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Nertz players (149101448).jpg
A game of Nerts
Alternative namePounce, Racing Demon
PlayersIdeally 2–8
Skills requiredQuick reaction, awareness of cards being played simultaneously, counting.
Age range8+
Cards52 per deck, each player or team uses a standard playing card deck. Each team's deck must be a different design or color from the rest of the decks being used, to identify cards after the round ends.
Related games
Demon, Spit, Dutch Blitz

Nerts (US),[1] Pounce (US)[1] or Racing Demon (UK)[1] is a fast-paced, multiplayer card game involving multiple decks of playing cards. It is often described as a combination of the card games Speed and Solitaire.


The game is of English origin and is recorded as Racing Demon as early as 1933 in the magazine Punch[2] with accounts soon following in American publications from 1934 onwards under the name Pounce.[3] Today proprietary Racing Demon cards are produced for it, consisting of ordinary 52-card Anglo-American pattern packs with different coloured backs. It had reached America by the 1960s, where it was also initially known as Racing Demon,[4] but later became known as Nerts. The game also goes under many other names including: Peanuts[5] Pounce,[1] Racing Canfield,[1] Scramble,[1] Squeal[5] and Scrooge.[5] The game's name can also be spelt Nertz.


Card game expert David Parlett says the game, originally called Racing Demon,[1] was created in the 1890s, but is now known as Pounce internationally and Nerts in the US.[1] The National Nertz Association (U.S.) blog says it is unaware of any known inventor or specific date of creation for the game, but that it has been around since the 1940s.[6]

If one were to attempt to play Nerts alone, one would essentially be playing Canfield, a variant of the classic Klondike Solitaire (also called Patience). For this reason Hoyle's Rules of Games describes Pounce as "Canfield played by two or more players".[7]


Nerts is a competitive form of Patience or Solitaire in which players or teams race to get rid of the cards in their "Nerts pile" by playing them in sequences from aces upwards, either into their personal area or in a communal central area. Each player or team uses their own deck of playing cards throughout the game.

The number of players or teams that can play in a game is limited only by the number of decks and the amount of space available.

Pounce (1934)[edit]

The rules described by Breen for Pounce in 1934 may be summarised as follows:[3]

Each player has a shuffled pack of cards. The top thirteen are placed face up in front of the player as the 'pounce pile'. Then four cards are placed in a row face up beside it. Cards are taken, three at a time, from the remaining stock and used to build on any Aces in the middle or on the four cards in the row. Cards must be built in alternating colour and descending order. The first player to shed all his pounce pile wins by shouting "Pounce!" The winner scores 1 for every card in the middle of the table and 10 for pounce. The others score 1 for every card in the centre, but lose 2 for each card remaining in the pounce pile.


A game of Nerts is typically played as a series of hands. Between hands, scores are tallied and the cards are sorted and given back to the players or teams that played them. After the cards are returned, the decks are shuffled and set up for the next hand and the process is repeated until a player wins.

During a hand, players do not take turns: instead, they play simultaneously, and may play cards onto one another's Lake cards. There are four areas that a player or team uses: the Lake, the River, the Stream, and the Nerts pile.[8] The Lake is the central area, used to score points, which any player or team may use by building suited piles in ascending order without doubles. The River is a 4-columned personal area that a player or team uses by cascading and/or playing cards from columns of alternating color and descending order (like the tableau piles in Solitaire). The Stream is a pile that is continually flipped (usually in groups of three cards at a time) in search of cards to play into the Lake or River. The Nerts pile is a 13-card pile that players try to get rid of cards from one at a time, from the top of the pile, into available Lake or River destinations. The first player or team to successfully get rid of their Nerts pile calls or shouts "Nerts". Once "Nerts" is called all play for that hand stops.

