Table Of Contents
- Basic Play
- Miscellaneous Rules And Notes
- Other Stuff
This page has nothing to do with Egypt,
rodents, or screws. It describes the rules for a somewhat unusual
card game, or at least attempts to describe the rules as
I know them.
Egyptian Ratscrew is an unusual, extremely fast-paced game
vaguely reminiscent of slapjack, spit, speed, stress, nurse, etc. for
two or more players. It can get pretty hot. Anyone can play, but
to be good requires quick thinking, fast reflexes, and tough hands.
You will need:
- A standard deck of 52 cards
- A sturdy playing surface
- Lighter fluid or other fire starter.
First shuffle the deck seven times. This is because there is some
mathematical folklore to the effect that this is a good way to
ensure a totally randomized deck (I thought it was six but a couple alert players told me otherwise). Then divide the deck into
approximately equal stacks, one for each player. When this is done,
each player may grab a stack, with the dealer taking the remaining
stack. Each player should hold their stack face down in one hand
without looking at its contents.
The goal is to get all the cards. Then you win.
Assuming players have situated themselves in some orderly fashion,
the player to the left of the dealer plays her top card face up
on the playing surface where everyone can reach it. Note that cards
must be played such that the player cannot see it before the other
players and have an unfair advantage. The wise players also takes care
to take their hand off of a played card as quickly as possible to
avoid injury and let play continue quickly and smoothly.
If the card played is a number card (2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9, or 10), the next
player clockwise plays a card on top of the previously played cards
and play continues around the table until a letter card (ace, king,
queen, or jack) is played. Depending on the letter card played, the
next player has a fixed number of chances to play another letter card.
For an ace, there are four chances, three for a king, two for a
queen, and one for a jack. If the player fails to play a face card,
the previous player (the one who played the face card) picks up the
pile and places it on the bottom of her stack and play begins again
with her. Otherwise, play continues with the next player. Here are
some example sequences:
Now the next player must play up to two cards:
Now the player who played the queen takes the deck and continues play.
The next player has three chances...
...and he plays a face card after two. The following
player now has four chances...
...and she manages to play a jack. The next player has but
...and fails. The player of the jack picks up the pile and
(the fun part)
Occassionally in play, people (not limited to current players!)
can try to "slap" the pile. This can be an actual slap, a subtle
tap, a quick sweep, or even a full-force hammer-fist(keep in mind
that payback is fair). For instance, if the two top-most cards
form a pair -
- then anyone may attempt to be the first to slap the pile. Whoever
slaps the pile first picks it up and restarts play. If they were not
previously in the game, they now enter the game and determine their
position in the order of play. Sometimes it may be difficult to
determine who slapped the pile first, as there may be tangled
fingers, a broken table, or sometimes blood(players may consider
instituting a "no rings" policy). If an impartial judge is not
available, play should continue as though the pair did not occur.
Other "slappable" combinations include triples (only occurring
when people fail to slap pairs) -
- which will result in you instantly winning the game. But beware
of slapping triple sixes -
- which results in everyone losing, and mandates that the deck be
completely burned by midnight and that no one else can play
Ratscrew until the next day. This isn't superstition, this is
For added confusion, you may also slap four-in-a-row such as
or even sequences that go around the corner such as
for which you may pick up the pile and continue play as for pairs.
if a player slaps incorrectly (whether accidentally or
intentionally), the player who most recently played a card picks
up the pile and continues play, unless a player slaps his own card,
in which case the player before him picks up the pile and plays. For
instance, if a pair occurs, and a player plays a card on top of it
before another player manages to slap the pair, and instead slaps
something that is not a pair -
- then the player who played the 3 in this case would get to pick
up the pile. Also note that if someone who is not in the game slaps
something that is not a pair, triple, or a run, they are ignored
and play continues as usual.
- If a player picks up cards they didn't win and this is
noticed before he puts them on the bottom of his deck, he
has to return them. Shame on him for trying to cheat.
- If this is noticed after he puts them in his deck but
before play goes around the table once, he must split his
deck in half and let the cheated player take his choice.
Shame on him for cheating.
- If this goes unnoticed before play goes around once,
the cards are rightfully his. Good going!
- If a player incorrectly slaps more than five consecutive
cards, they are out of the game. This is to prevent excessive
stalling when a player only has a few cards left.
- Players should make all reasonable effort to keep
cards in the order played when picking up piles.
- If a player reveals their next card before it is their
turn to play, they must set it aside face up where other
players can slap it. When it is time to play the card, any
player can then place it on the pile. If the card is then
"slappable," then it can be considered already played and
players can attempt to slap it without moving it to the pile.
This rule is extended to multiple cards.
- If a player plays a card accidently, it is ignored and
set aside as above even in the case where it would otherwise
- It is perfectly legal to drop a card in order to slap
the pile. If it is revealed in the process, it is treated
- If a player "hovers over the pile" in preparation to slap,
it is fair to slap their hand down on the pile. This is then
treated as though they slapped the pile accidentally.
- If you play with someone else's cards it is considered
courteous to warn them that there is an outside chance you
may be required to burn them.
- If the game is played with jokers (intentionally or
accidentally), jokers can always be slapped.
- If you are statistically-minded, some effective
strategies might present themselves. A good memory will
always beat a fast hand.
- If the game is completely out of control and no one
seems to be playing any cards below a nine,
you may be using a pinochle deck.
- There's probably stuff I've forgotten to put here, but
that doesn't mean it's not a rule. I'm not just making this
up, really. Check the notes page below for variations.
Ratscrew Notes - notes collected from messages I've received
And some information about those spiffy card graphics