How to Play Shithead the Card Game – Game Rules

OBJECTIVE OF SHITHEAD: Don’t be the last player (the shithead) to get rid of all the cards.

NUMBER OF PLAYERS: 2-5 players

NUMBER OF CARDS: 52-card decks

RANK OF CARDS: 2,A,K,Q,J,10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2 (2s are high and low)

TYPE OF GAME: Beating/Shedding



Shithead is known by many names, most commonly Palace, China Hand, Karma, and Ten-Two Slide. The game is believed to have Scandinavian origins due to it’s similarities to the game Vändtia (“turn ten”). It also bears relation to the Finnish game Paskahousu (“shit pants”). This game has spread across the world since the 20th century from young backpackers traversing the earth with a deck of cards.


The first dealer is selected at random, the responsibility passes clockwise after each hand.

  1. The dealer passes each player three cards, face-down, in a row.
  2. The dealer then places three cards, face-up, on top of each player’s face-down cards.
  3. The dealer deals each player a three card hand, face-down, one card at a time.

Cards the remain from the draw pile or the stock. Players pick up their three card hands and look their cards.

Before play begins, players may exchange cards in their hand for their face-up cards. Players may not look at their face-down cards until they are played.


The first player is the player who receives a three face-up. If there is not a 3 face-up, the first player to declare they have a three in hand is the first player. If there are no 3s dealt, repeat with four (and so on).

The first player starts the discard pile. Start the discard by placing any number of cards of the same rank face-up in a pile. Draw cards from the stock to maintain a three card hand. Play passes clockwise.

Players must play a single card or a set of cards of equal rank by placing them face-up on the discard pile on their turn (and subsequently drawing cards from the stock). The cards played must be equal or higher ranking than the card previously played. Play continues around the table until someone is unable to beat the previous play.

It is essential to maintain three cards in hand. If the stock is running low, draw as many cards as you can. Once the stock is completely dry, play continues as normal but players are unable to replenish their hands.

If it is your turn and you are unable or unwilling to play, you must collect all the cards from the discard and add these cards to your hand. If you pick up the discard your turn is finished, the player to your left starts the new discard pile. Play resumes as normal.

You can only play with the cards in hand as long as you have cards in hand. Once your hand is dry (and so is the stock) may you use your cards on the table.

Twos, Tens, & Clearing the Pile

Any card may be played on a two, and twos may be played on any card.

Tens can be played on any turn no matter the top card of the discard pile. If a ten is played, the discard is removed, and the player who played the ten gets another turn. They must start a new discard with any card equal or greater than the 10.

If a player is able to complete a full set of four cards (four cards of equal rank are played or three cards of equal rank are played on top if the fourth card of equal rank) the discard is cleared from play. That player has another and starts the discard with a card or set of cards of higher rank.


Face-up Cards

If you start your turn with an empty hand because the stock is dry, you may use your face-up cards to play. If you are unable or unwilling to play with a face-up card, take one and add it to the discard before collecting the whole pile. The next player starts a new discard pile. You cannot play from your table cards until you get rid of all the cards in your hand.

Face-down Cards

Once you have played all cards in hand and all your face-up cards, play your face-down cards blindly. On your turn, flip a face-down card onto the discard. If the card is playable, as in it is equal or higher rank than the previous card played, your turn is over and play passes on. If the card is not playable, after placing it on the discard you collect the pile, including your face-down card. The next discard is started by the player to your left. You must play all the cards in hand before flipping your next face-down card.

Empty Hand

Once you have gotten rid of all your cards- cards in hand and on the table- you have avoided losing the game. You drop out of the game. The game continues until all but one player has dropped out- that player is the loser or the shithead. This player must either deal the next hand or “make tea,” which can be anything that benefits the comfort or well-being of the group.



This game can accommodate 6 players if jokers are used. Jokers may be played at any time and they reverse the direction of the play. Jokers are not wildcards and can not be played with other cards.

Dealing Variation

A commonly used method of dealing is as follows:

  • Deal a row of three cards, face-down, to each player
  • Deal six cards, face-up, to each player

Players select which three cards out of the six they want in hand and on the table.

Play for Winner

This game can be played to find a winner as opposed to a loser. The first play who drops out (plays all their cards) is the winner. To add fun to this variation, continue playing until the game produces a loser. Let the winner punish the loser (keep it fun and friendly!). Perhaps the loser must “make tea” for the winner alone, for example, grab the winner a fresh beer or rub their shoulders. Loser still deals the next hand.


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