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. This list does not encompass terms that are specific to one game.

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

Terms in this glossary (unlike those above) should apply to a wide range of card games.



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]


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[5]


  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


to attempt to deceive one's opponent(s) about the value of cards in one's hand[6]
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.
See draw



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[7]


A hand with no trumps.[1]


One of the four suits in a French pack of cards.[3] Symbol:

compendium game

A game in which a number of different contracts is played in succession e.g. Hearts, Barbu (card game), Quodlibet and Michigan Rummy.[8]


an agreement to play a certain type of game, to win a certain number of points or tricks in a hand, round or game.[5]


  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;[9] 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.


To divide the deck into two parts; usually after shuffling. Cards may also be cut to determine who deals or which suit is trumps.[9]



  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.[10]


The opponents of the declarer(s) in games like Bridge or Skat.[3]


The rank of a card e.g. 2, 3, 4, etc.[11]


Another name for the rank 2 cards (see rank, below)


One of the four suits in a French pack of cards.[3] Symbol:


To remove cards from one's hand, often with the intention that such cards will no longer belong to oneself. Usually done with less desirable cards in an attempt to make room for more desirable cards, or when changing strategies for what cards one is attempting to collect.

discard pile

the pile of cards already rejected by players.[9]


Only two cards of the same suit in the hand.[10]


A card that is dealt face down. Also facedown.
To take a card from the stock.[9] Also 'buy' e.g. in Rummy.[12]



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.


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.[9] Also upcard.[13]

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 withdraw or surrender the current hand or game.[3]

follow suit

To play a card of the led suit.[5]


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.



  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).


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.



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



Onlooker at a card game.[14]


See rank, below


Additional cards dealt face down in some card games.


lay off

To add cards to another player's melds or combinations.[3]


To play the first card of the trick.[3]


One of the four suits in a German pack of cards. Symbol: Bay gras.png



Euchre term, from the German Marsch or Durchmarsch. To win every trick in a deal. The same as slam.


a top trump, sometimes with special privileges.[15] However, in some games such as Skwitz, it is not a trump but a bonus-earning card


Any scoring combination of cards announced, shown or played, e.g. three of a kind or a sequence of three or more cards.[11]

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:[15]
  1. to avoid taking tricks or
  2. to lose every trick (as in bettel or misère)


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[15]


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) or value overcall (bid to win more card points e.g. in Binokel)[15]


To take more tricks than bid or contracted[15]



A complete set of cards. A double deck may be used (i.e. 104/108 instead of 52/54)


A whole game, especially at Piquet, consisting of several hands or deals[15]


  1. In bidding games, to make no bid
  2. In vying games to pass the privilege of betting first
A complete set of cards. A double deck may be used (i.e. 104/108 instead of 52/54)


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.[16]


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.[16]

plain suit

Any suit that is not a trump suit
  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[12] or another name for #forehand or #eldest hand.[17]


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.[18]
  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.



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.[18]


To play a card of a different suit from the led suit. May be legal or not, depending on the rules.[18]


To fail to follow suit when able to do so and the rules require it. Normally incurs a penalty.[18]

R.F.G. pile

"Remove From Game" pile; a discard pile for cards which will not be used in subsequent rounds.


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. bid, play), inclusive.


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


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.


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.


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.


rearrange (a deck of cards) by sliding the cards over each other quickly.(verb)
an act of shuffling a deck of cards. (noun)


Holding of only one card of a suit.[5]


winning every trick. Sometimes called a 'grand slam', with a 'little slam' being every trick bar one.[18] Also called a 'march' (e.g. Euchre), 'mord' (e.g. Brandle and Grasobern), 'durch' or 'durchmarsch' (e.g. Skat and Schafkopf) in some games.


  1. A hand contract.
  2. A contract played alone against the combined efforts of all other players.[18]


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.[19]


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).


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. Same as stock.[19]


The Three of any suit. Also 'three-spot'.[5]


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.[19]


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.[20] Also under-force, under-play or sous-forcer.[21]


See underforce


  1. A card laid on the table face-up.
  2. The top card of a pile, turned face up.[16]



See rank


Having no card of a given suit.[19]



A pile of discards or cards that a player is unable to play


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.[19]

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.


  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. ^ a b c d e Galt, David. Card Game Glossary at Retrieved 11 August 2018.
  6. ^ Golick 1998, p. 120.
  7. ^ Le Briscan at Retrieved 11 Jan 2019.
  8. ^ Parlett 2008.
  9. ^ a b c d e Golick 1998, p. 121.
  10. ^ a b Parlett 2008, p. 643.
  11. ^ a b Moss 1995, p. 95.
  12. ^ a b Rummy Glossary at Retrieved 29 Nov 2019.
  13. ^ Parlett 2008, p. 648.
  14. ^ Parlett 2008, p. xxv.
  15. ^ a b c d e f Parlett 2008, p. 644.
  16. ^ a b c Arnold 2011.
  17. ^ The Language of Cards at Retrieved 29 Nov 2019.
  18. ^ a b c d e f Parlett 2008, p. 645.
  19. ^ a b c d e Parlett 2008, p. 646.
  20. ^ Crawley 1866, p. 103.
  21. ^ Walker 1838, p. 31.


  • 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.
  • 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 978-0-8069-3847-1 Parameter error in {{ISBN}}: Invalid ISBN.
  • 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.