What is Pairs?

Pairs is a "New Classic Pub Game." It uses a simple triangular deck of cards: that's 1x1, 2x2, 3x3, and so on all the way to 10x10. There are many ways to play, but here are the basic rules:

Pairs is a simple press-your-luck game. Players take turns taking cards, trying not to get a pair. If you get a pair, you score points (and points are bad). You can also choose to fold, instead of taking a card, and score the lowest card in play. Folding gets you some points, but catching a pair could get you even more.

Pairs doesn't have a winner, just a loser. The first player to reach a target score loses, and the target score depends on the number of players. For example, with 4 players, the loser is the first player to 16 points.

There are a dozen different Pairs decks, most with their own game variants. You can also download the "Pairs Companion," a PDF containing more than 20 different games for the Pairs deck!

Pairs: Fruit Deck

Rules Clarification: We use the word "stack" to describe someone's collection of cards, rather than "hand," since you aren't holding them in your hand. This leads some new players to believe that only the top card of each stack is in play, meaning (mostly) that you can only pair your most recent card. It also technically implies that only the top cards are available for folding, though we haven't actually seen that question yet.

Unfortunately, if you have this impression, the current printed rules don't really contradict it. But in fact, you can catch a pair with any card in your stack, not just the top card, and all cards are available for folding. We'll be sure to make this more clear the next time we print the game.

Trivia: Why did we choose "six" instead of "6" in the core deck? Because so often, you have to read the cards upside-down. Different decks use different solutions, but the fruit deck seemed to play best with this spelled-out solution. You'll note that casinos usually spell out both "six" and "nine" on craps layouts, to prevent all confusion. Since we're just making sure they aren't a match, we like using "9" instead of "nine."

Copyright © 2014 James Ernest and Hip Pocket Games