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Donkey Card Game: Rules and How to Play?

Need a quick game that the whole family can enjoy, regardless of the age or experience of the players? You cannot go wrong with the Donkey Card Game. This guide will teach you how it’s played in a few simple steps.

When you search for a game named Donkey, you will come across many different things. It looks like this name is incredibly popular for family games!

Nevertheless, the one we’ll discuss today is probably the best-known and certainly my favorite.

The Donkey Card Game is a simple matching game suitable for both kids and adults. If you’re familiar with the classics like the Old Maid card game or Pitty Pat, you will surely find it straightforward.

Let’s start with the list of things you need before you can start playing.

What You’ll Need to Play Donkey Card Game?

You don’t need much to play Donkey. Just ensure you have:

  • A standard deck of 52 playing cards
  • Smooth and unbreakable objects corresponding to the number of players
  • 3 – 13 players
  • A flat, spacious surface to play on

I bet you’re now wondering what the ‘mysterious objects’ should be. But don’t worry; it can be anything from spoons to dice or even small coins and buttons. Sometimes, people also use things like tokens or casino chips.


First, all the players gather around a table or another surface you choose as the playing area.

Next, take the cards and divide them in a way that would land each player with 4 cards of the same rank.

If you play in a smaller group, you can pick the face cards for this purpose.

Example: Four Queens, four Jacks, and four Kings for three players.

Of course, if you’re in a group of ten players, you must use classic numbered cards, too.

When you’re done, appoint the dealer to shuffle the deck thoroughly and place it face down in the center of the table.

Next, take the small objects of your choice and place them on the table as well. Take one object away, though, so that there’s one object less than the number of players.

Example: If there are 5 players involved in the game, you should have just 4 objects on the table.

The last thing you need to do is appoint the scorekeeper, who takes a piece of paper and writes down the names of all the players side by side, leaving some space below them.

How to Play Donkey Card Game? Rules and Gameplay

How to Play Donkey Card Game? Rules and Gameplay

When all the cards and all the objects are in the right places and everyone knows their roles, let’s start with the gameplay:

  • The dealer deals the entire assorted deck among the players, one card at a time, face down.
  • Logically, each player gets 4 cards. But are these the right cards they want to play with?
  • Everyone checks their cards and passes any cards they don’t want to the left (one at a time).
  • When they receive an unwanted card from the player to their right, they briefly check it and decide whether to keep it or pass it further to the left.
  • This passing continues until one player eventually collects 4 cards of identical rank.
  • At this moment, the player with 4 equal cards places the cards face down on the table and picks one of the objects from the center.

1. The Fight

Once the first player who gathered all 4 equal cards successfully collected the object, everyone dropped their cards in an attempt to grab one of the objects, too (now you know why they must be smooth and unbreakable).

But, since there are not enough objects for everyone, one of the players will end up empty-handed.

The scorekeeper will note this by adding “D” under this player’s name on the scorecard.

Now, the new round can begin.

2. D-O-N-K-E-Y

In the next round, simply repeat all the abovementioned steps with freshly shuffled cards. You can choose different card ranks in each round to switch things up.

Again, whoever ends up empty-handed when the round ends gets a “D” under their name. If the same player loses the battle for objects again, they get an “O,” then an “N,” and so on.

The players continue with this simple and exciting game as long as needed until one of them gets the full D-O-N-K-E-Y inscription under their name on the scorecard.

This player loses the game, and the remaining players can either finish or continue playing without the loser.

How to Win Donkey?

Donkey is a super-simple game, and you don’t really need much strategic thinking or tactics to succeed in it.

In fact, overthinking can even be a bit counterproductive here (= less fun). I would suggest simply going with the flow and focusing more on fun than the actual victory, especially if you play the game with younger kids.

Still, if you’re getting tired of being the DONKEY time after time, there are some skills and tricks you might want to work on.

First of all, stay discreet! Don’t let everyone around you know from the beginning which cards you’re collecting or how close you are to your goal. Otherwise, you’re asking for a sabotage! A good poker face practice can come in handy for sure.

Secondly, watch your opponents and act quickly when the battle time comes. Those who are too focused on their cards often miss the chance to win (or not to lose). If you like simple and dynamic games like Donkey, we also have Spicy Uno, and Uno Attack rules guide here that might interest you.

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