How to Play the Card Game Indian Chief

Indian Chief is a unique card game which was first described online in early 2009, submitted by Stven Carlberg. It is named and themed after an American nursery rhyme and hand-clapping song. Despite the name and theme, however, it should not be mistaken for a children's game and can be highly entertaining for any group of card players.

Indian Chief

Rich Man, Poor Man,
Beggar Man, Thief,
Doctor, Lawyer,
Indian Chief

Indian Chief is designed to be played by two or three players, using one standard 52 card deck. See the variations section below for the changes to the rules to accommodate additional players. A special score-sheet is used for this game and can be architected using a paper and pencil. One player, usually the dealer, is elected to keep score for each player during the hand.

Before play begins, the first dealer should be determined. Any method can be used to determine this, with drawing for high card a common method. Seating positions can also be drawn for, with the highest card having the first choice of seat, the second highest card the next choice and so on until all players are seated at the table.

Once the first dealer is determined, he thoroughly shuffles the deck and offers it to the player at his right to cut. After the cut, the dealer then begins dealing the cards one at a time and face down in a clockwise rotation around the table, beginning with the player at his immediate left. He continues dealing until each player has eight total cards. He then places the remainder of the face down deck in the center of the table as the draw pile. The deal rotates around the table in a clockwise direction from game to game.

ScoreSheet for Indian Chief Card Game ScoreSheet: As mentioned above, this game requires a special scoresheet to assist in recording the scores for the player. This scoresheet can easily be created on lined paper, by creating one horizontal row for each of the 7 meld scoring categories and one vertical column for labeling the score types and one for each participant in the game. We have provided a printable, sample such scoresheet. Click this link for a printable version of a score-sheet designed to be used for this game.

Once the initial cards are dealt, the players then examine their eight cards which make up their hands and determine which of the seven possible "melds" they intend to play during this deal. Each player should then place all cards that will make up their meld face down in front of themselves. Once all players have done so, at a signal from the dealer, all players then expose (turn face-up) all the cards used for their meld. The players, of course, attempt to form a meld with his card played corresponding to one of the seven possible melds in the hand. Since the game continues for exactly seven hands, each meld type is used once and exactly once. Each possible meld consists of a specific number of cards, so it is clear which meld the player is attempting to score for. If the cards played do not fulfill the criteria for the meld corresponding to the same number of cards, the player scores 0 for that meld type. A player may never attempt to score for a category in which he has already scored during the current hand. Through the card of seven hands a player must attempt to play each type of meld. However, he may attempt to play to each category in any order.

If a player plays a combination of cards that does not fulfill the criteria to the meld type he elects to play, he then records and scores a 0 for that meld category for the hand. Once a meld type is scored for (no matter what the actual score earned for the meld is) by a player, that same player may not again record or earn a score in that meld combination during the current hand.

For purposes of scoring, each rank of card in the deck has a specific scoring value which will be used in determining potential points earned when using this card in a meld. The following chart shows the possible scoring value of each rank of card in the deck:
CardPoint value
2 to 10Numeric value marked on the card
Jack, Queen, King10
Note that although the 10, Jack, Queen and King all count as 10 points, each is considered a separate rank of card. In other words, Kings are considered a different rank than Jacks.

The following list details all possible meld types, the number of cards involved in the meld, and the potential scoring value for that meld: After each hand, the dealer then replenishes each player's hand to eight cards. If a player played the thief and elected to steal a card from the table, he will not receive any replacement cards during this hand since he will already have eight cards in hand. After each player has received his replacement cards, the melded cards from the table are then all gathered together and shuffled with the remainder of the stock to create a new stock pile. After this procedure the players then examine their hands and select the appropriate cards and number of cards for the next meld type they intend to play for the next hand.

The game continues for exactly seven rounds or hands. After the seven rounds have been played, each player should have recorded a score in each meld category. The scores should be totaled, and the player with the highest score is declared the winner of the game.


Variations and Optional Rules

Double Deck Indian Chief: Indian Chief is often played with two standard 52 card decks shuffled together. This is usually done to increase the number of players which can participate in the game, up to a maximum of eight. Although not strictly necessary, it is best if the two decks used have the same back design.

The only difference between this game and the standard game as described above, is that with two decks, during the Indian Chief round, the potential exists for a player to get five cards of the exact same rank (five of a Kind). This hand scores 50 points if played as part of the Indian Chief meld. In all other aspects Double Deck Indian Chief is played the same as the version described above.

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