Low-life is also a card game that some people, including my friends and I, play during particularly boring segments of high school. It is well suited to this as--unlike Spades or the like, in which a goal score is played to--a group of people can play for any amount of time.


For four players.

The basic idea of the game is to get rid of your hand. The first person to "go out" in a certain round is the "King"; the second, "Queen"; the third is "Mid"; and the person who does not empty their hand is "Low". These ranks come into play when dealing/setting up for a round.


The deck is the standard 52 cards.
The rank of cards is as such (high to low):
In addition, the suits are ranked (high to low):
Hearts, Diamonds, Spades, Clubs

Thus, the 2 of Hearts is the highest ranking card in the game.


Dealing happens in two ways, depending on if the round to be played is the first or not.
If it is the first, the entire deck is dealt equally among the four players, and the game begins.
If other rounds have been played, then the deck is dealt in order to reward the previous round's better players and to punish that round's poorer players. There are probably other ways to do this with the same result, but I'll be describing the exact procedure I'm familiar with. You first deal out 1, 2, 3, and 4 cards into what will become the King, Queen, Mid, and Low's hands, respectively. Then, starting with the King pile, deal one card, moving then to the Queen, then Mid, then Low. You then deal in the opposite order, starting on low. The gist of this is that you'll be dealing to king queen mid low low mid queen king king queen mid low low and so on until the deck is dealt. If all goes well, the last card should fall on the queen stack, making the queen and mid have equal sized hands. The exact sizes work out to be:
  • King: 12
  • Queen: 13
  • Mid: 13
  • Low: 14
Again, this is just the method I use to deal, and any way should work so long as the hands work out to be the above size.


After the first round has been played and players have ranks, every round thereafter has trading. Low players gives King player their three highest cards, and King gives low any three cards. Similarly, Mid passes their two highest cards to Queen, who then passes any two cards to Mid. Note that should your highest card be part of a four of a kind (a bomb), you don't need to give it up (use your next highest card not in the four of a kind). More on bombs will be revealed later.

Types of plays

There are three basic ways you can play cards:
  • A single card
  • Two or Three of a single card rank
  • A straight of several cards from the same suit (minimum 3)
  • A straight of several pairs or triples, with at least one common suit (minimum 3 card ranks). An example: Three of clubs, three of hearts, four of diamonds, four of hearts, five of spades, five of hearts. In that, the hearts is the common suit. Notice that the other ranks may vary.

In addition, a bomb (four of a kind) can be played.


To start off, one of two things happens. If it is the first round, whoever has the 3 of Clubs (the lowest ranking card) goes first and must play something involving it. If the players have ranks, Low goes first, playing anything.
Once a trick has started, players then go in order (arbitrary for the first round, low-mid-queen-king for other rounds) playing something better than what the previous player played. You cannot change the type of play they have made, you are only allowed to make a play of greater card rank. For example, if the player before you played a single four of hearts, you must also play a single card, one with a greater rank. If two sevens are played, you must play a pair of cards that rank higher than sevens. If a straight is played, you must play a straight with an equal number of cards. Note that when determining rank, both number and suit are considered. For example, if a three of clubs is played, you could play any other three on it and it would be legal (remember that clubs is the lowest ranked suit). This does not carry between numbers, however--an 8 of clubs can be played on a 7 of hearts.
But what about bombs? Well, I told you I'd get to them. A bomb (four of a kind) can be played on anything. A bomb "trumps" everything, excluding a bomb of higher value. Bombs ignore the rule that says you must stay in the same type of play as the previous player--you can bomb a single, a double, a triple, a straight, a double straight, even a triple straight. They are the best thing that you can play.
A trick continues until all but one player passes. After King has played, it goes back to Low, then mid, etc. If a player passes, just skip them, and continue on in the order. (e.g.: mid has passed, and it has gone around back to low again. Low plays, and since mid passed, play continues to queen.)
So what happens when you can't play on what another player has set down? Well, you pass. You can pass even when you don't have to, saving your cards for later. Once you have passed on a trick, you can't play on it again. As I said, once everyone but one player has passed, the trick is over and the person who did not pass wins it. Set the played cards aside. The winner of the trick then starts a new one, with whatever play they want.

Going out

As you're playing these, your hands will get smaller. The first person to completely empty their hand has won themselves King position for the next round. The next person who goes out gets Queen. The next person to go out gets Mid, and the round is over. The player who did not empty their hand gets low.

So who really "wins"?

Well, as we play it at school, whoever is king when the bell rings "won" that day's games. However, I have an idea about how one would keep score to get a better picture of overall performance. Assign point values to each position (such as 3 for king, 2 for queen, 1 for mid, and 0 for low) and keep track. Whoever has the highest score when you're done wins. This is just a suggestion, and I don't know how well it would work out.

Well, that's about it. Remember to save those 2's for the final few tricks of a hand... and use those bombs to grab control of the new trick and deny someone from going out before you!

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