Screw Your Neighbor

One of my favorite pastimes is playing poker with friends. Quite often someone will teach us a new game, we’ll have a great time playing it, then we’ll forget all the rules before we play again. In posting these rules I hope to keep track of some of these games.

Also known as Cuckoo, Screw Your Neighbor is not really poker, but this is a great game, especially with a big group. The game is played in rounds and the deal rotates. The objective is to not have the lowest card at the end of each round. You don’t need to have the highest card, you just don’t want the lowest.

3 to 10 (or more) players. More players will make for longer games.

How to play:

Each player places two equal stakes directly in front of them. The stake can be a quarter, dollar, chip, or whatever folks are comfortable with.

The dealer deals one card face down to each player (starting with the person to their left, as usual.)

Each player looks at their card. Starting with the player to the left of the dealer, each player in turn can either keep their card or trade with the person immediately to their left in hopes of getting a higher card. Aces are always low in this game.

If a player is asked to trade they must, unless they hold a king, at which point they can show the king and block the trade. If a trade is blocked, the player who wanted the trade must keep the card they are holding.

The dealer has the final option trade but must trade against the deck if they decide to.

After the dealer trades the round is done. Everyone must show their card and the player, or players with the lowest ranking cards (aces are always low and suits don’t matter) must place one of their stakes into the pot.

After a player looses twice and has no stakes in front of them they are said to be “on their face.” A player who is on their face can continue to play (and even win) until they loose one more time.

The next round begins with the next player to the left, dealing as above. Play continues until only one player is left in the game. They win, and collect the pot.

Hints: Don’t forget you can block a trade if you’re holding a king.
If you are holding a low card (say a 2) and someone trades with you for a higher card (say a 3) you can rest easy and keep the higher card since you know you don’t have the lowest card on the table.

Variations: If playing with a large number of people (7 or more) we usually do not allow a player to continue after loosing both stakes. This keeps the games a little bit shorter.

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8 thoughts on “Screw Your Neighbor”

  1. I know this game as “Chase the Ace”, which is a strange name since the goal is the opposite.

    We used to play this at family gatherings. The stakes were one nickel, each person had three nickels and after that you were “on your honour” instead of “on your face.” A nickel doesn’t sound like much but when I was eight years old in the seventies and there were fifteen or so people playing this was big money.

    Some years ago I went hiking in Nepal. There were about twenty people gathered round the communal table one night at the village shelter. It was after dinner and we had a few hours to kill before going to bed so I taught everyone how to play. More than half could not speak English but this game is simple enough to do with hand signals and facial expressions. We had a great time. One of the sherpas won and immediately ate his winnings (sixty peanuts).

    So maybe in ten years this will be the national evening pastime in Nepal.

  2. Stephen, thanks for sharing, this is a great story!

    This year at camp I found that some friends I taught this to a couple years ago had gone to playing with four stakes instead of two to make the game last longer with small numbers (3 or 4 players).

    It’s lots of fun no matter how you play it.


  3. We sometimes play with a variation to the game “pairs”, if two or more people all have the same low card the next lowest card loses. If there are more than one set of pairs in the game the lowest “single” card loses. yet another variation is that if the dealer takes off the deck and pulls the same card he has a “pair”. I also like thge idea that if the dealer pulls a king he can’t pass his card.

  4. This sounds like a fun game, but I actually found it looking for a game called “HELP your neighbor.” We used to play it after every big Holiday dinner at my grandmother’s house. I think (remembering back 50 years) that it was played with dice & cards. Can anyone help me?
    Thaks loads!

  5. I’m also trying to find the rules to “Help Your Neighbor”! If anyone knows please email me! Thanks!! I’ve been searching for years! My grandparents used to play it in Pennsylvania.

  6. From what I remember of Help Your Neighbor, each player gets all cards of one suit except the King, 7, and Ace. Therefore, one deck of cards will accommodate four players. The first player shakes two dice in a cup, rolls, and turns over the card corresponding to the number rolled — they roll the dice 3 times. If they roll a seven, their turn is done, regardless of how many rolls they’ve had and put a penny in the center dish, then pass the cup with dice to the player on their left. If they roll a number they already have turned over, the number goes to the player on the left and they turn that card over if the card is still available. If not, the number continues traveling to the next player until it can be turned over. Even if nobody needs the rolled number, the roller continues with his turn until he has rolled 3 times. After the third roll (if no sevens), the player passes the dice cup to the player on his left. It is possible that a roller may roll numbers for other players all three times (hence, Help Your Neighbor) and even win the game for another player. The game is over when a player has turned over all ten of his cards and the winner then gets all the pennies in the dish.

    We used to play this “back in the day” and had one long table set up, therefore, allowing adults to visit and us kids were still entertained. That was before all the electronic gadgets now though.

    Hope this helps.

  7. This was taught to me around 10 years ago at a family reunion by my older cousin when we all gathered around to play cards late at night. We had a blast. He didn’t know though that it was called screw your neighbor, instead he just called it “Neener”! The slight variation on it as well was it was the Queen that blocked and not the King. So, when you had the Queen… you’d flash it and say “Neener!”.
    We had loads of laughs and play it every family reunion.

  8. My bestfriends taought me this name a while ago but we called it “Hate Your Neighbor” So lately we went camping and i forgot how to play it and we were so disappointed because it is such a fun game to play!

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