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Onze Card Game: Rules and How to Play?

Are you looking for fun interactive entertainment for your next party? Read on and learn how to play the Onze card game. It’s simple, dynamic, and highly competitive.

Parlez-vous francais? If your answer is “Oui,” then you certainly already know that Onze in French means Eleven, which is another common name for this popular card game.

The French name is not accidental, though. This game was indeed invented in France, gaining the most popularity during the 1980s.

Just like in the Swoop card game, the players of Onze aim to get rid of all their cards as fast as possible, avoiding earning too many penalty points. To do so, they must meld their cards in certain sets and runs, similar to rummy-style games like Rummy 500.

But before we get to the prescribed combinations and other detailed rules, let’s see what you’ll need to play this game.

What You’ll Need to Play Onze Card Game?

If you want to try Onze, make sure you have:

  • 3 to 7 players of any age (smaller kids will, however, probably struggle)
  • 2 decks of standard playing cards (I prefer the classic poker-style cards)
  • Some pencil and a piece of paper for scoring
  • About 30 minutes of spare time

Now, let’s discuss how to prepare the gameplay.


First, you have to appoint the dealer for the game. It’s an essential function since the dealer is responsible for the fairness and correctness of the game. Therefore, people like to choose the oldest or most experienced player for this role.

In any case, you can also determine the dealer based on a draw:

  • Each player takes one random card from the deck
  • The player with the highest-ranking card becomes the dealer
  • In case of a tie, the two players with equal cards will repeat their draw

Once you have your dealer, let him/her shuffle the deck of cards and deal 11 cards to each player (one card at a time) in a clockwise direction.

The dealer puts the pile of the remaining cards facedown on the table as a draw pile, turns the top card over, and places it on the side as the discard pile.

How to Play Onze Card Game? Rules And Gameplay

How to Play Onze Card Game  Rules And Gameplay

Once all the cards are in their places, you can start playing. The game consists of seven rounds (or hands) with their specific rules, which we’ll discuss in detail below:

1. The Objective of the Rounds

In each round, the players have to fulfill a specific set of requirements, consisting of the type and number of card melds they are obliged to collect and present:

  1. Round = 2 sets
  2. Round = 1 set & 1 run
  3. Round = 2 runs
  4. Round = 3 sets
  5. Round = 2 sets & 1 run
  6. Round = 2 runs & 1 set
  7. Round = 3 runs

Note: In the final (7th round), you must deal 13 cards to each player.

2. Sets & Runs

You know the requirements but still have no idea how to fulfill them, right? Here are the details:

  • Sets: At least 3 cards of the same rank (e.g., 5s of hearts, diamonds, and spades).
  • Runs: At least 3 cards of the same suit in consecutive order (e.g., 5, 6, and 7 of spades).

3. The Gameplay

The player sitting to the left of the dealer takes their turn first, drawing the top card from the draw pile or the topmost card from the discard pile.

Next, the first player discards one of their own cards on the discard pile (facing up). This marks the end of their turn.

The players continue taking turns in this same fashion in a clockwise direction.

Whenever someone draws the card from the draw pile, the up-facing card on the discard pile that was left behind is free for the others to take (if they want to). However, they are also obliged to take one more card from the draw deck as a penalty.

Note: The opportunity to do this ends when the active player (who chose the draw pile instead of the discard pile first) discards and, thus, ends their turn.

Of course, whenever a player has the required cards melded for the given round, they can go down – in other words, display these card melds faceup in front of them.

Once you go down, your next aim is to go out, i.e., get rid of all your remaining cards. This can only be done by adding the cards to the existing melds on the table – either your own or your opponents’.

Example: Add 5 of hearts to 5 of diamonds, spades, and clubs. Or, add 3 of clubs to 5, 5, and 6 of clubs.

When one of the players has no more cards left in their hands, the round is over.

4. Special Cards

Some of the cards in this game can be used as wild cards, meaning that they can replace a standard card in a set or a run. These wild cards are:

  • Red aces (hearts or diamonds)
  • Jokers

The wild cards can help you tremendously, but remember that no set or run should contain more wild cards than the natural ones.

Once you have the natural card that fits in the place of a wild card, you can replace it, but you can’t take the wild card back in your hand; immediately use it in some other existing meld on the table.

5. Scoring

Whoever gets rid of all their cards wins the round. This player automatically gets away with zero penalty points.

The remaining players are, however, not so lucky. Count their penalty points based on the cards they are still holding in their hands when the round ends.

  • Jokers + Red Aces: 30 points
  • Black Aces: 20 points
  • Face Cards: 10 points
  • Remaining Cards: face value

After the final (7th round), whoever has the lowest total score wins the game.

How to Win Onze?

Winning Onze usually takes deploying some tactics and strategy, but also being lucky enough to have the right cards at hand when you need them.

Players often try to preserve lower cards longer in hands since they are very versatile, or they do quite the opposite – save the face cards for their last turns.

Taking the cards from the discard pile is usually considered the last option, especially out of your move when you must also take one additional card.

People also like to block their opponents by noticing the melds they are attempting to put together and sabotaging these efforts whenever possible. In any case, don’t forget that the main purpose of this game is to have fun. And once you finish, maybe you can also try some other cool card games like the Briscola card game or the Polish poker game.

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