How to play Nerts

By Contributing Writer

Nerts is a game that has been around for about 20 years. It may be fairly new but is about as fun and entertaining as card games come. Read on to find out how to play.

Before Play

Give each player a deck of cards. If you have five people playing, you need five decks of cards. It helps if each deck is visibly unique from the others, so that the decks are easily separated after games.

Shuffle your deck of cards and place four cards face up in a row (called the "train") in front of you. Have everyone do the same. All players then count out 13 cards and place them in a stack, face up, slightly off to the side. The remainder of the cards are used to count off by 3s as you would playing solitaire. Therefore, they should be face down while in the players' hands. The players should also be in a circle with nothing set in the center area between (called the "pot").

Remember the object of Nerts before you begin: to be the first player to empty her 13-card stack and shout out "Nerts!" You do not have to play all the cards in your hand; those are there to keep the game going and help to play all the 13 cards beside you.After someone has won a game of Nerts, he earns an "N." After two games won, he progresses to "Ne." It takes winning five games to win a match of Nerts.

Playing Nerts

Begin playing the game by moving cards about or flipping through your hand cards. This is one of the unique things about this game: there is no set or specific rule on how to begin; someone (anyone) simply starts it, and everyone else follows along. Naturally, however, the game cannot begin until everyone is ready and has all their cards situated. Beyond that, begin when desired.

Use the "train" to play your cards. The object of the game is to play all of the 13-card stack beside you, one at a time, from top to bottom. You do this by adding them to the pot--or center area--or adding them to your train. You must never have more than four cards in your train. However, you can play or combine some of these cards into columns like in solitaire (descending with alternate colors, such as an 8 of diamonds with a 7 of clubs underneath, followed by a 6 of hearts). When you have fewer than four cards, you must add a card or cards to keep the row at four cards. Thus you can play down your 13-card stack.

Dominate the pot. Like solitaire, the pot is for the aces and full suits counting up from ace (ace, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, jack, queen, king). But with Nerts, you have more people playing the pot. Everyone can play off any of the stacks in the pot. For example, if Player 1 places an ace in the pot, Player 3 can place a 2 of the same suit on top of that, and Player 1 or 4 can place the 3 of the same suit. And the whole while everyone is trying to play off their 13-card stacks at the same time! If two players both place a card on a stack in the pot at the same time, then the player whose card is on the bottom gets to keep it there.

Flip through your hand cards. You go through these by picking out every third card, like in solitaire. You can place these cards in the pot or on the train, but not in the 13-card stack (why would you want to?). Use the hand cards wisely. If you can move a train card or one from the 13-card stack, do it. The hand cards are there to keep the game moving and to give you more options.

Shout "Nerts!" when you run out your 13-card stack. You must shout "Nerts!" immediately lest someone else notice and shout "Nerts!" before you, thus disqualifying you because you didn't speak up. Play continues until another player runs down her 13-card stack and shouts "Nerts!"The winner of the game receives an "N." Then the decks are collected, shuffled and laid out for another game. The match is complete when a player wins five games, or when "Nerts" is spelled out by one of the players.