Irish switch

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Irish switch, also called two-four jacks, lives or black jack (not to be confused with blackjack), is a popular version of the card game Switch which is played in Ireland. It is very similar to the original with a few rule changes. Switch is a shedding-type card game for two or more players that is popular in the United Kingdom, and as alternative incarnations in other regions. The sole aim of switch is to discard all of the cards in one's hand; the first player to play the final held card, and ergo have no cards left, wins the game. Switch is very similar to the games Uno and mau mau, both belonging to the larger crazy eights family of shedding games.


Switch is played with a regular, single deck of playing cards, or with two standard decks (shuffled into one) if there are a large number of players.

Each player at his turn may play any card from his/her hand that matches the suit or the rank of the card previously played; for example, if the previous card was a six of clubs, the next player may put down any six card, or any club card, from his/her hand. Should the player not have any card available to play, s/he must pick up one card.

Game rules[edit]

Players are initially dealt a similar sized hand of cards (often 9 per person when 4 or less, 7 if 4+). The remainder of the deck is placed face down and serve as a "pool" or drawing stack. At the beginning of the game the topmost card from the "pool" is revealed and, so long as this card is not a trick card, play begins. (Switch may not start with a trick card, and so if the "starting card" is a trick card, cards shall continue to be selected from the pool until a non-trick card is revealed.)

The first to play (generally, the player on the dealer's left) should select from his or her hand a card that matches either, the suit or the rank of the open card (the card that is "top"); for example, on a 10 of spades, only a spade card or a 10 may be played. If a player is not able to place a card, he draws cards from the stack until he is able to play a card.

If the drawing stack is run down and becomes empty, the playing stack or discard pile (except for the topmost card) is shuffled, and placed face down to become the new "pool."

Power cards[edit]

In switch, some cards are known as "power" or "trick" cards, because their being played directly affects the gameplay:

  • 2: if a player places a two (of any suit) down, the next player is required to pick up two cards. Should that player have a two himself, however, he may place it down, requiring the next player to pick up four; if he has a two, he may place it, requiring the next player to pick up six; this may continue until the flow reaches a player who does not have a two in his hand, at which point he is required to pick up the required number of cards. A player that draws cards after a two has been played is usually not permitted to put any more cards down.
  • 8: the next player misses their turn. There is the option for the next player to play a 7 if he has any, as there is with the 2, The second seven blocks the skip and passes it onto the next player who can either miss a turn or block with their own seven and so on.
  • Jack: "reverses"—the direction of the game switches anticlockwise and continues this way. The next time a jack is played, the direction will reverse again, and so on.
  • King of hearts: The next player must pick up 5, unless he/she has a 7 then it goes onto the next player, and so on so on.
  • Ace: can be played regardless of the suit or value of the topmost card on the playing deck—that is, the ace may be played at any time in the game. When playing an ace, the player can decide freely the suit that has to be played next; from then on, play continues as normal, but on the suit selected by the player of the ace. However the ace of spades has a special power to block any number of cards to be picked up when played. Therefore, if two players have played 2's the next player can play an ace of shapes blocking the pickup and also able to change the suit.

When a player has only one remaining card they must remember to call last card (by saying last card aloud) before their turn has ended, to inform the other players that they are about to win. Should a player who has graduated to last card fail to call before the end of the turn in which they reach last card (that is, once the next player has started her turn after the last-card player has put down his or her second last card), he may be penalised, often to the cost of picking up two card's immediately (over and above any picking up as a matter of routine course in the game).


As soon as a player plays their last card they win the game. A player cannot finish on a trick card. If their last card is a trick card they must pick up a card from the deck and cannot play the trick card. The game can continue until all the players get rid of their cards.

Player turns[edit]

  • On each turn, the player attempts to place cards from their hand onto the stack.
  • A card can only be placed in the stack if it matches either the rank or suit of the top card.
  • A player can place consecutive cards of the same suit down to remove more cards.
  • If a player cannot take their turn, they pick up a card from the remaining deck.
  • Once the player has played their turn, they must say "Last card" if they only have one card left. If you think that you can finish your cards in one turn you say "cards" If they fail to do so, there is a penalty

The deck[edit]

J28 is played with a standard 52-card pack of playing cards or if there is a large number of people playing one game then two packs may be mixed together and dealt as normal.


Dealership alternates from round to round (the dealer to the first round is usually determined by cutting the deck and then the lowest card deals). The dealer deals a seven-card hand to each player. After seven cards are dealt the next card is placed face up in the centre of the table, this is the discard pile. The remainder of the pack is placed face down next to the discard pile, and is called the stock.

The next non-dealing player to the right of the dealer lays the first card.