Rules of Shithead

Shithead (in polite company known as ‘Shed’) is a popular game amongst anyone who plays the thing.

In fact it is getting so popular I’m becoming mildly tired of teaching it to people. So here it is! The rules!

Set Up

One Deck will play 4 players. If you have any more players, you will need another deck of cards. Take out Jokers from the deck.

To begin deal out three cards face down to each player in a row like so:

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On top of these deal out another three face up, so that each face down card has one facing upwards on top of it.

Next deal out seven cards to each player to make their hands. If you have four players this will deplete the deck.

If you have less than four or are choosing to use an additional deck, place the remaining cards in a seperate pile face down.

So now, everyone should have three cards face down, three face up and seven in their hands.

Before Play

Before you begin you may exchange any of the face up cards for something that is in your hand for tactical advantage. You may only do this at this stage and there is no other opportunity to do so. Below you will see what cards are desirable.

Do not look at the face down cards.

Aim of the Game

The winner is the first to get rid of all of their cards. Play continues until only one player has cards remaining. That player is the Shithead!


The player holding the 3 of Diamonds starts with that card. If no one holds it, then anyone else with a 3 begins. If no one has a three, then anyone with a 4 starts and so on.

Play begins clockwise.

The first player places their starting card in the centre face up.

Players must place a card which will beat it on top. This usually means a card of higher or equal value.

3 is the lowest, Ace is the highest.

If you have a pair or more of the same card, you may place them all at once.

You can also play a magic card if you have one. These can be placed on to anything and they are detailed below.

When you place a card you usually pick up one more from the deck. You must always have at least seven cards in your hand. If you have less then you pick up.

If the deck is depleted, then you do not need to pick up any more cards.

If when your turn comes around and you have no cards that will beat the card that is showing, you must pick up the entire centre pile. You may then start the pile again with whatever card you wish.

Once the deck is depleted and you have removed all cards from your hand you can move on to the face up cards. Play these as normal, but do not pick them up.

If you have to pick up the centre pile, you must then once more get rid of your hand before going back to the face up cards.

Once the face up cards are gone, you can play the face down ones. The face down ones must not be looked at. You must draw one at random when it becomes your turn. If the randomly drawn card does not beat the centre pile, you must pick up the pile and once more get rid of your hand before going back to the face down cards.

Magic Cards

Remember, Magic Cards can be placed onto anything, including higher cards, lower cards and other magic cards.

2: Restart card – Reduced the number to 2, which means anything (including 3’s) may be placed on top.

7: Glass card – Invisible, the next player must beat whatever is underneath the 7

8: Mirror card – Invisible and changes direction, the rotation becomes anti-clockwise (or clockwise again if it wasn’t before) and the player must beat whatever is underneath the 8. (If there are only two players, the 8’s function is indistinguishable from the 7)

10: Burn card – The 10 and all cards in the pile are ‘burned’ which means that they are removed from the game. The player who placed the 10 may then place whatever they wish.

Four of a Kind: Too Hot to Handle – If there are four of the same value in a pile this works like the 10.

Extreme Rules

For advanced players only.

Once you get the hang of playing the game with normal rules you can move on by adding these further optional rules.

Suit values: You may no longer put down a card of the same number value unless its suit also beats the card. Suit value goes in this order:

Diamonds, Clubs, Hearts, Spades.

So, the 3 of Diamonds is the lowest value card, Ace of Spades the highest.

The Bastard Card: Another magic card, before play, return the Jokers to the pack. If a Joker is played, this forces the next player to pick up the centre pile. The Joker itself is burned.

The Flange Card: If a 9 is played, it can be beaten in any normal way or by a 6.

Other Versions

Many people play this game with many variations on the rules. This is the way I play and always have. It is not necessarily right, but it works.

Quick Recap

  • At the beginning of the game, all players must have three cards face down, three cards face up and seven cards in their hand.
  • Player with lowest card begins.
  • Take turns placing higher cards or magic cards onto centre pile.
  • Until the deck is depleted, players must always have at least seven cards in their hand. If they have six or less, they must take more from the deck.
  • Magic Cards beat anything.
  • The Magic Cards are 2, 7, 8 and 10.
  • If centre pile can not be beaten, it must be picked up. Player who picks up then begins next round.
  • Only when the deck is depleted and the players hand is empty then can use their face up cards.
  • Only when face up cards are all gone players can use face down cards.
  • Face down cards must never be looked at until drawn at random.
  • If a player is forced to pick up the centre pile while at the face up/ face down stages, they must then empty their hand before returning to them.
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