How to Play Smear Card Game

Fernando Meyer


Smear is a captivating trick-taking card game rooted in the tradition of the All Fours family. Popular in the Northern United States, particularly among the German-American communities, Smear offers a unique blend of strategy and luck. This guide will walk you through the rules, gameplay, and strategies to master Smear.

The main goal in Smear is to score 21 victory points before your opponents. Points are earned through various conditions such as capturing specific high-ranking cards, winning tricks, and fulfilling special conditions. Understanding these point-scoring methods is crucial for a winning strategy.

Setting Up the Game

Smear is traditionally played with a standard 54-card deck, including two jokers. For three players, one player plays solo against the other two, who form a temporary team for that round.

Each player receives ten cards, and the rest form a kitty, which remains unused for that round. The dealer shuffles the cards and deals in a clockwise manner, starting with the player to their left. After dealing, players review their hands and prepare for bidding.

Bidding Phase

After dealing, players bid to determine the trump suit. Bidding starts with the player to the left of the dealer. Each player declares the number of tricks they aim to win, starting from one. Bidding continues clockwise, with each player either raising the bid or passing. The highest bidder declares the trump suit and becomes the pitcher.

Pitching and Discarding

The pitcher announces the trump suit and discards four cards from their hand, ensuring none are trump cards if possible. Each player follows suit, discarding four cards to keep six cards in hand. The pitcher then leads the first trick with a trump card.

Playing Tricks

In Smear, players must follow the suit of the lead card if possible. If they can’t follow suit, they may play a trump card. Trump cards always win the trick unless another higher trump card is played. If a player cannot follow suit and doesn’t play a trump card, their card cannot win the trick.

The right to lead rotates clockwise after each trick. Players aim to capture specific high-ranking cards to score points. The game continues until all cards are played, and points are tallied at the end of each round.


Victory points in Smear are awarded based on the following conditions:

  • High: Awarded to the player with the highest trump card played in a trick.
  • Low: Awarded to the player with the lowest trump card played.
  • Jack: Awarded to the player who captures the Jack of Trump.
  • Game: Awarded to the player with the highest cumulative card value from captured tricks. The values are as follows: Tens (10 points), Aces (4 points), Kings (3 points), Queens (2 points), Jacks (1 point), and other cards (0 points).

Additionally, Smear includes special points for:

  • Jick: Awarded for capturing the special Jack (same color as trump suit but different suit).
  • Joker: Awarded for capturing either of the jokers.
  • Trey: Awarded three points for capturing the 3 of trump.

The first team to accumulate 21 points wins the game. If scores are tied at 21 points, the game continues until a team has a higher score at the end of a round.

Tips for Winning Smear Card Game

  1. Communicate with Your Partner: Silent communication and understanding your partner’s strategy can significantly enhance your team’s performance.
  2. Manage Your Cards Wisely: Hold onto high-value cards for crucial moments. Discard cards that have little strategic value early on.
  3. Watch Your Opponents: Keep track of the cards played by your opponents. This can help you predict their strategy and adjust yours accordingly.
  4. Utilize the Jick and Jokers: These special cards can turn the tide of the game. Use them strategically to gain an advantage.

Can you play Smear with three people?

Yes, you can play Smear with three people by adapting the game slightly. One player competes solo against the other two, who form a temporary team for that round. The gameplay, scoring, and objectives remain the same, but adjustments in dealing and partnerships are necessary to balance the game for three players.

Smear is a dynamic and engaging card game that requires strategic thinking and teamwork. You can enjoy this classic game with friends and family by understanding the rules, mastering the bidding process, and employing strategic gameplay. Remember, practice makes perfect, so the more you play, the better you’ll get. Happy gaming!

Fernando Meyer

Fernando Meyer

Fernando Meyer is a freelance writer and founder of F-Meyer website. His writing strengths include business, financial topics, and lifestyle. He uses his life experiences to inspire his detailed and informative style of writing.

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