Osel is a Slovenian card game, similar to the more common game Spoons with a few twists thrown in. It is the most strategically interesting card game I know, besides Cribbage and Hearts. It was taught to me by a real, honest-to-goodness Slovene who could do a mean Arnold impression. According to him, "Osel" means "Donkey" in Slovenian

Any number of people can play, from 3 to as many as can comfortably fit in a tightish circle. The center of play is the "slapping area"; ideally a stool of some sort, but a book or some other flat object would also work. Everyone should be able to reach the slapping area without much effort.


  • The deck should consist of 4 cards for each player plus a Joker (or Ace if there aren't any Jokers). The cards must all match, and should count down from Kings. For example, a deck with 3 players should have a Joker and 4 Kings, 4 Queens, and 4 Jacks. A deck for 5 players should have a Joker, 4 Kings, 4 Queens, 4 Jacks, 4 10s, and 4 9s.
  • The game proceeds in rounds. The loser of each round gets a letter in the word "Osel". O-S-E-L. When a player obtains all 4 letters, they become a donkey and should be coerced to do something embarrassing. This player is eliminated from the game. Play continues until only 2 people remain. When a player is eliminated, the 4 lowest matching cards are removed from the deck.
  • Each round, the dealer should shuffle the deck and deal the cards counter-clockwise. Everybody should have 4 cards, except for the person to the left of the dealer, who should have 5. The player with 5 cards is the active player.
  • Whoever has the Joker should turn it around, facing outwards, so that everyone knows where it is. The joker should never be concealed.
  • Each turn, the active player passes a card of their choosing to the player to their left, thus giving them 5 cards and making them the new active player.
  • When a player has 4 cards of the same rank (4 kings for example), they may slap their hand down in the center, although not necessarily as soon as possible. They have "won" the round and will deal the next round. All other players must slap their hands down on top of the winner's as quickly as they can. The last player to slap loses the round, and gets a letter. There is no scoring difference between the the winner and the other non-losers. The winner must of course show the 4 matching cards.
  • A player who receives the Joker must not pass it immediately, and must wait until their next turn to pass it off. Obviously, nobody with the Joker can have four of a kind.
  • For obvious reasons, all players who don't have 4 of a kind are forbidden from making sudden movements or touching the slapping area until a player has slapped down. They must also keep their slapping hand behind their cards.


Obviously, you should try to obtain 4 of a kind if you can. However, if you can predict when someone else will slap down, you have a better chance of not losing.

If you play the game enough, you will discover the secret. It's all about communication and what isn't forbidden by the rules.

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