is a fast-paced card game
of matching and bluffing
played with an ordinary pack of playing cards
and several ordinary kitchen spoons
or various other objects. Spoons is played in multiple rounds and each player's objective is to be the first in the round to have four of a kind
, or to not be the last to grab a spoon. Spoons is most popular among children
, though many adults
play it as well.
Playing the game
To get four of a kind and take a spoon. Once one spoon is taken, everybody attempts to get the remaining spoons.
The game Spoons can be played with 3 to 8 players using a deck of 52 ordinary playing cards
and a number of spoons totaling one fewer than the number of players. The spoons are placed in the center of the table with handles pointing outward so that they may be easily grabbed by any of the players. One person is designated first dealer
and deals four cards to each player. Remaining cards are placed in a pile in front of the dealer to form the draw pile
. The person to the left of the dealer is known as the trash
. Deal passes to the right each round, so that one round's dealer becomes the next round's trash.
Dealer starts the round by drawing a card from the draw pile and adding it in his hand so that he now has five cards. Dealer chooses one of these cards and discards it, passing it face down to the player at his right. That player will pick up the single card discarded by the dealer and discard one card to the player at his right, while dealer draws a new card from the draw pile and discards another card to his right. Gameplay continues thusly with cards being picked up, discarded, and passed counterclockwise
around the table until a card is passed to the trash player. The trash picks up the card passed by the player at his left, but discards it to a discard pile
instead of to the dealer. If the draw pile is depleted, the trash shuffles the discard pile and passes it to the dealer who uses it as the new draw pile.
Each player is trying to make their four cards into a set of four of a kind (four queens, four twos, etc.) by drawing new cards and discarding unused ones. A player should keep the four cards that are most likely to produce a matching set. No player may have more than 5 cards or fewer than 4 cards at any given moment.
As soon as any player has a set of four cards and has discarded to the player on his right, he or she is allowed to take a spoon from the pile in the middle of the table. As soon as any player grabs a spoon from the pile of spoons, any other player is allowed to take a spoon as well. This usually causes a mad grab for spoons leaving one player empty handed. The player who ends the round without a spoon loses that round.
A player losing a round for the first time earns the letter "S
", then at the next loss the letter "P
", and so on gradually spelling out "S-P-O-O-N-S
". When a player has accumulated all six letters in "spoons", they drop out of the game. At that time, the number of spoons used in gameplay is reduced by one. The game continues until only one person remains. That person is the winner. Alternatively, players may be eliminated after one loss and the last remaining person declared the winner for quick games.
- Look at the other players, the spoons, and the cards at the same time.
- Take your spoon secretively, don't make it obvious.
- Faking a spoon grab can cause tension among other players. Remember, though, that it is illegal to actually grab a spoon without four of a kind.
- Before the round begins, decide which spoon you will try to grab when the time comes.
- If there seem to be four of the same cards coming round at a time, take one so that a person collecting can't get a spoon first collecting that type of card.
- Try quickly collecting two of a kind of each kind of card.
- Preemptive Grabbing: No player may grab the first spoon unless they have four of a kind. If someone takes the first spoon without having four of a kind, the situation is usually resolved in one of two ways: Either all the spoons are returned to the middle and gameplay resumes where it was interrupted, or the preemptive spoon grabber loses the round and the cards are re-dealt.
- Running/Physical Contact (optional rule): Grabbing a spoon and running from the table isn't allowed. However if two players are holding the same spoon, a player may move around the table to pull the spoon away, so long as that player is at arm's length of everyone at the table.
- Final Two (optional rule): If there are only two players left in the game, and one of the two people has SPOO, and if the other person gets four of a kind and in their cockiness throws down and reveals their four of a kind without grabbing the spoon, then the other player with the SPOO has the right to grab the spoon before the person who got the four of a kind. The player who has SPOO does not get a letter.
- Bluffing: Bluffing is allowed and sometimes encouraged. Spoons can be reached for at any time so long as the spoon is not actually touched. This can have a distracting effect on one's opponents, or even cause someone to improperly grab a spoon prematurely. (See Preemptive Grabbing above.)
- Eyes on the spoons: Players should be vigilant while playing their cards that all the spoons are accounted for. Sometimes a player can quietly get four of a kind in their hand and slip a spoon away from the pile without anyone noticing. Because players are focused on their own hands, a player getting four of a kind can surreptitiously nab a spoon and card-passing may continue for several seconds while they watch the fun.
- Eyes off the cards: One can conceivably play without ever looking at the cards at all and just pass the discards from left to right, keeping both eyes on the spoons. Often players employing this strategy will look at their cards at the beginning to try to close out as many matching sets as possible by keeping as four cards or different ranks in their hands.
- Sweeping: In some cases, the player that gets four of a kind can reach across the table, grab the far spoon, and "sweep" the remaining spoons across the table. This tactic is generally used to sweep the spoons away from the winning player, leading to more violent mad grabs. However, care must be taken to not sweep them unreasonably outside of the playing zone.
