How to Play 31

When participating in a monthly card game, frequently the dealer is responsible for choosing a game. At your next poker game, introduce something slightly different than those minor variations of seven card stud that seem to get old after awhile.The game of 31 is a card game that combines gambling from poker as well as the game play of Rummy.


In the game of 31, players do not wager each hand. Instead, to start the game each player puts three stacks of equal value in front of them. This represents the lives the player has the game. Each time he loses a hand, he puts one of his three stacks into the pot in the middle of the table. If a player places all three of his stacks into the middle of the table, he is eliminated from the game.

The Goal and Scoring Your Hand

The goal in each round is to get as close to a total of 31 as possible using your three card hand. All cards are worth their face value, with Aces worth 11 and face cards worth 10 points. The twist in the game of 31 is that you can only total the cards in a single suit in your hand. You can choose any suit you wish. As an example if you have an Ace of spades, 7 of spades and king of hearts in your hand, your total is 18 instead of 25. This is because your point total in spades is 18 and your point total in hearts is 10, you can only use the total in one suit.

Playing The Hand

To start the hand, each player receives three cards face down, which only he can view, similar to hole cards in poker. The dealer then puts the remaining cards in the center of the table and flips the top card face up starting a pile next to the deck. Starting with the player to the left of the dealer, players take turns in order. On your turn you can either draw the top face up card, the top face down card, or knock (which will be discussed later). If you draw a card, you must then discard one card face up onto the face up discard pile.

Winning In 31

If you ever have a total of 31 in one suit using your three cards, you reveal it right away, and the remaining players must each pay one stack into the pot in the middle of the table. The other way to end a round is by knocking. You do this on your turn if you feel your hand’s total is not the lowest at the table. Instead of taking your turn, you say “I knock”. Each of the other players at the table get one final turn. Hands are then revealed, and the player with the lowest score at the table puts one of his stacks into the pot. If two or more players tie for the lowest score, they each put one of their stacks into the pot. The last player to have a stack remaining that’s not in the pot, wins all the chips in the pot.


The game of 31 can take quite awhile for everyone but one player to be eliminated when playing with more than five players. It’s a good game to play to give players an opportunity to eat while waiting for the other players to be eliminated. This is also a good game to play while you are waiting for everyone to arrive for your poker game night, as it can be played with as few as three players.

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