Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Rules for Garbage

When Matt was a little kid, he and his family used to play this card game called "Garbage" with his grandma. It's basically a mash-up of a whole bunch of other card (and not-card) games, and I had the privilege of learning how to play it when we were visiting his aunt and uncle in Chicago.

Now, apparently they had written the rules down once upon a time, but couldn't remember all of them until we were in the middle of playing the game, so I wanted to write them down for posterity, and also in case any of ya'll want to have a crazy game night. :) While they were trying to remember the rules, we found that there are a lot of different versions of this game online, but this is the one Matt grew up with. Garbage probably works best with at least three or four players.

What you need:
Two decks of cards
Poker chips (pennies would also work)
At least three or four players

There are five phases in the game, and the card decks need to be kept separate from each other. One is the "playing" deck and the other is the "dealer" deck.

You assign someone to be the dealer. After you've gone through all five phases, the person to the left of the dealer becomes the new dealer.

Each person gets an equal amount of poker chips. In our case, we just said that all chips are worth $1, regardless of color. You have to put one poker chip in the middle as your ante to begin.

Phase 1: Red or Black
Before the dealer starts dealing one of the decks of cards, the person to his left makes a bet as to whether his or her cards are going to be mostly red or mostly black. He or she can bet any amount of chips. The dealer then deals that person five cards in a row, with no "burned" cards. If the recipient wins the bet, the dealer has to match the bet, but if the recipient loses, the dealer receives the bet money.

This is repeated for every player until everyone has five cards. The dealer deals him/herself five cards, but does not place any bets. Each player keeps their five cards as their hand for the remainder of the round.

Three or more black cards = black hand. Three red cards = red hand.

Phase 2: Poker
With everyone's cards face-up on the table, the next phase is to determine who has the best poker hand from their existing cards. The winner gets the pot in the center of the table.

Pair of twos is a better poker hand than aces high.

Phase 3: Bingo
With the same hand face-up on the table, the dealer now uses the second deck of cards to play Bingo. The dealer flips over the top card on the new deck. If any player has that number in the five cards in front of him/her, that player (including the dealer) puts a chip on top of that card. If the same number is called again, another chip is placed on the same card. The dealer continues flipping cards until a player has chips on all five of their cards. At that point, the player shouts "Bingo!" and any players who don't have Bingo have to give the winner all the chips that were on top of their cards. If more than one person calls Bingo at the same time, they split the chips.

All five cards have a chip on them. Bingo!

Phase 4: "Putsies Takesies"
Still using the second deck of cards (the dealer has not shuffled the cards used for Bingo back in, unless you're running out of cards), the dealer counts from 1 to 5 while flipping over five cards. Whatever the first card's number is, anyone who has a card with that number has to put one poker chip into the pot in the middle. The second card, players put two chips in the middle if they have the number. And so on and so forth, until players are putting in five chips at a time. (If a player has more than one of a number that's called, he or she has to put in the allotted amount of chips for each card.)

Next, the dealer counts backwards from 5 to 1, but this time, the players remove the allotted amount for any cards they have. If the players run out of chips to take from the pot, the dealer has to make up the deficit. If there are chips remaining after the dealer gets back down to 1, the dealer gets to keep the surplus.

Phase 5: Up and Down
The dealer still hasn't shuffled the cards, unless the deck is running out. The dealer counts "Ace, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, Jack, Queen, King" while flipping over a card for each count. If the card matches the number the dealer says, it is set aside — however many cards are set aside when the dealer is done counting is how many chips the dealer then owes each player. Then, the dealer counts backwards, "King, Queen, Jack, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, Ace," and again, if any match, those are set aside. The number of cards is how many chips the other players owe the dealer.

After all five phases are complete, the round is done, and the player on the left becomes the dealer. If you run out of chips, you're out of the game (although we just kept passing chips around so everyone could keep playing, which is also fun).

Have you ever played Garbage? What games did your family play as a kid?


  1. We are huge card game people in my family, although this one is new to me!

  2. So growing up we loved to play games with both of our extended families. My hubby and I have 9 kids and we love to play games together. I was telling the kids this morning about this game we used to play growing up. I couldn't remember all the components and I told them my grandparents probably made it up. But I googled it just in case. I came across a ton of instructions for a card name called garbage and was at the last link when I found yours. I can't believe 1- I found it and 2- it was actually a real game that someone else played. :0 Thanks for sharing. This brings back some amazing memories!!! I wonder if your husband's family played Scat??? That was another favorite in our family and one we play all summer by the pool with our kids. Kat

    1. You're welcome! I'm so glad I could help. I will have to ask about Scat, I hadn't heard of that one either!

  3. I have been looking for this game rules for a very long time! Played it with my mom's cousin and loved it as kids!