How to play scat /31 card game
This is a simple draw and discard game, suitable for players of all ages. Players have a three card hand and the aim is to collect cards in a single suit worth 31 points or as near as possible to that total.
From 2 to 9 or more people can play. Eric Kent suggests that the game is perhaps best when played with 3 players, but it should also work well with a larger group.
Cards and their value
A standard 52 card deck is used. For scoring hands, the ace is worth 11 points, the kings, queens, and jacks are worth 10, and all other cards are worth their pip value.
The value of a three card hand is calculated by adding up the value of the cards held in any one suit. So if you have three cards of the same suit, you can add up all three. If only two cards are in the same suit you can add those, or use the value of the odd card if it is higher than the sum of the other two. If you have three different suits the value of your hand is the value of the highest card in it. The maximum hand value is 31, consisting of the ace and two ten-point cards in the same suit.
K-8-5: value 23 (sum of all 3 cards)
Q-9-8: value 17 (9 + 8)
A-6-4: value 11 (the ace is worth more than the spades)
J-7-4: value 10 (the jack)
Determine the first dealer in any manner you desire. The deal rotates clockwise with each hand. The cards are shuffled and the dealer deals the cards singly, starting with the player to dealer’s left and continuing clockwise until everyone has a hand of three cards.
The next card is turned face up on the table to start the discard pile, and the remaining undealt cards are placed face down next to it to form the stock. During play, the discard pile is always kept “squared up” so that only the top card is visible and available to be taken.
The player to dealer’s left begins and the turn passes clockwise around the table. A normal turn consists of:
- drawing the top card either from the stock or from the discard pile;
- discarding one card on top of the discard pile.
Note that if you choose to take the top card from the discard pile, it is illegal to discard the same card, leaving the position unchanged. You must keep the card you took and discard one of the cards that was previously in your hand. However, if you draw the top card of the stock, you are free to discard the card that you drew onto the discard pile, leaving your hand unchanged.
If at the start of your turn, you believe that your hand value is at least as high as your opponents can achieve with one more turn, you can knock instead of drawing a card. Knocking ends your turn; you must keep the hand you had at the start of that turn, but each other player gets one final turn to draw and discard. After the player to the knocker’s right has discarded, all players reveal their cards. Each player decides which suit is their point suit, and totals up their cards in that suit.
The player with the lowest hand value loses a life. If there is a tie involving the knocker, the other player(s) lose a life, but the knocker is safe. The knocker loses if his or her score is lower than that of every other player, and in that case the knocker loses two lives. If there is a tie for lowest between two or more players other than the knocker, then both (all) of those players lose a life.
There is just one case where it is possible to pick up your own discard. This happens when there are only two players left in the game and your opponent knocks. The card you discarded just before the knock is still on top of the pile, so it is now available for you to take back if you want it – for example if you had just broken up a suit for tactical reasons you can now restore it.
If after drawing and discarding, or with the cards originally dealt, a player achieves hand value of 31, they show their cards immediately and claim victory. In this case all the other players lose. A player who gets 31 can declare it even after another player has knocked; victory is immediate and all the other players lose. If it happens that two or more players get 31 on the initial deal then all the players other than those with 31 lose.
The normal way of scoring in Scat is that each player begins the game with three pennies. When you lose a life, you have to put one of your pennies into the kitty in the centre of the table. If you knock and lose, having the sole lowest hand, you pay two pennies (if you have that many).
If someone declares 31, all the other players have to put a penny in the kitty. If someone declares 31 after another player has knocked, the knocker just pays one penny, like everyone else.
If you have no money left, having lost all three of your pennies, you are said to be “on the county” (meaning on the dole, on welfare, receiving charity from the county, etc.), or “on your face”. If you lose while on the county, you are out of the game. The game continues until only one player has not been eliminated, and that player is the winner.