The card game known as "Cheat" is actually (or has the potential to be) quite complex. Like poker, it can involve the strategic use of bluffing and other mind games. It helps to think mathematically. And therein lies the fun.
Like most card games, Cheat works best with at least three players. Deal out the entire deck between all the players. There are several variations of the role dictating exactly how game play begins, with some players granting that honour to the player on the dealer's left. When I learned to play in high school, the person holding the ace of spades went first, and play then continued in a counter-clockwise manner. Let's say for the sake of this writeup that this is the way the game is being played in a hypothetical showdown.
Players lay down one or more cards in numeric sequence, declaring how many they're playing as they do so. The player with the ace of spades, then, may choose to play the one ace but may play more than one card -- and not all of those cards need to be aces.
So, for instance, let's say the first player puts down the ace of spades and leaves it at that. The next player might not have any twos, but you do not have the option to pass your turn in this game. The second player must put down a card and say it's a two, whether or not it actually is.
If the other players suspect (or know) that the person who just played is lying, any of them can call "cheat!" and the player must reveal the last cards he or she played. If the other players were right to be suspicious and you put down cards other than the ones you were supposed to, you must pick up the cards in the pile and add them to your hand. But if the other players were wrong and you weren't lying, the person who called you a cheater has to pick up those cards.
The winner is the player who gets rid of all of his or her cards first. When playing with a large group, the game may continue after the first player wins to determine the rest of the standings.
There are a variety of ways to customize the game. To make it more challenging, especially with a larger group, consider adding a second deck of cards. You'll be forced to consider the fact that there will be more than four of each card and will have to give it some serious thought before you accuse someone else of cheating.
There is obviously more to this game than meets the eye. The more experienced and advanced Cheat players know how to bluff, goading their opponents into accusing them of cheating when they really aren't in order to increase their chances of winning. This can be as simple as acting overconfident when you put down exactly what you say you're putting down as sort of a double bluff. You want your opponents to be wrong so they end up with more cards while you continue to decrease your numbers.
But there are, of course, more elaborate methods. Somewhat ironically, one of my favourite methods for prevailing at Cheat is to not really cheat at all. It's a common misconception that lying about your cards will help you get rid of them faster. While that might be true if you have particularly cautious opponents, it can also land you a much larger hand that will take even longer to rid yourself of.
When I was in high school, my friends started calling me Grand Cheat Master of the Universe. Here's how that came about:
- After you are dealt your hand, sort it into numeric order. That way you won't have to frantically search if and when you need one of those cards.
- If you end up with all or most of one or more cards (i.e. all the fours, three jacks), resist the temptation to drop them all at once. Hanging on to some of them keeps you safe when the number cycle starts again (back to ace after king) as you'll be safe against accusations of cheating if you play the right card.
- Again, if you end up with multiples, immediately commit those to memory. This will help you later on when one of your opponents claims to have played three sevens when you're holding two in your hand and you already played two earlier.
- Do not call "cheat" on your opponents unless you are extremely certain that it will work out in your favour. While there are certainly situations that can go either way (i.e. you have three sixes and an opponent claims to put down one), certainty is always rewarded while doubt rarely goes unpunished. You do not want to pick up a huge pile of cards because of a hunch gone wrong. Let your other opponents suffer.
- That said, do not hesitate to call "cheat" when you're sure. That's the whole point of this game.
- Always, always try to play the right cards whenever you can. Master bluffers might even want to do so somewhat nervously, as it might entice your opponents into making an accusation, which will work out in your favour if you were honest. Is that sneaky? Absolutely, but the game's called "Cheat" for a reason...
A number of you have noted that this game is also called Bullshit
(among other names). That may be so, but that is not how I learned it. There also seem to be some differences between the game described in that node and the one I'm familiar with.
Years of playing Cheat in high school at lunch.