How to Play Palace

Palace is a fun and fast-moving card game for 2 to 5 players. It is a favorite among travelers and backpackers, particularly across Europe, and, as a result, is known and played in many countries throughout the world. Due to the games International audience, this game is also known by a wide variety of other names such as Shed, China Hand and Ten-Two Slide.

The game is played using one standard 52 card deck. The ranking of the cards in this deck are as follows (from high to low); 2, Ace, King, Queen, Jack, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3. Two's are considered special cards in this game and thus can really be considered to be high or low.

A number of methods can be used to determine seating positions and first dealer, with drawing for high card a common method. The player drawing the highest card would take the first choice of seats at the table and become the first dealer. The player drawing the next highest takes any of the remaining seats and so on until each player is seated at the table.

Initial layout for the game Palace
Sample initial game layout for the playing of Palace with four participants.
Once the first dealer is determined he would then shuffle and offer the player to his immediate right to cut. After the cut, he then starts the deal. Cards are dealt in a clockwise direction around the table. The dealer would first deal three face down cards in a row in front of each player, one by one. After each player has these first three cards, the dealer would then deal three more cards to each player, placing these cards face-up and directly on top of the first row of three cards in front of the players. The dealer concludes by dealing three more face down cards to each player as his starting hand. He then places the remainder of the pack face down at the center of the table as a draw pile.

The players then pick up their three card hand for examination. After doing this, the players may then exchange cards between the cards in their hand and the face-up cards dealt in front of themselves. They may exchange any of these cards but need not exchange any if they do not want to. They may never exchange any of the originally dealt face-down cards, which remain face down until later in the game.

Once this is completed, play begins. The first player to have a face-up three (in a clockwise direction from the dealer) takes the first turn. If no player shows a three, the first player with a four exposed as one of his face-up cards has the first turn. If no player has a four showing face up, it continues with five and so on until the lowest card is determined, with that player taking the first turn.

The first player may select any card from his hand cards to play. If he has two or three of the same rank he may play all such cards. He places his card or cards to start a pile in the center of the table called the pick up pile. After making his play he draws one or more cards from the stock pile to replenish his hand to three cards. Play then proceeds in a clockwise rotation. Each player in turn, then attempts to play a card or cards to the table that beats the current top card of the pick-up pile. If a player has multiple cards, all of the same denomination, that beat the card, he may play all of them. After a player plays his card (or cards), he draws from the stock pile to replenish his hand to three cards (unless he already has three or more cards in his hand or the discard pile has been depleted in which case he just ends his turn). If a player on his turn is unable to beat the last play to the pick-up pile, he must take the entire pick-up pile into his own hand, which also ends his turn. When this occurs, the next player in a clockwise rotation then starts play again, selecting any denomination card (or cards) of his choice.

During this phase of the game, the players may only play cards from their hand. However, once the draw pile has been depleted and a player has no remaining cards in his hand, that player may begin playing cards from his three face-up cards. These cards are played in the same way as if they were in the player's hand. If the player is forced to take the pick-up pile due to an inability to make a legal play on his turn, he must add the cards to his hand and must again play only from his hand until he again runs out of cards in his hand and may then resume play from his face up cards.

Similarly, once a player has played all three of his face up cards, he may then begin playing with his last three face-down cards. However, these cards are played blind and may not be looked at by the player before playing them. Thus, on his turn, he would simply flip any one of his face down cards. If the card is equal to or higher than the last card played to the pick-up pile, he adds that card to the pick-up pile and the turn moves to the next player. However, if the card is lower than the last play, he must take the face-up card and the rest of the pick-up pile into his hand. He must then resume playing with this hand until he depletes his hand, at which time he may again play any remaining of his face-down cards on his turn.

In addition, there are several special cards or situations that can be played on a player's turn: Once a player completely runs out of cards (from his hand and his cards on the table), he is considered one of the game winners and drops out of the game. The game then continues until all players but one are completely out of cards, with that last player being declared the loser of the game. The loser is usually required to take the role of the dealer on the next game.


Variations and Optional Rules

Additional Special Cards: One of the most common variants used with this game is changing the behavior of the currently used wild cards or giving special attributes to other cards in the deck. The most popular of these changes are as follows:
Palace - Multi-Deck: Palace can also be played using a double deck (two standard 52 card decks shuffled together). This is usually done to allow the game to be played by up to 9 players, but is sometimes done simply to allow a longer game. All rules of this version are identical except that up to 8 cards of the same type could be played on a players turn. When four or more cards of the same rank are played on a players turn, this allows the current player to burn the deck (discard the current play pile to the side) and the same player makes the first play to start a new pick-up pile.

Six Card Hand: In some variations, the initial deal of the hand is performed somewhat differently. The first three cards are dealt identically to the standard game, three cards face down in front of each player which are not used of viewed until later in the game. However, difference arises on the next cards dealt. After the first three face down cards are dealt, the dealer then distributes six more face down card to form each player's hand.

After receiving their hand, the player then select three of these cards to be placed face up on his three face down cards. The remaining three cards are then used as his hand. After the deal, the game itself is played identically to the standard version described above.

No Finishing on a Special Card: In this variant a player is never allowed to, as his last play of the game, end with a ten or two. Thus, if a ten or two is the players only legal play, he must instead take up the current play pile into his hand. In the same way a players last card played may also never be an Ace.

Larger Hands: In games with two to four players, hands containing more cards are sometimes used. In this case, each player receives four face-down cards, four face up cards and a four card hand. At the end of his turn, a player would then draw enough cards from the deck to replenish his hand to four cards (until the stock was exhausted).

Card Exchanges in Spanish Skitgubbe Spanish Skitgubbe: Spanish Skitgubbe is a Swedish version of Palace. This game is significantly different than the popular game simply called Skitgubbe. The rules for standard Skitgubbe can be found at this link. Spanish Skitgubbe is played identically to Palace, as described above, with the following differences: In all other aspects this version is played identically to the standard game of Palace detailed above.

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