The game Presidents and Slaves is a social card game that is great for parties and is dependent on luck as well as some skill and strategy. It is played with anywhere between 4 and 10 people with 6 or 7 people being the ideal number of players. It is played with a 52 card deck and the objective of the game is to get rid of all of your cards as fast as possible. Depending on how fast you get rid of your cards you can earn the title of President, Vice President, Slave or Vice Slave, each of which comes with its own reward or punishment.
Step 1: Dealing the First Round
As you will see in the upcoming steps, the first round is played slightly different than the rest of the rounds. The dealer for the first round is completely arbitrary, if you have some method of choosing a dealer that you are familiar with you may use that, otherwise the dealer for the first hand does not matter. The dealer will deal all of the 52 cards out to the players one at a time starting on the dealers left and going clockwise. Depending on the number of players one or two players might end up with an extra card, but for the first round the cards should be dealt as evenly as possible.
Step 2: Game Play Rules for Round 1
The goal of each round is to get rid of all of your cards as fast as possible, and you do this by beating the card of the person that has laid before you. In order to beat the card that has been laid you must lay a card of higher value. The value of cards ranges from three being the lowest, to Ace being the highest. The next highest value is doubles, ranging from a pair of threes being the lowest, to a pair of aces being the highest, and we use the same range of values for triples and quadruples of each card. For example, every single card will get beaten by every two of a kind, while every two of a kind will get beaten by every three of a kind, with the highest value of cards being four aces.
The suits in this game are irrelevant; this is because if at any time a person lays the same single card as the person previously laid, the person whose turn is next will be skipped. For example, if an eight is laid and is followed by the next person laying an eight, the next person will have to skip their turn.
The two’s are what is called a “clear”, as cards are laid they start to pile up in the middle of the table, and if at any time you cannot beat the card with a card of higher value, you may lay a two which forces the dealer to remove the cards from the table, and allows you to lay another card of your choosing. However a two may not be used to start or end any particular round. If you lay your last card and it is a two, you automatically loose that round and are assessed a penalty that will be discussed later.
Another way to “clear” the cards is by finishing the set of four cards. This means that if at anytime someone lays a card(s) and you have the remaining cards of that value, you may lay those remaining cards at any time to effectively clear the cards. It doesn’t have to be your turn to perform this clear, but all 4 cards must be laid consecutively. For example, if someone lays two nines and you have the other two nines, you may lay those and clear the deck. If someone lays a nine, then someone lays a queen, if you lay the remaining three nines this does NOT clear the cards because they were not laid consecutively. Once the cards have been cleared, the next card is laid by the person who laid the cards that cleared the table.
Step 3: Playing Round 1
Each round starts with the person who has the 3 of clubs, and continues in the clockwise direction. If it is ever your turn and you do not have any card that can beat the card previously laid and are not able to lay a 2, you simply pass to the next person and are unable to get rid of any or your cards. If there is ever a card that is played that no one can beat, the cards are simply cleared by the dealer, and that person is allowed to lay another card(s). The round continues until everyone has laid all of their cards. The first person to lay all of their cards is given the title of President, the second person to lay all of their cards is the Vice President, the second to last person to get rid of their cards is the Vice Slave, and the very last person to get rid of their cards is given the title of Slave. However if anyone uses a two as the last card that they lay, this automatically makes them the Slave, and the person who was going to be Slave will be made Vice Slave. If you are somewhere in the middle in regards to getting rid of your cards you are not given any title for the next round.
Step 4: Playing Rounds 2 and On
The game play for round 2 is basically the same as round 1, but there are a few additional factors that now come into play. The Slave now becomes the dealer, and is able to deal the cards however he/she pleases. This means that the Slave can deal someone as many, or as few cards to any certain person as they please, the cards do not have to be dealt evenly anymore. Once the cards are dealt, the President gets the opportunity to ask for 2 cards from the Slave. The President may ask for whatever card they want and if the Slave doesn’t have it, the President gets to keep asking for cards until they get 2 that they want. Then the President will pick 2 unwanted cards to give back to the Slave. This same transaction of cards occurs between the Vice President and the Vice Slave, but only 1 card is transferred in this case. Since the Slave is now the dealer, they will be responsible for clearing the cards whenever necessary. When a clear is laid, the other players may start counting the number of seconds it takes the Slave to clear the cards. The other players should count using one-thousand-one, one-thousand-two and so on, and if at any time it takes the Slave more than 3 seconds to clear the cards, the Slave will be forced to trade another card with the President. From now on the round will be played the same as the first round starting with the 3 of clubs continuing clockwise until the cards are all laid. Round 1 is basically used to establish the positions, and once they are established every consecutive round will be played just like round 2. There is usually no definite end to this game, but if desired you can play until someone becomes president 3 times or something along those lines.
Step 5: Strategy Tips
It is important to do your best to get rid of all of your lower cards as quickly as possible. As the game progresses it will be increasingly more difficult to play low single cards so it is best to get rid of them as soon as possible.
Using clears can help get rid of the low cards. Since you are able to play a card immediately after you clear, this can be a good strategy to get rid of your lower cards.
When you become the Slave, be careful of trying to give yourself an advantage by dealing yourself too few cards. It’s very easy to get a little unlucky and get stuck with a lot of low single cards. Since you have less cards, the chances of getting pairs of cards become considerably less. Less cards is good but be careful of going overboard and getting stuck with a bad hand.
After you are dealt your cards, putting all pairs together and arranging them from lowest to highest can help you make quick decisions. If a card(s) is laid and you have the remaining cards to perform a clear, you must act quickly before the next person lays. Having your cards in order and ready helps you do this.
If you are President or Vice President, it is ideal when trading cards with the Slave and Vice Slave to either pair up cards that you have singles of, or trade those cards away so as to have as many multiples as possible.
If it is possible to skip the next person by laying the same card that was previously laid, always do so. You don’t want people to get rid of their cards and making someone skip their turn is a small way to help you do that.
If it comes down to you and one other person with cards remaining, look at how many cards they have left. If they only have one or two left and you have more than they have, a good strategy is to play your highest cards first. If the card(s) they have left is high value or a multiple, they are going to beat you anyway, but if it’s a low card, you can play high cards that they can’t beat. This will continually clear the board and allow you to keep laying cards. This is effective because usually the reason the player has this card left is because it’s a low card that they haven’t been able to get rid of. This particular strategy is mostly used in desperation if you have one person to beat and you have more cards than they do. It is somewhat of an advanced strategy and may require some experience to acquire the proper timing.