Playing cards is fun, winning even more so. For a long time, we have believed that winning card games simply boiled down to luck, but luck is certainly a factor that does not guarantee consistent winning streaks. There are tried and tested skills anyone can learn and practice to boost their chances of winning any card game more frequently. In this article, we have collected and presented sixteen skills you can employ and practice to win most card games.
Most of the below-mentioned skills are highly intertwined and dependent on one another, but to truly understand this complex cluster, we have broken it down into as many individual pieces as possible to help you better understand the elementals of what makes a good card player.
16 skills you need to be great at card games:
1. Logic and Comprehension
A significant number of card games that exist today feature a lot of text. Therefore, reading and interpreting both card texts and core rules correctly is vital to play better. The better understanding you have of the core rules and individual card uses, the better you know how to use them to your advantage, which opens up a broader umbrella of moves and plays you can make during the course of the game.
Having previous experience with different card games and basic logic can undoubtedly help understand how exactly these elements work in the context of one another. If, however, some confusion persists, core rules should help clear it up.
2. Card Knowledge and Memorization
This is naturally easier for some people, but anyone can learn it. The key is to familiarize yourself with the deck as much as possible. This will enable you to better estimate which cards are still in stock based on the ones that have already been played and the ones you have in your hand.
As the game progresses, the options will narrow down, which will give you considerable information on how the game can progress and help you select your following moves. You need not remember all of the card text by heart; simply memorizing keywords and card functions can go a long way.
Many card games employ a considerable amount of simple math, so being able to perform simple calculations in your head as quickly as possible can free up your mind to ponder more complicated stratagems of play.
“Experience is the mother of knowledge” – Nicholas Breton. It applies to most things, card games included. Playing more card games will passively, often without you even realizing, equip you with the knowledge and skills necessary to win.
You may play a lot of a single card game until you truly learn all the ‘ins and outs’ of it to the point where luck is truly the only thing standing between you and the winning hand. Or you may choose to play a lot of diverse card games until you instinctively get familiar with overarching principles that will help you quickly pick up and win at any new card game someone brings to the table.
People can also learn from others’ experiences. While watching others play doesn’t guarantee you will learn all you need at such a deep level, combined with playing yourself can help you speed up the learning process.
5. General Intelligence
Intelligence can be defined as the “global capacity of the individual to act purposefully, think rationally, and deal effectively with their environment” – David Wechsler. While no official studies confirmed a link between greater IQ score and successfully playing card games, a lot of card game professionals like to claim that general intelligence is a necessary trait for those who wish to partake and win.
Intelligence is a complex beast. However, the fact that it has been boiled down to a three-digit number has been challenged in many spheres of science for quite a while now. But rest assured, you don’t need a Ph.D. or a Mensa membership card to be a successful card player. All of the traits associated with intelligence and winning card games can be exercised, primarily by playing more card games.
6. Social Skills / Intelligence
Social skills can be of great help for many card games. Learning how to read body language and facial expressions can tell you a lot about what someone is thinking.
In a game, when someone is most likely almost entirely focused on the game at hand, it can help you estimate how confident or worried someone is about the cards in their hands. This can help you plan around it (for example, if someone seems confident, you may pay closer attention to them specifically and try to counter the plays they are making).
Conversely, you may use your own body language and facial expressions to mislead other players at the table, otherwise known as ‘bluffing.’ More experienced players account for this and employ it more often, so it does take a lot of experience and practice on both ends to make it effective most of the time.
7. Analytical Skills
Learning how to visualize, conceptualize, and articulate the cards at play can help you win games more often. You may learn and practice these skills by attempting to make decisions based on the information you gather throughout the game.
Certain personality types may be more likely to win card games than others. You may think that personality is comparable to luck as something no one has any control over, but that is simply not true.
Personality traits, just like skills, can be trained. For winning card games, the traits you want include the following: greater self-evaluation, less rumination, and greater emotional control. Generally speaking, training yourself to be calmer and more confident can help you think more clearly and make better plays.
9. Problem Solving
Almost all card games revolve around problem-solving at their core. Most card games you know depend on player input to satisfy a pre-determined win condition if you really think about it.
The problem that each player must solve is the condition they have to meet to win. Luckily for you, your brain has evolved to do exactly that and thrives on succeeding (the reward system of human brains is intrinsically connected to finding solutions for problems), which is why we enjoy playing cards in the first place. In other words, you’re a natural.
Tactical thinking employs a combination of skills and traits we have elaborated on above. It includes a deep and coherent understanding of ‘physical’ game mechanics combined with the social and abstract face of the game for developing a strong foundation you bring to each game upon which you build your moves depending on variable factors as the game progresses.
11. Observational Skills
Observational skills are actually the very foundation of most others we have discussed here. You need to train yourself to observe and process the information you have observed in the most efficient way possible in order to go utilize that information to your advantage.
People often tend to confuse competitive attitude with that of irritability, aggression, and otherwise emotionally inflammatory tendencies, but this is a false dichotomy.
A competitive spirit is not necessarily at odds with sportsmanship. To be competitive in a healthy manner, you simply need to want to win and play your moves with that goal in mind while keeping an understanding that it is just a game at the end of the day and other players are not your personal adversaries.
Having a sound, well-tried strategy (or even better – several) is always beneficial. However, even the most experienced and the most knowledgeable of the players can never fully predict the outcome of a game regardless of how much information they have gathered.
For that reason, training yourself to be comfortable with taking some risks here and there can prove hugely advantageous. With enough knowledge and experience, even risk-taking can become a strategic move
14. Foresight and Improvisation
Learn to plan ahead. This is best done by simply playing more. If you are new to a game, you may only see one or two ways forward at any given time, but as you play more, you’ll see possibilities in your head branch out into several different strategies. The key is to avoid getting stuck on one of them. You must adapt as more are brought to the table and new information is presented.
15. Accepting Inevitable Failure
Regardless of how many sessions of card games you have played, how familiar with mechanics, rules, and strategies you are, even if somehow you manage to make every single one of your moves from a well-informed and well-calculated place, you will lose eventually – it’s just life! Learn to accept this, and don’t let it discourage you from practicing to become a better card player overall!
16. Avoid Result-Oriented Thinking
While all the skills we have elaborated on here can measurably help you win more card games, luck will always remain a factor of cards. That is why you shouldn’t assume that winning inherently means someone played better, and losing doesn’t inherently mean someone played worse. Don’t allow the card game results to become a parameter you judge your or other players’ skills. Don’t take it personally.
There is no single formula or a set of skills that can guarantee anyone will win any card game one hundred percent of the time, but that does not mean training yourself to win more is futile.
Developing skills such as the ones we have described here can potentially increase your chances of winning more often. Moreover, plenty of these skills are widely applicable outside of card games and can be essential tools for improving your everyday life quality.