Shit head is a rather brainless card game. A new player will invariably work out the optimum play algorithm after a few games. An especially geeky or competitive player could gain some advantage by memorising the cards that are picked up or are discarded, but this is rare. The game is usually used to occupy idle hands while their owners devote mental energy to socialising.

Unlike most other card games, the emphasis in shit head is on not losing rather than winning. The last player to get rid of their cards is the "shit head" and the objective is to avoid this over the many repetitive games that are usually played over a session. Multiple losses increase a player's ranking which is may be tracked in many different ways, e.g.

double shithead, triple, quadruple, ...
bronze shithead, silver, gold, platinum, ...
lord shithead, duke, prince, king, emperor, ...
Or any other hierarchy that the players invent.

The rules in full

These are the rules that, in my opinion, make for the best game. Many variations exist as detailed below. It is my personal experience that every group of "shit head" players uses a different set of rules.

Each player is dealt three cards face down in a row plus six extra cards. Of the six, each player must chose three to place face-up on top of their unknown cards. The remaining three cards form their starting hand. All undealt cards are placed in a pile in the middle of the table.

Starting with the player holding the three of spades and moving clockwise, each player must play at least one card into a central pile. Under most circumstances this card must be of equal or greater value to the previously played card. (Aces are high) Should a player's hand drop below three cards while undealt cards remain, the player must pick up undealt card(s) for a hand of three. If a player cannot play any cards they must pick up the pile of played cards.

There are four special cards to watch out for. These may be played on top of any other card.

'Resets' the rising bar - anything beats a two.
An 'invisible' card. The next player must ignore the four and play against the previous card.
The 'limbo dance' card. The player following a nine must play a card of value nine or less.
'Burns' the cards currently in play. They are discarded and the player may play another card.

It is permissible to play more than one card of equal value. If all four cards of a given rank appear together on the pile the whole pile is discarded as if a Ten had been played.

Once all the undealt cards have been picked up each player will eventually exhaust their main hand. They then pick up the three visible cards they laid earlier and carry on. When they have exhausted all their cards the second time they do not pick up the three unknown cards. Instead, each card must be chosen 'blind' in the hope that it will be playable.


This game is also known as asshole, idiot and shitboots. Less offensively, it is reportedly similar to the games pig pile, palace and karma. It has one possible root in the Finnish game Paskahousa ("shitpants") which includes "cheat"-like hidden card bluffing.

Common rule changes include:

  • The Four and Nine cards are not always used.
  • The ranks of the special cards are sometimes changed.
  • The special cards (except Two) can lose their ability to be played over higher ranked cards.
  • Jokers may be dealt, having the effect of reversing the direction of play or skipping a player.
  • Face-up cards can be played straight from the table, while face down cards may be played as soon as they are uncovered.
  • The cards can be dealt for a fixed hand of seven, with leftover cards being ignored.

There is a freeware computer game based on shit head, called shed*. It uses the Seven card in place of Four as the 'invisible' card and has no Nine card equivalent.

* shed is available for windows at

A very good resource for card games may be found at

Some rules variations from lj and from Noung's writeup