In a hand, players or teams earn points determined by a formula using the number of cards played into the Lake subtracted by twice the number of cards remaining in the Nerts pile. Awarding 10-point bonuses to players or teams that call Nerts is a fairly common practice. Generally a game is played to a set score like 100 points, in which case players will play as many hands as needed until a winner emerges. Sometimes the endgame condition is when the difference between the highest score and the lowest score exceeds some value, such as 100. On occasion, players keep tallies of games won instead of adding hand scores and then use the tallies to determine a winner. It is also common for players or teams to receive negative hand and game scores.


United States[edit]

In the USA the National Nertz Association website has published an "Official Nertz Rulebook".[6] Pagat, the leading card game website, has also posted rules for the game of Nerts. Not every Nerts player plays by exactly the same rules, so when playing with others, one may notice some elements of this game such as the terms, game-play, scoring, set-up, shuffling and dealing procedure, and penalty procedure may be different.

Commercial versions[edit]

Nerts-inspired retail game sets include Ligretto, Dutch Blitz, Solitaire Frenzy, Wackee Six, Nay Jay! and Perpetual Commotion, sharing the same basic elements with some differences.[6] All games have piles that players race to get rid of as the hand objective, and use more than 54 cards. They all have both communal and personal areas, all use the same-suit (or color), ascending builds for Lake piles and the alternating-suit (or color) builds for River Piles. They are all also played in real-time.

Electronic Nerts[edit]

The first known electronic Nerts game was Nertz! The Card Game by John Ronnander and Majicsoft for the Atari ST system and was released for purchase in 1995.[9] It was capable linking nine Atari systems for a large human multiplayer experience and also had an option in which two players could play on a single system. Since then many others have produced electronic Nerts-style games in an attempt to bring the Nerts experience to consoles, PCs, and mobile apps. The first Nerts game offered to PC's was eNerts released in 2000 by John Drake. One could purchase and download this game for the Windows OS from the eNerts website. eNerts offered users matches against AI opponents with adjustable difficulty settings. In 2007 Solitaire Showdown was added to the list of free games available to play on Windows Live Messenger (then MSN Messenger). To play this game one would challenge a friend from their messenger friend list to a heads-up match.

In 2008, (or AOL Games) added a free online Nerts game called Solitaire Race to their list of games. In this game one could play up to four human or computer opponents. In the same year, two other Nerts PC games, available as software, were released which were Nertz Solitaire and Nerts High Speed Card Game. Nertz Solitaire was a game based on the NERTZ LLC decks using squirrel characters as opponents. This PC game only offered AI opponents and was available for download and purchase online only. Nerts High Speed Card Game was also available for download and purchase online only but this game offered both human and AI opponent capabilities.[5] This game was developed by John Ronnander, the same person who released the first electronic Nerts game in 1995.

In January 2021, Zachtronics released a version of Nerts, NERTS! Online, on Steam, which is based on an internal version developed over the previous year. [10]

Nerts apps for mobile devices also exist.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Parlett 2008, p. 544.
  2. ^ Punch 1933, p. 20.
  3. ^ a b Breen 1934, p. 71.
  4. ^ The Atlantic Monthly 1963, p. 72.
  5. ^ a b c d Nerts / Pounce / Racing Demon at Retrieve 27 Dec 2019.
  6. ^ a b c NNA: Nertz History. Blogspot. 2010.
  7. ^ "Canfield" (p.198) in Hoyle's Rules of Games (3rd edition) by Philip D. Morehead (ed.), 2001. ISBN 0-451-20484-0
  8. ^ Heart of the Matter Online NERTZ! A Fun Family Game, 2010.
  9. ^ NNA: Nertz Products of the Past. Blogspot. 2010.
  10. ^ Machkovech, Zach. "Nerts! is the free, pleasant six-player card game we could all use right now". Ars Technica. Retrieved 13 February 2021.


  • Breen, Mary J. (1934). Partners in Play: Recreation for Young Men and Young Women Together. National Recreation Association, A.S. Barnes.
  • Parlett, David (2008). The Penguin Book of Card Games, Penguin, London. ISBN 978-0-141-03787-5

External links[edit]