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How to Play Continental Card Game (Rules and Instructions)

If you like Rummy games such as Canasta, or Gin Rummy, then learning how to play continental will be something you should be very interested in.

I love melding-type card games, and that’s precisely what this is. It involves making combinations with your cards to have the least amount of points by the end of the game.

There are two main attributes to continental which make it stand out. One is that melds are made after a deal and are fixed, and the other is that players can take their opponent’s discards when it’s not their turn.

During this guide, I will break down the rules and instructions for continental to make it as easy as possible to understand. I will also tell you everything you’ll need to play and how to set up your game.

You need to meld different combinations in continental, which changes depending on which round you’re playing; I will go into more detail about this later too.

The game works best when played with between two and eight players, and there are no teams; it’s every man for themself.

Due to this game’s complexity, I recommend keeping it as an adult game unless your child is already an expert in this kind of card play.

What You’ll Need to Play?

To play continental, you’ll want to get a standard deck of Spanish poker playing cards. However, a traditional English poker deck will suffice if you don’t want to buy the Spanish ones.

light Spanish Poker Set

If you’re playing with five to eight players, I would advise you to use two decks of cards for when you run out after the second round.

English Poker Cards

The Jokers are also used for this game and are known as wild cards.

Starting The Game

Before you begin playing, you will need to select one player to be the designated dealer; it’s up to you how you decide who this will be. I always like to choose the player whose birthday will be next, but you could also do it by drawing cards to see who gets the highest.

The dealer then needs to shuffle the cards and deal six to each player. The rest of the cards must then be divided into two piles and placed in the middle of your playing area. These will be the stockpile and the penalty deck. You should ensure that the stockpile is bigger than the penalty pile. Next, flip over the top card from the stockpile so everyone can see it. This will be the beginning of your discard pile.

How To Play Continental?

How To Play Continental

To take your turn, collect the top card from either the stockpile or the discard pile. You must place one card onto the discard pile from your hand.

If you choose not to pick up a card from the discard stack, the next player can take it when it’s their turn, but in this case, they must also collect a card from the penalty pile.

You then need to continue with your turn, which involves trying to build a set (I will explain below about the collections, ranking, and values shortly, so ensure you get familiar with those before you begin playing).

If you have a set or combination, you can drop it, placing it face-down in front of you. If you’ve done this, you can then play the rest of your cards on top of other dropped sets. These must be in line with the combination rules.

When your turn is complete, you must end it by discarding a single card to the discard pile.

The game continues this way until a player has discarded all their cards.

Dealing the Cards for Each Round

Dealing the Cards for Each Round

In continental, the cards rank with the ace as the lowest and the king being the highest. Therefore, during each round, you need to meet the necessary combination for that specific round.

The cards are dealt as follows:

  • Six for the first round.
  • Seven for the second round.
  • Eight for the third, and so on.

And so on, with twelve cards dealt for the final, seventh round.

The Combinations and Penalties

The combinations are made up of trios and runs. Trios are three cards of the same number (rank), which can be any suit, and runs are four or more cards in succession, such as ace, two, three, or four. Jokers/wildcards can be used in any trio or run.

For each round, the combinations differ and then go as follows:

  • First Hand – Two trios
  • Second Hand – One trio, one run
  • Third Hand – Two runs
  • Fourth Hand – Three trios
  • Fifth Hand – Two trios, one run
  • Sixth Hand – One trio, two runs
  • Seventh/Final Hand – Three runs


As I mentioned earlier, in some cases, when you have chosen not to collect a card from the discard stack, it leaves it open for the following player to collect it even if it’s not their turn; however, if they do, they must also collect a penalty card. This means they now have extra cards, even after melding.

Scoring The Game and Winning

Scoring The Game and Winning

To conclude the last round, you need to add up the scores for any cards left in the players’ hands, and the person with the least amount of points wins.

Each card is worth a different point value, which you can either make up for yourself or follow these simple values:

  • Zero Cards – No points
  • Two – Seven – Five points
  • Eight and Nine – Seven points 
  • Jack, Queen, and King – Ten points
  • Joker – Fifty points

Between rounds, shuffle your cards, and start again. At the end of all seven rounds, tally up who has the least points overall, and this person will be the winner of the entire game.

A Final Look

So, if you love playing games such as gin rummy, but you’re looking for a new variation, continental might be the game for you.

Also, if you want to make this game even more of a challenge or want to make it last longer, you can add in additional rounds, following the same rule of cards per deal. You can do this up to sixteen cards or eleven rounds. Again, this usually works well if you play with less than five people.

If you’re already a pro at this type of game, then you could add an even tougher challenge by removing the wild cards (jokers) from the deck. This means that making your combinations is even trickier.

Continental is an excellent game for any size group. However, playing with only two players can make the game a little easy, which can become tedious after more than one game, so I suggest playing with more than four people if you can.

If you’ve enjoyed learning how to play continental, and want to know the rules of some other great games, then why not check out Michigan Rummy Board Game and Chinchon Card Game?

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