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How Do I Play the Game of Snap?

By Matt Hubbard
Updated May 23, 2024
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Snap is a matching game, similar to games such as Slapjack and Egyptian Rat War, but with simple play suitable for children. The goal is to be the last player with any cards to play. The game of snap requires a standard deck of cards, but custom Snap decks, often with characters from popular children’s shows or movies, are also available. Two to four players is standard, but the game can be played with more players. Larger groups of players may wish to make a bigger deck by shuffling two or more decks together.

One player deals the cards one at a time into face-down stacks in front of each player. The stacks may not all be even if the number of people playing the game of snap does not go evenly into the number of cards, but they should be as close as possible. Generally, the player to the left of the dealer begins, or it is common to allow the youngest player to go first. Play then proceeds clockwise.

Players leave their stacks of cards face down in front of them. In the simplest version of the game of snap, each player quickly flips the card from the top of his or her stack face up onto a common discard pile. If the card has the same value as the card previously played, such as the previous player played the four of clubs and the current player plays the four of hearts, players must yell out the word “Snap!” The first player who yells “Snap!” gets to take the discard pile, shuffle it together, and place it on the bottom of his or her stack of cards. A player who runs out of cards to flip is out of the game.

More commonly, each player has his or her own discard pile sitting face up. When a player takes his or her turn, he or she quickly flips the top card from the face-up stack to the discard pile. The first player to notice two discard piles with a common value face up and yell “Snap!” gets to take those two piles, shuffle them, and place them on the bottom of his or her face-down pile. In this version of the game of snap, a player who runs out of face-down cards shuffles his or her discard pile and flips it over as a new face-down stack.

In either variation, if two or more players yell “Snap!” at the same time, the disputed cards are set aside in a separate face-up pile, called the "snap pot," with the matching cards on top. If at any time a player plays a card that matches the card on top of the snap pot, the first player to yell “Snap Pot!” adds both the snap pot and the appropriate discard pile to the bottom of his or her face-down stack of cards. If there is a tie in yelling “Snap Pot!” or if another tie occurs before the snap pot is collected, the snap pot simply grows larger to include the cards disputed in the new tie. For too many ties in a game, players can be required to grab a physical prop as they yell “Snap!”, such as the joker or an index card with the label “Snap!” on it.

If a player makes an error, either by yelling “Snap!” when there is no match or by interchanging “Snap!” and “Snap Pot!”, he or she must pay a penalty by immediately giving a face-down card to each player still in the game to put on the bottom of that player's face-down pile, starting with the player on his or her left. If a player runs out of cards, either by not having enough cards to pay a penalty or by losing all of his or her cards to another player’s “Snap!”, then he or she is eliminated.

Once all but one player has been eliminated, the remaining player wins. It is sometimes possible for all likely matches to be locked away in the snap pot; if this should happen, the game is a draw between all surviving players. Otherwise, play continues until there is a winner.

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