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How To Have Fun With The Crazy 8s Card Game

The Crazy 8 Card Game is named a bit oddly but is a great game to teach to young card players who are looking for a new challenge. Once young card players have their handle on the wildness of Crazy 8s, they’ll be ready to take on more challenging card games where things can start to get interesting.

In this article, we’ll explain how to play Crazy 8s, who the game is intended for, how it got its name, and offer a few tricks of the crazy trade that will help players find their way to victory. Contrary to its name, Crazy 8s is simple to play, has modest requirements to start, and is a sturdy foundation for a variety of other card games which re-use its core mechanics.

What Do I Need To Play Crazy 8s?

To Play the Crazy 8s Card Game, you’ll need:

  • One standard deck of cards
  • A surface to seat players around
  • Between two and four players
  • A spirit of good sportsmanship

Crazy 8s is a game of chance rather than skill, though incorrect play can cause players to lag behind what their hand is otherwise capable of earning them.

What’s So Crazy About Crazy 8s?

The Crazy Eights card game was originally named after the term that the US military used to dishonorably discharge personnel who had gone insane; this term was called a “Section 8” discharge.

Much like in a real military unit, the objective of each player in Crazy 8s is to get rid of all of their cards, with the “crazies” of other players making the task much more difficult and unpredictable than it would be otherwise.

Crazy Eights as a game has numerous potential origins, with some sources stating that it originated in Venezuela, others that it began in France and with most compelling evidence pointing to its inception in Zimbabwe, though it was first documented in an American published book in the 1930s.

While this backstory isn’t helpful when it comes to learning how to play the game, the players may find it to be entertaining to play along with, depending on their preferences.

Who Is Crazy 8s Intended For?

The Crazy 8 card game is a lot of fun for players from elementary school age to late preteens. While the game may be a bit tough for the youngest to wrap their heads around, it’s a good foundational card game to learn because it has many patterns that are common to other card discarding based games.

Crazy 8s isn’t an educational card game so much as a skill-building card game. Players that are in a game of Crazy 8s need to have an understanding of how to manipulate cards easily, how to organize their cards, and how to keep the rules of the game in their short-term memory so that they don’t discard their cards at an inopportune time.

In reality, the Crazy 8 card game is a few basic card concepts that lump together. These concepts then crop up in many card games like Bartok, Mao, and others. Most players will be ready to move on to these more challenging games after they get a handle on the Crazy Eights card game.

This means that if you can learn the way to play the Crazy 8 card game fluently and speedily, you’ll be able to take the lessons learned and apply them in many other fast paced games which are a bit more interesting and require a bit more skill. So consider Crazy 8s as an entry point to other games rather than as a game in and of itself.    

How Do I Play Crazy 8s?

The rules for how to play the Crazy 8 card game are a bit more complex than other games for children, so if you’re the adjudicator of the game, make sure to explain the rules very clearly and enforce them with a reminder of the proper order of play.

The Crazy 8 card game rules state that the game begins with the deck of cards shuffling by the dealer. Jokers can be removed, or they can stay as a face card. Typically, Jokers leave.

Eight cards are dealt to each player, or if there are only two players, seven cards. Crazy 8s is played with a closed hand for all players, although playing an example round with an open hand may be helpful to teach people during their first game.

The cards that are not dealt are the stack, which sits in the middle of the table. The top card of the stack is turned face up, starting the discard pile, at which point the game begins with the player to the left of the dealer.

The objective of Crazy 8s is to have an empty hand. During a player’s turn, they can discard cards from their hand by matching the rank or the suit with the face-up card on the top of the discard pile. There is no bonus from matching both the rank and the suit of the card on the top of the discard pile.

If a player can’t discard a card in their turn and they don’t have an 8, they must draw cards from the stockpile until they find a card that they can play.

But What About The 8s?

8s are special in Crazy 8s, of course. A player can play an 8 instead of drawing cards when they are unable to discard a card; whenever a player plays an 8, they get to declare the suit of all of the cards that follow the 8 on the top of the discard pile until someone else plays another 8.

The round ends once a player has emptied their hand, and players score how many cards remain in their hand. Face cards count as 10, and all other cards count as their number. All of the scores from all of the players go to the victor as points. It is helpful to have a notepad to keep track of the score.

After subsequent rounds go on, the game eventually ends when one player has accumulated a certain number of points; typically point values scale upward with the number of players that are in the game.

For two players, 100 points is a good starting point for a victory cutoff, whereas for five players 500 points or 300 points may be more appropriate.

What Are Some Game Winning Tricks?

There aren’t any game-winning tricks to Crazy 8s, as it’s mostly an educational game setup for teaching players about discarding based on likeness.

Players should quickly realize that they should discard cards with an eye toward what cards they think their opponent won’t be able to match with a similar discard, but the possibilities of discarding—either likeness in a suit or type—make for counting of cards and statistical methods very difficult.

In larger games, it may be possible to keep track of what other players seem to have in their hand based off of their discards. There still isn’t that much that a player can do with the information aside from discarding their cards carefully with an eye toward maintaining diversity in their hand for as long as possible.

Maintaining diversity in one’s hand is contrary to being able to discard large numbers of cards at once, however, so players will have to work out a balance that allows them to discard many cards without drawing any cards while still being able to respond to 8s played by others.

Wrapping Up The Craziness

Crazy 8s has a few modifications which many people will be familiar with, the most common being Uno. Once players have learned the basic pattern of discarding, drawing, and intuiting their opponent’s hands, they can refine their skills in the variants of Crazy 8s that introduce more rules and restrictions regarding what can be discarded and when.

While Crazy 8s is rarely fiercely competitive, it’s important to retain a positive disposition at all times while playing, especially when playing as an adult teaching the game to a group of children. The winner of each game should celebrate their discarding ability, but the losers should not complain.

If you notice that one player is consistently falling farther and farther behind, it may be helpful to clarify some of the rules that they seem to be stumbling on so that they will perform better in subsequent rounds. A typical round of Crazy 8s can take as little as 10 minutes, but a full game can take up to an hour depending on the point value assigned as the cutoff for victory.

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