How to play Chase the Ace Card Game (aka pass the Ace)

Sometimes known as Cuckoo, Ranter Go Round, or by the somewhat unflattering name of ‘Screw Your Neighbor,’ Chase the Ace is one of the classic card games that everyone has heard of but few know how to play.

That’s where we come in. 

In today’s guide, you’ll not only learn how to play the Chase the Ace card game the way it’s meant to be played, but you’ll also discover why it’s a great alternative to popular card games like Gin Rummy, Poker, and Hearts.

What is Chase the Ace?

Chase the Ace Card Game info Image

A simple game that’s just as fun for entertaining the kids on a rainy afternoon as it is for spicing things up on poker night, Chase the Ace works best as a multiplayer game in which each player tries to stay in the game by making sure they don’t have the lowest-ranked card at the end of each round.

How Many Players? 5 or more

Ages: All ages.

Difficulty: Easy

Main Objective: Avoid having the lowest card at the end of each round.

Why We Love it: Unlike games such as poker that can be a little complicated for beginners, Chase the Ace is incredibly easy to get to grips with. Plus, its unpredictable nature means no two games are ever the same, adding to the excitement of the gameplay.

Related: In Between card game

Equipment Needed to Play Chase the Ace Card Game

Other than a table or other flat surface, there are only two things you’ll need to play:

  • A standard, 52 card deck of cards
  • A stack of tokens or counters to divide. These could be poker chips, pieces of candy, or coins. Each player will need at least three tokens, so for a five-person game, you’ll need 15 tokens. 
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How to Play Chase the Ace: Setting Up

Getting ready to play Chase the Ace couldn’t be simpler. 

First, each player should draw a single card from the deck. Whoever has the highest card is the dealer. In standard games, that player remains the dealer for the whole game, though you might decide to change things up by using the same process to select a new dealer after each round.

However you decide to do it, the dealer’s first job is handing each player three tokens and one card.

The tokens will come into play during the game as the loser of the round must hand in one token. Once all three tokens are gone, they’re out of the game.

Chase the Ace Card Game Rules and Scoring

Once all cards have been dealt, the game starts with the player on the dealer’s left.

Keeping in mind that the aim of the game is to avoid having the lowest numbered card, that player can choose to keep the card they were dealt or swap it with the person to their left.

To do this, they should place the card face down on the table and slide it over to that player, who then picks it up without revealing it to anybody else. They then place their original card down on the table and slide it back to the first player.

From there, each player has the same option to keep their card or swap it with the player to their left. This continues until play reaches the dealer.

At that point, the dealer can choose to keep their own card or swap it with the one on top of the deck of remaining cards. 

Once all players have taken their turn, everyone reveals what card they had by turning it over. The player with the lowest scoring card loses one of their tokens.

That round of the game is then over. To begin a new round, the cards are collected and added to the bottom of the deck. New cards are dealt from the top of the deck. 

Related: 23 Single Player card games

Keeping Score and Winning the Game 

Subsequent rounds are played in exactly the same way as the first one, with players choosing to either stick with the card they have or swap it with the person to the left (or in the dealer’s case, with the card on top of the deck.)

Every round sees the person with the lowest card lose a token. Once a player loses all three of their tokens, they’re out of the game.

Rounds continue until one person is left with one or more tokens remaining. 

That person wins the whole game.

The Rules of Chase the Ace 

Chase the ace card game rules image

As easy as Chase the Ace is, there are few rules you’ll need to remember that will help you to avoid disputes and ensure fair play all around:

  • All players must swap their cards when asked to do so.
  • The one exception to this is if a player is holding a king. In that instance, they do not have to swap their card but do have to turn it over to prove that they have a king.
  • The dealer is not allowed to swap their card for a king. If the dealer opts to swap their card and draws a king from the top of the deck. 
  • Cards are ranked from highest to lowest in the following order:
  • King, Queen, Jack, 10 – 2, Ace.
  • If two players both draw the lowest number, they both lose a token.
  • If only two players are remaining and they tie, their cards are returned and new ones dealt. A new round is played until there’s an eventual winner.

Chase the Ace Frequently Asked Questions: 

Can You Play Chase the Ace With Less Than Five Players?

Technically you can, but it isn’t as much fun and the whole game will be over much quicker. Though you could arguably play Chase the Ace with four or even three players, the dynamic will change. 

Unfortunately, it’s near impossible to play with just two players as you’ll both just end up passing the same card back and forth.

Can Chase the Ace be Played as a Drinking Game?

Absolutely. Simply replace the tokens for shots and have the person with the lowest card take a shot instead. After they’ve downed all three shots, they’re out of the game.

Can Players Look at Their Card Before Deciding to Swap?

Yes. Each player can look at their card before making a decision about how to play.

chase the ace image

An Alternative Version of Chase the Ace 

Though the name Chase the Ace is often given to the game we’ve looked at today, you may hear some people use it to refer to a different version of the game which is traditionally known as Old Maid.

In this version, each player aims to get rid of as many of their cards as possible, and though there is a definite loser, there isn’t a single winner as there is in most card games.

Once all the cards are dealt, each player takes turns offering their face-down hand to the player on their left. That player then takes one card and checks to see if it makes a pair with any of the cards in their hand. If so, they can then discard those cards and offer their hand to the next player. 

If a player is able to successfully make pairs with all of their cards and discard them, they are safe until the next round. 

The twist comes in the fact that, at the beginning of the game, either the ace of clubs will be removed, or a single joker will be added. This creates an uneven number of cards and means that you’ll have at least one card in the deck that can’t be matched. 

If a player is left with an unmatchable card, they ultimately lose the game. 

Since this works well with two players, it’s a great way to play Chase the Ace in smaller groups.

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