How To Play Five


Number of Players: 2-6

Requirements: 1 full pack of 52 playing cards. Jokers are optional.

Objective: Earn less points than everybody else, stay away from the score limit.

Set Up

First, agree on a score limit. Every hand, you will earn some points, and those points will be added to your running total. If you set a score limit, of say, 200, players who reach 200 are eliminated and removed from the game. The last player alive wins the game. The larger your score limit, the more hands you need to play to end the game. 


  1. Play a hand. They usually take 2-15 minutes to finish.
  2. At the end of the hand, everyone will have a score. Add that score to a running total for every player
  3. Players who have passed the agreed upon score total are eliminated
  4. The game ends when only 1 person remains — that person is the winner.

Playing a Hand

At the beginning of every hand, every player is dealt 5 cards. Don’t let other players see your hand! 1 card is placed facing up in the middle (this is the discard pile), and the remaining cards are placed faced down in a deck next to the discard pile. Players take turns playing until the round ends, rotating in a circular fashion so that every player has 1 chance to play before the lap restarts. 

Every turn, you have a choice to either play, or end the hand. You can't do both.

Playing Your Turn

Your score for your hand is calculated by adding up the total value of the cards in your hand. As a result, your goal for every turn should be to either to replace a high value card with a lower value card, or else reduce the total number of cards in your hand. Every turn, you will gain 1 new card, and lose at least 1 card — picking which cards to lose and gain are a key part of strategy in Five. All cards are worth from 0 - 10 points, and you can never have more than 5 in your hand at a time.

  1. Look at the card at the top of the discard pile. If you want the card, remove it, but do not add it to your hand yet.
  2. Drop 1-4 cards from your hand and add them to the discard pile.
  3. If you removed a card in step one, add it to your hand. If not, remove the top card from the deck and add it to your hand.

Dropping Multiple Cards

You can only drop multiple cards if they are the same symbol (i.e three kings, two 7s, four 2s, etc.). This means that, unless you have cards with the same symbol, you can only drop a single card on most turns.

Tips for Playing Your Turn

  • Get rid of high value cards first. Face cards and 10s should be replaced with cards of lower value as soon as possible
  • Don’t be afraid to add points if it means losing more points even later. Dropping multiple cards reduces your total possible score, so if you have say, a 9 and a king, it might make sense to drop the 9 and pickup a king, because you can get rid of both kings next turn.
  • Don’t always drop multiple cards just because you can. If you drop two 2s are draw a 10 to replace them, you’ll be sad.
  • The card you drop becomes available to the next player — that can sometimes play a role in which card you choose to get rid of.
  • Roughly 30% of the deck is made up of cards worth 10 points, so you’re more likely to draw a higher value card than a lower value one.

Ending The Hand

If you're feeling confident and would rather end the hand, you can do that instead of playing. You need to make this decision before you play, because you can't do both in a single turn. Ending the hand is a declaration that you have the lowest points amongst the players, so only do it when you’re sure. If you end the hand, everybody reveals their cards and counts the total value of their cards:

  • Number cards are worth the number written on them
  • Face cards (King, Queen and Jack) are all worth 10 points
  • Aces are worth 1 point
  • Jokers are worth 0 points

Add up your points, and you should have a score between 0 and 50.

If you ended the game and you were correct about your assumption that you had the lowest number of points, you get 0 for that round, everybody else gets the number of points in their hand. If you were wrong, and somebody else had the lowest number of points, you get a 50 (the maximum possible score), and the person who actually had the lowest gets a 0. This scoring system means a few things:

  • Ending a hand is a risky move, but often a necessary one. If you’re correct, you get a zero while everybody else's score increases, but if you’re wrong, you’ll wind up with the highest possible score. Be cautious.
  • Ties go to the person who didn’t end the hand. You have to have a lower score than anybody else to get the zero. If you ended the hand with a score of say, 10, and somebody else also had a 10, they would get a zero, and you would get a 50.
  • After every hand, at least 1 person will get a zero. At least 1 person will not.

Tips for Ending the Hand

  • Pay attention to how many cards your opponents have. If you’re ending the hand and you have five cards, but one of your opponents have only 1 or 2, it’s unlikely that you have the lowest score. Your 5 cards had better be extremely low in value.
  • Remember that the goal is to have, not a generally low score, just a lower score than everybody else. The more turns that have been taken in a hand, the more time people have had to remove high-value cards, the lower their scores probably are. Ending the hand with a score of “15” right after the hand has started is a pretty good move, but the same score a few turns later is probably unsafe.
  • If you’re playing with jokers, the number of cards in someone’s hand isn’t a good approximation for point value, as they could have several cards that are worth zero.

Ending the Game

After a hand is played, add your points to your respective running total. If you’ve crossed over the score limit, you’ve been eliminated, and the game continues without you. The game ends when only 1 person is left, and everybody else has crossed over the score limit.

Extra Info

  • Take turns with who starts the hand. If you’re playing with four players, should be the first one playing every fourth hand. Going first gives you a very slight advantage (at least for the first few turns), so it’s important that people take turns going first so that the game remains fair
  • If you run out of cards in the deck, take the top card in the discard and place it aside. It will become the beginning of the discard pile. Take the remainder of the discard pile, shuffle it, and place it upside down — it becomes your new deck.
  • The rules of five are easy to learn, but there’s a lot of strategy involved. Pay attention to what other players are doing! You’ll end up with different strategies on whether or not to end the hand based on who you are playing with.

Keeping Score

Take a look at the iOS app I made, specifically for playing five