Looking for a fun and engaging card game that’s easy to learn and hilariously competitive? Look no further than Shithead, a popular game among backpackers and card game enthusiasts alike. Shithead’s charm lies in its simple rules, fast-paced gameplay, and the hilarious penalty for losing. This guide will navigate you through the rules, strategies, and tips to ensure you avoid being crowned the “Shithead” in your next game session.

What is Shithead Card Game?

Shithead is a card game whose objective is to be the first player to get rid of all your cards. It’s played with a basic 52-card deck and can accommodate 2 to 5 players. The game is known for its easy-to-learn rules and has gained popularity globally as a social card game.

Basic Rules and Setup

Before diving into the game, it’s essential to understand the setup and the core rules.

Number of Players Deck Objective
2-5 Standard 52-card deck Be the first to play all your cards

Setting Up

  • Each player is dealt 3 face-down cards they may not look at (the blind cards), 3 face-up cards placed on top of the blind cards, and 3 hand cards.
  • The remaining deck is placed face down in the center as a draw pile.

How to Play

  1. Players take turns playing higher cards or sets of the same value on the discard pile, starting with the player left of the dealer.
  2. If a player cannot beat the previous card, they must pick up the entire discard pile and it’s the next player’s turn.
  3. Special cards (often 2s, 10s, and sometimes Jokers) have unique abilities like resetting the pile or allowing a player to play a lower card next.
  4. Once a player has no more hand cards, they play from their 3 face-up cards. Once those are gone, they play the face-down cards blindly.
  5. The first player to get rid of all their cards wins. The last player with cards is the “Shithead”.

Strategies to Avoid Being the Shithead

Winning in Shithead isn’t just about luck; it requires strategy. Here are a few tips:

  • Save special cards: Hold onto 2s and 10s for situations where you’ll otherwise need to pick up the pile.
  • Memorize played cards: Knowing what cards have been played can inform your decisions, especially when playing your blind cards.
  • Bluff wisely: While you can’t explicitly lie about your face-down cards, playing them confidently can dissuade others from challenging you.

Variations and House Rules

One of the best aspects of Shithead is how customizable it is. Many plays with variations like “Magic Cards” – special rules for specific cards that add a dynamic twist to the game. For example, making a 7 force the next player to play a lower card or allowing Jokers as wild cards. Before starting, agree on any variations to ensure everyone enjoys the game.


Shithead is an entertaining and engaging card game that’s perfect for gatherings, parties, or casual game nights. By understanding the rules, employing strategy, and adapting to variations, you’ll improve your chances of avoiding the infamous title. Gather your friends, a deck of cards, and start playing – just try not to be the Shithead!