Esty's Head-To-Head

A card game of skill and ever-changing strategy for two or three players

The game is very simple, yet elegant and very challenging. You play against your opponent and the deck, which have exactly the same cards you have. You want to play the highest card to win each trick, but you cannot win them all. If you play high now your hand will have fewer high cards to play later. If you play much higher than your opponent you are spending too high a card to win the trick. You want to play slightly higher than your opponent, who wants to play slightly higher than you. The strategy changes as you read your opponent's mind and vice versa. If you can guess when your opponent will play high, you can play low so your opponent wins little when he or she wins the trick. A delicate balance.

Object: To have the most points at the end (by taking tricks which contain the most points).

Setup: The deck is separated into suits. Each player picks a suit to play with (in this game suit doesn't matter; just denomination) and one of the remaining suits is thoroughly shuffled and placed in the middle face down. The fourth suit is set aside in the two-player game. Players see their cards.

Play: The top card of the deck is played by turning it face up. Then each player picks a card from his or her hand and plays it face down. When both players have chosen, their cards are exposed together. A player wins all three cards if his or her card is uniquely highest (2,3,...,K,A). The deck wins if it beats or ties the highest card of a player, or if the two player's cards tie. Play continues until all thirteen tricks have been played.

Scoring: At the end players total the points in the tricks they have won and the player with the most points wins. Number cards are worth their number value. Jack is 11, Queen is 12, King is 13 and Ace is 14. Suggestion: Count cards in pairs totaling 20, say 8 and Q = 20, 6 and Ace = 20, etc.

The Game for Three Players is almost identical. Players win tricks if and only if their card is uniquely highest. A variant is to allow players to win their own card if they tie with each other (but not if they tie with the deck).

Created by Warren and Norah Esty

Norah and I created this card game years ago.
Posted 11/25/95.   e-mail