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How To Play The Card Game Knaves

Updated on December 12, 2014

Knaves is a simple traditional card game for three players. It is sort of a cross between Whist and Black Lady. It is a trick-taking card game played with a trump suit, and you try to avoid taking certain cards in tricks. In Knaves, you try to avoid taking the Knaves (the Jacks).

Game Rules

To play Knaves, seat the players around a table, and write the players' names across the top of a sheet of paper to record the scores. Shuffle a deck of playing cards. Then each player takes a card. The player with the high card (Two low, Ace high) becomes the first dealer. If two or three players have cards with the same high rank, those players continue to take cards until one player has the high card.

The dealer shuffles the cards, and then deals the cards face-down, one at a time, clockwise around the table beginning with the player to his or her left. Keep dealing until each player has 17 cards and only one card remains. The remaining card determines the trump suit for the hand. The dealer shows this card to everyone, and lays it aside. Then the players start playing a series of tricks.


The player to the left of the dealer plays the first card to a trick by laying a card face-up on the table. Each of the other players moving clockwise around the table lays a card face-up with the same suit as the first card played if possible. Otherwise a player can play any card.

The trick is won by the highest card with the trump suit. If none of the cards has the trump suit, the trick is won by the highest card of the suit that was first played. The player who played the winning card takes the cards in the trick and lays them near her or his place at the table. That player then plays the first card to the next trick.

End Of Hand

When all of the tricks have been played, each player counts the number of tricks he or she has won, adding this count to any previous score. Then each player looks for Jacks taken in tricks, and subtracts the following from her or his score:

- 4 points for the Jack of Hearts
- 3 points for the Jack of Diamonds
- 2 points for the Jack of Clubs
- 1 point for the Jack of Spades

A players score can be less than zero.

If none of the players has scored 20 or more points, the game continues. The player to the left of the dealer becomes the new dealer. The new dealer collects the card, shuffles them, and deals the next hand.


If a player has 20 or more points at the end of a hand, the player with the highest score wins the game.


Knaves can be played by four players. For each hand, one player deals the cards to the other three players, and those three players play the hand. After each hand, the deal passes clockwise to the next player. The game can be won after each fourth deal, after 4 hands have been played, 8 hands have been played, 12 hands have been played, etc.


I like Knaves. It is one of the only traditional games that is played by just three players.


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