- Getting hit by a spoon: In some cases, one player may get four of a kind and grab a spoon without the other players noticing. If enough time passes, the player who grabbed the spoon may eventually take pity on the "slower" players who don't realize there are spoons missing and throw a spoon at them as a hint.
- No Spoons: It is possible to play this game by players holding their index fingers to their noses or sticking out their tongues instead of using spoons. This method has the advantage of being more discreet than picking up noisy spoons and also prevents any player from having an advantage by sitting closer to the spoons.
- Fork:When you're short on time, try playing to "Fork" or "Forks" instead of "Spoons".
- No Table: It is occasionally easier to play on the floor instead of a table, due to the nature of spoons to slide across and fall off tables. The use of the floor instead of a table is also wise when playing with aggressive players so that neither the table, nor the players, will be damaged.
- Other objects: When playing somewhere where spoons are not obtainable, play is possible with other similar objects, such as pencils, pens, glasses, cups, coins, hats, pots, pans, candy, or any other objects at hand. Spelling rituals may vary as well, with spelling longer or shorter words making for longer or shorter games.
- Levels: Alternatively, levels can be used instead of letters, normally the levels 1 to 5.
- Cutthroat: In some versions, a player can still lose a spoon even when it's in their hand. This can only be prevented by the player touching the spoon to their chest, nose, or some other body part.
- Card Hinting: In some instances of this game, the dealer will tell the rest of the players the bottom 1-4 cards in the deck, so they will know that if they try to collect that number, then the rest of their cards will be at the bottom of the deck.
- Pick-up, Pass: One of the more confusing variations, in which the dealer can orally control how fast the pace is. The dealer (and only the dealer) must say "pick up" before the players can pick up the card passed to them. The dealer must then follow with "pass" allowing players to pass the card they least desire. Failure to keep up with the rhythm (picking up a card before "pick up" has been said) is usually penalized with a letter. Players other than the dealer can bluff by saying "pick up" or "pass" in hopes that other players fall for it; the dealer can bluff by saying "pick up" or "pass" twice in a row. This method is usually used in slower paced games near the beginning of the game; once the dealer speeds up the pace to normal speed, everyone gets hopelessly out of sync.
- No Talking: Further depth can be added to the game by introducing that players can talk to people with the same letters as them, but if they talk to someone with more letters, they automatically jump to that players level. For example, player A and B just have "S", and player C has "SPOO". Players A and B can talk to each other, and player C can say anything to A and B, but if player A talks to player C they will become "SPOO". This can add much enjoyment, especially in large groups, as players on different levels try to trick each other into talking to them, and the conversations start referencing other players in the third person.
- Double Decks: Use two 52 card decks of cards to make the odds of getting a 4 of a kind higher. This can speed up play. This is best when more than 6 players are playing.
- Dealer Call: Instead of the normal 4 of a kind the dealer can call the "trick", that is the dealer calls what cards must be held to "win". The dealer can even change the number of cards held from 4,5, or 6 to make the rounds easier - or more difficult if the "trick" chosen is hard to obtain. Examples of different "tricks" are 3 of a kind + 2 of a kind (full house), all one suit, all one color (these last two are especially good when playing with younger children). Any variation can be used.
- Spoons as a Drinking Game: At the end of each round, the loser must take a drink (depending on the desired length of gameplay, this can range from one reasonably sized sip to one shot to a chugged beer.)
- "Ultimate Spoons" or "Contact Spoons": Place the spoons a good distance away. Ex. at the top of your apartment building or across a pool.
- Pig: A game related to the game spoons, but doesn't require the extra equipment and can be more embarrassing (fingers often end up up the nose instead of aside). The game is played with spoons as normal, but a plastic or styrofoam cup is kept aside. The last person to grab a spoon must grasp the bottom lip of the cup between their teeth as too keep the top half above their nose, like a pig's snout. It is best played with only one cup, that must be shared between the losers. Another way is to stick out your tongue when you get a four of a kind.
- Mystery Spoons: This version requires the spoons to be hidden by a third, neutral, party. Prior to the beginning of the card part of the game, a vague clue as to the location of the spoons is given to the players from the person who hid them. According to the number of players the spoons can be either placed in the same location or separately (each with specific clues). The person which successfully collects four of a kind is given a 15-30 second head start to find the hidden spoons using the clues.
- Eating Spoons: In this version, the loser of each round (person who does not get a spoon) must eat whatever three items the other players can fit into a spoon. The things in the spoon must be told before the person who lost eats them (to make sure he is not allergic to any of the items).
- Tongues: All of the rules are the same for Tongues as they are for Spoons. However, in Tongues, actual objects are never reached for as one would reach for a spoon in Spoons. Instead, the first person to receive four of a kind signifies by sticking his or her tongue out. This adds a new aspect to the game as players must pay attention to their cards as well watch for others to stick out their tongue. This variation can result in players playing for significant periods of time after others receive four of a kind due to that player only paying attention to their own cards and not other players.
- Spank Pankis: A combination of spoons and Speed that involves 2 decks