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Up And Down The River Card Game: Rules And How to Play!

Once you start reading this guide, you might find yourself experiencing a touch of deja vu, don’t worry, though; you’re not going to go crazy, I promise.

This game might seem familiar to you because it goes under many names, so chances are, you’ve been told about Up and Down the River before, only it might have been called something different.

One of the most common names for this game is “Oh Hell!” However, this is deemed distasteful and inappropriate.

I’m still trying to understand why the name ended up at Up and Down the River, but I presume it’s something to do with the fact players need to predict the number of tricks they will take.

It also refers to how players must navigate the game’s constant up and downs.

It’s, of course, open to interpretation.

An Overview of Up And Down The River

Up and Down the River is a trick-taking card game, my favorite kind.

To play, you’ll need a small group of people, preferably between 3 and 6, or the game will only work sometimes.

The game aims to score more points than your opponents by predicting the correct number of tricks you’ll take per round.

How To Play Up And Down The River?

How To Play Up And Down The River?

Are you ready to play Up and Down the River?


Keep reading to learn how to get started and the game’s rules. You’ll be a master in no time!

1. What You’ll Need

On Sale Bicycle Sea King Playing Cards

Presuming you’ve already got your players, the rest is easy. All you need to play is a deck of 52 cards and a pen and paper to keep score. These Bicycle cards are pretty cool and cheap too!

2. Score Sheet

To begin, you’ll need to get your score sheet prepared. Do this by writing each player’s name at the top of a piece of paper and putting a column down one side with the number of rounds played (usually 19).

As the game progresses, you will write each person’s score at the end of every round under their name.

3. The Deal

First, you’ll need to get one player to shuffle the deck. I always cheat here because I’m not very good at shuffling, so I bought an automatic card shuffler, don’t judge me.

Now you’re all shuffled and set; it’s time to deal.

It’s down to you how you pick a dealer, but you could use my rule: whoever has the nearest upcoming birthday is the dealer. It works for me.

The dealer now dishes out ten cards to each player individually. The reaming cards must be placed in the center of the table or playing area, with the top card flipped over for everyone to see. It sets the Trump suit.

Now it’s time to bid.

Up And Down The River – Gameplay

Up And Down The River - Gameplay

Now that you’re ready to start bidding, the player sitting to the dealer’s left takes their turn first.

The player going first bids the number of tricks they think they will win, followed by the next player to the left, and so on.

At the end of the bidding round, the player who has put down the highest trump card wins the trick and takes all the cards played in that round.

The winner of the round goes on to be the first player of the next round.

It carries on until players have no cards left.


As each round ends, everyone should write their score on the sheet you created at the start. It depends on the number of tricks you’ve won. So, the player with the most tricks at the end of each round gets a point.

The first player to reach 10 points is the overall winner.

Follow these rules to work out the scores:

  1. Ace is the boss, while Two is the lowballer.
  2. Trump cards are the secret weapons that help you win the game.
  3. If you draw a Trump card, you’re the boss of the trick, even if the other cards are higher.
  4. Every time you win a trick, you earn a point. Cha-ching!
  5. You earn bonus points if you win the number of tricks you bid. You’re on fire!
  6. If you’ve been too ambitious and win more tricks than you bid, you lose points.
  7. If you bid zero tricks and don’t win any tricks, you get a bonus of five points.

Up And Down The River – Drinking Card Game

Although this game is fun as it is, if you want to up the entertainment levels, you can easily make this into a fun drinking game by following these simple rules:

  1. When a player wins a trick, they can pick a player to drink.
  2. If a player doesn’t win any tricks in a round, they take a drink.
  3. They drink if someone plays a card that’s not a Trump suit. If someone plays the wrong card, they drink.

Let’s Wrap Things Up

While we may not be 100% sure where the name Up and Down the River came from, it’s a great game that people of all ages and abilities can enjoy.

So, if you’re looking for something to liven up your next game night, whether it’s with friends or family, Up and Down the River will certainly bring a lot of enjoyment to your night.

If you’ve enjoyed learning about this, why not find out about some more trick-taking games, such as The Fox in The Forest?

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