View Full Version : Ripoff! - a rather silly card game

Kevin Bonham
01-07-2006, 12:52 AM
This is a card game that was invented by yours truly, so it's got to be pretty strange. What's worse is I invented it in my sleep. More or less. About 13 years ago I had a dream in which I was playing a strange card game I'd never heard of. When I woke up I immediately wrote down all the rules I could remember, and fiddled with them slightly so that it made some sort of sense as a game.

But stranger still is this - Ripoff! is neither a game of pure skill, nor a game that involves any "luck of the draw" whatsoever. Rather it is a game of strategy and mindreading alone. May appeal to bored discrete modellers.

The Deal

Split a whole standard pack in excellent condition between two players. One gets all the red cards, the other gets all the black ones. The joker is not used. Simple!

The Play

On each turn each player places a card face down on the table. The players can take it in turns as to who is the first to place a card down if they wish but it really shouldn't matter (except see note on cheating). After each has done so the two cards are turned over.

The cards are ranked A, K, Q, J, 10 ... 2 (but see below). The player who has played the higher card wins the turn and takes both cards into their hand. Then another turn starts.


A 2 beats an ace.
A 5 beats any of K, Q, J.


There is a pile called the dead card pile, which is initially empty. Every time both players play the same card on a turn, both cards go face down to the top of the dead card pile.


A player who has anticipated an opponent perfectly and beaten an opposing card by one rank (eg A-K, J-10, 4-3) has acheived a "ripoff" - in more ways than one. Quite aside from cheekily winning that turn by one card (which might provoke a cry of "ripped off!"), their opponent must shuffle their hand and the winner of the turn gets to take one card from it.

A 6 beating a 5 is called a "medium ripoff". In this case the winner of the turn gets two cards from the opponent's shuffled hand and the top card from the dead card pile (if available).

A 3 beating a 2 is called a "big ripoff". In this case the winner of the turn gets five cards from the opponent's shuffled hand and the top two cards from the dead card pile (if available - if there's only one card there, you get it). This is frequently more or less fatal to the opponent's chances.

(Note that a 2 beating an ace or a 5 beating a court card do not count as ripoffs. The card won is reward enough.)


If a player completely runs out of cards, the opponent wins.

It is normal to resign once this cannot be avoided with best play.


If both players run out of cards at the same time (every card is in the dead card pile), it's a draw. This is extremely unlikely.


It is immediately obvious that aces are important, but playing them too often to win tricks puts you at risk of losing them as the opponent will wise up to this and play 2s. Ditto with court cards and 5s. However playing the "exception" cards (2s and 5s) too often is even more stupid, since the opponent will wise up to that and obtain medium and big ripoffs. It's tempting to play 6s and 3s for that reason, but the opponent can anticipate that as well ... and so it goes. The ideal strategy seems to involve playing more or less any card at random to start with, but with a heavy skew towards the various more important cards, and aces most often of all, but not too often. The least important cards are probably 4s, 7s and 8s, all of which are sometimes used as cannon fodder.

There are three rather common ways the game ends:

1. One player loses an ace and both their 2s. The other can just play aces until the end of the game and wins automatically.
2. All aces get swapped off. One player has no 5s left and the other has a superiority in court cards (more kings, same kings but more queens, etc)
3. All aces and court cards get swapped off. One player has more tens (or both players have the same number of tens, but one has more nines, etc).

(From this it can be seen that tens are quite important, since the ten is the highest card that can't be beaten by a "lower" card.)


The game is especially prone to cheating with specially marked cards that can be read from the back. Being unknowingly on the receiving end of this is humiliating.


Apart from being basically silly and only involving two players, the biggest limitation of Ripoff! is the incredible size of a player's hand. Each hand starts with 26 cards and while the hands tend to get smaller as cards are swapped into the dead card pile, if a player is winning overwhelmingly they can easily have more than 26 cards. Usually a player decides what card they want to play then goes wading through their huge pile of cards looking for it. Also, constant shuffling is necessary to prevent the opponent from remembering a card as being one you have played before. Would probably work better via computer as an online game with players in different rooms for these reasons.


This had a brief vogue of sorts in the Physics Club at the Uni of Tas in about 1993-4. It never really caught on that much, with so many other and more tried and tested card games about, but it was amusing to sometimes walk into the clubroom and see people playing a game that I had invented while asleep! In all I think about 40 games of it were played there.

Move over, David Bronstein. Not. :uhoh:

01-07-2006, 12:57 AM
Information in. I need to percolate a while.

01-07-2006, 09:37 AM
Kevin, If you haven't seen the film Drowning by Numbers I think you should. Perhaps you should change your handle to Smut. :)

Kevin Bonham
01-07-2006, 02:02 PM
Kevin, If you haven't seen the film Drowning by Numbers I think you should. Perhaps you should change your handle to Smut. :)

I have actually seen it (and numerous other Greenaway films) but so long ago I couldn't remember much and had to look it up to see what you were talking about. Neat.