Joker is not difficult to play, but beware that this trick-taking card game will test your tactic skills and strategic thinking. Learn how it’s played with my Joker rules guide.
Joker is a fast-paced, intensely competitive card game for 4 players trying to guess how many tricks they’ll win and collecting points.
It shares similarities with other trick-taking card games like Tarneeb (see Tarneeb rules) or Whist (see Whist card game rules), but it also has a few distinctive features that might surprise you.
Key highlights of this Joker rules guide:
- What is Joker
- Joker Rules
- Joker Scoring
- Joker Rules in Pictures
- How to play Joker (Video tutorial)
Continue reading and learn how to play Joker in simple steps.
What is Joker?
Joker is a trick-taking card game that requires players to predict how many tricks they’ll win during the game. Players collect points both for winning tricks and making accurate guesses.
Number of Players: 4
Length of Play: 30-45 minutes
Type of Game: Trick-taking card game
Similar to: Tarneeb, Oh Hell, Whist
Main Objective: Players earn as many points as possible through winning tricks and predicting their accomplishments throughout the game.
Our Take: Joker doesn’t necessarily reward players for how good they are. Even losing the game intentionally can be a smart tactic here, making Joker an excitingly unique game.
What You’ll Need to Play Joker
To play Joker, you’ll only need the following:
- Decks: 1
- Number of Cards: 36
- Cards Omitted: 5’s, 4’s, 3’s, 2’s, and the red 6’s
The game is played clockwise, with each player playing individually, one turn at a time. First, start by preparing your deck and dealing the cards.
Set Up & Deal
As mentioned above, Joker is played with 36 cards. So before you start playing, sort out all of the 5’s, 4’s, 3’s, 2’s, and the red 6’s from your deck, setting them aside.
You will need the 2 Jokers, which replace the two red 6’s.
Each game of Joker has 4 sets with 24 hands in total; each varying in the number of cards each player receives:
- 1st set:
- 8 hands
- With each hand, the number of cards each player receives increases by 1, starting with 1 card.
Example: In 1st hand, players get 1 card each; in 2nd hand, players get 2 cards each…in 8th hand, players get 8 cards each, etc.
- 2nd set:
- 4 hands
- 9 cards are dealt to each player in every hand.
- 3rd set:
- 8 hands
- With each hand, the number of cards each player receives decreases by 1, starting with 8 cards.
Example: In 1st hand, players get 8 cards each; in 2nd hand, players get 7 cards each…in 8th hand, players get 1 card each, etc.
- 4th set:
- 4 hands
- 9 cards are dealt to each player in every hand.
Before the game properly begins, players must place their bids, starting with the player to the dealer’s left and continuing clockwise.
Players bid on the number of hands they’ll win out of the 8 or 4 hands played in each set.
A player can pass by announcing 0 tricks. Payers cannot match the bid to the number of hands they play in that set.
Write down everyone’s bids so you can refer back to them in the scoring phase of the game.
Starting the Game
Each hand starts with a player shuffling the deck, and whoever sits to their right cuts it.
The relevant number of cards depends on the set and hand (see above).
The rest of the cards are set aside except the topmost card you turn over; this becomes the trump suit for the hand.
Cards get redealt after every hand, so players must shuffle and cut the deck 24 times throughout the game.
The player to the dealer’s left begins the game with the first set.
How to Play Joker
The starting player must play one of their cards as the lead, followed by the rest attempting to play the trump (if they can).
The trick is won by the player who plays the highest card that also matches the trump card.
If nobody can match the suit of the trump card, then whoever plays the highest value card wins (see ranks of cards in the scoring section).
Example: The suit of Hearts is the trump suit for the round. Player 1 plays Queen of Hearts; Player 2 plays 7 of Hearts; Player 3 plays Jack of Hearts, and Player 4 plays King of Spades. Player 1 wins the trick with the highest-value card of the trump suit.
If a player has the Joker, they can decide whether it’s high or low in value and use it as such.
If the Joker leads the trick and is high, then players ignore the trump suit and play their highest card to win the trick. The players must follow the trump suit if the Joker is low.
Tip: Joker that is high usually wins the trick, and the Joker that is low tends to lose the trick. Still, it can fail if another player plays a Joker in the same trick.
After the 24th hand, the game finishes and moves over to the scoring phase of the game.
Refer to the players’ initial bids, and compare them with the number of tricks each won during the entire 4 sets.
Award the points as follows:
- A player wins the exact number of tricks they bid = 50 points per successful set, plus 50 bonus points.
- Every trick won throughout the game = 10 points
- A player bid to win all the tricks and succeeded = 100 points per successful set.
The player with the most points at the end of the game wins Joker.
Rank of Cards
The order of the cards from the highest to the lowest:
- Ace; King; Queen; Jack; 10; 9; 8; 7; 6.
Joker Rules in Pictures
Joker is played with 36 cards. Sort out all 5’s, 4’s, 3’s, 2’s, and the red 6’s. The Joker cards will replace the missing 6’s.
Joker is played over 4 sets. In 1st set, players complete 8 hands, with the number of their cards increasing from 1 to 8 in each new hand. In 3rd set, the process is the opposite.
In 2nd and 4th sets, players complete 4 hands, always starting with 9 cards each.
When each player receives the adequate number of cards for the given round, turn the topmost card of the remaining deck over to reveal the trump suit.
Players try to win the tricks by playing the highest trump cards. In this case, the Queen of clubs (trump suit) takes the trick.
Players who lead with Joker can decide whether the card will serve as the highest or the lowest card.
How to Play Joker – Video Tutorial
Frequently Asked Questions
Are there any more Joker rules you can add to the game to make it harder?
To make the game of Joker harder, implement a penalty for players who can’t reach their trick target or exceed it. Anyone under or over their trick target gets a 100-point penalty for each trick over/under the target.
Can you play Joker with more or less than 4 players?
The Joker is best played with 4 players, but you can play it with 3, 5, or 6 if you adjust how many hands you play in each set:
- 3 players – 1st and 3rd set has 11 deals rather than 8. 2nd and 4th sets have 3 deals made up of 12 cards.
- 5 players – 1st and 3rd set has 6 deals rather than 8. 2nd and 4th sets have 5 deals made up of 7 cards.
- 6 players – 1st and 3rd set has 5 deals rather than 8. 2nd and 4th sets have 6 deals made up of 6 cards.
Can I still play Joker if I don’t have the Joker cards anymore?
You can still play Joker even without the Joker cards. Simply choose 2 other cards from the discarded pile to use in their place instead.
Other Similar Games to Joker (Our Guides)
If you like Joker, check our guides to a few similar games below: