Card Games – 21

Here’s a game to play which helps your mental maths skills too!  It’s a simple card game called 21.  All you need is a pack of playing cards and at least two people.  Shuffle the cards and deal out two cards to each person.  The idea is to make the number 21 by adding up the value of your cards.

Cards are worth their number value except for picture cards (king, queen, jack) which are worth 10, and aces which can be worth 1 or 11, the player can decide.

When each player has looked at their cards and added them up they can ask the dealer to “twist” which means deal them one more card, or stick which means they’re happy with their cards and don’t want any more.  You can keep “twisting” (getting one more card from the dealer) up to a maximum of 5 cards.  If a players cards add up to more than 21 then they are “bust” and out of the game.

At the end of the game (when everyone has either stuck or is bust) you all show your cards to see who has won.  The winner is the person who gets closest to 21 or gets 21.  If you get 21 from 5 cards it’s called a 5 card trick and beats everything else!


Here’s an example of how to play:

Imagine you’re dealt a 6 and a 2, this gives you 8 (since 6 + 2 = 8).  You are no where near 21 so you’ll probably want to twist (get another card).



You got a jack which is a picture card so it’s worth 10.  You now have 18 (since 6 + 2 + 10 = 18)

You are now getting quite close to 21 so you could stick (stop getting cards) and you could win the game if the rest of the players aren’t as close to 21 as you.  Of course you could risk it and twist again?


card games - 21 bust










Ah – bad call – you got a 5 so you are bust as you went over 21 (since 6 + 2 + 10 + 5 = 23) and are out of the game!

card games - 21 winning hand










It could’ve been a win if you had got a 3 (6 + 2 + 10 + 3 = 21)!

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