Two-Handed Card Game Rules

By James Bisson
Two-handed card games
playing cards image by Warren Millar from

With a simple deck of playing cards, two people can enjoy hours of amusement. Whether it's a head-to-head poker game, a stirring cribbage match or a dozen hands of war, the two-handed card game is a popular pastime for people of all ages. It helps to know the basic rules for as many games as possible, though most people can get by with a few of the more popular games.


Poker is one of the simplest two-handed card games to learn. In a basic poker game, the object is to form the best five-card hand. Poker features a multitude of variables, making it possible to play several dozen hands with different rules for each game. The standard format sees both players dealt five cards to start with, which is followed by a round of betting. The player with the better hand wins. Some games allow for a one-time exchange of cards, with players permitted to trade in anywhere from one to five cards. Once the replacement cards are dealt, another round of betting is conducted before the players show their hands.


Cribbage is another popular two-handed card game, one which requires a cribbage board to help keep track of scores. Players are dealt six cards each, two of which must be placed into what is called the crib. The dealer draws a starter card which will be used once the hand is done. Each player then takes turns playing card. If someone plays a card that makes the round total 15 or 31, he earns two points. The round cannot exceed 31 points. If neither player can make a play in the round without the total exceeding 31, the last player to play a card is given one point, and the next round begins. Play continues until both players run out of cards. They then add up the points from their hands, with points awarded for pairs, three of a kind, runs of three or more, flushes (if all four cards are of the same suit) and combinations that add up to 15. Both players may use the middle card drawn by the dealer in their four-card hands. The dealer then takes the cards in the crib and adds those points up, also using the middle card. Once the points are tabulated, players move their cribbage pegs along the board. The first player to reach 121 points wins.


War is one of the simpler two-handed card games to learn. Each player begins with 26 cards in their pile. Single cards are played at the same time, with the participant playing the higher card winning the battle and earning both cards as a reward. They are placed in a pile off to the side of the winner's card stack. If there is a tie, the players go to "war." They place three cards face down behind the card they just played, with the fourth card played face up. Whichever player has the higher fourth card wins the war, and takes possession of every card played during that turn. If there is another tie, the players play three more cards face down and turn over a fourth, with the winner capturing every card. The game continues until one player is out of cards.

About the Author

As a reporter/editor with more than a decade of experience dealing with sports on a local, national and international stage - including the Olympics and the Stanley Cup - I offer a great deal of expertise when it comes to anything sports-related