. London: Penguin. ISBN 978-0-141-03787-5.
  • Walker, G. W., ed. (1838). The Philidorian. Sherwood, London.